Still alive and kicking…

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Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

As a fugitive of the cubicle nation I’ve learned a few interesting things.  Some about myself and some about actually jumping ship and really trying to get things going.  In fact, I don’t have much time today but this blog is an important part of my life and I don’t want it to go dark for too long.

So its about three months since I was officially “jumped” and the main thing I’ve learned is this – have your shit together, ducks in a row, and get ready because having little visibility into where the money is going to come from is a scary thing.  Don’t let all these entrepreneurs tell you “oh yeah, just do it; shit or get off the pot; blah blah blah”.  All crap.  There is NOTHING impulsive about jumping ship and going it alone.

If you’re part of the cubicle nation you’ve most likely gotten extremely good at your job and that gives you confidence to “give it a try”.  Recognize this – while you may be a genius in your field, you do NOT know everything you should to go it alone.  Go into it with your eyes open and allow yourself to “know what you don’t know”.  Business development, marketing, networking, tech services, administrative assistant, bookkeeper, customer support, legal secretary, etc…

Its not that you CAN’T do all this stuff, but just know that you’ll need to plan some time where you don’t have money (or assume you don’t) figure out how you’ll pull that off – assuming no income – and then when you’re OK with that you can go for it.  Because what will happen is things will take longer then you think and you need to make sure you’re not rushed into bad decisions for your business just because of the uneasy feeling that “no visibility” gives you.  In fact, you want to figure out everything I mentioned in the previous paragraph as a way to give yourself visibility into your business and the more visibility you have the better you’ll feel about the jump.

Next – you can’t get away from politics.  Now granted, there are no office politics unless you want to count arguments over why the dogs haven’t been walked in a week and the potential of withholding of certain marital obligations as politics.  But the politics that I’m talking about are around meeting new people, making a name for yourself, and building your business.  I’m not big on politics and generally as a consultant, even early in building the business, I tell it like it is, turn down business that while I’m perfectly capable of doing the work, it doesn’t add to my “portfolio” if you will.  Its a tricky thing breaking into new markets and its clear that there are “circles” everywhere you go.  I’ve always known that and I’ve been ready for it.  But its more important to understand that going into it then I would’ve thought before making the leap.  So I think its important to communicate that out – You are not getting away from politics by escaping from the cubicle nation; you are just dealing with a different type of politics.  So “how to gain friends and influence people” is still an important skill!!

OK, I have to run but I think I’ll be doing more and more around communicating my Cubicle Nation Fugitive experiences as they seem to be coming fast and furious and they are actually interesting as I learn from this.

Cheers!

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Why Adwords doesn’t work for Social Media…

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Image via Wikipedia

So the topic came up today in the Twitter-sphere – Adwords, social networks (Facebook in particular), and their success (or lack thereof). I think its been talked about in the blogosphere or in conversations at various tech conferences but its worth repeating.

For all intents and purposes, it boils down to what Adwords was intended for and the way it works versus the evolution of the web today.

A few years back (eons in Internet time), the Internet was a super efficient way to find things – information, places, stuff to buy, etc. etc. etc. Google came along with a great way to search through HUGE amounts of data, create Google PageRank to make “authorities”, and basically try to get you results that most closely meet what you’re looking thus avoiding a huge number of porn links when searching on children’s bedtime stories.

The algorithm they devised was evolutionary (not revolutionary, one of the most overused terms in high tech) and it worked extremely well. As time went on, since the dominant behavior on the Internet was “searching”, using the information gathered and the search algorithm Google created they devised an ultra -efficient way to advertise. They already knew that you were searching (because Google is a search engine after all) and they knew what you were searching for and therefore Google could simply place paid ads next to your search result that would turn up sponsors who had stuff related to your search. This was brilliant in its simplicity because it was (and this is the key) ADDITIVE to your current behavior. VALUE ADD – simple, straight forward, and very very effective.

Google later expanded this to allow you or I to put ads on our site that would reflect something related to the information on the page upon which you placed the ads. Again, effective, but not as clearly value add because people on your site may not have necessarily been in “search mode”. They may just have been reading out of interest. But since the Internet was still basically viewed as a giant repository for information and “stuff” that you sifted through, “search mode” is what people generally were still in and it masked the few times people weren’t in “search mode”.

