Friday, February 26, 2010

A Tasty Green Fairy

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

"Absinthe makes you crazy and criminal, provokes epilepsy and tuberculosis, and has killed thousands of French people. It makes a ferocious beast of man, a martyr of woman, and a degenerate of the infant, it disorganizes and ruins the family and menaces the future of the country." (ref)

With an introduction like that, why wouldn't you drink some? I think there was just a lack of understanding of the alcoholic male. I promise I saw plenty crazy, epileptic degenerates in college and continue to see some at the local "frat" bars in New York City.

I started learning about absinthe when my mother's business partner brought back a few bottles of "the real stuff" from the Czech Republic. It was slightly better than window wiper fluid and about the same color. Recently I got more and more interested in absinthe and brought together a few bottles for a tasting.

Before my tasting I got a chance to speak with Andy Young and Joe Pawelski, makers of Trinity Absinthe. From them I learned more about this strange green drink and found that tasting like windshield wiper fluid is as far from the mark as possible. These producers started making absinthe because of the allure and the flexibility of taste that absinthe allows.

Absinthe is a beverage that uses a base alcohol, either a grain, beet, potato or white grape spirit, and then adds distilled botanical elements, in much the same way as gin. Only with absinthe the ingredients tend to be anise, fennel, and of course wormwood, the plant that supposedly induces the insanity so often associated with absinthe. The active ingredient in wormwood is Thujone, which was once thought to cause absinthe drinkers to see hallucinations, experience epilepsy, as well as an additional long list of symptoms. Modern science has proved that high doses of Thujone will produce some of these symptoms in lab mice. However, it has been proven unlikely that these symptoms could have been caused by this chemical in absinthe.

Once the distillates have been combined the resulting liquid is then steeped in additional herbs to release chlorophyll, which is what gives the finished product its green color. A naturally colored absinthe will eventually turn brown in the sun or even in your cellar. This is a natural progression of the liquid, just as red wine will become lighter or white wine darker with age.

Armed with more knowledge and information, I started my absinthe tasting. At first I tasted the absinthe neat, without the traditional ice water and sugar. The result was horrifying. Wine Post Contributor Mike Feldman said, "I wouldn't serve that to my enemies."

So, I began going about it the proper way. Over a glass I put a sugar cube in a strainer (lacking a "absinthe spoon." As my mother would say, it's like a sail boat screw. $4 at a sailboat shop and $0.50 at the hardware store). I then dripped iced water over the cube to melt it and mix in with the absinthe, which then became cloudy as the mixture separated in the glass. This resulted in a much more pleasant drink, which is how I evaluated the below absinthe's:

Lucid - opaque grass green liquid, anise and licorice, with a little bit of herbal tea. This one was not my favorite, but it was also not offensive. The bottle is also very recognizable.

Vieux Carre Absinthe Superior- more translucent, a little orange citrus mixed with anise, eucalyptus and a mineral background. I also found the packaging to be very interesting, although impossible to photograph (see below).

Trinity Absinthe Superieure - a light green colored opaque liquid, pure anise with a rich fennel. Lots of heat but also some mint. Note: Trinity is currently in the final stages of approval by the TTB and will hopefully be released within the next year.

Pernod Aux Plantes d'Absinthe Superieure - Bright neon green! Really over the top green, which makes sense since on the bottle it says, "certified colors and FD&C Yellow #5 added." Not sure if it came out in the taste, as all I got was licorice, but it certainly shocked me to see.

Can you guess which of the below is the Pernod?

Disclosure: Wine Post received samples from each of the producers listed above.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Beware the wild Poontinger - RAWR

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Do you remember the original Fandango commercials? They were brilliant and had me laughing, until I saw the commercial for the 3rd time. After the 45th time I was a bit sick of them, but that is not the point I am trying to make.

