So I finished reading my advance copy of The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart built America’s #1 Wine Brand (written with Rick Kushman). It was officially released last week.
These days, Barefoot is owned by E&J Gallo and is a six-million case brand. It wasn’t always that way.
Most people aren’t familiar with the improbable story of how Barefoot started. Back in 1985, when Chateau Souverain was taken over by creditors, it owed grower Mark Lyons (now Sebastiani’s winemaker) for 300 tons of grapes. Mark’s friend Michael Houlihan tried to help. Houlihan, who knew absolutely nothing about the wine industry, paid Souverain a visit hoping to help Lyons recover something - anything. Houlihan naively figured he could help Lyons bottle and sell wine to earn the lost money back. He made a deal for 18,000 cases of wine. In those days, the bulk market for wine wasn’t what it is today. Souverain’s people had no guarantee the wine in their tanks would ever get sold and were happy to have the debt off the books. Next thing you know, Houlihan is in the wine business.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey’s lack of familiarity with the wine business was an asset. Because they didn’t have preconceived notions about the business – and because they were creative and resourceful, they were ultimately successful. People in the wine business will be amused with some of the little anecdotes. Barefoot didn’t rely on advertising but embraced worthy cause marketing. And it didn’t hurt when Barefoot received a threatening letter from an attorney representing Baron Eric de Rothschild (Lafite) because Barefoot had called itself “Chateau La Feet” – it was a PR bonanza.
I asked Houlihan about the book. “There have been books written about wine and what it tastes like and where it’s grown and about great winemakers,” he said. “There’s never been a book written about how wine gets through the distribution system. In other words how wine gets to you – that’s what’s really interesting about this book – it’s the first time the average person will get a peak at the various different laws in each state, at overcrowded distributors, at overcrowded sales people and limited shelf space. All the things that can go wrong that have nothing to do with how good the wine is or its price - all these things result in successful wine businesses having to have reps in every major market to protect their placement.”
I asked Houlihan if he had any advice for people trying to get into the wine business today. “My advice is: make friends in low places and I don’t mean that in a disparaging way,” he said. “Wine clerks, wine buyers, people who are in the distribution industry, whether in the warehouse or sales people – ask them what works and what doesn’t work. Get some respect for what’s really required of you as a producer to get your product to market and to keep it there. Most people fall in love with their wine, with their label, or their awards. They get a high rating and they think the world is going to beat a path to their door to buy it. That might be true but if you’re making wines at the $12 price-point, you should become an expert on distribution.”
From the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission:
Join 300 of your neighbors, friends, co-workers, and over 50 favorite vendors at one of the year's largest gatherings of Sonoma County grapegrowers. The Annual Grower Seminar, Tradeshow & Barbecue is at SRJC's Shone Farm and begins at 7:30 a.m.
A wonderful barbecued lunch is served at noon with Sonoma County wine and presentation of the Viticulture Award of Excellence.
The registration fee includes lunch with wine, tradeshow, seminar and loads of camaraderie and networking opportunities. This event is open to all who are involved or interested in the wine community.
Registration has been extended until Tuesday, May 28: for Sonoma County growers, $15; and other related industry and the public, $25. Registration price increases after May 28.
The grower's seminar will focus on labor:
Monte Lake is from the Washington, D.C. law firm of CJ Lake, LLC, and will speak on "Agricultural Labor and Immigration–A California and National Perspective on the Status Quo and Future Prospects for Reform." Lake is actively involved in Washington, DC on the agricultural labor/immigration reform debate representing a national coalition of labor intensive agricultural employers seeking reform in Congress, including many from California.
Lake will address agriculture's efforts to address the legal status of its current experienced workforce and create a new program that is more free market based and grower friendly as an alternative to the H-2A program. He will also discuss current worksite enforcement efforts by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the likelihood of mandatory E-Verify, and the challenges of employers attempting to use the H-2A temporary and seasonal foreign agricultural worker program.
Michael Saqui of The Saqui Law Group Counselors to Management kicks off the seminar with a 2012-2013 Labor Trend Report. Saqui is the first line of defense for agricultural employers up and down the state of California and a labor expert well-known in the North Bay and often called upon to address complicated labor and compliance issues.
He will touch upon enforcement agencies and labor organizations, a historic collaboration not seen since the 1970s; The new Ag Labor Relations Act, developing trends for employers; and Employer's Operational Preparation Guide, an operational self-audit approach to being prepared for whatever may come.
Check out the full agenda at www.sonomawinegrape.org/bbq. For more information, contact Karen at 707-522-5862 or email@example.com.
The San Francisco Wine School announces a new program offering to its current curriculum. The French Wine Scholar Program, developed by the French Wine Society (FWS), is designed to provide current, accurate information on the wine regions of France and validate proficiency in the Wines of France. The program consists of 10 courses and an exam covering all the wine regions of France. Upon passing the FWS exam, students will earn the FWS professional wine certificate.
The program will be held on Wednesdays from June 19 – September 4 from 6-9 p.m. For more information, click here.
