Harvesting harvest

It’s that time of year. All along the highways and byways and cross roads grapes are ripening. Trucks are rumbling. Crews are assembling. Harvest is starting!

Hats off to the St. Helena Star for tracking the news week by week, appellation by appellation: here’s the first installment.

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We’ve shared some pointers about how to turn harvest into PR “gold” in the past, but here are a few quick reminders.

  • Images. Snapshots. Video glimpses. However you can capture this very exciting and very visual time of year, do so!
  • Tell the world. Everyone’s interested, whether your tasting room guests or club members or distributors in Dubuque or website readers or Facebook friends or Instagram pals.
  • What’s different? Yes, everyone is harvesting, so find out what’s unique about what you and your crew do. What time in the night are you harvesting? Traditional harvest meals or snacks? Sprinkling the first load of grapes with a sparkling wine? What happens to all that pomace?
  • Push away from your desk and spend some time following your winemaker or vineyard manager around. How do you cut off a cluster of grapes the best way? What happens to those berries as they travel to the crush pad? Get familiar with the Brix numbers. Whole berry fermentation? What kind of yeast and why? This is a chance to learn about the science of winemaking.
  • Mother nature. Here’s a chance to put some details around how green you are, how important the birds and the bees are to creating great wine. Maybe there’s a bear in the neighborhood? What kind of birds like your Merlot grapes?
  • People stories. Who’s picking? What are their stories of favorite years, things that have gone right or so wrong? Harvest is a momentous time where the team is working together for long hours. There have to be some Stories.
  • This is your moment to reach out to that writer you’ve been thinking about contacting. Assemble some stats and go for it. Even if the journalist doesn’t bite, he or she will be appreciative that you thought of her, so you’ve built a bit more of a relationship with that writer.

Harvest is probably the most newsworthy time of the year. Make the most of it!

Talking to Kelli White about her new book

One of the most important books to be published recently in the wine world is Kelli White’s Napa Valley Then & Now. We recommend acquiring a copy (you can do so here); it’s truly a ‘magnum opus’ and an enormous and enormously important reference guide for Napa Valley wines. Here’s a way to take a sneak peek into the book….

We sat down with Kelli to talk about the book, how she came to write it and other insights about the process.

Kelli A. White’s work as a sommelier, first at New York City’s Veritas and then at PRESS in St. Helena, has been covered by many of the wine industry’s top publications, including Food & Wine, Vinous, The Wine Advocate, The Wine Spectator, The San Francisco Chronicle, World of Fine Wine, and Forbes. In 2013 she was named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s top ten sommeliers in the country. Her writing has appeared in World of Fine Wine, Robb Report, Sommelier Journal, and Le Pan, and she is currently on staff at Antonio Galloni’s Vinous. In 2011, she co-founded a small wine brand, Houndstooth, with her fiancé Scott Brenner. They live in Napa Valley with their hound dog Lefty.

What surprised you the most as a first-time author?

This sounds incredibly foolish, but I was so focused on the making of the book, that I didn’t really think about the selling of it. I imagined that, as soon as it was finished, I would effectively be able to “move on” with my life. But books don’t just sell themselves, especially if you don’t have a household name. So it’s a good thing that I really enjoy talking about and crafting events around the book because that has been very time consuming.

I also didn’t appreciate the huge difference between publishing a book vs. publishing articles, from a public image point of view. I’ve been contributing articles for numerous magazines for years, but this was my first book. You definitely become a more public person, which has both positive and negative implications.

What was the most exciting or gratifying moment as you wrote the book and then see it published?

I dedicated the book to my mother, and she cried quite a bit when she saw that. That was a definite highlight.

Did you receive any negative feedback/reviews? How did you deal with that?