I received an e-mail saying, "Tried a little Poontinger lately?" and I could honestly say, no. No I had not. I had to look up what a Poontinger was and I found this definition on Wikipedia:
The Wolpertinger (Crisensus bavaricus) (also called "Wolperdinger", "Poontinger" or "Woiperdinger") is a fictional animal said to inhabit the alpine forests of Bavaria in Germany. It has a body comprised from various animal parts – generally wings, antlers, and fangs, all attached to the body of a small mammal. The most widespread description is that of a horned rabbit or a horned squirrel. It is similar to the Rasselbock of the Thuringian Forest, or the Elwedritsche of the Palatinate region, which is described as a chicken-like creature with antlers; additionally the American invention of the Jackalope, as well as the Swedish Skvader are similar creatures to the Wolpertinger.
Why the heck would someone be sending me an e-mail about a Poontinger? Well it turns out that a wine company has taken the Poontinger as its mascot and namesake. Dr. Peter Poontinger Rheinhessen Riesling was introduced by Paulaner HP USA in November of last year. The Riesling is very pleasant, with a little candied apricot, cream, and lime aromas in the glass and a lot of zippy acidity lemon rind and bright green lime on the taste. I think it is a great deal at $10, although I probably would not pay too much more than that.

Disclosure: Wine Post received a sample of Poontinger Riesling from a Paulaner PR representative.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sweet Tooth Twosome: Wine Blogging Wednesday #66

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Today is Wine Blogging Wednesday and Jennifer The Domestic Goddess is our host for this month. She wanted us to think about our after dinner pairings and write about them. I love sweet things. Chocolate for sure, but there is a dessert that I have most often that I cannot get enough of. I have had this addiction since it was forced on me by my parents to keep me happy (or maybe they were just feeding their own addictions).

I of course am talking about the Oreo Cookie.

It is a delectable, delicious, and versatile cookie. It most often loves to be dunked in milk, but it can also be crumbled on top of pudding, ice cream, cake, pie, pizza, hot dogs, grilled chicken, and steak. At least... I think it would be good on those last couple.

I picked another sweet and delicious liquid to imbibe with my cookies for this post. I chose the NV DR Tawny Port. This Port was very good. On the nose there were beautiful notes of chocolate, raison, and almond, all of which were confirmed when I put it in my mouth. The raison turned into dried cherry and it was smooth with a wonderful length so that the mingling of Oreo and Port kept me happy. I also liked that the bottle's label looked somewhat like an Oreo.

What do you like your Oreo's with?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Canopy Management Wines

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Some people say "TAR jay", but I don't really like those people because it is not a fancy store with a french pronunciation. It's a mega store, there to bring you reasonably priced goods. That is where you will find these wines, in the alcohol aisle in Target stores across 42 states. New York is not one of them yet, because in NY you can only have one physical wine shop, but those rules are changing (ask me if you haven't heard the news).

Canopy Management has put together a variety of cleverly named wines that all fall into the $12 price range. None of these wines stood out to me as being above and beyond the call of duty, but if you're in the store picking up bulk TP or a new fishing pole, these are wines that you can pop them, drink them, and not feel bad if you had to pour the leftovers down the drain.

They are (in no particular order):

2007 Purple Cowboy "Night Rider" Merlot

2007 Purple Cowboy "Tenacious Red"

2007 Monagamy Cabernet Sauvignon

2007 Deep Purple Zinfandel

NV Kate & Cassie Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot

NV PromisQous

Disclosure: Wine Post received these wines as press samples.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Taste of Puerto Rico

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Would you like to know how rum is made? When I read those words it made me feel like I was about to hear a story about a stork invading the privacy of my home by flying in with a squealing bundle of sugar cane.

I was invited to a Rums of Puerto Rico event on Wednesday February 17. The event was the launch of ROPR's advertising campaign in the U.S. The campaign is called "Reflections" and it is all about being fun, hip, and energetic. I was vastly under dressed, but I have found in my experience that most media that show up to events are regularly vastly under dressed. I think I have figured out why: There is no note on the invitation telling you the formal dress requirement. Or maybe that is what I have been telling myself to make me feel better about looking like a shlub. I was not out of place in a sweater and sports coat, but I probably would have put on some better pants at the very least.

But back to the story.

Rum is made from sugar cane, either the syrupy juices called "guarapo" or honey. Like all alcohols, the sugar is combined with yeast that will ferment into an alcoholic soup. This soup is then distilled to remove water and other substances that you do not want in your Mojito. According to ROPR, in Puerto Rico the resulting rum is then aged in charred barrels of white American oak, similar to how wine is aged in charred barrels of French, American, Slovakian, Romanian, and other types of oak. The rum is then aged for the desired amount of time, blended with other barrels of rum, bottled, and shipped to your door.