Now, with the advent (or rise) of social media, behaviors are changing. “Search mode” is still a dominant behavior but not what it once was. See, social media (blogs, networks, Twitter, etc. etc.) make the Internet more and more a place to “socialize”. Behavior changes from “searching for something” to “killing time” or “marketing” or “making connections”. Lets call this “hanging out” mode.

Now if you’re on a social network, you most certainly are not in a “search mode”. So then, what happens if Google indexes my Profile page and serves up an Ad related to the content there? The answer? Who the hell cares!

Why is that?  Because if I’m on Facebook or OpenWine Consortium or any other social network, I’m probably not “Searching” but doing some sort of “socializing” (BS’ing, networking, hooking up, whatever) – I’m in “hang out” mode. Indexing my page and serving up ads related to keywords and content is NOT additive to the social media experience or the current behavior so this ad will be ignored. Even blogs, which are chock full of information, don’t see much return on Adwords because while they do typically report or inform they, more often then not, are sparking conversation or continuing conversation. Unless the blog is specifically reviewing something, in which case a few ads on where to buy that something may work, contextual ads are ineffective.  This inefficiency in the original model was masked by the fact that predominant behavior was searching.  Now with the behavior being socializing, Adwords and the searching optimization are only slightly more useful than putting up a static add.

Even Google admits that it hasn’t solved the social network advertising/monetizing behavior.

Net-net:  Save your money.  Buying keywords is NOT social media marketing.

Now, Google is looking to create a sort of “FriendRank”, in a recent patent application.  They call it “Network Node Ad Targeting” and they intend to use a person’s social map to determine the number and quality of connections they have (and therefore their influence) and pay those influencers to allow advertisers the serve ads to their friends.  Interesting, but we’ll see how it plays out.  I’m sure they’ll be takers, but I’ll be awefully pissed if a friend or other contact is the source of ads I recieve!  Still not a value-add unless the friend somehow has the ability to control the ads that get served and influence what goes to our friends (i.e. some sort recommendation and reputation system).  Reading this patent, I don’t think it cuts it at all.

Cheers!

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Social media must be accompanied by offline events…

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Image via Wikipedia

I’m a huge fan of niche social networks.  I think Facebook is nearing complete uselessness unless it is the center of you and all your friends’ social lives.  Why?  Too general.

On the other hand, Ning.com has taken the tact of making really good social networks easy to put up.  Effectively commoditizing the social network (as it should be) and forcing there to be a real purpose for the social network.  Families, Alumni groups, soccer teams, music lovers, fan pages, you name it and Ning probably has network for it.

This is actually the ideal model.  Niche social networks mimic real life more closely.  You don’t have 1 social group do you?  You have work people, college buddies, soccer team friends, neighbors, and only sometimes so these lives intersect.  So why would there be only one social network?

I created OWC as a way to redefine a trade organization.  Update it.  Rather than a stuffy, meet once a year/quarter and have a newsletter organization, I wanted the wine world to benefit from meeting each other 24x7x365.  I wanted to have an organization that could teach and evangelize and lead by example.

What I’m learning is that there is no replacement for offline meetups.  Thats not to say new connections aren’t being made and value isn’t being created.  On the contrary, that is happening in a big way!  What I’m saying is that even with an online community there is great benefit to getting together on a regular basis.  Just being out and giving a couple of presentations over the last couple of weeks helped me put faces to names and voice to faces.  Not only that, the online community benefits as well – there was a huge traffic increase since my talks and a pretty big membership serge.

So, I wouldn’t say this is a surprise but a confirmation.  Social networks are a compliment to organizations, not a replacement for interaction.

By the way, Social Networks are a feature, not a business.  Much like I said about tasting note sites…but thats for another post…

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OWC has a Wikipedia Page

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Image via Wikipedia

Here a cool thing. After haggling with the folks at Wikipedia, I finally got a page “OK’d” on Wikipedia for OpenWine Consortium. 🙂

I thought it’d be important as I setup that organization to outlast my tenure as Executive Director. I’m taking it step by step. Its established now, even attracting sponsors and producing the events (like the Wine Blogger Conference in Sonoma in the Fall). Behind the scenes I am preparing to announce the board of directors, a new strategic partner that will help attract potentially thousands of members, and eventually closing on getting official non-profit status (because there isn’t a membership fee I really need to get some revenue to pay for the non-profit paperwork preparation – a non-trivial task).

