Thursday, June 18, 2020
I recently followed up with a contact from a Napa Valley winery who I had virtually met about two years ago. We are currently planning a trip to wine country in late August and she had previously left an open invitation to host me and a guest for a private tasting the next time we were in town. I have always been a fan of this particular winery and they make ONE varietal every year. Their inaugural vintage was beautifully crafted, and according to popular ranking publications, each year seems to get better and better (or so the points would leave us to believe). While the winery itself is about 10 years old, the family behind the juice has been making wine for decades, in fact, multiple generations.
Before I get into this article further, let me say that I wholeheartedly believe that wineries should charge for tastings. There is no doubt about it. I think that paying for the tasting experience cuts down on the weekenders who are looking to just get loopy (aka "Wine Country" movie) and not appreciate the hard work and love that goes into every vintage. It also makes people pay attention and want to learn more. Whether you are hearing about veraison for the one-hundredth time or learning some amazing, deep dark secrets about a particular winery, you tend to pay more attention when you are vested in the overall winery tasting adventure.
Excited to visit the aforementioned winery (which shall remain nameless), I reached out to their concierge and we chatted briefly about our previous exchange and upcoming trip. She said she would check availability and get back to me as they are just preparing to re-open next week due to COVID-19. You can imagine my shock and disbelief when the email I received a few days later came, offering to extend a wine tasting of A SINGLE WINE for a whopping $200.00 per person. I stared at the email. Was there a decimal in the wrong place? Two HUNDRED dollars for a single tasting? (And folks, we are talking a "tasting" pour, not a full restaurant pour). I was so put off, I couldn't even respond. Pass.
If you have incredibly deep pockets or have a chance to taste a "cult" wine (this one isn't, but don't even get me started on cult wines) or just like spending your hard earned cash, maybe throwing a couple hundred dollars at a 1 ounce pour is your thing. I would venture to say that for 99% of oenophiles that is not the case. It certainly won't be for me. There are too many wonderful tasting experiences that you can find value in if you do your homework.
So, what should you expect and what are great values for wine tasting experiences?
First of all, you should expect a memorable experience. You should leave the winery wanting more - more wine, more time with the people there and more time soaking in the surroundings. You should expect to be educated, entertained and welcomed. But most of all, you should feel satisfied about your choice to choose that particular winery to spend your money and time with during your trip.
The best values really depend on what you are seeking during your visit. A 'general' wine bar tasting will set you back $25 - $45 most of the time, and it is exactly that - trying wines at a wine bar or tasting room, often not at the winery or estate. These offerings are particularly popular for budget-minded tourists. Often, wineries will waive your tasting fee for a purchase of wine or if you join their wine club memberships. Ask questions during your time at the winery!
I personally like a tasting party that offers a winery tour, a cave tour, barrel tasting or some time with the winemaker or vintner. Often these higher end encounters also include an exclusive or library wine that you can only get at the winery. These more intimate encounters typically range in the gamut of $50 to $80 per person and are an incredible way to make long-lasting memories of wine country. Of course, there are always options for a light lunch, charcuterie board, fresh garden offerings or a number of other additions to your wine affair . There are many destination locations that offer picnic packages or even a romantic dinner for two. The options are endless!
But lets go back to the $200 tasting fee. Maybe I'm just hung up on this, but I really don't think so. At this particular place there are no caves, there are no flights of wine and there isn't a winery tour. There is a single 1 ounce pour for $200.00. That's NOT how I want to remember my time to wine country. Life is too short to drink shitty wine. Life is also too short to waste your time on disappointments.
Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Literally every time I am in a wine shop I am completely flabbergasted and bewildered to see the hundreds or perhaps thousands of wines eagerly waiting to find a home, similar to dogs at the humane society. But, like some of those dogs, the wines just don't make a good impression or draw you into their charming personality. I'm not looking for a wine that humps your leg or begs and does tricks, but I am looking for a reason to try something new.
Reality check. Most of the time you're faced with a scene similar to the one pictured above without shelf talkers or anyone that has the time or the knowledge to help recommend a selection that they think you will enjoy. After your eleven second interaction with the "wine clerk" and the customary "what kind of wine do you like" open-ended question, you're discouraged and disconnected. You want to try something new. You want a new tasting experience, so how do you decide what to try? Wine marketing 101 should have a huge influence on your choice. I'm going to share with you some success stories and some real wine marketing misses.
Just when I thought the garage sale style display of wines pictured above couldn't get any worse, I was proven wrong. If you walked into this wine shop not knowing anything about the wines, which one would draw your interest? "I'll try the one with the boring white label, please."
I would walk in, roll my eyes, turn around and never go back. Is this the generic wine store?
Of course, white wine labels aren't the evil here. Creativity, or lack thereof, is what is lacking. Don't get me wrong. If you're Scarecrow and command $600 or more per bottle, then you don't give a crap about what anyone thinks of your label. Cult wines could probably scribe the poop emoji on the bottle and wine fans would buy it anyway. But cult wines (insert eye roll here) are another blog post for another time and 99% of wines on the market can't pull off this label. Or at least, they shouldn't.
For the crazy prices that Scarecrow brings, they can put anything on the bottle that they want.
While I love for a wine label to stand out and wave at you like a crazed commuter trying to hail a New York cab, it has to be done smartly. Don't look desperate. Don't get too cute. And, don't turn off half of your demographic with a stupid name because you thought you were funny, empowering or maybe just scarred after a relationship gone wrong. I give you..........Bitch wine. In the early 2000's, twenty-something and early thirty-something women were buying this wine up by the case, proudly displaying it in their three bottle silver wine rack on the kitchen counter and telling everyone that it was their "favorite wine" and how they "can relate to it". After people tasted it and found out it was not good wine, the popularity quickly waned and people were trying to give away the plonk as gifts or adding it to the stew or sauce of the day. Lesson learned? Shock factor is good for quick sales and may even become viral (in today's terms), but it isn't sustainable.
