Sifting through the noise

Bringing Order to Chaos

There is a lot of social media noise out there.  I follow a lot of people and sometimes find it difficult to break past the noise and get down to what I want.  I have found the particularly difficult on Twitter.  There is so much content coming my way I find it difficult to take it all in.  The random nature of many social media platforms can make it difficult to maneuver through a topic if interest.  I have a little secret that may help, best of all it is free.

The New News Flash

My life got a lot easier when I started using Paper.li (pronounced paper-lee).  What Paper.li does is help you collect content from multiple social media platforms and compile it in a newspaper style web page.  Even the free version allows you to easily curate and present content in a way that is focused on your customer’s interests, even if the only intended customer is you.   Used in conjunction wth tools like HootSuite, it is pretty easy to create a private Paper.li e-newsaper that helps track what the competition is up to without having to plow through multiple sites.

That is not to say that Paper.li can’t be a powerful tool to reach customers.  I follow a couple of papers the share my interests.  Here’s just one:

Strat daily

I personally like The Strategist Daily because the curator, Tony Marino, pulls in good content related to Social Media, Marketing and business that I would not otherwise see.  This content I am interested in, but knowing there is no way to subscribe to everything, it is an easy shortcut to subscribe to content someone else has taken the time to sift through.

But Wait there Is More…

The example above looks tome like the free version.  Starting at $9 per month there is a  paid version that has many more features including enhanced features like more Social Media sites you can pull content from and even a blog platform.  The design features, while still easier than easy, provide some pretty cool options.  It even links to services like Mailchimp.  I can’t think of an easier way to create a newsletter full of curated content.

Wondering Where to Start?

I found it to be really easy to get started.  I am sure you will too.  No worries though: There are some great examples on the Paper.li blog.  It is full of tips, tricks and case studies to help you get going.

 

 

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Millennials and Branding Wine

Who Are You Again?

Lately, my work with wineries has been focused on how to attract the ever-elusive “Millennial”. It is an important question given that this group  drank just shy of half of the wine consumed in the US last year.  It is a growing trend internationally too and wineries what to know how to break into that demographic.  Step 1;  stop calling them Millennials.

This age group, more than any other, wants to be known for their personal traits not traditional trappings of a generational labels.  They don’t care about formality, they do care about the global warming and are more welcoming of alternative lifestyles than their predecessors.  They identify less with cultural icons, identifying with with their own personal identity. The long and short of it is they want to be “real.” Putting it another way, they want experiences not status.

An interesting article in The Atlantic makes this point: “in a digital-first era, many people latch onto food as something that engages all of the senses...”.  The same can be said for the rise of craft beer and wine markets.  Gone are the days when the brand label itself mattered.  So what is a winery to do?

Getting it right

Let’s talk best practices.  My favorite example of a winery who is getting it right is Jordan Winery in Healdsburg, California. The experience of the winery begins long before you arrive.   Just look at the award winning  Pinterest site.  As you browse around your are seeing a lot more than just pics of wine bottles.  Understanding the this target audience is a visual generation who also brings us the untold numbers of funny vids on YouTube, Jordan creates videos of their own.  Again, not just beautiful footage of the winery and a some wine bottles, although that is there too.  For the most part the videos are jokes and parodies and some very personable moments.  Here is my personal fav:

“Dirty Work” Music Video Parody | Jordan Winery’s 40th Harvest

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OCTOBER 14, 2015 / BY LISA MATTSON

Focusing on the experience

Jordan Vineyard and Winery has done an extraordinary job creating a brand experience through social media.  While many brands use social and other media as one-off, one if the things that Jordan does very well is create a singular message through all of the media platforms.  They consistently use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ and other medium including blogs and press releases to create a singular message:

If you love food, wine and a great time this is the place to be.  It will be an unforgettable experience.  If you can’t make it here, visit us an the virtual world. You will be missing out if you don’t.

They are marketing place and experience so much so that they just won an the Trip Advisor Award of Excellence.    How many wineries can say that?

Really to understand all that is possible, even for a small winery, you have to experience the Jordan web presence for yourself.  Don’t just sit there….  Your adventure awaits.

 

 

 

 

 

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Steak on the Grill, BBQ in the Air, Wine in Hand. Perfect.