In the meantime, its pretty cool to have the Wikipedia page, in a geeky sorta way.

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You see, gotta do this Social Media thing…

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Image by hannesseibt via Flickr

This week was the Wine Industry Technology Symposium (WITS) and last week was Inertia Beverage Group’s DTC Symposium.  At both venues I gave a talk about social media (the term that has been hijacked by Web2.0) and why the wine industry needs to pay attention.

My bottom line points are simple.  I’ve written about and preached on the “Wine Life Value Chain” where I talk about how the strength of a relationship basically has direct correlation to influencing a wine buyer.  The closer you are, sociallogically, to the source of a wine recommendation the faster and more likely you are to buy it.  So with that theorum guiding my thoughts we look at social media.

Social Media is basically conversations online, but the nice thing for wine (or bad) is that “word-of-mouth” becomes lightning quick and globally scalable.  So get on board and incorporate it into your business.

The reason for this post is we basically had a case study in the power of social media yesterday with Twitter and the wine crew (or it seemed like the wine “hit men/women” on Twitter yesterday!).  Here’s what happened.

The scene starts with Jill finding a wine writer in Florida at Tallahassee.com using the pseudonym of one of our fellow wine bloggers (DrDebs).  Jill tweets “Hey, someone is hijacking DrDeb’s good name” and to boot she was reviewing TERRIBLE wines and giving them good ratings – Yellow Tail, et al. A bunch of people immediately flocked overthere to check it out and left some choice comments for Fake DrDebs.

Next, one of Jill’s “followers”, Brittany aka WineQT, is from Florida and notices that the reviews from Fake DrDebs is eerily similar to a newsletter written by Nat Maclean.  Sure enough, it was plagarized!  We quickly see WineQT tweet out that “Fack DrDebs ripped it off!”.  Subsequently, Jeff Stai of Twisted Oak Winery sees this, logs a complaint with the website “Tallahassee.com”.  Within an hour the post is removed from the site for copyright violation!

Within an hour, a small post about wine that was plagarized was noticed by someone in LA, recognized as a fake post by someone in Oakland, and taken down by someone in Florida!  THAT, my friends, is Social Media.  That is word-of-mouth to the 100th degree.  And that is what wine companies can tap into if they just take the time to learn how!

Cheers!

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Evangelizing Social Media and trying to get back to the grind

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Image via Wikipedia

This weekend was the Inertia Beverage “Direct to Consumer” Symposium. I had the pleasure of presenting one of the larger sessions called “Marketing on Social Networks” and basically took it a little more horizontal and spoke more on “Marketing in Social Media”.

I think the presentation went well but a few things we are very certain in my mind as I start to evangelize and encourage people to participate via the OpenWine Consortium social network – since marketing in social media is a sociology problem and not a technology problem, wine companies have more of a head start then they think. Sure there are a blizzard of tools out there, but what is happening is that these technologies are moving in a direction that allows the skills that every wine brand already has offline – building a community around their product and getting to know their customers – to leverage the Internet to build that community on a much larger scale. Thats the basic synergy with Inertia’s business model. Once that broader community is established beyond just the tasting room, the final step is translating the connections made into a wine sale. Without the technology to do that, a winery is pretty screwed.

I really wanted to wineries to feel a little more comfort then they seem to be. Two main reasons – 1) online social stuff is happening and fast, but its not replacing everything tomorrow and 2) There are ways for wineries to benefit even though they are wearing many different hats already (and many don’t involve sitting in front of a computer 25 hours a day). This is where my talk and my co-presenter – Gary Vaynerchuk – differ. Always one for a bit of hyperbole (go figure) Gary says – email is dead (for some and many millenials, yes, but not completely), you have to be on every network all the time, and you can’t control your brand (which I agree with but influence is different from control). Ah yes, and he believes that there is no role for PR anymore with the new technologies – a point we differ on, its changing but PR doesn’t stand for Press Release so having built billion-dollar brands I can tell you PR is vital to a strong brand. Without PR there would be no Gary Vaynerchuk. PR is the art of image shaping and influence and there is alway a role for that. Most people have to outsource it, but others control it themselves (GV obviously controls his own PR). Anyway, long discussion.

Overall it was a good talk and hopefully we can get calmer heads to prevail and really help wineries to move forward with online strategies rather then just use “the sky is falling” discussions.