Very popular at first, but now just a novelty. Isn't that a bitch?
What makes a good wine label? Flashing lights? A bottle shaped like Kim Kardashian's butt? No. Let me start by saying that I personally am not a very creative person. I recently painted a 50 year old pot with my daughter and I thought I was the DIY king of the year. I might be exaggerating a bit, but I can't stress to you enough that I really don't have an eye for design, whether it's fancy emails, interior decorating or wine labels. Hell, I keep changing the look of my blog because I just don't know what's cool or what is appealing to people. I digress. What I'm trying tos tell you here is that sometimes you need a second set of eyes - or a third. Or a fourth. Winemakers are some of the most talented people in the world. They create white and red masterpieces that we adore, but that doesn't mean that they can get you to buy their wine because people may never pull it off of the shelf.
If you aren't creative, hire or borrow someone that is. Ummmm, what color is this wine?
Build a brand. Even if it's quirky - especially if it's quirky. Make it memorable but make it fit what you're doing. The folks at Mad Housewife wines started off with products that scores of housewifes could relate to, but it went beyond that. These wines were for anyone who hated doing laundry, who didn't feel the need to be perfect or have a neat-as-a-pin house or manicured nails every day. They even took marketing to Marketing 102 by labeling everything with colorful Mad Housewife pictures and logos including tchotchkes that included, among other things, kitchen gadgets like rubber scrapers. They were building a brand. And then it wasn't good enough. Maybe they tried to grow too quickly? Maybe they lost their identity. Whatever it was, it resulted in new labels that weren't as appealing, lost the story in the translation and now you can find the wine on Amazon of all places.
Housewife wines was on a roll and then they fell off of their ironing board.
All is not in vain. There are thousands of winners and hundreds of stunners in the wine label game of life. These are labels that are innovative, eye catching, memory-jerking, clever and just darn good marketing. Let's pay homage to those who understand how to get you to shell out your hard earned money for their juice. Heck, with a solid bottle and clever label, you can probably get an extra 20% for that bottle over a boring, passe label and bottle.
Mollydooker wines: The wine and the original wine labels are created by winemaker and owner Sarah Marquis. The labels are entertaining, animated, welcoming, tell a story....and they're all personal to her. Marketing costs money. But not selling your wines costs even more.
Check out the Mollydooker Wine labels. Winner winner, chicken dinner!
Wines that jog a memory from a favorite time in your life or from your childhood are sure to get a second look from you while shopping for some new juice. I really love the Cannonball Wine label (despite the fact that I can't swim and have a fear of water that goes over my head). You get what I'm trying to say here, right? Maybe if this wine label was of kids playing war I'd be really into it!
This label will remind you of summer camp and you'll be telling stories around this bottle.
I like wines that are steeped in tradition and are iconic by their name, reputation, quality and look. This is the case with Dom Perignon. While the quality of the Champagne has varied from year to year, most would agree that overall it is still one of most recognized wine brands in the world. A few years back, DP came out with an Andy Warhol inspired series of bottles that took the wine world by storm. I love the idea and the look. And I love the fact that this is the only Warhol-inspired artwork that I'll ever be able to afford. Smart marketing! Create an exclusive or limited edition label and sell the crap out of it, despite how it tastes. (And I'm not saying this vintage is bad).
Colorful. Smart. Limited. Collectors are required to buy these, right?
Two of my favorite wine labels of all time are Chateau Mouton Rothschild. Here is a beautiful (overpriced) wine that displays some of the most original and beautiful wine labels ever. And they really understand marketing, even if it is very understated. You have to understand that this producer could have a seventy-three cent wine marketing budget and they would still have money left at the end of the year. This wine is a first growth Bordeaux that everyone and their brother wants, it's incredibly expensive, it has name recognition and they throw beautiful labels at you. I'd challenge that a bottle of this never makes it to the trash. I bet there are thousands of CMR candles throughout France and the rest of the world.
A very overpriced wine, but the complete package and a marketing home run.
Opus One is a label that cleverly depicts the winery's founders, Robert Mondavi and Baron Phillipe de Rothschild in a singular portrait. Both of these wine pioneers were easily recognized and whether it was a brilliant marketing approach or vanity that brought this label into fruition, it works. And the label doesn't waiver to this day, despite the fact that both men have since gone to the vineyard in the sky and the winery is owned by a massive beverage conglomerate.
Maybe the label should change to the Constellation Brands logo ..... or a pile of cash?
Innovation. I love it. I embrace it. And now, with technology, some very creative techies bring us the Living Wine Labels. These are interactive wine labels with the free LWL app. It's not only innovative but also entertaining. If marketed correctly, we will be seeing more of these in the American market (the French will not embrace this) in the future. Then, we can all be like our kids with our faces planted in our phones and we will forget how to talk to each other. But then again, we can speak to each other through the wine. Cheers!
The future of the wine label is interactive labels. QR codes, say bye bye!
It's not every day that we get to taste wines from New York's Finger Lakes Regions. But if you're going to have the experienc...
Man, this one is BIG! I received this bottle of 2014 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Armillary Cabernet Sauvignon last week and let it r...
Once in awhile you pop and cork and get so excited because of the incredible color that is displayed on the cork. When I pulled the co...
Spring is the most pleasant time of the year. Days start to get longer and warmer, and spending time outside suddenly feels very invi...