Uncorked Ventures Blog

Mark Aselstine
 
May 24, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Interviews-Jim Rudnick KKT Interactive

Anyone who has started a business in the past decade or two knows how important finding online customers can be. There is a huge pool of potential customers out there, when it comes to wine clubs or wine gifts there are literally tens of thousands of searches every month on search engines. Climbing search engine rankings is one of the most important tasks for Uncorked Ventures over the long term and to that end, we’ve tried to do things the right way and create a lasting and sustainable business for ourselves. Part of that process led us to Canuck SEO and while we’re not a client, Jim Rudnick has been incredibly gracious with us. He’s been willing to answer questions and make suggestions when and where they have been appropriate. In our opinion his Canuck SEO blog is one of the best in the industry at using examples and showing how simple things, like blogging can lead to massive customer gains over the long term. In fact, this blog exists here in large part based on his suggestion and the success he’s seen based on his own blog.

As it turns out, Jim’s also an avid love wine lover as well. While we can’t currently ship wine to our neighbors to the great white north, we hope to be set up with their state controlled liquor stores in the future. For that reason, we wanted to introduce our readers to Jim and his company as well as asking him a few wine related questions.

-When did you start drinking wine?

More than 40 years ago, when the major brands up here were all sparkling whites or roses with tons of sugar….ie the days when I’d buy a Mateus from Portugal and think I was drinking heaven. Like many others I have assumed that I moved thru the normal progression of the German whites as they got less and less sweet, into the Italian chiantis and the smaller French chateaus until about 1990 or so when I discovered that wine DID taste great with a 0 sugar content. Since then, ie the last 20 years I’ve worked my way thru the European brands and their old world styling’s and then discovered the new world and it’s varietals…and can honestly say that I don’t buy much French wine anymore – oh some great ones lie in the cellar but we drink California or Australia or Argentina every day….Chile still is untouched as is most of South Africa…but we’ll get to them I’m sure… Oh, small note, that our LCBO up here “divides” the shopping of wine into country aisles…hence I tend to think of wine as a nationally based category….

-If you had one wine or winery for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Ummm…tough to answer. but at this point, I’d have to say that we love the Heitz cellar wines, the Dunn’s from Howell Mountain or the best perhaps which we still think the the Grange from Penfolds in the .au world…too too many to think of eh! if price does NOT matter, then I’d love to try a 1951 Grange Hermitage…but I’d think that there are less than 500 bottles of it in the whole world….but if you do have one, just email me and I’ll fly down to try same, eh! JJJ Oh, Barolos. It’s been my pleasure to have found some other Nebbiolo lovers and yes, I’ve had some 10+ year old Barolos. They call it the “king of wines” here…and I’d have to agree it’s pretty dang special….but it takes me like 2 hours to consume a whole bottle…the finish is so so so spectacular that I savour it over and over. Oh, Gattinara….is a small “commune” of Nebbiolo growers like a few miles away from Novara, and it’s about the BEST you’re gonna find here in our LCBO that features superb Nebbilolo wines and at great prices. Shoot, just realized that you asked me for a “single” choice…sorry!!! there’s TOO much to think about, eh!

-How does the selection and choice in Canada differ when compared to vacations either in the states or elsewhere?
Differs greatly, I’d imagine….here in .ca, the Niagara area is the focus point with yes other areas in blossom too….our far west province, BC has it’s own special areas too…and we do try to get some of that here…but as you know our LCBO buys only some items and as it’s a monolithic biz…you just cannot get what you want ‘brought in’. The LCBO has probably like 5000 wines available, and most are not for me, I do realize….as they try to cover all levels of sugar and palates….but they do have a Vintages section where you can actually get some decent .ca or .au or .it wines…..love Barolos eh! That said, when we do vacation, we always ask about local wineries…and sometimes we’re pleasantly surprised, but our trips to SF about every other year bring us to Sonoma and Napa and the wines we do truly love, eh! Must try Washington too….someday…


-If different than above, what’s your favorite Canadian winery?
Would have to say “Thirty Bench” or “Fielding” as both offer up great cabs that are top heavy with tannin and can be cellared for years….um….”Thirty Bench” is our fave right now tho…

-How has the industry changed in Canada during the past few years?
The last few years have seen wine drinking explode here – you see it in the brand new beautiful new premises for the tastings, the in-winery fine dining restaurants and yes, even small boutique hotels being added. there appears to be great “margin” in wine, I’d suspect….and that’s a good thing for our lifestyle!