Well, now the in-laws are gone, daycare is back on (they had a week off for vacation after the 4th), so I have to try to get back into the groove!

Cheers!

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Creating Value for the Wine Industry

I’m in the process of closing down Wine Life Today the social bookmarking service and making it into my personal blog so that I can dedicate my time to creating real change and real value for the entire wine industry.

WLT is a two year old project that had a decent amount of success and even generated some advertising revenue which is cool.  But I never intended it to be a revenue source as much as it was a learning experience.  I LOVE the wine community and I spend tremendous amounts of time creating and learning from my creations/experiences.  So I always thought that creating things for the wine world would be the best of all worlds – I could meet more and more people in the wine world all while having my creative outlet.

Recently, OpenWine Consortium, a brainchild of mine that was inspired by the need of some industry friends I met through my other creations (this blog and WLT), has emerged as an unmitigated success.  With really no marketing whatsoever, it has garnered attention across all corners of the world, been written up in Wines & Vines magazine, signed up nearly 1000 members in less than three months, and really become something I can spend GOBS of time working on.  Its special, it fills a need that the industry has, and most of all, its something I’m very proud of but believe it can be so much more.

I believe OpenWine Consortium is 10 times more useful at 1000 then it was at 100 in terms of affecting change in the industry.  Real business connections are being made, value is being created through the exchange of expertise and advice, and new ideas are being spawned just through the interaction.

Guess what…I also believe that is OWC were 10,000 people is would be 100 times more useful and would create 100 time the value it does today.  So I’m setting a goal for myself and the OWC community.  The industry needs this site to be at 10,000 members from every corner of the globe to make it an invaluable place to be on the Internet if you are in the wine trade.  This goal is SOOOO doable its rediculous.  There are tens of thousand of wine brands and just an un-Godly number of service businesses that work with those brands and ALL the employees/owners/proprietors of all these businesses can benefit from the OWC community – the interaction, the community, the technology exchange.

So that is my goal today.  I’m very proud that we’ve gained 1000 members.  But I’m going to dedicate the time and effort needed to really move the needle in the industry and I hope others in the community who see the value will do the same.

I’ll start with something simple – a Logo that others can get behind.  Some good friends have put time into creating a logo and I”ll get it out there soon.  Look for the preview here.

What are some other things I can do?  Partnerships with others in the trade, training to properly use OWC as a tool for trade associations, implementing the changes that the membership wants to see on the network.

Me and about 1000 of my industry friends should be able to make a difference so lets see where this takes us!

Cheers!

(almost makes me want to say “To infinity and beyond!”…but I’ll refrain)

WBW#43 Round-up: Comfort Wines!

So yes, its finally here. I apologize to all those who’ve graciously met the deadline that I went and slipped! Tell you the truth, I am only NOW getting my own chance to take a breath and relax. I started last night, after my daughter’s second week. She’s an angel, healthy (well, healthy lungs THATS for sure), and Mom is doing great as well. The house is just about done, had to tweak a few things for the city to approve the construction (if you don’t know the background, my contractor abandoned my project – a home addition for the new baby – just before the holidays and my Dad and I had to finish it ( good thing Dad know’s what he’s doing!!!). So that’s done.

The OpenWine Consortium is now humming along with 530+ wine trade people networking and socializing and familiarizing themselves with using a social network online with great effectiveness! I’m getting all sorts of good feedback and seeing business connections and personal connections (the wine trade is a tight knit group) being found and/or being rekindled. That brings a smile to my face! That too was alot of work. Not necessarily the programming, I found a great platform to run the site, but getting the right elements of the wine trade to use the site and tell their friends. Now there are CEOs, Wine makers, fellow bloggers, importers, tradeshow producers, you name it and they’re all there using the site to the tune of hundreds of absolute unique visitors per day staying an average of 11mins each (according to Google Analytics). It surpassed this site (which has healthy traffic) in the first two weeks! And we’ve only just begun. I’m signing up corporate sponsors and getting ready to do some great things for the industry. Very exciting.

Ironically, I was pressuring myself to get this post done and that’s the most stress I’ve felt in about a week! But that’s Type-A Joel being Type-A Joel. Reading through the entries made me calm down a bit. In fact, like many of the entries, this very write up made me stop and think about “smelling the roses”. Its like I tell my wife (a SUPER Type-A), you need to somehow get “Relax” as an action item on your priority list. If writing something for this topic was that action item (which it seems it was for many people) then I’m really glad I picked this topic!