The aging is important. I actually was not aware that most rum from Puerto Rico was aged at all. For instance let us take Baracdi's signature brand, Bacardi Superior. It is a clear or "Silver" rum that you can find everywhere. In fact, if there is an alcohol retailer that does not carry this brand there is probably something wrong with the business sense of that owner. With so much rum from one company it is hard to believe that there is enough space in Puerto Rico to house that many barrels of rum for over a year, year after year. However, that is exactly what happens, although perhaps there is more than one storage house and perhaps not all of them are located in Puerto Rico.

The aging labels for rum is as follows:

Light or Silver: Aged at least one year. ROPR says, "Has a subtle flavor and delicate aroma and is ideal to mix with fruit juices. Generally light-bodied and filtered to remove any color." This is your off the shelf, bring it to a party, dump it in the punch and do not tell anyone type of rum.

Gold or Amber: Aged two to three years. ROPR says, "These rums are aromatic and full-bodied in taste and have a deep, mellow flavor. They are a perfect compliment for seafood dishes. Enjoy with sodas and juices." What?! Seafood? Really? Well, I will need to test that out sometime...

Dark or Black: Aged four-five years. ROPR says, "Full-bodied with deep, velvety smooth taste and a complex flavor. Enjoy on the rocks and with juices." You ever hear the expression that "the old black rum has a hold on me"? If you do not, you should drink more. If you have then you either drink too much or you listen to too much folk music. (see embedded video below. if you cannot see the video you should go to Wine Post to see it)

Super Premium: Aged six-12 years. ROPR says, "These rums are specially aged and blended to provide a slight twist in flavor. They include cognac-type rums." If you get your hands on any of these, do not let go.

That aside, the drinks being made at this event were good. I had a Blueberry Mojito, which confused me slightly because I had expected the drink to be on the bluish side of the color wheel, but it turns out the fresh blueberries make everything slightly redish/purplish (see photo).

The highlight of the event was the Super Premium (Aside: why can't we just call them "fantabulously awesometastic"? I feel that would be much more effective than Super Premium. SP has been used, it is old. Bring on new media speak. I am starting a Facebook fan page, who's with me?! Social media forever!... hem, where was I...) rums. Below are my notes and the order I would rank them, going least fantabulous to most awesometastic (ok, I'll stop.):

Ron del Barrilito Three Star - Smoky caramel, with a big kick of flavor at the beginning, but a sharp slope downwards after that.

Don Q Grand Añejo - A little more rustic than the Barrilito, but with a little more spice and richness to it.

Ron Trigo Reserva Añeja - This one was interesting because there was a strong mineral component to the rum. It gave it slight tang that was very pleasant.

Bacardi Reserva Limitada - Absolutely gorgeous. And I am not saying that because I had three tastes of rum before this one. This balanced rum was smooth with a lighter caramel taste and a spiciness that was very tasty. Not only that, this was the only rum that I felt linger on my palate for more than 30 seconds. It was the most enjoyable for me, by far.

The only issue is that the only one available in the US is the Don Q Grand Anejo, although the bartender I spoke to at the event said that it was likely the Bacardi Reserva Limitada would make it to the U.S. soon.

Disclosure: This post came directly after attending the Rums of Puerto Rico press event.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Late Valentine's

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Are you having a late Valentine's Day? My girlfriend and I have something of a schedule nightmare most of the times, stemming from her being a doctor and having to work all hours of the day and night. So traditional holidays are delayed, moved up, or canceled as we see fit, especially hallmark holidays like Valentine's Day.

I am both a fan and a critic of the big V-day. On the one hand I am very much a romantic and love those moments when saying the right thing or doing something simple make someone you love very happy. On the other hand I clearly remember when it is one of those holidays and I had no one to share it with.

So for good or not, happy or sad, turning to alcohol is a perfectly acceptable choice (unless one happens to have an uncontrollable compulsion for alcohol, in which case chocolate ice cream is my second choice). So for those who have not yet been a Valentine, or anyone who had to delay because of medical emergencies or thousands of people who walk into the ER with a stubbed toe, may I suggest the NV Elyssia Pinot Noir Brut Cava.