The whole review process has been an interesting psychological experience. The vast majority of the reviews have been positive, but– especially in the beginning– I would completely skim over the positive parts and dwell extensively on anything negative, no matter how slight. As the process wore on, I began to realize that you can’t please everyone. While some people would complain that there were no scores, for example, others would praise that; some would complain that the book was too expensive, while others would say it was a bargain for its size… time evened out all commentary, and eventually I trained myself to take the time to enjoy the praise.

In today’s world which is so online oriented, you’ve produced a 1,000+ page “real” book. Talk about that, why it’s important, meaningful, etc.

Prior to this book, I had written for both online and physical publications. While I love the immediacy and the dynamic nature of the online world, it was important for me to produce something that would still exist if the power went out. Plus, I truly hate googling things. When I want to know something, I enjoy the experience of thumbing through an index and looking up the answer to my question in an actual book. Call me old fashioned.

You describe wines in extremely lyrical detail. Have you had feedback from people who feel intimidated about “wine speak?” Please talk about that.

It was important to me that the writing in general, but the tasting notes in particular, feel warm and inviting. I think that my time as a sommelier has brought that home for me. People are easily discouraged, and I wanted them to feel excited and inspired. It can be a tough thing to balance– feeling excited and wanting to wax on about a wine, but not wanting to overwhelm a reader.

Did your “day job” at Press have an impact on the book, or was it an inspiration?

My day job was a huge inspiration, as a majority percentage of the tasting notes in the book were tasted at Press, and from its cellar. The cover image is of the cellar there, and the owner of the restaurant was the sponsor of the book.

Why did you decide to write this book?

Because I needed it. It was the book I wanted to have when moving to Napa from New York City. I knew relatively little about Napa (relative to other regions) and I wanted to study up prior to my arrival. I was more than a little surprised to discover that a wine region as highly regarded as Napa didn’t yet have a classic tome dedicated to its bounty. I turned that lack into an opportunity.

Talk about the research involved; were there any surprises as you handled that part of the writing?

The research was fascinating and really fun. Getting to know the various vintners of Napa was quite rewarding. In truth, when I arrived, I was expecting them all to be more formal and inaccessible but the reality was that the vast majority of them were incredibly warm and gracious. It was the first of many dispelled false notions…

You’ve literally traveled the world promoting the book, from Scandinavia to Japan to London, etc. Can you share any fun anecdotes about doing this traveling/promoting?

I have been shocked (and pleased!) at the overwhelmingly positive foreign reception, especially in Europe. Interestingly, the modern style of Napa wines has not necessarily connected with certain European drinkers, but the older vintages are very exciting to them. I did a really fantastic tasting of older Napa wines with a group of sommeliers from Stockholm. A couple of them attended reluctantly, but then came up afterwards and told me “I’ll never say I don’t like California wines every again.” That was a very nice feeling.

What advice would you give a prospective wine book author?

Be organized, stay focused, but don’t get lost in the project. Be sure to take days off and treat yourself well. Also– fact-checking is extremely important and so often botched. As someone who has been written about, nothing is more frustrating than a misquote or a bad fact. And once the book is out, learn from the criticism but don’t dwell on it; it’s hard to put yourself out there, so make sure you’re well-supported by those that love you.

Julie Ann’s Wine PR Award—Shhhhh, Don’t Tell Her

vwmcovertitleFor those of you who know my partner in SWIG, Julie Ann Kodmur, you know she’s overly modest. I know, unusual for a PR type. Still, she is a modest one. So modest is she that she was going leave unsaid on this blog that she was JUST AWARDED BEST PUBLIC RELATIONS AGENCY/PROVIDER by Vineyard and Winery Management Magazine.

Shhhhh….Don’t tell her about this post. She’d blush.

In general it is the job of a PR professional NOT to get noticed. Rather, it is the job of the PR professional to get their clients noticed. So, when notice is taken of us in some formal manner, we are at once surprised and truly gratified because it just doesn’t happen much.