The entries have been a real pleasure to read.

So for my entry, I actually grabbed a bottle of Enkidu 2005 Russian River Valley Syrah that Agent Red of WineSpies.com gave to me as a gift at lunch the other day for the new addition (to the family, not the home) and read on with great enjoyment!

The Enkidu is the product of what I think is a fairly new winery in California. It had a DEEP purple, ink-like quality. The aromas were nice and an delicate with a little pepper, black cherry (cherry coke as my wife described it), and some smoke in there I could swear. Smooth and very well balanced (you weren’t going to get the heat from the alcohol in this wine!) the black cherry comes through nicely with a smoky pepper finish. The Wine Spies have a the stuff on their site so if you can get it shipped to you I highly recommend it! Secretly, while it was a gift I think he knew I’d be back on the site to get a case lickedy-split! Great stuff!

So on to the entries.

Let me start with one of my favorites. I don’t know why but when I read this it made me feel pretty cozy. Claudia at ChronicNegress chimed in with a Trapiche Oak Cask Malbec 2005. Now, this whole entry – from its brevity to the simplicity of her relaxation, to her slightly off-beat name, just made me smile. She also lists my Alma Mater – MIT – in her Friendster profile. On OpenWine Consortium, which she has recently joined, she describes herself as a “Negress of some distinction”. Love it! She suggests kickin’ this Malbec with “flannel pajamas, burrito leftovers and split pea soup with Tabasco as food pairings to savor.” Why? Cause that’s how she rolls…

Dr Debs, from Good Wine Under $20, is the unspoken inspiration for this theme. A little while ago she wrote a post about wine and her childhood that made me think of my little girls. I relish the fact that those things that I remember so fondly about home and translate into making my life and home so comfortable (you know, a memory of Christmas morning or playing soccer with Dad) are now what I am imparting on my little girls. Deb posted about how fondly she recalls the nights with wine on the table in her parents home and how drinking it to this day brings her back to those warm memories. It would fill my heart with unending joy if one day one of my girls wrote something that nice about something I may not even be paying attention to right now but that they are going to carry with them into adulthood as a fond memory. Its one of the small, odd reasons you become a parent.

So that became the inspiration for this theme. I wanted to hear more experiences and what better way then hearing how everyone integrates wine into their lives in a positive way (who knows, maybe one day your little one will remember your relaxation and wine routine as well). All that being said, its apparently a contest between Deb and I on who is going to give more love to the other because as I was inspired by her post she one ups me on her entry by dedicating the wonderful 2001 Clos de l’Oratoire des Papes Chauteuneuf du Pape in honor of the birth of my daughter. If you read the post, yes, its true, I Twittered (or Tweeted?) the birth of my daughter Alex from the labor and delivery room of the hospital. Up until I had to be “hands on”. While I think Twitter is the hallway conversation of the Internet and sometimes valuable conversations are lost never to be acted upon, I thought it was kinda cool doing that …demented and sad, but social… Thanks Deb.

Joe at 1WineDude gives a great mini-history of Chauteuneuf du Pape, his comfort wine, but also tells the story of his choice. Turns out his younger brother had a struggle with a congenital heart defect that nearly took his life. CDP floods his soul with the feeling of relief as it was the wine they all shared when they finally knew he was going to be alright. Joe, thanks for sharing. This really is what this topic is about and you brought in the backbone to this Meritage of a tasting theme. Thanks brother.

Along those same lines Catie, the Walla Walla Wine Woman we all wove and winner of the wine illiteration contest, has the best quote:

Now you might think this seems odd, but everytime I taste Waterbrook Melange it tastes like Autumn in Walla Walla. And don’t ask why or what Autumn tastes like, but there must be something about the taste that seems to trigger a special moment or event in that time frame.

Check out her Washington (state) selection Waterbrook Melange, produced in the Walla Walla Valley.

Erika Strum of StrumErika.com goes with a Gnarlier Head 2005 Dry Creek Valley Old Vine Zinfandel which she attributes some of the “relaxation” to the high alcohol content. I disagree, unless you get lit off a glass or two. In which case we need to watch out when the Strum sisters hit Vegas again!