The Elyssia Pinot Noir made by Freixenet is wonderfully balanced and dry. The bright red color goes perfectly with the dozen roses you forgot to get, or the heart shaped box of candy you did not buy. And at $18 a bottle, this wine is packed with enough strawberry to say, "Look how much I love you. No really, I do. Really."

Disclosure: Wine Post received this wine as a sample from the Freixenet PR representatives.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oxley and Twist

By Eric Feldman, Wine Post Contributor

As far as bars go, I like Frankie’s on a Thursday. Bartenders know me, good lookin’ crowd, and just enough ambient buzz from people talking and whatever game is on in the background to block everything else out. Tonight’s traffic seems a bit heavier than usual…must be a happy hour for some investment firm, or maybe some lawyer got a ten minute reprieve from his desk to invite his coworkers out for a drink. I don’t mind. Just means more buzz.

Thankfully my seat at the end of the bar is open, despite the frivolities - they all seem crowded around the plasma down by the taps anyway. I hang my jacket up on the hook below the chrome bar top and wave down for some service. As usual I take out my cigarette case and start packing a Lucky Strike. I don’t really know why, I don’t even smoke anymore. I just like the feel of something in my hands and it looks a lot less desperate than tearing up a Newcastle coaster. Idle hands, as they say.

“Hey Jimmy, lemme get an Oxley and tonic, wedge of lime.”
“You got it – run a tab?”
“Just bring me another in ten minutes and close it out.”

A couple more pats on the Lucky and I get the rewarding feeling like I’ve accomplished something. Each ping it makes against the tin case makes me feel like if I wanted a drag I could take one, but I ain’t going outside. Rather have the drink.

“Here ya go.”

Jimmy drops off the Oxley and I toss the straw off the side. Won’t need it. I think Jimmy just leaves them in there to see if I’ll finally ask him to just stop adding them… probably won’t though. It’s smooth. Refreshing. Perfect balance of kick and flavor. Quietly I think I let out an “aaaah” although I try to show some restraint – can’t let it go to Jimmy’s head. As he’s walking away I notice a throng of bankers or lawyers or whatever ordering a round of pitchers. Just over Jimmy’s shoulder though, amongst the otherwise forgettable crowd of mid-level misfits, I catch a woman in a blue dress. She seems bored, hasn’t even touched the last round her increasingly boisterous friends must’ve bought her. She turns just past me, probably to see who walked in the door and brought that cold winter breeze with them. I only see one blue eye behind that jet black hair, but it’s enough to think she sees me too.

“Heya Jimmy, hold up a sec. Do me a favor, send a dry Oxley martini with a twist to that woman in blue at the end of the bar.”

Jimmy takes a quick look over his shoulder, imperceptible to anyone but me in that perfect bartender way, and chuckles, “Forget it pal, she’s out of your league.”

“Just send the drink, let me worry about it.”

I take another pull on the Oxley and tonic, and it helps cool down the fire of nerves I have building inside. Just as sweet as the first sip, I think. God I hope I didn’t say “aaah” out loud again. As Jimmy hands the woman in blue her drink, I try to hide the cigarette so she won’t see it – I’ll at least wait until ten minutes into the conversation to blow it, I figure. Jimmy leans in, and I can see him say “Oxley martini” as he points to me. She looks down at the drink and pushes away the beer, taking a delicate sip off the top to keep it level. Class act, I can tell.

I try to put on whatever sort of smile I can possibly muster despite the butterflies – and immediately forget to hide the cigarette. I give a nod, a stupid half-grin somewhere between “saying cheese” and trying to look cool and add a little wave of the hand with the cigarette. She looks up.

She smiles back.

Editor's Note: The above story is a work of fiction written after tasting Oxley Gin. Wine Post Contributor Eric Feldman is a lawyer by day, a gin enthusiast by night, and a brewmaster on the weekends. Eric brews at the East Village Brewing Company. To contact Eric please e-mail

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Friday, February 12, 2010

Tender Twosomes: Wine Blogging Wednesday #66 Announcement

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

It has been a while since I participated in a WBW, so I thought I would jump on this one. Jennifer The Domestic Goddess is a nurse turned foodie. Really, if you were done with treating the sick would not you also turn to food?

