Monday, July 20, 2020
We absolutely LOVE trying new wines! And we get super-excited when we get a chance to work with someone we have never tasted before, as is the case here. This is the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) from Pope Valley Winery. As you can see, in the glass what you would expect from a beautiful Cabernet - dark to the rim. This young wine was swirled extensively and the cherry and spice aromas leaped effortlessly from the glass. In the mouth was blackberry preserves, cedar, at times a hint of dark chocolate and a very solid and definite finish. Despite teetering the 15% ABV mark, this wine is not hot in any way, which is testament to the winemaker and time in the barrel. The tannin was surprising small and soft. The winemaker states that this wine spent 26 months in oak before bottling and we absolutely love the youthfulness and potential to age this wine. This would be a fun one to open again in a year, 3 years and 5 years. At this price point, you really can't go wrong. This wine is very lovely and worth your time. You can purchase this wine directly from the winery here:
Napa Valley, California
Suggested retail price: $52.00
Drink The Bottles score: 91/100
Thursday, July 16, 2020
Things in the world right now are weird, to say the least. No matter which side of science you are on, the current global pandemic has wreaked havoc in everyone's daily lives, including their business. As of this writing, many wineries are still closed while others are offering outdoor tasting experiences. Long gone are the days of intimate cave tours, barrel tastings, winery tours and unique experiences - at least for now. Virtual tastings are becoming a 'thing' with smart savvy winery operators, but there are so many options in the world. What's the best wine on the market? This article will explain some of the ways that digital ambassadors (wine bloggers) can help wineries.
In today's digital world of electronic payments, on-demand everything and the universe at our fingertips, the visibility of wine is absolutely crucial. Wine bloggers can help wineries and wine brands expand their digital footprint with exposures to new audiences.
Whether it's Gen-Z, millennials or basically anyone with a smart phone, wineries need to be in front of their audience. And while most wineries are family-owned and operated, posting to social media and reaching potential customers can be a daunting task. Wine bloggers thrive for this type of work. They love posting their pictures, videos and stories. And they do it well! Let's look at some other reasons wine bloggers should be considered for brand growth and awareness:
Using the services of a wine blogger is much cheaper than hiring an advertising agency. Instead of purchasing cookie-cutter ads with a bottle against a white background and paying dearly for it, use a wine blogger. The costs? Zero. Nada. The only expense is a few bottles of wine and they can often reach the same or larger audience than a marketing agency.
I've said it a million times. "What's a good bottle of wine" is the most common question wine bloggers get asked. The majority of wine consumers have never purchased wine outside of their local grocery store or liquor store. They are completely blind to the infinite number of selections that are available from wineries around the world. Wineries looking to fill their seasonal allocations, build their wine club memberships or just sell more wine should find a team of bloggers and join their tribe.
Selling more wine isn't always as easy as it sounds. If you're like us, you don't just write about the wines. If the wine knocks your socks off, you will tell EVERYONE you know about how great it is. We also encourage our readers to visit the winery web site and sign up for their newsletter. In a recent experiment, when we signed up for a mailing list from a winery web site, 82% of those sites sent us an automated email within 30 minutes welcoming us to their mailing list. Of those, just over 70% also included a sale or special as a potential buyer. Bloggers can get those new users to wineries. And if a blogger isn't providing a link directly to the wine or winery and/or tagging them in social media, you need to find another digital media ambassador!
For wineries, they shouldn't just expect to just send a couple of bottles to be tasted, written about and forgotten. Once a blogger gets the nod, it should be a deeper and long-lasting connection with the new wine partner. We encourage our wine partners to keep us informed of any promotions they have so we can pass that information along to our readers. Continuing partnerships build bridges between the consumer and the proprietor, hopefully evolving into long lasting relationships and lifelong customers.