Michelle at Wine-Girl gets into the groove by starting with her comfort food – for her Mac and cheese or chicken or dumplings – and she seems to be having a heck of a time herself so I’m glad this posting made you sit down and reflect Michelle! Carol at PourMore analyzes her comfort foods as well to arrive at a good QPR, accessible Ravenswood Lodi Zinfandel and she catches on to a theme through out a bunch of these submissions – comfort wine should be easy enough to add to “relaxing” experience…unless judging a wine competition is your idea of relaxing then easy isn’t a bad way to go!

Sean at Interwined video submits a tasting of California Bordeaux blend 2000 St. Clements Bordeaux blend (Meritage) which he uses to get comfy and cozy on those cool London evenings. Nice job on the video! After my software crashed I wish I just video taped this round-up!

Diane at Loveswine gets into the spirit of things with a really comforting sentiment. She has her Calgon moment (Calgon was an old bath soap brand that had a relaxing commercial that chimed “Calgon, take me away!” probably 20 or so years ago…man I watch too much TV) with a a bottle of Taylor Fladgate 10 year old Tawny Port. I can definitely picture this scene – “I fill the glass to the brim and slip into the tub. Aahhh. I’ll stay there for half an hour, and sometimes I’ll call to my husband to bring me a little more. The nutty, caramel flavor and stronger alcohol work like charms for me.” That’s what I’m talking about. Did I mention my new home addition includes a 72″ spa tub with German fixtures. Why 72″? Because I’m 6′ 3″ and Diane and I have similar rituals!

Farley at BehindtheVine goes for a flight of Sparkling wines with the support of fellow sparkling wine lover Michael at FoodandWine who kicks in a Avinyo Brut Reserva Cava, while Kori at WinePeeps dives into a good wine (2002 Peter Lehmann Shiraz) while picking up a book he’s been meaning to read for while.

Marcus of Doktor Wiengolb tries to get us to think about which kind of comfort we’re looking for with some extensive, well wriiten notes on cozy Grenache and Luxurious Chauteuneuf du Pape. Lia Huber takes that concept one step further exploring several wines with several situational relaxation postures – First day of summer, gathered around a fire, on a picnic, eating crab, with a winter braise, or just eating pizza on a weeknight Lia knows her relaxation wines! Now this is in stark contrast to Alex from Leeds in the UK who say that if she were to relax it would be with Château de Goëlane Bordeaux Supérieur. Alex, take my advice – you’ll save two hours of debugging code for 30 minutes you take to enjoy the wine life! When you’re going to that vineyard in the sky and taking your last breaths I’m pretty sure you’re not going to say “I should’ve commented my code better…”, but you might say “I wish I had finished that last bottle of Enkidu 2005 Syrah that’s in the cellar….”

Ryan and Gabriella go down the path that Marcus started and suggest that “comfort” of wine suggests the characteristic of the wine and therefore there are several that fall in that class. That wine that is just plain good and allows you to enjoy what makes you happy rather than think about the intricacies of the wine are what you’re looking for. Nice post, definitely worth a look. Roija brings Hank from Honest-Foods back to a time when he was first venturing into wine. When things seemed simpler as each and every bottle he opened (from Roija) was solid. I think we all have a similar memory. Its runs like that which spark our collective passion and we end up spending the rest of our lives in pursuit of more runs of that nature! Hank breaks out a nice 2000 Herederos del Marques de Riscal Riojo Reserva which sounds like something Ryan would enjoy because, according to Hank, “It lets you do the thinking; all it does is listen.”

John at CorkDork has his take on on a similar idea. While not necessarily advocating going with the straight forward, he wants to simplify the wine choice to enhance the experience. To that end, you’ll find John relaxing with a wine he knows will be consistently good so its more a matter of what you want that good wine to go with rather than worrying about if the wine is good in the first place. I can get with that logic!

RichardA at Passionate Foodie gives a counterpoint to that opinion. Reflecting on his favorite comfort wine is actually what relaxes him. Thinking about the complexities and the sheer artwork of his Pleiades XVI without the pressure to write up a note or judge it for any competition is what recharges his soul. Tim Elliot of Winecast.net agrees and chooses the muscular yet balanced Ridge Vineyards, Zinfandel, Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley 2004 as it takes him back to his early journeys in wine.

