It is with sadness that we report that Harvey Posert passed away from cancer this morning. We will have more information as it is available.
Harvey Posert spent more 40 years in wine public relations, working with several of the most successful programs in the industry. From 1965-1980, he supervised Wine Institute's program to educate Americans about California wine. In 1980 he took over the Robert Mondavi PR program; and in 1997 he started his PR consultancy, retaining Robert Mondavi as a client while working with other wineries and groups.
Below is the text to the forward Posert wrote for Spinning the Bottle, co-authored and edited with Paul Franson. Spinning the Bottle is a collection of case studies with guidelines on promoting wine, wine companies and wine-related issues.
An Insider's Perspective:
Introduction by Harvey Posert
This introduction tells the story of my career in wine public relations, which began in 1965. It appears that I was born to do this work, although I never drank wine until college (English majors drank Taylor Dry Sherry), and I never heard of PR until I worked for the PR Director of the American Bar Association while at the University of Chicago Law School. Those of you who know the story can move on to the book.
Thanks to a sports editor uncle, I began writing sports for the Memphis Commercial Appeal at age 14, and thanks to him and another newspapering uncle I worked on the paper for 10 summers during school and after Army Counterintelligence. I filled in for beat reporters during their summer vacations, so I worked on the food, business, agriculture, travel and feature desks at some time.
I left law school and joined the Daniel Edelman PR agency in Chicago, working with consumer products like Sara Lee and Lava Lite, some trade associations and Sargent Shriver, manager of the Merchandise Mart where our office was located. That time and place has been dubbed “The Chicago School” of PR –heavy in product publicity but light on counseling and issues communications.
Returning to Memphis for three years, I operated an agency which handled some products and political campaigns. Then Dan Edelman hired me back to run his NY office, and that gave me major media work and trade association issues experience.
In 1965 Wine Institute initiated a total PR review, firing three agencies which had handled the “premium wine” (Almaden, Paul Masson, Inglenook, Krug), “popular wine” (Gallo, Italian Swiss, Guild) and wine-and-health programs. Of the 60-plus agencies competing, WI hired Harry Serlis from the group and told him to make the selection. Because the “enemies” of wine at that time were believed to be ignorant of wine in general and prejudiced against California wine in particular, Harry chose Dan’s firm for our apparent publicity capabilities and our ignorance of the wine business –we didn’t know enough to argue. He said then, and I’ve found it true, that you can teach someone about wine but you can’t teach PR judgment and skill and enthusiasm for publicity work.
Dan had made the usual promises –cover of Time, offices we didn’t have at the time, etc. –for our largest agency fee of $60,000 a year; Harry wisely raised it to $90,000 but said he wanted it all done. I moved to San Francisco and we put a team together –many are authors in this book –with media and market programs in New York, Chicago, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco. We hired traveling wine experts for media calls in other markets and targeted special programs for movie production, minority communities, and government officials in the federal and state capitols.
Harry and I set out to build the wine writer community. At that time there were a few: Bob Misch, Bill Clifford, Philip Wagner and Creighton Churchill. Soon there were also Bob Balzer, Hank Rubin and Phil Hiaring working from Wine Institute. But Harry’s salesmanship and my knowledge of newspapering (you could walk into newspapers then) combined to bring in a group which now reaches over 1,000. Of course this work is never done –the Academy of Wine Communications exists to help current wine writers and bring more into the field.
Those were halcyon days. Wine was getting better and more popular; the producers and the enthusiasts were an influential group; and then there was the Tasting of Paris and the Time cover story after all.
We learned that harvest news conferences worked well and treating wine like a business did not. I believe that between WI’s PR budget and Robert Mondavi’s commitment to PR I’ve spent around $25,000,000 over 38 years figuring out what does work.
In 1975, in one of the typical intra-industry squabbles, Italian Swiss Colony left Wine Institute, the agency was fired, Harry left and I was hired by WI as PR director. I inherited a lot of good programs left behind by Roy Taylor, Julius Jacobs, Larry Cahn and Marjorie Lumm. We launched some excellent programs: the PBS wine tasting series; Wine Media Day, which brought wineries and media together on a large scale for the first time; the Winery Guide to Public Relations; the Society of Wine Educators; the California Wine Program for U.S. Embassies and Consulates; and an outreach to the alcohol issues community.
