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VineCrowd Presents Two Mile Wines

22 Dec

Welcome! VineCrowd is joining with a handful of boutique wineries to offer consumers the opportunity to get to know and purchase from wineries to which they would not otherwise have access. And as our first offering, we are proud to present winery partner, Two Mile Wines. Two Mile Wines, voted the Bay Area’s best winery by the San Francisco Chronicle, is a small urban winery in the East Bay area of California, that follows a tradition of crafting their product in limited quantities for quality and character. To introduce this artisan wine to the VineCrowd community, Two Mile has agreed to offer their finest vintage at an unbeatable deal exclusively to our friends and family!

Etienne Lehrer, Adam Nelson & Adam Love of Two Mile Wines

Last week I was able to sit down with Two Miles’ owners, Adam Love and Adam Nelson, and chat over a glass of their incomprable sangiovese.

JK: Can you provide readers with a little background on who you are?

AN: Sure. I’m one of the founders of Two Mile Wines, a small winery in Oakland, CA. I came to this business from the love of food, friends, and connection. The wine industry has become so polarized between the worlds of glamor and commodity that I wanted to build a company which promotes the respect of wine for its craft, origin, and tangibility. Communities need to find more ways to shorten the food-chain and make good products sustainably. But the wine business has become the “Napa Dream,” where retirees build palatial estates and create more distance from the people who just want a good bottle of wine, while most of us just buy an affordable bottle from some distant, unknowable source. In the end, it’s an agricultural product. It’s food. It’s not a about social status — it’s about society — coming together to eat food and drink wine made by people we know. So we put a winery next to the people drinking it, and invited everyone to participate. To un-distance. To get their hands dirty and have a conversation which isn’t about some distant dream-life but instead about enjoying where we are right this very moment with our friends and family and food.

AL: I’m Adam too. I am a husband, father, friend, PhD environmental scientist and thoughtful food consumer. I’m also the winemaker. At Two Mile we sell primarily locally and choose organically farmed grapes as often as available to us.

JK: What was your first job?

AL: Depending how far you want to go back…but I was a bank teller during my first summer in college.

AN: I worked as a tech in a live theatre when I was young, and eventually ended up in technology. The winery doesn’t pay my bills, so I still work in technology and appreciate getting to pull weeds, crush grapes, and help solve the day-to-day problems winemaking always brings.

JK: How has the wine industry changed in the last 10 years?

AL: I think the best change has been the increased acknowledgement of growers.There has also been significant confusion in the marketplace about “sustainable” winemaking practices. As a consumer it is hard to know what is greenwashing and what is thoughtful sustainability practices.

AN: The economic changes have been significant, and have been the most defining of our 8 years of winemaking. It’s been painful, although I expect less so for us than for others, given our mostly local focus. My feeling the past 3 years is that the business has become more of an import-export game, as more US consumers buy imports, and a vast amount of small wine now gets sent to China. It’s the opposite of what I would hope for, where bulk wine is arbitraged and the resulting bottles come from a complicated industrial system. On the positive side, it does seem that more states are opening up to direct shipments, which while still shipped are shipped to closer destinations with fewer middle-men.

JK: Any general comments, observations, predictions about the industry?

AN: A lot of wineries are going under. More will before it’s over. Wineries will continue to earn business however they can, including, like Adam said, greenwashing, fancy labels, and unique production techniques. I don’t see the day where people buy wine from somebody they know coming anytime soon, but the spread of good wineries to every state and country certainly could do that. I expect more techniques from the beer industry to be used as American’s develop a new favorite beverage, for example, filtration marketing, dating, packaging. The one incredibly positive part of this is unbottled wine — like we do with kegs, there’s no need to bottle a good wine to be served in a bar.

JK: When you’re not drinking one of your own wines, what are you drinking?

AL: Unti, Kanzler, Schramsburg.

AN: Other local wines made by people I know, like Eno, Blacksmith, or Donkey and Goat. Pretty much any Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast or Mendocino — it just doesn’t get any better. Navarro continues to make crisp, cool whites like nobody else.

JK: What’s your favorite place to grab a bite out?

AL: Gioia Pizza (in Berkeley).

AN: I love the Vietnamese food in the Bay Area. Somewhere in Little Saigon like Bodega Bistro (San Francisco) or from a cart in Oakland.

You don’t want to miss…
Two Mile 2007 Dry Creek Sangiovese at 40% off and free shipping.

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millennier.com shakes up the wine world

7 Dec
Caymus 2005 shot by Alex@Vinecrowd.com

Caymus 2005 shot by Alex@Vinecrowd.com

“Demographic geekery, marketing tomfoolery, wine biz badassery, and some general awesomeness.”

Who wouldn’t love a twitter bio like that? Well, that’s Leah Hennessy, owner of Millennier, Inc. a company that reaches millennials through creative content and social media.  Yesterday she was quoted in a spot on AdAge article about millennials and the wine biz.  As someone who’s trying to shake up the wine world, I know she speaks the truth:

“[Wine marketers] only start paying attention to us once we turn 21, so unfortunately they are now kind of behind the curve in terms of the research they’ve been doing…Now everybody is playing catch-up.”

