Category: Wine / Wine Tasting
I am guessing that there are relatively few out there in the industry who have not heard the term locavore, maybe even the related term for drinking what is produced locally, locapour. Over the past few years, the locavore movement has garnered more and more interest. The New Oxford American Dictionary even made the term their word of the year in 2007. Many people are discovering that eating locally has numerous benefits: food is more nutritious, tastes better, and fuel conservation is promoted by avoiding foods that has been trucked hundreds (or even thousands) of miles.
Many restaurants are joining the movement, forming relationships with their local farming community, shopping their local Farmer's Market, some even growing their own produce. The movement is also spilling over onto wine lists as well, with restaurants featuring locally produced wines.
Some examples include:
Local restauranteur Sondra Bernstein has created "The Farm Project," a biodynamic farm, which consists of small plots of land behind two of her Sonoma, CA restaurants, the girl & the fig and ESTATE, and even has a share cropper agreement with close-by Glen Ellen winery, Imagery Estate. Sondra and her team are trying to be true to what they believe in by using organic, local and sustainable produce. (See blog post it by Megan Conniff here)
Local Culinary Program, Relish Culinary Adventures has teamed up with award-winning Grape Leaf Inn to offer the Sonoma Locavore Experience" a three-day tour packagethat features visits to organic and biodynamic vineyards, family farms, local restaurants and other area businesses that are dedicated to sustainability.
And don't think you need to be on the farm to grow produce! Seattle restaurant Bastille installed a 4,500 square foot garden of raised-bed planter boxes on their roof to grow their own lettuces and herbs.
Regarding the Locapour movement, last year the San Francisco Chronicle reported that local vintners were voicing complaints against locavore restaurants that glorified local food, but stocked their lists with imported wines. Washingtonian magazine food critic Todd Kliman took the argument national with his post on TheDailyBeast.com "The Locavore Wine Hypocrisy." The National Restaurant Association even announced last January that the #1 trend in alcoholic beverages is “locally produced wine and beer,” and be sure to check out the"Drink Local Wine" blog.
Since being coined in 2005, the locavore trend just seems to be growing bigger each year, with apparently no end in sight. Have you seen any cool or cutting edge locavore-related ideas being implemented? Let me know!
The Importance of the Restaurant or Wine Critic...
and what does the future hold?
The first professional restaurant review may have been in the New York Times in 1859, when the editor in chief told an unnamed reporter to "go and dine" in order that he might provide an account of his experiences. We've come a long way since then...
And now, with the Internet has come the huge (and seemingly unstoppable) rise of consumer reviews, blogs, opinions; on anything and everything. As always, food, travel & wine are favorite topics. Millions of foodies (and travelers and wine lovers) are now civilian critics, letting Chowhound, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Citysearch, and other sites in on their recent experiences. Further adding to this global change, print publications are in crisis, reducing journalistic staff, and making professional reviews fewer and further between. Will professional reviewers become extinct? And what the difference between a professional review and a consumer review anyway?
Jeff Cox, who had been working independently as a writer since 1981, including as a restaurant reviewer, describes his view on the differences between a professional reviewer and a consumer reviewer: "When the restaurant reviewer is a journalist (someone with a degree in journalism), then the review is an account of the reviewer’s experience with no agenda behind it. It can be trusted to be impartial. That makes it valuable to the restaurant as a reality check to see where improvement may be needed, and to the customer, who can be assured that his or her experience will reflect what the reviewer found."
On consumer sites such as Yelp, Jeff says, "They are interesting and entertaining, but not necessarily reflective of the restaurant. More reflective of the writer’s state of mind, prejudices, etc. These people aren’t trained journalists." And I can certainly see that in many (although certainly not all) of the Yelp type posts appearing daily throughout social media. Many posters who seem to have an ax to grind with a particular business or some other pet peeve to air, and in many posts it feels quite personal. Jeff states, "Restaurant reviewing requires accuracy, truth, and honesty. You are dealing with people’s livelihoods. The reviewer should embody the standards of real journalism and tell the truth as he or she sees it, always be fair, and never have an agenda. In other words, even if I don’t like the restaurateur, I should still rate the restaurant fairly." And I think that's what many business owners and managers fear about public consumer reviews, the lack of objectivity and the fear that one person's opinion may have a direct effect on their business - and their livelihood.
Will the professional restaurant review become a thing of the past? Perhaps not, as "community journalism" seems to be gaining ground. According to The Project For Excellence In Journalism, some new sites like stlbeacon.org and voiceofsandiego.org, often launched with the help of foundation grants, show promise, providing critical community news and information.
Others are mixing community building with professional standards of reporting. Oakland Local, a community site founded by Web entrepreneur Susan Mernit and funded through both a start-up grant and advertising, is one example of such an experiment. It covers topics like the environment, food, development and education for its local community and in a recent month had 65,000 page views, 40,000 visits and 25,000 unique visitors.
And some partnerships have begun between the old and the new media. The Seattle Times is partnering with a number of local neighborhood blogs including westseattleblog.com to share links and collaborate on reporting. Other legacy news organizations are looking to become aggregators of community sites as a way to deliver more micro local news to their users (and increase their value to users in the process).
Although I did not find traditional restaurant reviews on these sites, both oaklandlocal.com and westseattleblog.com have a fairly extensive food section, westseattleblog.com with a strong restaurant focus. Could reviews be coming? And what will all this mean to current guides and rating systems such as Zagat or the Michelin Guide? Where will they fit into the mix?