Jennifer has laid the challenge at our feed of not stopping with a wine pairing for the meal, but moving through and pairing the desert as well. So often the wine with dinner is the one that is given the most preferential treatment, with the desert wines overlooked. So choose a wine (not necessarily sweet) to pair with a desert of your choice.

Check out her blog post to see the details.

But do not stop there! There is a problem that has begun with Wine Blogging Wednesday. It has almost lost its charm. When I first started blogging I found out about WBW for one reason, because there were a ton of other bloggers that posted announcements about it so that EVERYONE could get the news. So write a quite blog post, just take 2 minutes to post in on Twitter. Get the word out and let us see if we can make WBW an even again, instead of something that most people let pass them by.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Quick Taste: Luna Vineyards

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Luna Vineyards was founded in 1995 by Mike Moone and George Vare in Napa Valley. What sets this winery apart from most of the other wineries is that they are doing a little bit of work with different varietals, most noteably Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese. These wines have an artisan touch, obviously worked and cared for by the winemaker and vineyard managers.

2007 Pinot Grigio - I am not a huge fan of Pinot Grigio, as most readers have picked up on by now. When I find one I like, it is usually crisp and citrusy. I found this wine creamy and a bit herbal, as if a combination of creamed corn and green tea were mixed together. That said, it was quite drinkable, but not something that really stood out for me.

2007 Merlot - If you like cherry, you should buy this wine. There were red cherries, black cherries, bing cherries... it was a cherry bonanza. There was also rich cinnamon and cedar box that found its way in. This wine needed another couple years in bottle, a decanter, and a fatty cheese. It was tight, so buy now, drink much later.

2007 Sangiovese - It was like something out of a dream where I woke up and said, "Quick someone make me a strawberry cake with vanilla frosting!" and Luna was there saying, "I happen to have one right here." This wine was very good, with strawberry cake, vanilla bean, and sweet strawberry jam on the nose. The flavors were clear and well defined, which makes a great wine for someone who like to pair with food. The taste held much of what was on the nose, with a bit of dusty tannin in the mix. At first I thought the wine dropped in the mid-palate, but I realized that it just needed to breath longer (again, more time in bottle needed). After waiting an hour for the wine to breathe, everything came together and was delicious.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Social Media Covers Social Media

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

I love social media, especially in the wine world. Bloggers love to collaborate, share ideas, kvetch to each other about how "The Man" (AKA established media) is bringing down the industry, jump on each other for minor misunderstandings (hey Randy, to directly quote 1WineDude: who loves ya baby?), and all other manor of cheeky fun.

I have written about wine bloggers (strange how the list of blogs that I read has not really changed), how I see the interaction between wine bloggers and marketing (which is changing on an almost daily basis as bloggers are figuring out how to communicate to PR/Marketing professionals and in turn these marketers are figuring out how bloggers work), and more recently about the proliferation of the newest form of SPAM.

About three weeks ago I started researching for a blog post about today's world of social media and its impact on the sales of wine. After about two weeks of researching, I found that every single social media wine writer has not only covered this topic, but covered it, poured cement over it, built a skyscraper on top of it, and then for good measure asked King Kong to climb to the top and stand on it.

One of the first articles (yes I am now calling blog posts articles) I read on the subject came from 1WineDude's January 25, 2010 article, "Wine Satan or Wine Savior? An Interview With Wine Trials Author Robin Goldstein." In the interview, Goldstein said:
I think the emergence of wine blogs are one of the best thing that’s happened to the wine world in the past decade. They are a much-needed force against the abuse of power by the mainstream wine media elite. When I revealed my Wine Spectator exposé, I got an incredible outpouring of support from wine bloggers that, like me, were tired of the way this sort of abuse proliferated and happy to see that somebody had exposed it... Blogs are meant to encourage debate and disagreement. That’s not to say that every wine blog is good, but the good ones are more interesting to read, I think, than almost any of the mainstream magazines.
I think this shows the base bias from where blogs stand. On one side we have the established print media, all of which can now be found online in one form or another (Wine Enthusiast, "Evaluating Wine" 12/09). On the other side we have the new media, namely citizen journalists or bloggers. I am not sure what print media ever did to piss off new media. Perhaps it is just the nature of new media that supports and encourages rumor mongering and sniping comments, just on a global scale instead of in a dark bar with a couple of buddies. Then again, this is America, and there are fewer things we like more in America than seeing the big guy toppled by the little guy. And with such clearly defined big guys, it is natural that the main targets of bloggers be the Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator. It is easy to jump on them while holding up small hypocrisies (Wine Camp, "Petrus Gets Bad Review from Wine Spectator" 2/2/10). The conversation also includes Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits, but only in the same way that it includes every print journalist writer at major newspapers and other magazines.