And what does that mean for us? It means we need to think outside the box. We need to develop customer focused systems (its about me, baby). We need to be interactive and integrated. Distributors who are ordertakers won’t cut it. We need to connect with our customers where they are. They are the new wine anti-elite, catch them if you can.

And, you know, you can’t fake this shit. Millennials will smell it a mile away. You don’t believe me? Ask our very own millenial @ alex@vinecrowd.com. He’ll tell you what’s wrong with the way you’re trying to sell wine. He tells me all the time.

Are Urban Wineries Taking Over The Industry?

2 Dec

Its official.  The urban winery movement is hot. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times are all over it. But, we know its true because we here at VineCrowd are at the epicenter of the urban wine movement (aka. the East Bay area of CA).  So much so that we have our own support group, the East Bay Vinters Alliance (which actually calls the movement a ‘revolution’), a collection of nineteen ‘innovative, urban wineries spanning from Alameda to North Berkeley, and producing some of the highest quality wine in the world… [and] prides itself in being the ‘the cutting edge pioneers of modern age winemaking.'”

Just this morning the LA Times published the results of the Nation’s Restaurant News’ top 20 restaurant trends for 2011. According to the Nation’s Restaurant Association which polled 1,527 chef members of the American Culinary Federation about what they expected to trend up in 2011, urban wineries fit into at least three categories :

#3. Sustainability
#5. “Hyper local,” such as restaurants with their own gardens and chefs who do their own butchering.
#9. Simplicity/back to basics
#12. Locally produced wine and beer

And its all confirmed by Trendwatching.com‘s end of year of Trend Briefing that details 11 Consumer Trends for 2011. #2? Urbanomics. From the briefing:

Urbanization remains one of the absolute mega trends for the coming decade….How will this change the consumer arena in 2011 and beyond? Firstly, urban consumers tend to be more daring, more liberal, more tolerant, more experienced, more prone to trying out new products and services…Catering to city-citizens in these vast urban entities requires a local, dedicated approach in products, services and campaigns…To cut a long story short: In 2011, go for products, services, experiences or campaigns that tailor to the very specific (and often more refined, more experienced) needs of urbanites worldwide…And don’t forget to infuse them with a heavy dose of ‘URBAN PRIDE’. From Smirnoff’s Absolut Cities to BMW’s Megacity vehicle, urban is the way to go.

So, while urban wineries may not be taking over the industry (yet), we are thrilled to be part of the revolution that puts wineries next to where we live. As Adam Nelson, a founder of Two Mile Wines in Berkeley says:

In the end, [wine is] an agricultural product.  It’s food.  It’s not a about social status — it’s about society — coming together to eat food and drink wine made by people we know.  So we put a winery next to the people drinking it, and invited everyone to participate.  To un-distance.  To get their hands dirty and have a conversation which isn’t about some distant dream-life but instead about enjoying where we are right this very moment with our friends and family and food.

Photo courtesy of Two Mile Wines.

Q&A with Craig Becker of Somerston Wine Co.

22 Nov

As part of our ongoing Q&A sessions with winemakers we are thrilled to have sat down with Craig Becker, Co-Founder, General Manager, Winemaker and Vineyard Manager of Somerston Wine Co.  In the heart of Napa Valley, Somerston, is 1628 acres of natural beauty, with over 200 acres of sustainably farmed vineyards, winery, and a developing ranch and farm.The tasting room is pretty cool too.

JK: Can you provide readers with a little background on who you are and what you’re doing?

CB: I grew up in Los Angeles. When I moved to Sonoma County to go to college, I discovered that the northern California lifestyle is the complete opposite of the concrete jungle where I was raised. I started mountain biking and hiking all over Northern California, surrounding myself as much as possible with nature. This deep love of the outdoors led me to peruse a degree in Plant Physiology, Soil Science and Hydrologic Science. While finishing my degree I discovered the viticulture department at UCD and was hooked. With my background and experience in the outdoors, my new focus allowed me to practice what I believe.

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Q&A with Tyler Thomas, Winemaker for Donelan Family Wines

19 Nov

Donelan Family Wines is considered to be one of Northern California’s premier boutique wine producers and several of the wines produced under the supervision of Winemaker Tyler Thomas have received unbridled praise. Not long ago, in fact, Robert Parker gave Donelan several positive reviews with most vintages scoring a 93 or higher. Today we get to chat with Thomas, who calls himself a husband and father of three who happens to be also be a Winemaker. But he’s just being modest.

JK: Can you provide readers with a little background on who you are and what you’re doing?

TT: I am the winemaker for the Syrah focused producer Donelan Family Wines. As a small winery (less than 5000 cases) my role includes grower relations/vineyard management, winemaking duties, cellar management, and marketing participation. I am responsible for building the team that helps to ensure what we place into the glass is something of uncompromising quality – at least this is the mandate giving to me by our owner Joe Donelan.