But then the industry trade association’s priorities were pruned to only one –politics –as Gallo and John De Luca decided to focus on government work alone. (Don’t get me started on this subject.) So when Bob Mondavi married his PR director, Margrit Biever, Harry Serlis recommended me for that position.
In addition to quality wine and a marvelous winery site, public relations played a major role in building the winery. Bob had a vision and a commitment to tell his story as often and in as many places as he could. My job was to extend the reach and to help based on my experience. As Wine Institute shrank its role, we expanded ours.
In l986 Bob launched his Mission program with the avowed purpose of defending wine against its anti-alcohol opponents. Among other aspects, we hosted a series of conferences featuring health researchers, sociologists, anthropologists and other scientists and artists who examined the basic soundness of wine in positive lifestyles for most people. One of our early speakers was Dr. Curtis Ellison of Boston University, who was thus brought into the wine community, enjoyed it, and through a chain of circumstances became the protagonist for the famous 60 Minutes pro-wine program that changed the role of wine in America.
Time moves on and programs wax and wane. The Robert Mondavi Winery went public, marketers often want the specificity of advertising buys, and it was time for me to move on as well. I went back 50 years to my own agency days, keeping Robert Mondavi as a client but specializing in reviewing and consulting on public relations programs for wineries and wine organizations. And so the story should have ended.
But one afternoon a close friend from the Mondavi days, Gary Ramona, called and asked me to come and talk to his boss, Fred Franzia, who was building a facility in Napa and had a number of brands. We began to work together successfully, so when Fred called and said he was bringing back the Charles Shaw brand for Trader Joe’s, I just started a new file and waited for Fred or Gary or marketing consultant Brian Loomis to give me some details.
The details never came, but this latest chapter is in the book. So far Charles Shaw has had neither press release nor tasting program but the story has reached over 100,000,000 people and broken out of the wine columns and into general media. Writing its story for Wines & Vines gave me the idea for this book, and you know the rest.
I appreciate the collegiality of mostly all of us in wine PR, the support of my family, and the fun we’ve had along the way.
Yeast Rehydration Protocol from Laffort
Pictured: The scene Friday night in the Brown's Valley area of the City of Napa, photos by Burke Pedersen
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars has officially opened the doors to its new FAY Outlook & Visitor Center.Winery visitors will taste in the elegant and modern new space while enjoying sweeping views of the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars historic estate vineyards – FAY and S.L.V. See the full release on the new facility here.
"On Saturday, September 13, Madrigal Family Winery hosted its Annual Harvest Party and Grape Stomp to kick-off the harvest season. Club members, friends old and new danced the day away to T-Luke and the Tight Suits Zydeco inspired music and feasted on traditional Cajun fare: spicy pulled pork sliders, chicken kebabs & grilled veggies. Despite the 100 degree heat, everyone stayed cool while enjoying Mark Ray’s barrel tastings of the 2013 Levine Vineyard Cab (Atlas Peak) and the 2013 Garnacha under the shade of Chris Madrigal’s 100-year-old oak tree.
Our grape stomp had a record 50 participants with winner Sarah Merkel stomping out 9100 ML of juice, beating out the reigning winner from last year, her boyfriend Jerrod. A huge thank you to everyone from near and far for making our party a huge success!" -- Madrigal Family Winery
The Vinitech-Sifel Innovation Award winners were announced September 11. The Innovation Awards highlight the most game-changing products in winemaking and fruit and vegetable farming—19 products, processes and technologies were chosen from more than 60 entries. Below is a sneak peek at some of the winners. Wine Business Monthly will highlight a wider selection of products from the show in an upcoming issue.
Vinitech-Sifel Bordeaux will be held December 2–4, 2014 at the Exhibition Center of Bordeaux. For more information visit vinitech.fr/en.
Special Jury Prize
Category: Vines, Orchards and Vegetable Farming
DUVIGNEAU ET FILS
Mini-digger with pile driver
The mini-digger with pile driver is designed for trellis installation in the vineyard. The system is completely automated with GPS guidance to an accuracy of one centimetre. It enables an operator to work alone and greatly reduces the strenuousness of the task. Handling is reduced to a minimum; the operator only has to take the posts off the truck at the front of the digger and position them under the machine. The machine is also equipped with a decoiler for installing the trellis wires. This ground-breaking innovation represents a major development in precision farming, a cost-effective solution which also improves working conditions for dangerous tasks which put strain on the operator.