A few entries roll in that get straight to the point: Andrew at Rougeandblanc goes for simple, uncomplicated with good QPR 2003 Royal Oporto Douro Porca de Murça Red, Dale from Drinksareonme is more than ready for the ultimate relaxation time – summer – with his 2006 Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc, Catherine at Purple Liquid just gets back from France and perks up with a glass of 2004 Chinon Domaine de la Noblaie Les Chiens-Chiens, Sharon the Bloviatrix is new to wine (be sure to head over and welcome her with tips!) so she submits a recommendation she received – Jean-Marc Burgaud Morgon Cote du Py Vieilles Vignes 2006, all while Joe in Montreal warms up the cold winter nights with 2000 Penfolds Bin 389 by the fire (great picture of the Penfolds in a snow bank!).

Jeff at GoodGrape (my American Blog Awards Graphics arch-nemisis ;-), goes for something that he feels the need to defend a bit, but I think if he reads through this he’ll realize that the are many that go with straight forward and easy when they relax and you really don’t need to defend it! His choice? 2005 V. Sattui “Crow Ridge Vineyard” Zinfandel. I mean, even Dave at Winections agrees and goes for a “fruit bomb” that is so straight forward that there’s no need for analysis, he just likes it!

And yes, Jeff beat me out for ABA Graphics last year. I’m just having a bit of fun. I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m a stalker.

Turns out that when she’s not boiling the ocean, Megan of Wannabewino is knockin’ back her favorite varietal. She had to go with a whole varietal because of he tendency to boil the ocean… just kidding – who says there are no inside jokes embedded in WBW write ups. She chose it because it (Zinfandel) evokes good memories, puts a smile on her face, and almost always puts her in a good mood.

Don’t worry because Jill of Domain547 is right there with you Megan! In fact, she goes even broader detailing why the pursuit of wine is in and of itself the fulfilling adventure.

Jim Eastman kicks back in Ohio, listening to Nina Simone, with a very unique selection – a wine from Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin who produces a Prairie Fume off-dry white wine made entirely from seyval. He explains what Seyval is and the fact that its hard to find outside of Wisconsin, USA!! My wife’s from Green Bay so I’ll have to give this one a try personally. You can’t tell a CA brother he can’t find a certain type of wine! Now I HAVE to find it!

David McDuff relays how a bottle accidentally cellared (i.e. you know that one you threw in there a little too far back and 10 years later, when you’re reorganizing, you stumble across it?) can lead to a very rewarding and comforting experience. Its not something thats re-occurring but a serendipidous addition to the “comfort wine” theme. Very interesting read.

Marta from RecentlyConsumed is making me jealous – a great blog design, a great pairing of three great wines with three bad movies, and the ability to enjoy them all, as she puts it, in “a night of comfort between cynical newlyweds enjoying their pre-children freedom”. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it. You’re cute, you’re young, you’re still in “that phase” of marriage. Thanks for reminding me… ;). In all seriousness, nice addition to the comfort stories and definitely a blog to check out! And contrary to what others might tell you, when you’re with the right person you MAKE the time to remember “that phase”. In fact, this post is one that makes me say “yeah, I’m gonna do that!”, so personal theme objective achieved!

So thats it. I have to say, I am really happy that the topic was so thought provoking and for all those that had to sit back and take a moment to realize how much wine is actually a part of your life and your relaxation all I can say is I hope you take more occasions to Enjoy the Wine Life!

Cheers!

WBW#43 Announced:….and breeeeeeath….

Wow, when I thought about this theme for WBW (which I signed up for about 18 months ago, btw) I had no idea how badly I was going to need this or how cathartic the topic would be for me.

I believe in balance in life. Truly. I think you must or you won’t survive. That doesn’t me you’ll never get ahead because you take too many breaks, but there must always be balance. I can work like a maniac for days at a time, but not without something to ground me, my kids, my wife, and of course wine!

So that’s where I derived this theme idea. Wine is part of my life. Even when I ran into health problems with my cholesterol some years back, the doctor said I’ll need medication and probably cut out wine…wrong on both points my drug-company influenced friend. See, wine is part of the Yang to my everyday Yin. I love it and its such a part of my life that I believe that when I have that glass, at the end of the day or sometimes at the end of an intense week, my mind and body just release and relax. I never get hammered on wine and no other spirit signals my body to transition to “relax” so its not the alcohol as some may argue. It is the act of drinking it and the memories and good times the wine brings to mind that just lets me drift away.