If you take only one point away from this article, this next detail is probably the most important one that should resonate with winemakers, owners and people who control the purse strings. Are you ready for the secret sauce? People. Trust. Bloggers. Let's face it. Wineries do a phenomenal job at creating their labor of love and they can publish a two-page mini essay about the terroir, the rocky slope that helped shape the unique grape clusters with blah blah blah..... But consumers are realize that wineries are in the business of making a profit. Believe it or not (this is tongue in cheek), we have actually purchased wines that do not smell or taste anything like what was described on the bottle, point of sale card or tech sheet. Digital wine ambassadors will always be honest and readers appreciate that!
Wine bloggers and bloggers in general are part of an all-inclusive and growing community. Their main goal is to reach audiences that seek information about products without feeling intimidated. There are no dumb questions when it comes to readers/followers/fans. They feel comfortable from behind their keyboard in the comfort of their own home and they can learn at their own pace. Bloggers are a vital connection between businesses and customers.
Finally, let's discuss a few considerations when your winery is choosing a blogger to partner with:
- If a blogger is going to post about how much they did NOT like a wine, they're not for you!
- If a blogger doesn't take the time to research your business and learn more about you, find someone else.
- If a blogger doesn't stay in touch with you and follow up with their reviews, why would you use them?
- If a blogger isn't informative, entertaining and knowledgeable about the products they are reviewing, you need to keep looking! (Hint: Check out their work).
- If a blogger wants to charge you to taste and share your wines, they have a disconnect with reality. Your wine samples are in lieu of any fees. Move along.
In closing, remember this. The next time you receive an email from a blogger asking to share your wines, take a few moments to consider these points before tossing that note in the trash. If it's not a good fit or not in the budget, that's completely understandable. If you think there is a good opportunity for a partnership, we would obviously love for wineries to consider Jeff & Melissa (that's us!) at Drink The Bottles. Cheers!
Wednesday, June 24, 2020
There is little doubt that the first half of 2020 has been anything less than unexpected from what most would consider a 'normal' daily life. The global pandemic has affected every person in some way, and most people significantly enough to alter their lifestyle, even if temporarily. Work, school, daycare and financial hardships have reached into most homes, creating a fear of uncertainty and anxiety for many. But all is not lost. Whether it is a false sense of security, the need to return to an accustomed lifestyle or a belief that the worst of this virus is over, people are starting to venture out of their homes and travel.
There is no doubt that a large number of the world's population are still cautious and some, even frightened, about the health of the world and those around us. It's difficult to control the actions of those around us, but by using common sense and social distancing, we can begin to appreciate the lives we are customary of enjoying. I, for one, have chosen to travel.
It has been much too long since we visited California's amazing wine country. My wife and I feel very blessed to be able to make this trek with friends later this summer and we are going to maximize the fun, the feels and the fellowship during this long weekend. But wine country (at least online) looks much different than it did previously. Nearly every web site lists COVID-19 precautions and health protocols. Some wineries are asking guests to sign health release forms upon arriving on property. Access to many areas that were once readily available is now off limits. And that mask? You better be wearing one. So how do you drink wine through a mask? Let's discuss that later.
Now that (like it or not) we understand that times look much different than they did just six months ago, how do we navigate California's wine country? What is new and what is required and what is the best way to plan your trip?
- If you're headed to Napa like we are, check out the new health guidelines before you go.
- Bring a mask or several masks. (Nobody wants to wear a wine-stained mask). If you don't have one, stay home. You'll be turned around at the cellar door without one.
- Make reservations because they are required now. Long gone are the days of just "popping into" a winery for a quick tasting.
- Keep your distance and be respectful. Re-opening to the public after being closed for months can be scary and foreign to your hosts. Tread lightly and follow their lead.
- If you like the wine, consider making a purchase and/or joining a wine club. Most wineries are family owned and have suffered greatly because of the pandemic. Show some love and you'll be rewarded with your incredible wine purchases.
Now that we have a few pointers on how to navigate your upcoming wine trip, let's discuss about what you should expect from a winery before and during your visit.
