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Posts Tagged ‘winery’

A Question of Building Brand Loyalty

I can’t imagine many of you are unaware of the ongoing, and possibly worsening, economic conditions we face in the United States. Unemployment rates remain stubbornly inflated and the housing market seems to only come to life after a treatment of government sponsored electroshock therapy. Sales of new and existing homes offer mixed to negative results nationwide. Local governments have seen their tax base erode in the face of declining property values. In other words, the economy sucks right now.

So what exactly does this have to do with the world of wine? Simply put, the laws of supply and demand seem to be taking an agonizingly circuitous path toward my long hoped for decline in the overall price of some wines. However, for this anticipated price adjustment, one must wait for the consumer to finally feel the pain necessary to curtail continued expenditures on luxury items, including the purchase of premium wines. If this were indeed a logical world, we should expect to see a corresponding decline in the prices of products to meet, and even stimulate diminished demand. Of course, price and demand elasticity must be considered when weighing the factors that influence price and demand in the marketplace.

Okay, by now I envision many of you nodding off in complete disinterest, so enough of economics 101. Let me attempt to explain to you why I find myself punching out this screed. Yesterday was a lovely Monday here in San Jose. Warm weather made this Labor Day one worth getting out of the house to enjoy. No better time to check out a local winery’s tasting room here in the San Francisco Bay Area. For the sake of being at least cordial, I will refrain from naming names and simply say that this tasting room is bright, tastefully decorated, and features some of my favorite wines. In fact, the winemaker is, in my estimation, one of the brightest young producers in California. His wines are exceedingly well crafted and well worth a reasonable premium.

How could there be anything to grouse about with every aspect of this experience pointing to a truly pleasurable time sipping beautiful wines cultivated from vines just a few miles from where we stood? Here’s where the economics of the moment come into play. Upon entering this lovely space we notice immediately that we are the only folks in a room featuring two tasting room hosts, one working diligently on the point of sale system, or playing a riveting game of solitaire. No matter, he was essentially non-existent and clearly much more interested in what was displayed on the screen of the iMac.

His partner launched our tasting with one of our favorites from this producer. She then set about opening other bottles. Our conversation consisted of possibly 40 words being exchanged between the two employees and my wife and I. This is not to say that these folks were in any way rude, just disinterested. Then came the shocker for us. At the top of the tasting menu it indicated that there was a $10 tasting fee per person. The fee would be refunded after purchasing $100 worth of wine. Even this didn’t particularly bother me, but what struck me was the fact that I did indeed make a $100 plus purchase – not making it to $200 – so we still were required to pay one of the $10 tasting fees! Even if I get to a $199.99 purchase I still need to pay for one of the tastings?

This is the moment that I suddenly realized that this was way too similar to my time cruising the Silverado Trail in Napa. There was that time my wife and I stood at the tasting counter of a well-known winery only to have a tasting room employee tell my wife that that flavor of melon she was experiencing was absolutely incorrect, and this after paying $10 per person to taste meager quantities of five wines ranging in quality from average to decent.

Now I know and completely sympathize with the plight of the winemaker. Heck, some of my best friends are winemakers, but to stick it to a customer that has just purchased several bottles of wine, and still applying a tasting fee strikes me as being an incredibly poor strategy. Even if economic conditions in this country were significantly improved, I would still hope that the savvy winemaker would use common sense while trying to nurture a profitable relationship with the customer.

So here is where the rubber meets the road. I was set to join this particular winemaker’s wine club prior to our visit to the tasting room. I looked forward to receiving the new releases, sharing them with others, and encouraging them to pursue these outstanding wines. I was on the verge of being a self-appointed evangelist for this winemaker. Then came the moment of truth – in a matter of seconds I went from an enthusiastic consumer willing to part with my hard earned money, to feeling nickel and dimed by representatives of a winery that probably would have been just as happy if we had paid our $10 tasting fees and left them to their “work” on the computer.

The moral of the story is indeed a simple one. There are approximately 1,200 wineries in California, with many of these producers working insanely hard to offer the finest possible wines to their current and potential customers. Certainly the small boutique producers, once proven, can ask premium prices, but in so doing there is very little to gain from losing potentially loyal, long-term customers by hanging them from their ankles and shaking another $10 from their pockets. Will I ever purchase wines from this producer again? Sadly, but honestly, I probably will not considering there are just too many gifted, hard working, winemakers out there that deserve my support.

For those wineries out there that realize you don’t exist in a vacuum – to you I raise a glass –  a glass of YOUR wine!

photos and text © 2010 craig allyn rose

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Three California Gewürztraminers Worth Your Time

We’re back and it’s almost like we were never gone! It was a whirlwind journey through three of California’s greatest wine growing regions starting with the Russian River Valley then a brief stopover in the Dry Creek Valley, and finally finishing with a flourish in the Anderson Valley. Along the way, my pilot, and beautiful wife, successfully deposited us at some of the truly notable wineries including Quivira Vineyards, Drew, MacPhail Wines, and the list goes on!

