Don’t call it a wrap-up, just a point in time…


WBC 08 in Sonoma CA

The Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC) in Sonoma has come and gone.  I’ve been toiling around with so many things to write about that I hardly know where to start.  So I’m going to have to write a series of posts about different things.

First, there will be no “wrap-up” post.  The concept of the WBC was to take our online conversations and meet face to face, as a community, to get a better understanding of the issues and each other.  Then we need to talk more about the issues back online again.  So I have always viewed the WBC as another element like our comments, tweets, forum posts, etc.  We need to keep this conversation going and evolve the medium as a community.  Its exciting when you think about it.  Like I mentioned, technology has once again taken an industry status quo and turned it upside-down.  The game has changed and we can influence how things pan out in the future.  Already, as noted by Alice Feiring in her keynote speech at dinner on Saturday, there has never been a community of wine writers and now, if you felt the energy in the room at the conference, clearly there is.  Guess what – thats new.

As a co-producer with so many new friends let me say a thanks and an apology.

First the apology:

While its necessary to get sponsors to pull something like this together on this scale and make sure we’re not just gathering in a park drinking from the water fountains, we tried very hard to make this a re-imagining of a wine conference.  All bloggers welcome and the community is there to interact with each other first and foremost.  We attempted to dedicate an entire morning to the Unconference – a free-flowing session with ad-hoc topics, no sponsors, no pitches, only bloggers.  I personally communicated to everyone that we would have at least that much time to do something completely unscripted because thats what we as bloggers are about really – going off-script, something completely different.  I took my time getting to the Unconference and when I arrived there was already a session about Wine2.0 and getting bloggers involved.  So after all my talk of unscripted, unsponsored, hippy-blogger-love day, a brand ran a session anyway which changed the tenor of the Unconference.  I didn’t take that lightly and I do apologize to the community for it.  We hadn’t intended for there to be any corporate presence in that session and I should’ve paid a little closer attention to what was going on.  I wanted to get that out because its been toiling in my head for days.

Now the thanks.

I’ve been getting alot of kudos, which I do appreciate and I do my best to say so even though I’m not the best at taking compliments, but really Allan Wright of Zephyr Adventures turned out to be the perfect partner to pull this off.  I know a few of us had been kicking around the idea of a conference for a while but knowing what it takes to pull off a conference, my hesitation was basically I knew what I didn’t know and that was very daunting.  Allan approached me in April and after talking over what he thought he could do for a conference like this it was pretty clear he had alot of experience and skills in areas I didn’t and THAT is what makes teams, companies, ideas, etc. work!  The success we had was not only fast (April to October – 6 months) but we were able to take care of what we needed efficiently as if we worked together for a long time when in reality we were going basically “site unseen”.  So MANY thanks to Allan, the perfect partner to making this come to fruition.

Next post…the anatomy of a conference – the snafus you DIDN’T see even if you thought it went smoothly!


Is it me or is this guy a TOTAL douche bag?


Image by Getty Images via Daylife

OK, so I’m trying to insure that the Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Sonoma has good, solid Wi-Fi access.  I’ve spent a decade and a half in the networking industry and the last 8 years designing wireless products so when I setup a conference for 160+ BLOGGERS, i.e. many many laptops in the same room, I have my concerns because of the physical limitations of Wi-Fi.

So the hotel hooks me up with the contact information for their service provider (the Wi-Fi is outsourced which is typical for a hotel).  I send him a message stating exactly my concerns and pointing out that I’ve setup many tradeshow demos as well as conference networks that got hammered by a techie conference.  Here is the email that he sends back to me (understand, I am the hotel’s customer and I am selling out their hotel for this weekend and giving them untold exposure through media the whole weekend).  Is it me or is this dude kinda of a douche?

