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Friday, April 18, 2014
April 18, 2014 | 1:06 PM

The May issue (the tasting room issue) of Wine Business Monthly is being printed and is on its way to your mailbox. You can also view it online on May 1 here. For a preview of the May issue, see Editor Cyril Penn's month in review below:

Enhancing the Tasting Room Experience

When people that aren’t in the business hear I’m with a wine trade magazine and live in “Wine Country” they often ask for wine recommendations. They’ll ask, “What’s a good wine?” or “Can you recommend a good Pinot Noir?” as if I would recommend only one. They’ll often also ask what wineries to visit, too. I’m sure many of our readers get this all the time. In terms of where to visit, I typically respond not by asking “what kind of wines do you like?” but by asking, “What type of experience are you interested in?” I tend to recommend the wineries that I know offer experiences that will be remembered long after the visit is over. I suggest visiting during the week, if possible, when staff aren’t overwhelmed by crowds as some tasting rooms in Napa and Sonoma are practically transformed into “bars” during weekends. “Good” wine is a given.

A memorable tasting room visit can inspire steady online purchases for years to come. That’s why many wineries are working to enhance the experiences they offer. An article in this issue focuses on this phenomenon as well as on how wineries are using technology to enhance the tasting room experience. Wineries in some regions have become so adept at providing over-the-top customer experiences that it’s almost a competitive disadvantage not to have something special to offer. Consumers have practically been trained to expect great experiences. Don’t be too discouraged if you don’t have a Humvee to take special guests to the top of a mountain or a five-star chef whipping up special food pairings, though. Authenticity and engagement are the key. And, yes, good wine too.

This issue additionally includes the 2014 Wine Business Monthly/Silicon Valley Bank Tasting Room Survey report. The report brings welcome news: Customers are visiting winery tasting rooms more and they’re spending more. The industry is growing and maturing so that wineries are increasingly measuring how they’re doing, tracking wine club conversion rates, mailing list signups and more. The survey report, by the way, confirms that the type of experience a given winery provides has a huge effect on direct-to-consumer sales. Wineries, for instance, that are open by appointment only sell more wine once the customer arrives, while wineries that offer formal seated tastings do better with their wine clubs. The survey report looks at how wineries are benchmarking themselves. Wineries can use it to see how their tasting rooms stack up. Thanks go out to the folks at Silicon Valley Bank for collaborating with us on the survey, which drew a record number of responses.

Here’s to making memories.

Cyril Penn, Editor

To subscribe to WBM, click here.

April 18, 2014 | 10:23 AM

Below are photos from the Wine Institute's Down to Earth book launch event at Coquetta Restaurant in San Francisco on April 1, 2014.

Wine Institute has released a new book, Down to Earth: A Seasonal Tour of Sustainable Winegrowing in California, a consumer-friendly guide to environmentally and socially responsible practices that shows how sustainability influences California vintners and growers throughout the year as they grow and make wines. The book was written by Janet Fletcher and photographed by George Rose, both award-winning journalists.

Fifteen vintners and growers are profiled in Down to Earth, and they are a sampling of the thousands who have participated in education, self-assessment and certification programs by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance and other state sustainability organizations which represent more than three-quarters of California's wine production and winegrape acreage. The book also includes a dozen seasonal recipes, timed to what's fresh in the garden.

Down to Earth is available for purchase here.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
April 9, 2014 | 3:33 PM

According to an email received today from Agri-Analysis LLC, the incidence rate of RBaV positive vines is lower than a year ago. Lab Manager Alan Wei and Plant Pathologist and Virologist Tefera Mekuria reported:

In response to clients inquiries of what percentage of samples are positive for red blotch, we have analyzed the data of all samples we tested during the first three months of 2014 and compared with that of Q1 2013. We are pleased to share some information on the incidence rate of RB positive vines. In reviewing these data, please bear in mind that these samples came from various locations and diverse sources including nursery materials as well as field cuttings. Also during Q1, the vast majority of samples were dormant materials without any symptoms that were primarily destined for new planting for the 2014 or 2015 season.