Here’s what Vineyard & Winery Management noticed about Julie Ann Kodmur:

“Julie Ann Kodmur founded her marketing and publicity consulting service in 1997. Based in St. Helena, Calif., she’s created multiple successful campaigns for wineries large and small. Clients appreciate her “attention to detail, reasonable pricing and incredible results,” “strong industry knowledge, innovation and excellent, timely service” as well as the fact she’s “connected,” “gets it done,” “knows the realities of our business” and “always has great and fresh ideas and goes above and beyond.”

You can read the entire list of award winners here.

The winners are picked by a vote of Vineyard and Winery Management readers. As you can imagine, although Julie Ann knew she had been nominated, she told no one, lobbied no one for votes, nor even mentioned her nomination to her partner in blogging crime. Shame on her. I would have lobbied for her!

That said, her recognition is one for the little guys in our profession, those little one-person consultancies who toil alone and without a large staff, but rather with a network of colleagues and contacts that keep us sane.

So again…DON’T TELL JULIE ANN ABOUT THIS POST!!! The recognition might embarrass her. However, do raise a glass to one of the best PR practitioners in the biz.


Another Wine Writer Symposium….

Here’s a stormy weather welcome to the attendees and speakers of the 12th Annual Symposium For Professional Wine Writers taking place this week!

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A busy several days of tastings, seminars and networking await the 30 writers and the prestigious presenters, who hail from all points of the compass–Canada, England, Asia, Bordeaux, New Zealand, Florida, Nevada, Texas, New York, Washington D.C., Colorado, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Sonoma and Alameda.

Then, of course, the Symposium dovetails into Premiere Napa Valley, on Saturday, which is generating its own momentum with events taking place all over the Valley this week.

Hats off to the diverse number of topics being discussed, wines being tasted, wineries being profiled, vineyards being tromped through and vintners being interviewed. Wouldn’t it benefit all of us who are marketers in the wine business to understand how to improve our communication skills, learn how to ask the most perceptive questions, ferret out the hottest trends, as this lucky group is able to do this week? What a terrific opportunity for this group of attendees this year.

However, it is unfortunate that the Symposium attendees won’t be learning about the most important issue in Napa Valley today: that would be the cloud of anti-winery sentiment hanging over the Valley these days.

Try to go get a new winery permit today in Napa County: it can take years.

Try to plan an expansion or a re-model: it could take years. Want to revisit how many visitors your winery can receive? Good luck: your neighbors are watching…and counting…and will show up at your hearing to protest.

You could even say there’s a de facto moratorium on all winery development right now.

A small group of noisy activists are trying to go viral with their list of complaints about life in the Napa Valley. What’s a winery to do? If an entrepreneur comes here with the hope of starting a winery, that heretofore-successful skill set won’t apply.

What is APAC, a writer from New Zealand might ask?

Here in the heart of prestigious wine country, local officials have wondered about “how much marketing is too much marketing?” And a new term is being used to stir up anti-winery feeling: “binge tourism.” That’s used to denigrate a winery including hospitality events as part of its marketing and sales.

Here’s another new term being used derogatively: “event centers.” Anti-winery folk are trying to persuade the public that wineries aren’t really wineries, but “event centers masquerading as wineries.”

Then there are the articulate long-time vintners who are trying to remind everyone that Napa must compete on a world stage in a hideously competitive marketplace. Here’s just a glimpse of the issues at stake:
“Long-term agricultural sustainability is not possible without economic viability. ….Napa’s agricultural future comes down to only two options. First, to keep Napa Valley in agriculture we must all realize and embrace the fact that our wine industry must be dynamic, innovative and vibrant — it needs to be able to change with the times or it will die. The wine industry of today is not the wine industry of yesterday, nor will it be the wine industry of tomorrow. The second option is to give in to all the naysayers and their continuing fight for a Napa Valley of the past.”

What an enormously complex topic the Napa Valley wine industry is….here’s hoping we may have intrigued a writer or two to look beyond the Symposium schedule. Might be worth mentioning that these issues are starting to appear in other wine regions as well…..