Dear Sirs-

There are a total of 19 APs interspersed throughout the hotel, not including extra devices occasionally set up by catering.  Depending on the unit, they’ll support from 12-36 users on the wireless (multiple internals).  This has been the design at the Flamingo since its initial design and installation, almost as if we knew what we were doing…

Please inform the users that the codes will be bound to the MAC address of the NIC they use at the time of connection and entry of the code.  They cannot switch computers and use the same code.  The time in contiguous and not broken up to when they are using the connection, ie: 3 hrs ≠ 9 hrs of 15 minute usage periods.

Also, be aware that the total bandwidth for the Hotel Guests use is 6mb/3mb.  Therefore, this should not be a time for these “HEAVY internet users” to download all the Richard Simmons or Jane Fonda videos as this type of abuse will naturally hinder the enjoyable experience that such a convention should foster, human dialogue and contact.

I hope that you enjoy your stay at the Flamingo and that all elements of your convention are a total success.


Maybe its me, I don’t know…

Updated: The hotel worked on the service provider to create a parallel network in the main conference area that will be supported by additional APs on non-adjacent channels and they committed to having staff on hand throughout the entire conference should this network shit the bed.  I feel better about the chances of success.


Wine Spectator Award scandal…yeah, so…


Image via Wikipedia

OK, so there’s alot of hub-bub about that the Wine Spectator expose that happened by blogger Robin Goldstein.  And first let me say a couple things.  Bloggers are extraordinarily important to the world and this is just the latest example of some good citizen journalism.  Bravo to Robin for the work on setting up this sting.  Nice, ethical, and well executed.

As a marketing professional for a decade and a half I’ll say this though – what did you think the award was?  Wine Spectator is a “for profit” private entity that has what, 100 employees?  I’ve dealt with many many awards for the rediculous number of products and companies I’ve launched and I’ll tell you this, whenever there is a for-profit entity involved then you’re going to pay-to-play.  And if you pay-to-play then you’re probably getting an award!  There are several technology related firms that have pay for entry, then I win the award, then they call me back and pitch me Ad space, and then tell me to be involved in the award ceremony I have the great opportunity to present my product/company at a high profile industry show…for yet another fee.

update: On side note for the history books.  In the late 1990s, what I call “Bubble Days” of tech, pay-to-play got ridiculous.  There were analyst firms that would take EQUITY in a startup and then write a positive report.  Subsequently, these firms would go public and thanks to the Tech Bubble some people got very rich for their “award” or “positive outlook”…nuts…

This Wine Spectator debacle is nothing new or unexpected.  They’re leveraging their brand, which has the power today to make a $20 wine into a $100 wine overnight, to make more money.  What is unexpected is the fact that they were complete IDIOTS about it and obviously do zero vetting not a very thorough job vetting applicants.  Dumb dumb dumb.  But I’m not surprised the award is the way it is.  Not at all actually.  Maybe thats part of the marketer’s secret code or something but thats how these things go.  If this didn’t happen (the dumb non-vetting move being exposed), who wouldn’t pay $250 for this “Excellence” award, hence “profit” opportunity.  Look, even now, if you have a real restaurant whats to stop you from fudging the wine list?  The sting was a totally fake place, but what stops you from doing this again?  Pay-to-play, thats how it works.  Its a revenue generator for the company, thats all.

Now, I do want to point out something in stark contrast.  The “American Wine Blogger Awards“.  Whenever they come around everyone gets in Tom Wark’s grill about “who are you to judge me” and “what makes you think this award is valid at all”, and so on.  I mean he gets HEAVY criticism.  Well guess what – its decided on by people submitting nominations, then the finalists are chosen by a panel and voted on by the people again.  Oh yeah, and it FREE.  In fact, when I offered to sponsor the AWBAs Tom turned that down.  So even though its not perfect I view it kind of like how I view the American Democracy – its not perfect and sometimes its not fair (just look at my tax bill every f’in year), but its about the best you’re gonna get!



OWC has a Wikipedia Page


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.


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 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 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 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!


