A chronicle of Woodinville wines, winemaking anecdotes, fun people in the wine business, blogs & events-to-follow, and vegan food pairings from a DIY sports court crushing, garage barrel ageing, driveway barrel washing, bottle selling out of the kitchen, winemaker balancing a purposeful life with a great family. Salut!

Twitter Updates 2.2.1: FeedWitter

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's a twitter conversation, unless I'm blogging, then its about The Tipping Point.

As I am now writing my 5th blog (which means I have no idea what it is I am doing but am willing to continue to do it) I often think that I am talking out loud to myself. That isn't all bad as I frequently use that time for self chastisement, pity and then somewhere in the middle, reflection. When one writes words down, most of us take some moments to ponder their intent and outcome.

Many times, intent is simply pointing the nozzle of strong feelings and letting it rip. The request for better customer service emails of today are easy to write. We have a passion of some injustice, some mistake or missed service. We are clear, usually concise, and have an expected outcome well outlined.

Intent occasionally evolves as a piece is constructed. Writing an opinion or review where the thoughts are  coming together is one of these moments. As the writer, you have more clarity than before you wrote it. I often feel this way while writing tasting notes, or in another life, overviews on particular policies and programs. I often have an idea that motivates the first couple of words but the discipline of the writing molds stronger thoughts forward, massages weaker thoughts into better ones.

Writing in my blog, is a very deep and thoughtful experience for me. Maybe it is because I am still new to it. Maybe because the first couple of times you are making it as real as you can. It does rise to a deeper level. By deeper I mean I would not start a conversation with a new person at a reception at the tone level of my blog. The conversation would not last long! The deeper tone I reserve for close friends at a coffee table (My seat is against the wall at the round table  in Woodinville Tully's!) or an evening glass of wine with friends.

With Twitter, on the other hand, new follower conversations start as "waiting room banter". "How about them Mariners?" "Can you believe Congress?!" The conversations early on are casual, fast and unless a chosen interest group, easy to walk away from. The longer you follow certain people, the conversations start to evolve but the 140c rule still pushes you to thoughts that are simple to convey.

I relate this to you as Wednesday and Saturday, I will pour wine for one of the most active blogging groups on the web. The Wine Bloggers Convention arriving in Seattle, then on to Woodinville, Yakima and finally Walla Walla, Washington. Most participants are also monster tweeters (good monster!). When one tastes wine with a blogger or sends samples, the end result usually reflects something close to a normal tasting experience. Copious notes, multiple visits to the glass, molding stronger thoughts forward, massaging weaker ones into better ones is the modus operandi of a serious taster. Not only will he or she compare other wines, but years from now, will compare other vintages. You may not agree with some or most wine critics, but they are serious about their craft.

Tweets posted by non bloggers are different. They can convey tag lines, but have no ability to allow information to move. They become more pointers to other sources. They can convey endorsement and are quite valuable for that purpose. I have been lucky to receive these from several well informed wine tasters as they tour locally or at events. They become "spotters" or "scouts" in this context. They see a wine for you in broad strokes and let you know where to get it.

Malcom Gladwell ( http://bit.ly/tippinpoint ) wrote a book called The Tipping Point in 2000. In it, he describes society as a social network that allows ideas and products to spread as viruses after a "moment of critical mass" is reached. The key accelerators to this system are Mavens, Connectors and Salesman.

Mavens are the information specialists. They break down the complex and bring it to us in bites we understand. They relish in details but have a talent for helping us "get it"! In our ethereal internet wine world, our Bloggers are our Mavens. Who else would spend hours ruminating on just the right words to provide us insight into acidity and alcohol!

Twitter provides our Connectors with the system for these Super Tweeters to spread the word. Some of these people are the same, some are not. They are skilled in connecting many people due to their personality or position. Tweet-ups is a recent phenomena in the wine industry that allows you to have access to literally 100's of thousands of people by tasting a very few influential connectors. They have been referred by the social power of you the Twitter / Blogosphere! You are the salesman. You spread the word of who you wish to read, buy from, visit or generally enrich with your endorsement of time and money.

In the world BT (Before Twitter), one expert or two, would announce the king, crown the champion, and deliver the chosen words that would ensure the acceptance of the population. Now, you have the power to choose and be informed by many, easily and in real time. You can select the reviews most germane to your needs, tastes and budget. You have more Mavens, Connectors and Salesmen than you could ever sort.  The King is dead, Long Live the King!

Tomorrow, I will pour for a select group of bloggers ( http://bit.ly/WBCBloggers ) . They have a very wide range of wine backgrounds but they all share passion. Read their post and blogs over the next several days and months as they sort out the wines they will taste in Washington. Find some that speak your language and potentially share some of your pallet preferences. If you can, even identify ones that do not. This can be as helpful in the wine world as those that do.