I love to cook for large groups.  My favorite is about ten friends around the table.  The menu is usually easier than easy.  I throw something on the grill and the rest falls in place.  With my group of friends, regardless os whose house we are going to, the first out of people’s mouths, right after “Yes, I can make it”,  is “What can I bring?”

We always end up with a great collection of appetizers, veggies, salads and other fun things.  It is that collection of everyone’s favorites which makes the evening.  No one ever hesitates unless the answer to that question is “Bring wine.”

Bring Wine?

Sometimes I can almost feel the hesitation behind the cheerful “Sure I can do that.”  Maybe it is because I am a Certified Somm, or maybe it is because wine can be just plain scary.  Really though, it doesn’t have to be that way.  Like I’ve said before, this is not a pass fail test.  The only “right” wine is the one you like.

Let me share a few more secrets with you.  Just because I am a Somm, it does’t mean I know everything or I never pick a bottle of wine that is just OK. Nor does it mean I don’t have to do a bit of searching to find what I am looking for.  I count on a few key resources, influencers some call them, to find the gems.

If you want to learn more about wine, there is no better place to go than Winefolly.  Wine folly is the brainchild of Madeline Puckett and a couple of her friends. Here they break down the world of wine in infographics.  Yes, pictures.  No extensive reading, no “better than thou” language; pictures.  Here is an example:

Easy right?  So, we are talking about steak on the grill.  According to this infographic we should be looking at medium reds and bold reds.  That narrows it down.  Wait… which reds are bold and which are medium again?  Well, most of them.  If you are choosing for an event and you are not sure, pick up a blend.   Blends are a winemaker’s way of maintaining consistency across vintages.  They usually shoot for medium or better so you are set.  Even if the label says “Red Table Wine” chances are it will be just fine.

There’s an App For That

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Still not convinced?  Don’t worry.  There is an app for that.  Let me introduce you to my good friend Vivino.Open the app on your phone and take a pic of the wine you are thinking about.  You will be able to see how other people just like you rated it.  These are not a bunch of wine aficionados giving you scores, these are real people posting what they really think.  Think of it like a Yelp for wine but better.  Not only can you see what others thought, you can create your own list of favs.  Never again will you have to wonder if you liked that one or not. You can log it, track it and in many cases buy it right from the app.

 

OK, we are set with the wine.  Let’s talk steak.

Whatever else you think of Gordon Ramsay, the man can cook.   I know it may sound odd, but I cook a steak on the grill in much the same as he demonstrates in the kitchen.  I will embed the YouTube at the end so you can see how easy it is, but first here are a few tips:

Always start with the steak at room temperature.  If you don’t have the 30 or so minutes it takes to let it rise to temp, seal it in a ziplock bag and submerge it in water just a bit above room temp.  By the time your BBQ (or cast iron pan) is HOT HOT HOT and ready for your steaks,  your steaks will be ready too. How hot should your grill be?  You want a vibrant sizzle when you put the steaks on.  Hold your hand about 6 to 8 inches above the grill.  It it get too hot to keep it there more than about 2 seconds, it is ready.

He puts oil in the pan, I brush oil on the steaks.  Use olive oil because it browns nicely.  It also flames up a bit.  I don’t get too excited about this.   If you start with a steak that is room temp, it will only be on the grill a couple of minutes a side.  That’s not long enough to turn it into a pile of char. Just gently move it if you need to.

Season your steaks; salt and pepper with maybe a little garlic and rosemary. (Salt them again, trust me you are not using enough).

Grab some butter  before you head out to the grill. You will need it in a couple of minutes.  I put it in a small pan I can place on the grill just after the steak is flipped.  The browned butter is great spooned over the steak just before you take it off.  (You will understand when you watch the vid.)

Grab a meat thermometer.  If you want medium rare, internal temp should be 130 degrees when you pull it off the grill.  Let it rest until 140 degrees, about 7 min.

OK, here is how the master does it:

 

Nothing says summer like a steak sizzling on the grill and smell of the BBQ in the air.  So who’s hungry?  Meet me at my house.  Bring wine.

 

Posted in Bar-B-Que, BBQ, buying wine, Choosing wine, Grill, Steak, wine | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hey Wine Spectator you talking to me?