I'd like to know how much impact each of these rating, guides or reviews/reviewers has had on your business (whether food, wine or hospitality related) and where you see the future of the reviewer or critic. Please take a moment to let me know!
Restaurants & Wineries Getting Creative in the Poor Economy
Visits to upscale restaurants in America declined by 15% between May 2008 and May this year, according to the NPD Group, a research firm. Fast-food restaurants, on the other hand, saw traffic decline only 2%. Similarly, although wine consumption is up, sales of premium and super premium wines have dropped significantly.
National Restaurant Association's Restaurant Performance Index
Values Greater than 100 = Expansion; Values Less than 100 = Contraction
Source: National Restaurant Association
Many in the industry are getting creative in order to survive. Some of the trends:
Email me and let me know!
One Winery's Unique Branding Approach: A "Hands on Harvest"
The purpose of Hands on Harvest was to gather a select group of media and trade (including restaurateurs, retailers and the Gloria Ferrer Marketing, PR & Sales team) to celebrate harvest, and in doing so become immersed in all things Gloria Ferrer. From tasting the diversity of their sparkling and still wines, to understanding the joys and challenges of harvest, and how the Carneros terroir translates into distinctive, elegant and balanced wines that are created to pair perfectly with food, they really created a unique and special experience. I'd say they hit their mark exactly!
We began late afternoon on Monday with a Royal CuvéeVertical Tasting, 1990 - 1997, lead by Bob Iantosca, VP Winemaking Director. As we began to sip, Eva Bertran, Executive VP, asked our group to take turns talking about their thoughts on the wines we were tasting, and the similarities and differences between the years. It was quickly evident that each of us had a distinct and unique palate! Although each person had their own preferences, we all thoroughly enjoyed the rare opportunity to taste seven older vintages side by side.
Next was a lovely dinner, prepared by Big Jim's BBQ, all paired beautifully with Gloria Ferrer wines, of course. Lest we get carried away with too much of a good thing, we were reminded that we were expected in the vineyard at 6:45 AM for some hands on grape harvesting.
Tuesday dawned cold and foggy in Carneros, but everyone was in good spirits as we learned more about how grapes are grown for wine, and how to best harvest the grapes (while not losing a finger in the process). In my comedy of errors (which had me driving most of the way to the winery and back three times before finally arriving) I got a slightly late start, but still managed to get my picking done, with more than a few of the berries making it into my mouth - ripe Pinot Noir grapes are delicious!
Although it was quite cool out, we warmed right up when we saw a beautiful site - tables and tent set up in the vineyard with a gorgeous spread of delectables, and Bob Iantosca cooking us a real treat, Carne Seca Breakfast Burritos, and Elvia Peña from the production team made the incredible breakfast cake. Now fueled, we headed off with Mike Crumbly, VP Vineyard Operations for a sustainability tour and to learn the fascinating history of the land, which included viewing an Indian Midden and Miwok burial site on the property, as well as see some of the rare artifacts that have been found.
As we walked back through the vineyards we saw another beautiful site - a table laden with cheese, Hog Island Oysters and bubbly of course! After a brief respite, we moved on for a grafting demonstration by talented Vineyard Foreman Alberto Robledo. We also learned the differences in the soil and how much it varies, even within the same vineyard, and how all these things contribute to the differences in the vines and the grapes.
We had a delectable lunch, prepared by Elaine Bell Catering and paired beautifully with Gloria Ferrer sparking and Pinot Noir. The Roasted Duckling with Amber Oaks Farm Mushrooms, Dried Plum, Pinot Noir & Chestnut Sauce was out of this world paired with the Gloria Ferrer 2006 Carneros & 2005 Rust Ridge Pinot Noirs. And I have to try to make the Balsamic Roasted Black Grapes that accompanied the salad myself, they were devine.
The afternoon was spent watching the morning's grapes go through the destemmer and get lightly crushed and pumped into the tank where the process of converting juice to wine will begin. We got the rare chance to taste wine-in-the-making as Bob Iantosca poured wine at various stages of development right from the tank.
We ended what had been a fun, interesting and education day and a half with an industry round table led by David Brown, VP Business Development. It was interesting to hear the opinions of industry professionals on what is happening in the industry, especially as it pertains to the consumer.
Why did Gloria Ferrer treat the dozen or so of us to this amazing adventure?
The expectation that the Gloria Ferrer team had was to educate their front line (media, trade, sales) to be able to speak intelligently about what differentiates Gloria Ferrer from other sparkling and still wines, specifically as it pertains to their Carneros terroir.
Marie Gewirtz, of Marie Gewirtz Public Relations (who works with Gloria Ferrer) said that they "greatly met their expectations," specifically as was evidenced by the industry round table discussion that concluded the seminar. Of course, she was sure to point out that an event such as this is only as successful as the people participating. "The group was engaged, enthusiastic and most gracious in their desire to learn as much as possible about Gloria Ferrer." "Yes," Marie stated, "We will indeed host another Hands on Harvest, and it is my hope that we shall not wait until next harvest to gather industry VIPS at our Gloria Ferrer table to break bread and learn about the extraordinary wine growing practices that define this family owned winery."
What is your company doing that is interesting and/or innovative? Email me and let me know!
Blending Old World rules with New World business models to revolutionize the wine industryWine Hospitality Network is a partner of the 2010 Wine Entrepreneur Conference, which will take place in Washington DC on January 21 & 22. Hosted by the Argentinean and Chilean embassies, the event will feature a dozen discussion panels, keynote luncheons and networking events where wine entrepreneurs will meet and share about new business models that fulfill their passion for wine.