-Have you had a great wine related experience? If so, what was it?
Oh, gosh….the time that I shared a glass and then a whole bottle with Lee Marvin out in Banff and then we were joined by one of Charlie’s Angels who poo-poo’d our choices and then ordered us some Chateauneuf-du-Pape that I hated? Or the time that I grabbed a bottle right out of another shoppers hands at Chateau Montelana and found out later that he was a rap star and that his bodyguard was veering across the room at me and was stopped by the rapper himself? (names changed to protect the dumb, eh!) got many such stories but doesn’t matter…all wine is fun and if shared, IMHO, it’s the “social elixir” of making friends, eh!

-Anything you’d like to add!
Oh gosh….dunno. I do know tho that all wine drinkers should be encouraged to expand their palates…to try new and challenging tastings so that their palate becomes accustomed to the varieties of bouquet and taste, of texture and tannins and in doing so, they learn “what they like” and the “whys” of that liking too! wine is fun, eh….and that’s a global hope that all will learn!

Editor’s Note: Thanks so much for the time and effort Jim. It was interesting to hear your thoughts on LCBO, which coming from someone who has spent most of his life in California seems like a very, very strange idea in itself. We have no doubt that your SEO business will continue to be successful, we certainly wouldn’t have nearly the understanding of the SEO field that we currently do without your help. Thank you for that, it is greatly appreciated given the amount of hype and confusion associated with the industry as a whole, which does sound a bit like wine where there are so many of our competitors doing things like private labels and shipping lesser wines without being up front with their customers.

Mark Aselstine
 
May 24, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Another California Wine Passing

It seems that there have been a series of events in the wine world of late which signify the end of an era. From the recent passing of Patty Bogle to Robert Mondavi’s passing a few years ago, we’ve begun to see the conclusion of the generation of California vintners whom first put the Golden State on the world stage when it comes to wine.

That trend continued this week, although in a much less tragic way when Jess Jackson effectively turned over control of Kendall-Jackson’s wine empire to company President Rick Tigner and his son in law/current CEO Don Hartford.

While I won’t attempt to get into any motivation for the change in this space since major media such as Forbes has done a better job than I possibly could, I couldn’t see a story like this pass without mentioning it. Literally everyone in the wine industry owes a debt of gratitude to the pioneers in California. My business certainly couldn’t exist without the massive gains in quality led by Mondavi, the willingness to acquire brands while keeping their production levels small like Kendall-Jackson and a willingness to experiment with different grape combinations and AVA’s like Bogle.

As someone in the business, I only hope that this next generation of winemakers and wine companies can have half the impact of the generation only now winding down their influence.

Mark Aselstine
 
May 24, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Meeting with Vintank

During a recent trip to wine country we had the opportunity to spend some time with Peter Alig, the digital brand manager of Vintank. We had an enjoyable meeting at the Norman Rose Tavern in downtown Napa and took some time to learn more about what Vintank does and some of their clients.

These stories usually begin best at the beginning. Vintank originally came on our radar due to their Deals From the Vines Facebook group which effectively functions as a deal site for wine specific deals, many direct from the wineries themselves. Having some experience with larger coupon sites, we thought it would be interesting to have a conversation about their long term plans for the group as well as other happenings in and around Vintank.

Vintank itself is a digital think tank for the wine industry. Founder Paul Mabray has extensive experience within the wine industry, including founding Inertia Beverage Group which at the time was the only serious player hoping to assist wineries in marketing themselves online. Frankly, we couldn’t agree with the premise of the company more, wineries and wine clubs don’t do a good job enough job telling their stories or effectively selling online, us included. We’re getting better, but a wine industry which is more capable of demonstrating why consumers should move beyond generic supermarket wines is only a good thing for our business. There is certainly an incredible amount of room for growth in the industry as evidenced by the explosive growth of wine blogs, conversations on Twitter and the willingness for winemakers and vineyard owners to be available online and through social media.