I think there are enough people out there who know what I’m talking about which is why I chose this theme. Comfort Wines – choose a wine, any wine, that you love to unwind to and tell us about not only the wine but what makes the experience special and relaxing for you!

For me, I’ve just finished a home improvement project (literally getting sign-off from the city in the next week), launched the OpenWine Consortium social network, got my car repaired after an accident, and my second daughter is due March 4th (with WBW#43 due March 5th!). So I’m pretty sure I’ll have a good experience that I can try to convey for that Wednesday.

Remember, I believe in enjoying the Wine Life so if wine is part of a relaxation routine for you lets hear how you unwind – whether is in front of the TV or on the roof of a villa in Spain in front of a grill. Lets paint some mental pictures of tranquility for everyone to read and enjoy. Maybe some of us will have a couple “oh man, I totally have to try that” moments!

Cheers!

Every Wine Tasting Note Site Should Be Freebasing!

Thats right. I said it. Although it may not be what you’re thinking.

Can you guess what’s wrong with tasting note web sites? Exactly, none (and I mean N-O-N-E) have reached anything close to critical mass of users to make their notes useful. Why is that? Well there are too many wines every year to have multiple reviews per wine. So every wine tasting note site tries to get their hands around an unbounded number of wines and create a tasting note site that is actually useful. NONE have succeeded and even the biggest are only useful for organization purposes (CellarTracker) not for looking up wines.

One approach with promise is Snooth, but they’re actually smarter about it. Its not about tasting notes, its more about personalizing wine selections for you and if there are tasting notes to help then great. I actually like that concept. They’ll bring in a gambit of ratings and notes and attempt to normalize them and match a wine to your liking. This is (obviously) not a tasting note record keeping site but it leverages that function.

So what’s this about “Freebasing”? Well, if you haven’t heard, there is another approach to gathering data out there and they’re gaining steam. Freebase is a massive database that is completely open so that a site can use as its database as a backend. Then anyone can query this DB and get at that information or submit information and contribute to the collective. Also, tags in that information make connection automatically regardless of the original source. The best explanation of this is here, at Tim O’Rielly’s blog (the guy who originally coined “web 2.0”). Its an instance of the semantic web (what some call “web 3.0”). The advantage? Since a tasting notes are not a business but a feature, if all the sites created real business plans with tasting note functions as a part then there wouldn’t be a need to hide the notes in an isolated database. Sure, protect your user DB but submit your notes to Freebase. Gary V can go on ranting and raving with the Vayniacs, Snooth can continue making educated selections for you, WineQ could add value to their custom wine clubs. These are all sites that don’t depend on notes as the core of the business. One thing I won’t get into is this aspect (and the power of Freebase) – if Winehiker were to create an application that was a database of trails in California and some wines he experienced there, then Freebase would automagically create a query result for any other application that connects wines related to the notes Winehiker made about his travels and the wines on each of those trails with other wine notes submitted from these sites. You would start to see a world evolving of things connected to wines and trips and tastes that you’ve never imagined before…but thats a whole different post!

Anyway, Freebase allows sites like these tasting note sites to be built and while they individually create communities for whatever purpose they are all adding to Borg collective known as Freebase.

There is one other approach – creating a micro-format that makes a standard format that allows any note written out there be crawled and scanned into a DB automatically…what-ever. Thats never going to happen unless Microsoft, Apple, and every other user interface company decides they want to support MicroFormat for wine tasting notes. Chances of that happening? Pretty much Zilch…

It would be far easier for other sites that have note functionality to migrate their DB to Freebase, effectively merging all note DBs, and write database calls to the Freebase API rather than their own MySQL “Silo” of information. You think CellarTracker is cool? Imagine every note ever entered into a site on the Internet, regardless of the site, being available to Snooth or WineQ or any other site that wants it!! I’m an Alpha member of Freebase and I can attest that its difficult to explain the potential impact of this site, which brings me to the practical, marketing side of my brain – I’ve seen too many technologies that were just too far ahead and couldn’t survive until the world caught up. I hope Freebase doesn’t go that route…

Every wine note site in the world should be Freebasing!

Enjoy the Wine Life!