- Communication. Seems easy enough, right? You would be surprised. I have reached out to about twenty California wineries during the planning of our upcoming trip. I am amazed at how many of them never even bother responding to an email. We get it; the wineries and tasting rooms are starting to get busy with re-opening in its infancy. But if we have specific needs or your web site scheduling tool doesn't work, we have to email you in order to plan our tasting experience. The lack of communication sends a message of apathy and we could have been your newest and biggest fans. I call this a "don't be a dick rule".
- Create a memorable experience. We understand that some areas and experiences may still be closed, but wineries still have an incredible opportunity to create lifelong memories for their guests. In lieu of a cave tour or super secret hidden gem tasting room that is inaccessible, maybe a sit-down with the vintner or a special library bottle tasting could be an extra-special treat? Or perhaps it is connecting us with the most special wine tasting room host who would blow our socks off with his/her knowledge, personality, humor and kindness?
- Try not to make things too sterile or uncomfortable. We're all scared. And we, as guests, promise to follow all of the rules and breathe the hot summer California air through our uncomfortable masks. We ask in return that the tasting room doesn't smell of hospital disinfectants and everyone doesn't spray us down with Lysol if we clear our throat.
We are all going to get through this together. We are going to wear our masks and pull them down when permitted (and to drink wine!). We are going to try to get back to a "normal" lifestyle and enjoy everything that wine regions all over the world have to offer. But most of all, we are going to embrace the ability to move freely, travel the world and drink some superb fucking wines. Go explore!
This article does not necessarily convey my personal feelings regarding the current global pandemic. While I encourage my readers and oenophiles to travel and enjoy wine, I also advise everyone to use common sense, be safe and exceptionally courteous to those around you. -Jeff
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.
Thursday, January 24, 2019
This non-vintage 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Arns Winery started out as an experiment in wine aging and Sandi Belcher and her team have hit a home run. This wine is a fine example of smart blending, expert wine making and risk taking that paid off in a big way. This wine has three separate vintages in a single bottle. This wine is rooted in a gorgeous purple color and presents lung-filling aromas of ripe blackberries, chocolate, saddle leather and toasty cedar. There's a great mid palate feel with this one and generous flavors of dark berries, cedar, dark chocolate, tar and spice box. This is everything you want to see in a quality Cabernet Sauvignon and I think this is an experiment that went extremely well! I love seeing winemakers step outside of the box and I think you'll love this too. Only 200 cases were produced and at this price point, it won't last long.
Napa Valley, California
Suggested retail price: $65.00
Drink The Bottles score: 92/100
This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Arns Winery is another fine example of a powerfully restrained, still young wine with tons of potential. I "Drink The Bottles" when I get them, so unfortunately, sometimes I miss out what are probably the best years of many stellar wines. I think that is the case here with the 2013 Estate Grown Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Arns Winery. This wine has a gorgeous, sexy black color and a depth that you can see and feel. Layers of chocolate cake, tobacco leaf, spicy paprika, and cherry cola marry with ease on the nose and in the mouth. I feel like this wine has so much more to offer and the flavors will explode out of the glass in the next 3-5 years. But who can wait?? This is a wine that is very tasty now, but will probably bring tears of joy to your eyes if you hold onto it and save it for that special occasion or special someone in the not-so-near future. With only 300 cases produced, you better grab this quickly!
Napa Valley, California
Suggested retail price: $90.00
Drink The Bottles score: 92/100
2012 was a mixed year for many wine producers. Some soared and some struggled. Those who did soar rose way above the competition and this 2012 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon from Arns Winery is a fine example of wine made gorgeously and with style. There is a big contrast in color from the 2011. This was is very dark and inky, leaving behind a beautiful stamp on the cork. I decanted this wine for about an hour but couldn't help myself to get lost in the aromas dark fruits, black licorice and damp, loam earthiness. Solid mouthfeel and the aromas carry over to the same flavors, but add in some cocoa powder and hints of sweet berries on the finish for a mouth covering and memorable drinking experience. Arns Winery wines are those that you want to take with you to a dinner party. These are also great wines to share with folks who are not traditionally "wine people", but beware that those folks may think that all wines are this delicious!