Our conversations with Peter were extensive, we enjoyed hearing about his time and experiences moving to Napa Valley with a dream of working in wine, but without any job lined up before arriving. Having started our wine club in what is now being called the Great Recession, we don’t have to imagine the type of looks and comments he received when he told his friends and family in Indianapolis about his plans. Peter did a nice job outlining what Vintank is currently capable of, what the plans are for the future and how our two companies might be able to work together in the future. Frankly speaking, we’re excited about the prospects.

Additionally, I can’t help but mention the free copy of Gary V’s most recent book which we were sent home with. Initially we hadn’t realized that Vintank had a relationship with someone who certainly would count as a competitor (we do largely have different business models, so his company isn’t necessarily a direct one) but the relationship makes sense given both of their status at the top of the social media revolution within wine.

Lastly, anyone interested in selling anything online should have a look at their recent white paper about the future of wine and technology. I’ve seen quite a few people suggest that their outlook is perhaps too positive, but it does feel as if things are improving both in terms of sales and interest in fine wine, but also in how wineries and wine companies are representing themselves.

The bottom line, we enjoyed our time with Peter quite a bit and feel extremely comfortable recommending Vintank to wineries looking to increase their online presence.

Mark Aselstine
 
May 24, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Wine Blog Wednesday-Ala Wine

This week’s featured blog, AlaWine.

Why we read: Ken has created one of the very few portholes for information about the myriad of wine blog choices out there. We love his lists of the top 100 wine blogs, his top 100 wino’s on Twitter and much, much more.

He also takes the time to list wine competition winners, which makes him probably the only wine blog we’ve found willing to do so.

Lastly, his tasting notes are well represented and offer a realistic view at any one wine. He gives a nice combination of tasting notes from the winery, his own tasting notes and bottom line’s the wine for his readers.

We hope our readers will take a minute to check out his various top lists as well as reading his tasting notes. There is a good chance he’ll point out a couple of outstanding blogs you’re not currently aware of.

Mark Aselstine
 
May 24, 2011 | Mark Aselstine

Right Bank of Bordeaux comes to Los Angeles

Every so often we have the chance to do something which is both incredibly helpful for our business as well as being really fun within the wine industry. Yesterday was one of those times as the Right Bank Circle of Bordeaux wines brought a tasting event to Los Angeles.

Billed as “From Barrel to Bottle” it was the first opportunity for retailers in the United States to sample part of the 2010 vintage from the right bank. While the Los Angeles event was only one day, there are sessions later this week in both Chicago and New York.

For Uncorked Ventures, we don’t necessarily have a wine club which is a perfect fit for the average wine from Bordeaux because our Wine Exploration Wine Club is only $40 per shipment, while the average Bordeaux price is well above $20 per bottle, but that doesn’t make these types of events a waste of time for us, far from it.

So why attend? To start, it’s always fun to taste great wines and building a better palate is a very real responsibility over time. Understanding why Bordeaux has been a measuring stick for wine the world over for well over 200 years is a very real responsibility. Moreover Bordeaux is known the world over and has been for generations for their Merlot (or in many cases, Merlot based blends), which is dramatically different than the California versions we’ve tried of late. There is a finesse evident in these wines while retaining a fullness which is incredibly impressive.

Secondly, it’s also a great chance to network within the wine industry. I was able to spend some more time with Michelle McCue who I met at a tasting event last month and who I always enjoy speaking with as she is one of the few PR folks seemingly focused on the wine industry for clients. I also spent time with a range of other retailers, wine consultants including someone who is largely responsible for label registration of French wines and even a start up winery or two, one which employs a favorite winemaker of ours. These types of connections are certainly beneficial over time and the ability to meet people face to face is a welcome break for an online retailer such as myself.

Lastly, oh the wine….of course. A couple of my favorites of the day. Chateau Fayat which might be a nice entry point into Bordeuax for those more familiar with California Cabernet Sauvignon because the wine is a bit heavier than others at the event because of a higher proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. I also enjoyed Chateau La Rose Perriere which I think is going to dramatically improve upon their 87-89 score from Parker for their 2008 vintage. The ‘10’s seemed not only more concentrated, but were so much better on the nose that it was hard to even compare them to earlier vintages being poured.