The main issue is making money. How do you make money while supporting a wine drinking (accompanied by compulsive note taking) habit? Many writers have managed it, and continue to support themselves even after they have been released from newspapers that found wine writing to be expendable. Zester Daily is one such outlet that was inspired by a collective of food, wine, and travel journalists that needed on outlet for their stories. While many papers were no longer paying for their services, they came together to form a new food and wine news outlet. Direct from the website regarding food and wine: "Advertiser-supported, independently owned and distributed without fee, Zester Daily gives this rich topic the close, uncompromised attention it deserves."

While the issue of writers making money may be the source of tension between bloggers and the established press, it is the resources of the wineries in the industry that creates the increased tension. Somehow it is easy to forget that it is the revenue of wineries that makes the whole system flow. Wine Spectator would not be able to make a single dollar if it were not for wineries making wine. I am not in the position to know which wineries are making money and which aren't, but there are others that are (Steve Heimoff, "Who's Making Money? Who Isn't?", 1/10) who have been reporting.

What effect have wine bloggers, who have been in the mainstream for almost two years, had on sales? Yes, the biggest gorillas have been in the room for over six years, but I would say that the most noise has been made in the last two years. That is when PR firms and the big box wineries and importers started identifying blogs as a media outlet that should be focused on and brought to the forefront of yearly strategy meetings. Budgets are now being allocated to Social Media. I do not mean specifically bloggers, but "Social Media" as an idea. This has created interesting, creative, and exciting programs, initiatives, and strategies for attracting the attention of the most active users of social media: bloggers.

Murphy-Goode Winery was the first and biggest splash into the social media pool. They held a contest to find the best, most exciting, social media promoter to join their team. It made national headlines after gaining a huge head of steam. The name was on everyone's lips and I swear I was considering punching the next person to make a "Goode" pun.

From that we were introduced to Hardy Wallace, the charismatic viking horn wearing wine guzzler, and a variety of other candidates, including Rick Bakas. After the Murphy-Goode contest was over Rick was hired by St. Supery Winery to be their social media guru. At St. Supery Rick has started an almost never-ending series of online tastings using twitter as a medium.

I asked the PR department at St. Supery to comment on their use of Social Media. From St. Supery's PR department:
"Wineries and many businesses are using this form of communication to directly reach consumers. St. Supery realizes that consumers are getting information from their peers. Information is multi-dimensional; it's viral and everyone's opinion is valuable to someone and that is why we are investing in social media -- to bring attention to our brand and our commitment to sustainability, preservation and making the best wine we can."
St. Supery is involved in Twitter and Facebook as mediums to communicate directly to consumers, however they would not comment as to how much of their marketing budget is being spent on online promotions. Murphy-Goode Winery did not respond to requests for comment for this article, although they certainly have both Facebook and Twitter pages as well.

The question is have either of these wineries made any money from their promotions and uses of social media? Today's economy makes tracking these increases or decreases especially difficult. Neither of these wineries have folded, which leads me to believe that while the social media program may or may not be leading their sales, the mix of activities and promotions that both of these wineries engage in has kept their businesses going.

Many other wineries and wine regions have social media programs, many of which are quite successful at reaching out to the social world. Twisted Oak Winery runs an extremely successful "Take Your Rubber Chicken to Work Week" promotion, which brings hundreds of submissions to the Twisted Oak Blog El Bloggo Torcido, run by El Jefe. Hahn Family Wines has run blogger weekends, made personal connections through their PR program, and most recently had a stream of PR success with their "Banned in 'Bama" campaign for Cycles Gladiator. ViniPortugal invited bloggers for a wine tasting in New York and sponsored the Wine Bloggers' Conference. Wines of Chile has been hosting online blogger tastings.