Mr. Kramer we do agree on one thing, this is “Not a Trivial Pursuit.”  (For those who aren’t aware of what I am talking about you can find the article here http://www.winespectator.com/magazine/show/id/52721)  My personal love for wine developed over years and was honed through the intense study required to become a Certified Sommelier.  You asked in your article “Does this knowledge really make you a better, more insightful judge of wine?”  I have two responses for you:

The first response to that question is yes it does.  How many articles have you personally written about “terroir” and how that affects the flavors and aromas in wine? It is hard to imagine how an in-depth study into regions, climates, soils and culture can do anything but make one more insightful.

The second response is you have shown your cards my friend.  It appears you are saying we who love wine enough to go through this rigor are not qualified to give our opinion on it.  Change is hard and the world is changing around you.  That ivory tower is crumbling away as we speak and it scares the living daylights out of you.  There are several rising stars who, although not on your “approved” list to “judge” wine, are opening up new vibrant conversations about wine, wine makers and the industry.

You say the rigor and study resulting in certification is “a trivializing demarcation”, and ask your readers “Do you recall them as joy-of-learning types?” I say to you, as part of that collective which has spent considerable time and effort pursuing the esteemed designation of Certified Sommelier, there is nothing trivializing happening here.  And yes we are the “joy-of-learning types.” You might have watched a movie about the exams, and passed your judgment.  I ask you, you have never sat in a study group or a classroom with us, been there as the wine revealed itself to us and we all learned together?  Didn’t think so.

As proud member of the “undesirable class” (referring to that segment in the article where you describe those whose “…pursuit of credentials creates an undesirable class differentiation for a subject that neither needs nor deserves one…” ) I say it is time to get your head out of the sand.  You yourself are revealing that you do indeed believe that the true enjoyment of wine deserves a class structure, one in which you alone reign supreme.  It is also clear that the root of this judgment you are casting about training and certification is fear.  Fear of losing stature. Fear of losing control.

It is true, Wine Spectator, your magazine influenced how I thought about wine for years.  I learned about the different wine regions in different countries and the unique wines produced there.  I tracked rating and dutifully sought out the highest rated wines.  I learned the language of wine through their reviews of specific wines and wineries.  Even as I moved to more online sources like Wine Enthusiast or Reverse Wine Snob, Wine Spectator remained one of the few hardcopy mags I actually cracked open every month.

Trouble is while you were still publishing in hard copy, the rest of us have become an interactive community. The playing field has leveled and voices have become equal.  We love information and we love to share it.  We engage in open conversations through mediums like Social Media.  If you really want to remain relevant to the now dominant generation of the 25 to 45 year olds, (and yes, even those of us who are 46 and older) talk with us not at us.  Have real conversations rather than voicing your singular opinion.  Really, we want you to.

It is all about tone.  I have some things you can consider as a starting point.  Take a clue from many of the successful up-starts like Reverse Wine Snob, as well as industry staples like Food & Wine. Adopt an open posture, reframe your conversation from being the voice on high to being inclusive, down to earth and real.

A great place to start is with your social media presence.  I will pick on your twitter account because it is an easy target.  Your twitter account was established in 2009.  When I accessed it on February 27, 2016, you only 203K followers and you are following only 25. More than that, only on 5 felt your information was important enough to put on a list. Only 5. Let that soak in for a minute.

In contract, @ReverseWineSnob account was established in 2011. (Giving you a two-year head start).  They have over 250K followers, follow 212K and are on 618 lists.  (Let that soak in; 123 times more people find their content important enough to have them on a list– 123). This is not an anomaly.  The twitter accounts of many of the wine bloggers, many whom you decry indirectly in your article, have followers in the multiple thousands and follow hundreds of not thousands themselves.

Yes, this is just one example. I challenge you, go through this same side by side with dozens of other wine media outlets and blogs. You will see the same thing.  This is not simply a twitter phenomenon.  The same rings true for every SM platform, whether Facebook, Instagram or any other in your arsenal.

I am sure as you read this (if you read this), many in your ranks will have a lot to say about the un-importance of being social. Many may even insist this is a waste of time.  It isn’t.  Culturally the generations-next and many of us “oldies” are a different breed.  We love wine.  We study it, and yes judge it, differently than you do.  At the same time, many of us deeply value the amazing contribution Wine Spector has made to the wine industry and to our lives.

Still, there is a great deal of sadness within the wine community created by this article.  Like it or not, the industry is changing, moving forward into the future.  There is no re-creating the past; that ship has sailed never to return again.  We really hope you will be brave enough to un-lodge yourself from that ivory tower and join us.