Napa Valley, California
Suggested retail price: $90.00
Drink The Bottles score: 94/100
Saturday, May 12, 2018
This is the first selection I've had the pleasure of tasting from Arns Winery and I will say without a doubt that they have spoiled me. Sandi Belcher, winemaker for Arns Winery, had a challenging year as did most in California for this vintage. But persistence pays off and it has paid off in a BIG way with this 100% varietal 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon! Bright garnet in the glass and solid to the rim, this wine is not a big fruit bomb and certainly doesn't present itself like a wine of this age. This gorgeous Cabernet is more reminiscent of an old world Bordeaux style, with muted fruit being replaced by rose petals, barn wood, ripening vegetables and shoe leather. Instantly, you are transported to a place that is surrounded by people who don't just pop and pour, but truly savor wines that are complex like this with chocolate bits, braised beef, crushed black cherries and again with that beautiful, old world style barn wood and damp earth. The finish isn't exceptionally long, but it is satisfying and you'll be going back for seconds and thirds of this wine. The tannins are small and juicy and this wine is absolutely perfect for drinking right now. I anticipate that it will continue to age gracefully for another 10 years. After this, I am super excited to taste the 2012 and 2013 vintages soon!
Napa Valley, California
Suggested retail price: $85.00
Drink The Bottles score: 95/100
Sunday, March 25, 2018
Most of the time people see pink wines, they probably think White Zinfandel. And then come back flooding memories of a $9 gallon jug of brash, highly acidic and flavorless wine that you can barely choke down, only to wake up with heartburn for days. Some much of that $3 bottle junk has turned people off of rosè wines because it's hard to get over the stigma and differentiate between junk and delicious rosè that is made from fine Pinot Noir. So, have a seat, clear out the bad mojo and open your mind to this exquisite 2016 Dawn's Dream Winery Pinot Noir Rosè from the Santa Lucia Highlands. Beautiful salmon colored in the glass from center to edge, this light wine presents stewed strawberries, brioche, watermelon and summer rain. It's bright on the tongue and best served moderately chilled with very mild cranberry, strawberry and fresh bread dough in the mouth. A cup of lobster bisque would be a great marriage, but so would a fresh vegetable platter, shrimp tempura or a number of lighter dishes. This is absolutely stunning and one of those unfortunate times in which it is too bad you can't be here tasting this with me. I can't say enough good things about this bottle!
Santa Lucia Highlands, California
Suggested retail price: $35.00
Drink The Bottles score: 94/100
I'll admit that I've never been to Columbia Valley, Washington, but it seems that I need to make a trip sometime. The wines that are coming out of this region are really putting a smile on my face these days, and the 2015 Readers Merlot from Bookwalter Winery is no exception. What's the first thing wine snobs will look at when they see this bottle? The screw top. While I love the resounding "pop" of a cork, I also learned all too long ago that screw tops technically are the best best for most wines: no tainted corks, renewable resource in recyclable caps, etc. Ok, I just realized I haven't talked about the wine at all and clearly it is the star of this show! This is a blend of Merlot (90%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) and it presents itself very stoically in the glass. Aromas of black cherry, hints of blueberry and chocolate and it you're a super-swirler like I am, you might even pick up some green earth and cherry tobacco. Incredibly soft tannins welcome the mouth and flavors of black cherry pie filling, chocolate chips, and cedar. Don't let the alcohol content (pushing 15%) scare you; this is not hot at all. This drinks incredibly well and would be a bison burger's best friend!
Columbia Valley, Washington
Suggested retail price: $28.00
Drink The Bottles Score: 90/100
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