All of these programs have many things in common. They are well-thought ideas, with engaging personalities behind them. They are executed in a timely fashion with expansive outreach. However none of them have reported that their program gave them a huge uplift in wine sales. There is still nothing being held up and pointed to with people saying: This is how you do it.

I recently read a few articles by Evelyn Resnick on her blog Wine Brands (also the name of her book). "Does a winery still need a website?" enters into the discussion the idea that with all of the information that is passed through other social media forms (twitter, facebook, etc.) that a winery does not really need to have a website as well. After some discussion on the article, Evelyn refocuses the point in a second article "A winery needs a website!" Personally, I think a winery needs a dedicated communication manager to deal with all of these forms, but this shows that there are basics that every winery needs to activate online.

In there is the point. Social media is not something to be taken as the be-all end-all of a marketing program. I am not even convinced that social media is the most effective use of a marketing budget. However, the proper mix of promotions, online and off-line, along with tried and true distribution is by far the best way to engage the audience wineries are looking for. Tom Wark made interesting points in his article "The Influence of Wine Blogs." Wark breaks down basic strategy for wineries in reaching their audience. What he does not say is that these should be the only targets. While it is true that People Magazine will reach a wider audience of people looking to buy $7 wines, a good review in Wine Spectator does not hurt either. One is certainly more helpful than the other (and I will leave it to someone else to debate which is more influential), however there is no reason not to take all the help you can get.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Walking the Stepping Stone

By Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

On average it take me about two to three months review a wine that has been sent to me here on Wine Post. There is first the time lag between when I receive the wine and when I taste the wine. That is usually about three to four weeks. This is deliberate, as it allows the wine that has been sent to me to get over its bottle shock from being put into a box, shaken vigorously by the UPS or FedEx man, and then delivered to me.

After waiting an appropriate amount of time, I then taste the wine and write down my tasting notes. I will usually taste the wine after about 15 minutes of it being opened, then again after 30 minutes, and then again after an hour. This allows me to see how the wine changes and evolves. It also gives me a small glimpse into seeing if the wine could have aged. The more changes the wine goes through while open to air, the more these changes could have blended into a wine as it sits in the bottle. It is not a sure indicator, but it is close. You can definitely tell when a wine is closed tight and needs a while in the air to open up. More time in the bottle would certainly help these wines open.

I mention this because these are some of the properties I found in Cornerstone Cellars' newest label: Stepping Stone. I received a bottle of the 2007 Grenache and 2007 Cabernet Franc. The Grenache is from the Red Hills AVA, in Lake County, within the North Coast of California (circles within circles). The Cabernet Franc comes from vineyards in Carneros. I really enjoyed both of these wines, but I thought the Grenache was great. It had beautiful wild berry flavors, with a fine sprinkle of crushed black pepper. The longer this wine sat in my glass, the smoother and more enjoyable it became, clearly indicating to me that this wine could have held up for another five years easily.

The Cabernet Franc was also very nice, with fresh and vibrant fruit, hinting at a background of herbal polish. Blueberries and raspberries were the most prevalent with a band of dust that carefully divided the fore-palate and the mid-palate.

Another thing I like about Cornerstone is that on the individual wine pages there are a few notes about WHY the winery decided to make the wine.

Disclaimer: I received both wines as samples from the winery.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Changes at Wine Post: Wine & Spirits Blog

We have made some more changes here at Wine Post!

The layout of the blog has completely changed, and this time we did not even change the URL! (Yes, last time I did this it was nothing short of a disaster. I'm learning.) I know, truly amazing, but the good people that make hundreds of thousands of blog templates need to be thanked for the smooth transition.

The color scheme is much cleaner, the way the posts are arranged is smoother. It is now easier to find who it is I follow and easier to find archived blog posts.

There is a new About section to tell you more about me, why Wine Post exists, and some statistics that every PR/Marketing/Winery/Importer wants to know. I also have made it clear how to contact me and what my policies are on sampling and advertising.

If you receive my blog through e-mail, click on the title of this post to check it out. Same with all of you that read this through the various RSS feed readers.

And most importantly, tell me what you think! How do you like the changes? Are things actually easier for you to read?

Leave a comment at the end of the post. I would love to hear from you.
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