Key findings are as follows:

•The average RB positive rate was 23% in Q1 of 2013 and 15% in Q1 this year.
•The RB positive rate was 20% in January and 10% in March of this year.
•Almost 100% samples includes RB testing.
•The distribution of RB in these samples was highly non-uniform. Some groups of samples were completely clean and some were completely infected.

Combating the red blotch virus has been a truly community wide effort. We encourage growers to continue to be vigilant in screening for RBaV and LR3 - two of the most economically important grapevine viruses.

For an in-depth article on Red Blotch, see the March 2013 issue of WBM

Tuesday, April 8, 2014
April 8, 2014 | 11:04 AM released a report detailing wine job posting trends as of March 2014. As the wine industry’s leading online job site, has a unique vantage point over industry trends. The index indicates that job postings increased 16 percent from March 2013. The index is up 20 percent so far this year.

The March increase in job postings was driven by a sizable increase in winemaking jobs. The winemaking job index rose 31 percent from its level in March 2013, and is up 30 percent year-to-date.

The hospitality index increased 10 percent from its level in March 2013, and is up 24 percent for the year.

The sales and marketing index increased 2 percent from its level in March 2013. The index is up 14 percent year-to-date.



Monday, April 7, 2014
by Cyril Penn | April 7, 2014 | 5:18 PM

A new report by market research firm Wine Opinions indicates that high-frequency and high-end wine consumers are drinking lot of craft beer but that it’s not necessarily taking away from or detracting from their wine drinking. The report shows that high-frequency wine consumers who are also high-end wine buyers are decreasing their intake of domestic premium beer, domestic super-premium beer, and/or spirits while increasing their consumption of craft beer as well as increasing their consumption of wine.

“From what this study can see, the answer is no, (craft beer) is not taking share,” John Gillespie, the president of Wine Opinions said. “We have people that are drinking a lot of craft beer, but it’s mostly driven by people who are wine drinkers. But it’s not necessarily taking away from or detracting from their wine drinking.”

While 101 million U.S. consumers drink wine at least occasionally according to the Wine Market Council, 34 million are considered high frequency wine drinkers, responsible for more than 85 percent of all wines consumed. Out of this group, 11 million high end wine buyers are really driving the bus: They’re responsible for buying 90 percent of all wines priced above $20 and 40 percent of all wines priced between $10 and $20. These are the people that are really and truly into craft beer.

“Where that goes in the future is the imponderable,” Gillespie said. “This is a new phenomenon."

Based on a survey of nearly 1,000 high frequency wine drinkers (those who drink wine, on average, either daily or several times a week), the report details the consumption frequencies and trends among this population of 34 million consumers. The beer and spirits usage of high-end wine buyers (those high frequency wine drinkers who buy wines costing over $20 on a monthly or more often basis) is also featured in the report. The rise in popularity of craft beers is a focus, with details on the correlations of wine and craft beer consumption and the perceived attributes of craft beers that are driving this trend. Respondents who are craft beer drinkers describe in open-ended comments the factors behind their preference and growing usage of craft beers. Spirits consumption is detailed by spirits type, and the top brands for each type are sorted into “most frequently purchased” and “favorite brand” categories.

The report is available for $495. Custom data analysis and tabulation is available on request.



April 7, 2014 | 3:05 PM

Karen MacNeil's latest venture, "Bible Study with Sister Karen" is a wine education program, covering topics from The NEW Wine Bible. With short videos posted to her YouTube channel and Facebook page, MacNeil will discuss everything from tannin to the more risqué sex life of grapes. New videos are posted on Sundays and Wednesdays.

View the trailer here: 


Friday, April 4, 2014
by Rachel Nichols | April 4, 2014 | 12:35 PM

We are hearing about more wineries that are making the decision to put their wine into kegs these days. In fact, when I was in Nashville over the weekend at a newer burger restaurant, all their wines by the glass were on tap. I ordered a Pinot Gris and it was great! I asked our server about their keg program and he raved about it.

Alison Crowe posted a blog this week on Girl and the Grape called Pinot Kegger: I Tapped a Keg and I Liked It. Crowe writes about her decision to "keg" her wine: 

How would a wine-serving process and premise so very different from the traditional bottle deliver? Would the nose, color, taste or texture of my precious Pinot Noir be different? Most importantly, would it be good? Heck- would it be great? I had to draw a glass, in this private moment before everyone showed up, to see for myself. Happily, I can report, I tapped a keg and I liked it!