From Wine Communicator to Wine GM

Opus OneBack in the day it was titled “Public Relations.” Then, somewhere along the line, folks started to call the position “Marketing Communications.” Today, it merely boils down to communicating and the iconic Napa Valley winery Opus One has termed the position, simply, “Communications Manager.”

Opus One is looking to file the position of “Communications Manager” and by the look of the job description it’s a position that, if filled correctly, then executed upon with gusto and commitment, could easily produce a person who might readily be on the GM track.

Consider the responsibilities built into this position:

• In collaboration with the Vice President of Communications, develop and execute a global Social Media Communications plan.
• Generate and manage all content (images, video, music and written copy). Working with designers, marketing and sales, external influencers and industry experts, produce relevant content that is consistent with the Opus One story and vision, and reflects our core values in social media spaces.
• Collaborate with sales and marketing to ensure consistency of message, and visual harmony across all social media.
• Monitor, listen and respond to users on all social platforms with passion, enthusiasm and decorum.
• Establish effective benchmarks (best practices) for measuring the impact of our social media strategy. Report monthly on effectiveness of campaigns and provide insights for refinement.
• Monitor and stay abreast of trends in global Social Media platforms, SEO, tools, applications, channels, design and strategy.
• Serve as a digital educator and champion for the social community.
• Understand complex CRM systems/data and effectively translate this knowledge into solutions that automate processes and increase our ability to dynamically personalize customer communications and on-site reception.
• Champion the expanded use of CRM. Continually build and maintain the relationship with all partners and stakeholders in the CRM functional area to ensure CRM is at the forefront of everyone’s agenda and solidly defined/interwoven into their planning and daily work routines.
• Identify opportunities and build relationships with prominent influencers and thought leaders in the luxury wine space (trade, distributors and collectors) and with other luxury product producers.
• Work with guest relations and direct marketing to maintain a customer-focused attitude with a focus on activities that create lifetime customers.
• Actively monitor daily newsfeeds for critical trends or breaking news regarding the wine industry or Opus One. Share, comment, or reply as appropriate either directly or through social media channels as appropriate.
• Working with the Vice President of Communications, draft and release press announcements.
• Effectively manage charitable donation requests based on established goals and criteria.
• Develop, coordinate and execute major auction donations as needed.
• Maintain, update, and expand knowledge of viticulture, enology and the Winery by participating in educational trainings offered by Opus One and outside sources.
• Speak knowledgeably about Opus One vintages, representatives, distributors, and retailers to better assist customers in the social community.
• Conduct tours of the winery as necessary and appropriate.

The things that are really missing from this position that a future GM would need to master is finance and personnel management. You also might want someone versed in industry compliance and legal matters, but, frankly, that’s easy enough to learn.

Finally, take note of the fact that this “communications” position does not include media outreach in its description. No doubt Opus One does in fact engage in serious media communications, perhaps even outsourcing it. However, it’s ironic that today, “communications” does not explicitly include media relations. Does this mean that social media outreach and media outreach are two entirely different things. You bet it does. The latter scares most people, while the former is often seen as an entirely different skill.

The beauty of this type of “communications” position is that it puts you in touch with and forces collaboration with members of an organization’s team located in all departments. The reason for this is that industry and consumer expectations are such that each level of a company must in some way be accessible. Additionally, the expertise lodged within each department of a company like Opus One has to be understood and viewed as a public asset; as a potential and likely spokesperson that can help the company communicate with and reach out to various sectors of the industry and public.

The Opus One Communications Manager job is an absolutely plum position for anyone thinking they want a long-term career in the wine industry. And the reach of Opus One into the three-tier channel, the DTC channel and into the web of the Napa Valley wine industry community gives the successful candidate remarkable exposures throughout the industry.

If I were 5-10 years into a career in marketing in the industry and wanted more of the same, I’d throw everything I had at obtaining this position.