However, something stood out to me after our very first stop at a winery I had intended to visit years ago – Joseph Swan Vineyards in Forestville. I realized that I had just come away from one of the most historic wineries in the United States, known mainly for trailblazing the cultivation of Pinot Noir, and the wine that left an indelible impression on me was a 2009 Gewürztraminer!

view of the Russian River Valley

First, a word about this incredibly distinctive varietal. The purest expression of Gewürztraminer is generally believed to be produced in the Pfalz region of Germany and the Alsace region of France. Known for its unique nose of rose petal and lychee nut, this wine makes an amazing accompaniment to spicier foods, especially Asian cuisine. Having hadGewürztraminer from both Germany and Alsace, I wondered if California could actually produce at a level to compare with France and Germany. The answer became crystal clear with one sip.

the vines at Joseph Swan

The 2009 Joseph Swan Vineyards Gewürztraminer (grade A) is sourced from grapes grown at Saralee’s Vineyard in the heart of the Russian River Valley. Our tasting at the winery kicked off with this wine’s extraordinary aromatics of sour apple and flowers. It was immediately clear that this was an outstanding rendition of Gewürztraminer. No doubt this wine will pair beautifully with the usual suspects, including chicken Pad Thai or Yellow Curry Chicken.

Some suggest that this wine “needs” food to really show at its best, but I found this to be a genuine treat as a standalone. Then again, the thought of next Thanksgiving featuring this wine is making my mouth water!

We wouldn’t discover the next Gewürztraminer until the next day when we dropped in at the oldest winery in the Anderson Valley, Husch Vineyards, founded in 1971. It was here that we would come face-to-face with another phenomenal wine, the 2009 Husch Vineyards ‘T-Bud Dry Cuvee’ Gewürztraminer (grade A-).

quaint and lovely, the Husch tasting room

This is a wine that offers the traditional Gewürztraminer characteristics, while tacking on a level of minerality and acidity that results in an exceptional flavor profile. Just another incredibly good wine that will pair beautifully with those spicier dishes.

Navarro beckons you

Finally, one more stop in the Anderson Valley, and this time we are presented with a Gewürztraminer that is simply a grand slam! Navarro VIneyards is probably best known for their consistently excellent Pinot Noir, including the Méthode à l’Ancienne bottlings, but do yourself a favor and seek out their brilliant white wines, especially the 2009 Anderson Valley Cuvée Traditional Gewürztraminer (grade A+). This one has it all, from the heady floral and spice aromas on the nose, to the distinctive peach and lychee notes on the palate. It comes all wrapped up in a bone dry frame that leaves you reaching for more.

I intentionally left the best part for last and that’s what you’ll pay to enjoy these memorable wines. The Joseph Swan Gewürztraminer retails for just $19 at the winery. The Husch ‘T-Bud Dry Cuvee’ will set you back $17 and the stellar Navarro Cuvée Traditional rounds out the threesome coming in at $15!

If nothing else, I hope that this posting stokes your curiosity, especially if you’ve never tried this worthy varietal.

photos and text © 2010 craig allyn rose

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Or How I Fell Deeply In Love With Wine

fond memories

I recently got to thinking about how I developed such a deep and abiding passion and curiosity for wine. My life has been essentially two chapters – chapter one was gin and tonic, while chapter two has been wine. Now I know this is all more than a bit self-serving, but I very rarely allow myself this kind of reverie. Not to mention, it’s my blog, so I’ll blog about whatever I want to blog about! Now that we got that out of the way it’s time for you to make that sound that Wayne and Garth made when they entered their dreamworld.

It was some 20-years-ago that I met my beautiful wife, Julie, and with that momentous meeting came a crash course in fine wine consumption. It all began over dinner with my future in-laws. Pops, as I call him now, had a penchant for good wines from some of the world’s most reputable producers. What would soon become an every Sunday ritual was my formal introduction to the wines of California, Oregon, Washington, France, Australia, Spain, Italy, and Portugal.

Within a matter of mere weeks my vocabulary had expanded to include more than a few buzzwords and catch phrases that now, when I think back to those days, I can only chuckle to myself in a sort of pained amusement. Words like minerality and tannic had no business spilling from between my lips, let alone from my glass. Of course, as time passed, I gradually became cognizant of the meaning of those terms, but to this very day, I still struggle to cobble together cogent descriptions of some wines feeling that my vocabulary is less than adequate.

From Pops I would learn the basics of wine during our once-a-week tours of the world’s great wine producing regions. One Sunday would be spent quaffing Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay and reveling in the fact that a passable wine could be had for a mere $5.99! Then there were the Thanksgiving dinners that would feature a tour de force of fine wines starting with an exotic Alsatian Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noirs from the Russian River Valley and Carneros regions, and finally topping the festivities off with one of my favorite after dinner drinks, a 10 year old tawny port.

Grand Cru vineyards of Latricieres-Chambertin in Burgundy

With my ever-expanding exposure to wine I became curious as to what the entire vine-to-wine process actually entailed. A subsequent trip to Burgundy, including a picnic at the foot of the famed Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, ignited what has blossomed into a full blown fascination with the concept of terroir and an unceasing amazement that it’s possible that so many scents and flavors can be contained in a single glass of wine!

I am thrilled to report that my interest in wine is as keen today as it was during those early days of discovery. While my preferences have shifted over time, I continue to treasure those times when I can share my enthusiasm for wine with others. It’s a big world of almost countless flavors out there and I am ready to taste as much as I can!

photos and text © 2010 craig allyn rose

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