Crowe went through Free Flow Wines. And speaking of, in our upcoming May issue, Bill Pregler writes about Free Flow in his What's Cool column. Pregler writes:

Jordan Kivelstadt [CEO of Free Flow] showed me their new keg monoblock, featuring fully automated cleaning cycles, a steam sterilization system and refill station from the German company KHS. As expected, these folks are huge in the beer industry. Transferring this technology to the wine world was a no brainer, but had never been attempted before in this country. Until now there had been no need.

...The KHS machine takes returning kegs from, say, the Florida, Chicago or Boston markets, and prepares them for recycle: this includes washing them inside and out, sanitizing with dual caustic and citric cycles, steam sterilizing (not hot water), cooling down and finally refilling at 70 kegs per hour.

Look for the full article in the upcoming May issue of Wine Business Monthly. To see Bill Pregler's in-depth product review detailing how fine wines served from kegs are driving profits for wine-by-the-glass programs, see the April 2013 issue of WBM. Click here to subscribe to WBM.

April 4, 2014 | 11:44 AM

Selected Recent Sales of Grapes & Wines in Bulk for April 1, 2014 courtesy of Turrentine Brokerage:

Bulk Wine

Chardonnay 2012 wine, Lodi, 6,400 gallons at $5.50 per gallon

Pinot Noir 2013 wine, Lodi, 6,500 gallons at $8.00 per gallon

Dry Red 2013 wine, California, 13,000 gallons at $3.50 per gallon

Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 wine, Sonoma County, 16,200 gallons at $20.50 per gallon

Petite Sirah 2013 wine, Lodi, 13,000 gallons at $7.75 per gallon


Chardonnay 2014 grapes, Russian River, 100 tons at $2,100.00 per ton

Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 grapes, Mendocino County, 30 tons at $1,850.00 per ton

Chardonnay 2014 grapes, Sonoma Carneros, 60 tons at $2,100.00 per ton

Thursday, April 3, 2014
by Curtis Phillips | April 3, 2014 | 2:44 PM

I don't like April Fool's Day. It's not that I don't like a good joke so much as most of the April Fool's fodder tends to fall well short of being humorous.

Last March, there was a little buzz around the "Miracle Machine." This whatzit was supposed to turn tap water, and some added ingredients, into quality wine in three days. To be fair, several mainstream news organizations did quickly peg this as a hoax.

I didn't write about the so-called Miracle Machine in part because it was pitched as a consumer appliance which falls a bit outside my usual area of interest. The main reason I didn't cover it was simply because I couldn't figure out how such a contraption could possibly work as advertised. At best, it would have to be an update to the Prohibition-era "Grape Brick" or a grossly over-price home wine-making kit. As such, it hardly seems newsworthy except in the "look at this gizmo that won't perform as well as you want it to" sense.

Now that April Fool's Day is here, it has been revealed (again) that the Miracle Machine is what one may call a pious fraud or publicity stunt aimed at garnering attention for Wine to Water, a non-profit aid organization. The fact that the media, myself included, are covering this story again now that the Miracle Machine has been revealed as a hoax means that Water to Wine got the attention they wanted.

I can't help thinking that all this publicity stunt accomplished was to demonstrate that more people were interested in an impossible wine-machine than are interested in making sure that other people have access to clean water.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014
by Curtis Phillips | April 2, 2014 | 11:14 AM

The Oregonian article about the pruning-bot, dubbed "Wall-Ye-France" raises a couple interesting quandaries. At least for the rarefied climate of the Pinot Noir growers around McMinnville, Oregon, and environs, any agricultural labor shortage seems to be less acute for pruning than for harvest.In France, at least regionally, the opposite seems to be the case.

On one level I can see why this would be the case. Harvest is more or a panic whereas pruning can be stretched-out out over several weeks and months. I would think, however, that pruning would also be more forgiving operation to implement this sort of automation. There is time during pruning-season if the prune-bot needs to be serviced or repaired. During harvest, one day of down-time could spell disaster.

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