Now to my wine of the week from my tastings. The latest Olsen Estates Late Harvest Golden Berry Select Riesling is just the best dessert wine I have ever had. 100% Botritus! The good news for me is they only made 156 cases! They are grossly underpriced at $57 per 375ml. Superb!  Nice job Kyle! Always a good job at Olsen Estates!

Looking forward to meeting many of you this summer at the many events we will be pouring. Thanks for reading. Cheers!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It takes a community to raise a winery


Twelve years ago, my wife and I started to graduate from wine at a restaurant to actually buying bottles for the house. No, my house does not drink, but at the time, we were living 1 mile away from 2 great wineries; Saint Michelle and Columbia. It was a natural transition in our wine journey. Very soon after we were members of the VIP club and visiting a couple of the newer wineries that were just popping up. I happened to meet one of the local winemakers, Matt Loso, who had just built a new metal barn on the main road here in Woodinville. He was bottling that afternoon and offered to let me help out.  At that first volunteer experience, I bottled Matt's wine, Bob Betz's wine and JM Cellars wine all cued up to do these very small lots (200 cases). It was a very intimate and rewarding experience. The next week, I bottled with DeLille who had hired a mobile truck fully equipped with all the equipment needed to put wine in one end and filled bottles came out the other. Everyone knew each other and all hands were purple. Crush was the same way and it was a barn-raising experience! The wine industry had captured me!

I was initially attracted then by a sense of camaraderie that resembled the tone of the community I grew up in. It was a farming community and everyone pretty much was one big family. Your equipment was available to those who contributed. If your tractor broke down, you would feel comfortable walking down to the neighbors and asking to use his. You bought the 30 foot extension ladder and the neighbor purchased the compressor. It is the essence of the co-op.

Here is where the story normally goes "then..." or "but". However, that is not the case. I continued to be involved through different transitions in size and scale. The assistant wine makers for Matthews Cellars went on to start theirs like Mark McNeilly at Mark Ryan Winery or Jerry Riener at Guardian Cellars, Assistants like Lance Baer for DeLille went on to do theirs and the industry continues to be the early incubator for great talent. 

When we started our own winery, the industry continued to be the same. I received tips from some, shared grape transport from others. My pump breaks down and Chris Gorman steps up to help. I lend my filler to Pommum Cellars, Chatter Creek lends me a pad frame filter, I lend my cartridge to Hollywood Hill Vineyards, Des Voigne Cellars lends me their labeler. We also recommend wineries to outside visitors. Last week I mentioned Brian Carter Cellars as one of 5 wineries that serve a Tempranillo within 3 miles. "That would be a fun Saturday in Woodinville just finding a new wine theme" was my comment and the foursome took off on their quest. I know we receive referrals from many others. I love this distributed trust that I have experienced in the Woodinville Wine Community. A trust that eminates from common respect. The people in the industry generally do not get very far from the earth and are well grounded. Humility seems to be a common virtue among those that depend on mother nature for a livelihood! We are all competitiors in one sense, but we all share the passion for wine, the excitement of creating a product that satisfies many people and in the foremost sense and we all share the planet and our time on it. 

It has been a constant question for me in our kitchen and at events we pour, "Besides yours, which wine is your favorite in Woodinville?" I respond slowly evaluating the consumers tastes, budget, and earlier remarks about the wine he or she is presently tasting. Because, like everyone, I do have favorites. I do have many in fact. Wine is an experience in time as well as a point on the pallet. I prefer some wines with some experiences and I would choose others in a different situation. A lot like music. 

However, I think there are so many good wines out there that I do taste, I am going to start mentioning them. It will be an adjunct to my blog each time. I will choose some as a singular experience, or sometimes a couple because I have enjoyed 2 on occasion :-)

SO, in honor of my recent bottling and labeling of 500 cases which could not have been accomplished without his labeler, I would like to recommend the 2007 Solea, a bordeaux blend from Des Viogne Cellars. Darren has established a great following around his syrahs and Sangiovese. This is his largest lot produced but its quality is exceptional. My first tastes found the darker fruits his notes describe such as black cherry and plum. I was more distracted though by the very smooth and full mouth feel through out the pallet. I went back to read his notes and smiled as I read the words "Root Beer". The vanilla and cherry definitely lead you that way though I called him to argue that it was more like birch beer. The difference for you non Root aficionados is Solea has a bit more of the birch beer earth tone that bright red candy that I associate with root beer. I know... picky! But I had to have something to add to his eval! It is a great wine now and after 2 days open was performing fantastically! I would buy now and hold at least a year for maximum return on taste performance. Check him out at DesvoigneCellars.com

If you have suggestions on Woodinville Wines to taste, or questions, send me a message at Mike@NWTotemCellars.com

Cheers!