Below is the Wine Institute's comment on the National Transportation Safety Board's recommendation to lower the legal Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit from 0.8 to 0.5 or lower:
Wine Institute supports education and the strict enforcement of laws to address drunk
driving. The legal threshold of .08 BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) was established
as a safe level of consumption based on science and law enforcement guidance. Lowering the legal threshold would effectively criminalize moderate social drinking by responsible adults and divert resources that should be used to target drunk drivers.
What's your opinion? Should the legal blood alcohol limit be reduced from .08 to .05 or lower?
Below, National Transportation Safety Board chairman Deborah A P. Hersman briefs media on the new recommendations to eliminate alcohol-impaired driving, following the release of the NTSB's new report: "Reaching Zero: Actions to Eliminate Alcohol-Impaired Driving."
From Cellar Angels:
"We're absolutely honored to work with such an esteemed winery and especially on such a fantastic wine as their critically acclaimed 2009 Meritage. As a family-owned winery for over 40 years, they continue to set the bar for both wine quality and customer experience," stated Martin Cody, Cellar Angels founder and president.
"Cellar Angels is all about connecting consumers to great wine while simultaneously giving back. That's precisely what we do at the winery and we have a long tradition of supporting numerous causes. This event allows us to do both and introduce Dry Creek Vineyard to a growing audience," said Dry Creek Vineyard second-generation owner and president Kim Stare Wallace.
You can purchase Dry Creek Vineyard's 2009 Meritage through Saturday, May 25 at 12 a.m. PST. by going to www.cellarangels.com.
The Wine Blog Awards honor the best in independent wine publishing. They are a means not only of identifying the year’s best wine writing and publishing but they also serve to encourage the continued growth of the citizen wine writer and the publishing of useful, entertaining and educational wine commentary
Tom Wark of Wark Communications reports:
The Wine Blog Awards Committee announced the finalists of the 7th Annual Wine Blog Awards yesterday. Thirty different wine blogs were named as finalists in nine categories. Awards will be presented at the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton, British Columbia on June 8.
The finalists in the nine Wine Blog Award categories include:
BEST BLOG POST OF THE YEAR
• W. Blake Gray’s “Darth Vader is My Lover: Revelations about Brettanomyces”
• Lilyelaine Wakawaka’s “Escaping Convention: Calibrating to Stark Conditions, a Conversation with Greg Brewer”
• Katie Kelly Bell’s “Adventures in Taste”
• Ron Washam’s “Blind Book Review–‘How to Love Wine’”
• Alfonso Cevalo’s “Rape of the Veneto”
• Ron Washam’s “The Death of Wine Critics”
BEST ORIGINAL PHOTOGRAPHY OR VIDEO ON A WINE BLOG
• The Journey of Jordan
• 4488: Ridge Wine
• Stay Rad
• What’s in the Bottle
• Chasing the Vine
BEST INDUSTRY/BUSINESS WINE BLOG:
• The Gray Report
• The Wine Curmudgeon
• The Academic Wino
• Hosemaster of Wine
• Fermentation: The Daily Wine Blog
BEST WINE REVIEWS ON A WINE BLOG:
• RJ On Wine
• Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews
• Wine Mizer
• Bigger Than Your Head
• Wines of Croatia
BEST SINGLE SUBJECT WINE BLOG:
• On Reserve: A Wine Law Blog
• Washington Wine Report
• New York Cork Report
• Mad About Madeira
• On The Wine Trail in Italy
• Stuart Pigott’s Planet Wine
BEST WINERY BLOG:
• 4488: A Ridge Blog
• The Journey of Jordan
• Been Doon So Long
• Tablas Creek
• Half Full: The J Blog
Best Writing On a Wine Blog:
• Hosemaster of Wine
• Maker’s Table
• Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews
• Jameson Fink
• The Drunken Cyclist
BEST NEW WINE BLOG:
• Chasing the Vine
• What’s in the Bottle
BEST OVERALL WINE BLOG:
• Hosemaster of Wine
• 1 Wine Dude
• The Terroirist
• The UK Wine Show
• Steve Heimoff
The public is welcome to vote for their favorite blogs among the finalists in nine categories until May 24th. Just look for the red Vote button and cast yours at: http://www.wineblogawards.org.
Links to all the finalists as well as access to the voting system can be accessed at: http://www.wineblogawards.org. The Wine Blog Awards are administered by Joel Vincent in collaboration with the Wine Bloggers Conference.
The Wine Blog Awards honor the best in independent wine publishing. They are a means not only of identifying the year’s best wine writing and publishing but the also serve to encourage the continued growth of the citizen wine writer and the publishing of useful, entertaining and educational wine commentary.
This just in from Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon:
Linfield College will establish the Oregon Wine Industry Experience with the help of a $48,000 grant from the prestigious James S. Kemper Foundation. The year-long program will prepare students for professional careers in Oregon’s rapidly growing $2.7 billion wine industry.