Marketing in Wine 2.0 World – A Whole New Way to SPAM?

Well, I’m seeing a light at the end of the tunnel with my myriad of projects so I thought I’d post a little bit on a topic I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks. I guess I’ve noticed a subtle but disturbing trend
in the world of Wine 2.0. We are just starting to chip away at the social networking technology world as it


relates to wine (we’ve even got the cool moniker of Wine 2.0 to describe these tools) and it really does open up alot of exciting possibilities particularly if you’re a techie marketing person like me.

First, what do these sites do? Well, whether its Twitter or Pownce or Jaiku, Facebook or MySpace, most of these “social” sites basically help you to use online technology to find people with common interests and share ideas with them. When you verticalize that concept into, say, wine, that broad, general, somewhat useless “tell everyone what I’m doing all the time” actually becomes quite useful. I’ve decided to use Facebook as the epicenter for my wine contacts (that use online stuff – mostly blogger friends). Doing that I find that I get quick recommendations, find out about events, hear about people coming to town, all with that baseline of wine connecting me with these people. “Its social…demented and sad, but social”. Wine is a good topic to use these technologies for because its inherently social and so even before the Internet existed there was already a global conversation and community around wine. New technologies are just facilitating.

(side note: someone mentioned to me that a good way to help understand why these things are popular with kids is to imagine what you would’ve done if you could do all this stuff before you could drive a car – you could ‘keep in touch’ and interact without relying on your parents for a ride…I guess I could see that).

So the social nature of wine in meshing very well with new social technologies. The challenge that the wine marketer needs to meet is simple – how do I get tapped in and have my wine company join the global conversation? How do you spark a conversation between producer, consumer, and marketer/advertiser? How do you join your brand into the conversation in this online world? If social technologies like blogs and social networks are moving from broadcast (I print/televise and you watch/read) to conversation and interaction then marketing has to transform from “impressions” and “eyeballs” into conversation and interaction (I have a many thoughts on this area as a marketing professional). A marketing campaign is not as much about repeating my brand so many times that you’ll never forget it as it is about doing something that gets your brand accepted into the conversation.

This is where Wine 2.0 is starting to falter and lose some steam. I’m going to pick on Gary Vaynerchuk a little here but first, I will say some positive things about him. He’s a good one to use because he’s put himself up front for marketing his business in some brilliant ways and in other ways he somewhat falls short – really representing the faltering I am seeing in Wine 2.0 based marketing.

Continue reading “Marketing in Wine 2.0 World – A Whole New Way to SPAM?”

Happy 3rd Birthday Vivi’s!

Well, my blog is growing up so fast…>sniff sniff<…

First, let me apologize for the bit of a hiatus. There’s just alot going on. I have development working on Wine Life Today, working on things with our friends at WineQ, a couple of major intiatives at my day job, construction at our house, and the best news of all…we are expecting another little addition to the family! So as you can imagine, I’ve taken a brief hiatus from my normal blogging but I have a backlog of great wines to review including a wine AND recipe combo from Wolf Blass!!!

So thanks for everyone’s support, well wishes, requests for more posts, and everything else. That past three years have meant alot to me in my wine adventures

and I owe a great deal of that to the community that supports this blog.

Keep the notes coming and as soon as life gives me a chance to take a breather I’ll be back on this microphone tasting, pontificating, and just generally yapping to all the wine lovers out there! Stay tuned!

Technology looking for a problem – No value in wine community sites

Yes, this is about the Cork’d acquisition and its my analysis as a tech industry vet thats been in and around deals like this for over a decade.  Now before you all fly off the hook and start jumping on my throat, hear me out.  I am 100% in favor of Web 2.0/Wine 2.0, technology, and anything else that has to do with exposing as much great wine to as many people as possible.  However, lets take a look at the Cork’d acquisition because its very revealing.