CALIBAIE grape grader
CALIBAIE is a system for grading the grapes as they come out of an automatic sorting machine. It consists of a chain-driven roller table with parallel rollers which rotate towards the front of the machine. Carried by the moving rollers, the grapes are separated and spread out across the width of the machine. They continue to roll until they reach a gap wide enough to let them through without being compressed or crushed. Grapes larger than the size set are carried to the end of the roller table and fall into a tray, pump or lift. It is possible to adjust the machine according to the number of different grape sizes associated with the variety. Calibaie is a simple, efficient way to grade the harvest after prior sorting by stage of maturity (i.e. on exit from the Tribaie machine). It makes optimum use of the grape harvest by allowing different vinification processes according to grape size. The machine can be set to the appropriate processing speed to work autonomously in complete safety. The system is already fully operational and represents a real innovation which optimizes overall wine quality.
Category: Vines, Orchards and Vegetable Farming
EASY TURN steering system for grape harvesting machine
The Easy Turn steering system enables the operator to move to the row adjacent to the one just completed without any special manoeuvring; it also offers a significant productivity gain and better visibility. The innovation lies in the mechanical design: absence of tie rods, one reversing inner rear wheel and a 95° turning angle.
Category: Vines, Orchards and Vegetable Farming
SOUSLIKOFF & CIE
GUIDALEX: Inter-vine tool chassis with automatic row guiding
and depth adjustment
GUIDALEX is a front-mounted tillage system designed for orchards that can have rows planted more than 5 metres apart. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that the positioning of the right and left mounted tools is controlled independently and automatically, enabling two half-rows to be worked simultaneously. The independent depth adjustment for each side is controlled either by a SOLTRONIC power regulator or a cylinder with integrated position sensor. The top speeds can be up to 5 km/h for unearthing and 8 km/h for earthing up.
SMART GLASS: The first automatic liquid transfer controller for wineries
Smart Glass is an intelligent electronic monitoring system. The concept consists of distinguishing between liquids passing through a tube by means of a patented sensor based on impedance spectroscopy. Must, wine, must deposit, lees and water all have specific electrical signatures. Used during sedimentation, racking and flushing with water, the sensor detects changes in the liquid and controls the pump via a wireless connection. Smart Glass is the first automatic liquid transfer controller for wineries. It optimises winery operations and offers significant time savings. It is a remarkable development in precision winemaking.
Category: Vines, Orchards and Vegetable Farming
EcosatelYt inter-vine hoeing machine
EcosatelYt is an inter-vine hoeing machine which uses draft power to rotate a trihedral ploughshare support mounted off-centre. The blades stay aligned with the direction of travel, independently of the rotation caused by the wheel that supports the blade coming into contact with the vine stock. The work is finished by chains which break up clods and level the ground. A hydraulic system centres the machine in relation to the position of the row for each side independently. The current version of this machine is suitable for tilling vines planted between 1.5 and 2 metres apart.
What is biochar and is it useful?
Basically, biochar is charcoal that can be used as a soil amendment.
In a recent issue of Wines & Vines, columnist Cliff Omart concludes:
Given the potential of biochar to sequester carbon for a very long time, along with its properties of nutrient and water uptake and exchange with plants, I feel it is a product worth keeping tabs on as a potentially important soil amendment for vineyards in many situations. As more research is done and prices stabilize, it may prove to be an economically viable treatment option to improve vineyard soil quality
Sounds like we'll be hearing more. We hear rumors that some vineyard operators are looking into it - Monterey-Pacific in King City, Elieo Vineyards in Windsor, and possibly Paradise Ridge. Trials are underway. There are potential water savings to the extent that soil has more water holding capacity, and there's an expectation that the associated nutrients are good for the vines. Randall Grahm even thinks biochar helps intensify terroir. Here's a video posted by Ask a Winemaker where Randall Graham talks biochar.
Grammy nominated singer Jewel performed an acoustic set at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville, Napa Valley as part of the Staglin Family's 20th Annual Music Festival for Brain Health, which raised nearly $3.5 million in 2013/2014 to benefit the IMHRO/One Mind Institute and ONE MIND™. See the full press release here.