The program will include a Summer Wine Institute, fall harvest experience, January Term wine career exploration course, and spring internship at a Willamette Valley winery.
Summer Wine Institute
Wine industry professionals from Willamette Valley vineyards and wineries will host and teach courses during a 10-week Summer Wine Institute. Students will learn about grape growing, winemaking and bottling, among other topics. Sustainability issues will be addressed, along with distribution and marketing.
Students will work at the International Pinot Noir Celebration, which draws 800 wine aficionados from around the world to the Linfield College campus in July. They will also have the opportunity to interview members of the Oregon Wine Board and visit wineries.
Fall Harvest Experience
Growers and winery owners say experiencing the wine harvest is a crucial rite of passage for anyone interested in understanding vineyard operations. Every fall, Willamette Valley wineries and vineyards hire temporary harvest employees, and Linfield students will work alongside these employees to learn about the harvesting process.
Wine Career Exploration Course
A course held during Linfield’s January Term will introduce students to the many jobs and positions needed to operate a vineyard and winery, ranging from viticulturist to winemaker, sales manager to marketing director, and label designer to web designer.
Spring Winery Internship
With a foundation of hands-on experience, education and training, students will be able to bring specialized knowledge as well as a broad liberal arts background to winery internships. Each internship experience will be developed around the needs of the winery and the career interests of the student.
The program will operate under the auspices of Linfield’s Career Development Office and the Linfield Center for the Northwest.
Linfield College is located near the birthplace of the earliest vineyards in Oregon’s fertile Willamette Valley. The school founded the Oregon Wine History Archive, which houses collections from some of the most significant wineries, vineyards and wine organizations in Northern Oregon. Students and professors have conducted oral histories with wine pioneers and have produced a documentary about the history of the IPNC. A second documentary, scheduled for summer, will look at Latinos in the wine industry.
The Lake County Winegrape Commission is counting down the days to "Wine, Tunes & Classics," a Lake County wine tasting, music and antique car event in Sacramento, on May 25, from 3 to 7 p.m. at the California Automobile Museum, 2200 Front Street in Sacramento. The event features award-winning Lake County wines from the following participating wineries:
Bell Hill Vineyards
Brassfield Estate Winery
Bullion Creek Vineyards
Cache Creek Vineyards
Chacewater Winery & Olive Mill
Diamond Ridge Vineyards
Gregory Graham Wines
Langtry Estate & Vineyard/Guenoc
Mt. Konocti Winery
Noggle Vineyards & Winery
Rosa d’Oro Vineyards
Shannon Ridge Winery
Thorn Hill Vineyards
Vigilance Winery & Vineyards
Wine, Tunes & Classics is funded in part by the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Grant Program. Sponsors include Calpine Corporation, Sutter Health, the Lake County Winery Association and the County of Lake. To buy tickets online, go here.
After a few years of challenging vintages, the 2012 BDO BC Wine Grape Crop Report shows that the total tonnage* has returned to normal levels, increasing by 17% over the previous year, from 22,722 tons in 2011 to 27,257 in 2012.
The increased tonnage over last year is great news for consumers who would like to find more BC wine, but it wasn't a surprise to growers across the province. Vineyard manager Harold Gaudy at Summerhill Pyramid Winery feels that the mild winter that began the season set the way for a good year. "While the rain at the beginning of the year was disappointing, our flowering didn't occur during the big rains and wasn't affected." Gaudy explains that good fruit set prepared the way for a good harvest. The warm temperatures through harvest made for an excellent finish to the vintage.
While many 2012 BC VQA white wines are already in wine stores, consumers must wait until 2014 for most of the red wines, which are showing great promise. The conditions for red wines allowed for great development. BC Grapegrowers' Association president, Manfred Freese noted, "The resultant full ripening of the berries all but guarantees this will be a superior vintage year for red wines."
BC Wine Institute executive director Miles Prodan is pleased to see growth in the tonnage and BC VQA sales over the last year. "Consumers have continued to support BC VQA wine as the category grows, supporting the great quality and value of 100% BC VQA wines."
The 2012 BDO BC Wine Grape Crop Report was compiled confidentially by BDO Canada LLP from volunteered information collected from 110 wineries across the province. "As we have compiled the Wine Grape Crop Report since 2008, we have been able to learn more about industry issues and appreciate the focus and drive of BC's grapegrowers, winemakers and proprietors," says Ken Davidson, C.A., CFP, partner at BDO.
To view the complete report, visit www.WineBC.org/press_room/publications.
*Tonnage reported in short tons. Participation in this survey is voluntary and unaudited, therefore the tonnages and prices reported may differ from actual industry results and are meant as a guide only.
About British Columbia Wine Institute
Representing 131 member wineries throughout the province, the BCWI supports and markets the Wines of British Columbia (BC VQA), which gives consumers assurance they are buying a wine that is 100% from BC. The BCWI also markets the Wine Regions of British Columbia; delivers quality trade, media and consumer tastings; and acts as the voice of BC's wine industry by advocating to government on behalf of its members.