First of all, Gary V., congrats – this is a good acquisition for you and your retail business.  Very forward thinking.  You have a lively “Vayniac” community and a thriving retail business.  This functionality you’ve acquired is very very smart.  Its a robust technology that will serve your community very well and it was put together by some thought leaders in the Web 2.0 world.  Now your existing community can really do some great things including the notes and sharing comments and Twitter and all the rest.  I actually thing that this can position you as a real challenger to the “”s of the world.  You’ll actually have a useful wine e-commerce site thats more than a wine clearing house.

That brings me to the thesis of this post.  This acquisition is actual proof that a site based SOLELY on tasting notes and hoping to attract alot of users is, in reality, of little value (financially).  What Gary did was acquire technical functionality to enhance his pre-existing community – savvy move by Gary but what amount do you think the 20,000 pre-existing registered users brought to the deal?  Gary’s got a community and following already.  There’s a remote

chance that some of those Cork’d users may actually buy from Gary so there’s that value but what that amounts to is a mailing list that Gary can promote to.  That’s worth about $10K and you can get much better qualified list from a magazine publisher.

Cork’d had (and has) some very advanced technological features and, like I said above, the synergy with Gary’s site is to help create fanatical WineLibrary customers.  Gary’s business is retail.  It pays the bills.  At the end of this, Cork’d was a short cut for Gary to build the features he needed for his site without paying for a custom contract to re-create.  Gary made a “build versus buy” decision.  In this case, its a simple decision for Gary – How much to get a gaggle of engineers and pay them to re-create Cork’d for me, add some percentage on top of that and offer that to Cork’d.  Any decent private equity guy/gal could do that calculation for you.

Do the 20K registrants of Cork’d add any value to that equation?  Answer is a resounding “NO”. 

So if I may be so humble, if you’re working away on a site that collects tasting notes and is attempting to create a community with a business plan of marketing to that community and creating ads for them you need to be careful.  Step back, do some deep analysis, write a business plan and flesh out exactly what your goals and missions are before you spend a year on creating custom functionality for a real business person.  If you can create the site on your own and you don’t have a business plan written they you’re better off consulting because you’re obviously a talented programmer.  Your opportunity cost of spending all your time on a site like Cork’d is going to be painful when you could’ve been billing $100 per hour for your time.

Enjoy the Wine Life!

Wine Spectator Grand Tasting or Jay-Z After Party…hmmm

So I had a semi-defining moment this weekend. I was in Vegas for my annual “guy’s weekend” with some buddies. It started off as a way to get golf in with some friends and, now in its 7th year, has become a way for us to get together as we’ve moved to different areas and don’t get to see each other much.

So there were two big things going on this weekend:

  1. Wine Spectator Grand Tasting
  2. Oscar De La Hoya versus Floyd Mayweather “Fight of the Century

I didn’t know either of those were happening before I showed up. More importantly, for item number 2, Jay-Z was having an after-party at a new part of Tao called Tao Beach. As much as I like the Grand Tasting and don’t get to go too often, I was WAY more interested in figuring out how to get into the Jay-Z after-party.

(pictures at the end)

Continue reading “Wine Spectator Grand Tasting or Jay-Z After Party…hmmm”

Wine and Sports – what could be finer?

A study by market researcher Nielsen found wine consumption among U.S. sports fans increased to $81.40 in 2006, which was up $14.60 from 2005 which was in line with increasing consumption of wine in the United States.

The interesting part of this?  According to the report, certain sports drove a much higher gain than others.  In particular, LPGA fans spent $125 in 2006, up 17% over 2005 and overtaking the PGA tour as the top spender per fan.  Tennis was second followed by PGA.

Now, you might think those are all high-fa-lutin’, hoity-toity sports and in some cases more of a “game” than a sport.  But get this – the biggest gainer was….

THE NFL – with an increase spend of 63%, up to $94, over 2005…

And people mock me for opening a premium wine while the ‘Skins are layin’ a whoopin’ on the cowboy…HA!