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It should’t be this hard

I remember not drinking wine at all because I was intimidated by the whole buying experience. I worried about choosing the “right” wine, as if it were a grown–up multiple-choice test complete with secret handshake. Clearly there were some people who had the inside scoop and I was sure to get it wrong.

The marketers have done a really great job developing an elitist image. I can’t tell you the number of times I stood staring at those bottles on the grocery store shelves, feeling like I was not good enough or knowledgeable enough to choose one. So what has changed now that I am a Certified Sommelier? Now that I have spent literally hundreds of hours studying wines from around the world, I finally realized I had to forget everyone else’s opinion. My professional advice for you is a “good wine” is the one YOU like.

Here is where wine snobs of the world, including many of my fellow sommeliers, gasp in horror. We are all made to think we are supposed to like certain select wines or regions complete with conversations about the “nose” and words like “terroir”. If for some reason we don’t get all that, well then clearly there is something wrong with you. Ever been made to feel that way? Yup, me too.

News flash – you are not the problem.  Here is another way to look at it. My husband loves grilled asparagus. Put a little olive oil and garlic on those puppies, throw them on the grill and he is a happy camper. Me? To me those are just little green sticks of nastiness. I really hate asparagus, no matter what you do to it. Who is right? We both are.

The same is true for wine. A wine is a really good wine if you like it. End of story. It is not better if it came from here or there.   It is not better if you paid a lot for it. To be honest, some of my favorite wines are in the ten to fifteen dollars a bottle range.

Here is my professional advice; it is time to get over all of this “getting it right” stuff and just have a little fun. Explore wine in your own way, any way that appeals to you. Don’t feel like you have to stick with just Chardonnay for whites or Cabernet for reds because you think you are supposed to. Branch out. Pick the bottle with the coolest looking label. Find the one from a place you would like to visit, or the place where you live. Single varietals are not necessarily better than blends. In fact, the opposite can be true. Blends are a great place to start if you are unsure.

Just like so many things in life, once we get over being that fear of jumping in, it can be really fun. Still not convinced? Here is a little insider tip; see all those every bottles on that shelve in front of you? They have already been tasted and vetted by someone whose job depends on someone just like you buying it, liking it and coming back for more. Believe it or not, the grocery store shelves are a safe place to explore.

See that bottle over there you are drawn to for some unknown reason? Yes, I see you biting your lip.  Go ahead. Chances are you will like it. Even if it ends up not being your new favorite, you will have tried something new and hopefully had some fun along the way. Oh, and if those wine snobs give you any of that “better than thou” stuff, tell them you are following the advice of your personal Sommelier.

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And so it begins…

2/7/2016

It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I even began to like wine. We were on a trip to Italy with the family when my brother-in-law insisted I try a little wine with the food. He said if I tasted it with food, it would change everything. He was right.

From that moment on, I was hooked. It is really easy to see why; one of my greatest joys is cooking for groups of friends. Having about ten people around the table is my favorite. There is something so special about great food and friends. I love the multiple conversations and the laughter. I love everything about the vibe it creates. I love that incredible connection between food and wine, friends and family.

Fast forward to my late fifties. It was a couple of years ago that I suffered three major losses in my life all within a very short period of time. I lost my mother-in-law who was more like a mother to me than my own mother. I lost my job. Then, to make matters worse, I lost my beloved dog to cancer.

I felt so helpless.  It seemed like I was surrounded by a darkness that was like nothing I had never experienced before. I could not see a path through all of it. What exactly do you do at times like this? Work had always helped me cope with difficult situations in the past, but I didn’t even have that now. I felt like I had to find something to immerse myself in.

I came across an online ad for the International Culinary Center Intensive Sommelier Training. It was only ten weeks long and started in two weeks. Without much thought, I enrolled. These were some of the most challenging courses I have ever taken. That is saying a lot.   Technology was my former career. I had taken several IT certification courses. I had also been taking courses at Harvard, including statistics. Those were hard. This was harder.

After graduation, we all had the option to take the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Introductory and Certified Sommelier exams. I thought “Why the heck not?” Although I was not planning on it in the beginning, there I was sitting for the most rigorous set of exams I could imagine. Theory, tasting, and service; all of it a new world for me.

I am happy to say I passed, just barely, but I did pass. So, what am I going to do now that I am a Certified Sommelier? I am really not sure. I do know it will be a great adventure.

Posted in Life Changes, Sommelier | Tagged | 2 Comments