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#WineWednesday Q&A with Jason Haas of Tablas Creek

17 Nov

For today’s #WineWednesday chat, we were lucky enough to catch up with Jason Haas, General Manager of Tablas Creek Vineyard . Founded by the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and Haas, the vineyard sits in the hilly Las Tablas district of west Paso Robles and was chosen for its limestone soils, a favorable climate, and rugged terrain—its similarities to Châteauneuf du Pape. All seems to be going well in Las Tablas as evidenced by Robert Parker’s August 2010 Wine Advocate reviews in which he awarded 17 Tablas Creek wines 90 points or higher.

JK: Although many of us are familiar with Tablas Creek, can you provide a little background on who you are and why you have such a great focus on sustainability?

JH: Tablas Creek Vineyard is an estate winery in Paso Robles, California … we are committed to making wines that reflect the place in which they’re grown. And the less that we put onto our vineyard from the outside, the more they’ll draw from the soils and climate they have surrounding them. Vineyards are also long-term investments. Grapevines live for up to 100 years, and don’t produce their best fruit until they’re 30 years old or more. So it’s particularly important that they be farmed sustainably if you hope to reap the full rewards of the work you’ve put in. Finally, this is where we live and work ourselves. Knowing that we’re not exposing ourselves and the people we work with to chemicals day after day is great.

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Q&A with Charlie Barra, of BARRA of Mendocino and Girasole Vineyards

15 Nov

As the third interview with California wine luminaries we were fortunate enough to track down Charlie Barra, owner and  grape grower for BARRA of Mendocino and Girasole Vineyards.

JK: Can you provide readers with a little background on BARRA of Mendocino and Girasole Vineyards and you?

CB: I grew up in a vineyard starting at a very young age. My family emigrated from Italy in 1906, so when they arrived in the Redwood Valley area of Northern California (where my vineyards are today) they began farming grapes as they had in Europe. So I was fortunate to be able to learn farming from my father Antonio and my grandfather, Guiseppe. And in Europe, they did not use chemicals in the vineyard, so it was a natural progression for me to adopt this approach when farming my own vineyards.

JK: What was your first job?

CB: I will be 84 years old this December and my first, and only job, has been grape farming.  As a child, I even got a pair of pruning shears for Christmas one year!

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Q&A with Linda Ault of Cedar Mountain Winery

12 Nov

Cedar Mountain Winery combines the creative interests of Linda and Earl Ault wine food and art. Earl is an accomplished sculptor watercolorist and large format photographer. Linda is a recognized amateur gourmet chef. Together they manage the farming activities and operate the winery. Earl is the winemaker. The Aults believe that quality wines begin with the grapes in the vineyard. They specialize primarily in Livermore grown and produced wines.

JK: Can you provide readers with a little background on who you are, why you care about sustainability and what you’re doing?

LA: Earl has been on the Board of Directors for the Wine Institute for many, many years (we are the smallest winery on the board). We have been practicing their Sustainable Winegrowing Practices for both the winery and the vineyard since they published the guide in 2002. The self-assessment workbook/guide is aliving document that is frequently updated. To us sustainability means a minimum impact on the environment. Why spray insecticide when lady bugs and soap will do (and the soap bio-degrades to fertilizer). Weeds in the vineyard are OK – they harbor pests that would be on the grapes. Disking the weed into the vineyard wipes out one generation of pests and adds compost to the vineyard at the same time. As for the winery, Cedar Mountain Winery is the only certified green winery in Alameda County. To be certified we had to pass audits in the following areas: solid waste reduction and recycling, energy conservation, water conservation and pollution prevention. And we must show improvements every year in order to maintain our certification. This past year we took out all of the water hungry landscaping in front of the winery, donated the plants to the local college for their plant sale and put in drought resistant, native California plants. After this year we won’t have to water them. We also put in a tankless water heater in the winery in order to use less water. Our gammajet washer, for washing barrels and tanks, takes only a fraction of the water we used to use. As we said before Sustainability means Minimum Impact on the Environment. I could go on forever on this subject.

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#WineWednesday Q&A with Dave Guffy, Winemaker, The Hess Collection

10 Nov

As the second interview with California wine luminaries we were fortunate enough to track down Dave Guffy of The Hess Collection in Mount Veeder, Napa.

JK: Although Hess Collection needs little introduction, can you provide readers with a little background on who you are?

DG: For the past 11 years I’ve been the winemaker for The Hess Collection, which is located in a historic winery high atop Mount Veeder in Napa Valley. Donald Hess established his first Mount Veeder vineyard in 1978, and today, we farm about 1,034 acres, all sustainably, with 704 acres of that total in Napa Valley.

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Wine Industry Trend? Innovative Small Biz Financing

2 Nov

I recently became involved with Toast Wine Lounge, a start-up wine bar in my new neighborhood (did everyone catch that disclaimer…). The founders, Heather and Kristen, have so much going for them and their business plan that’s its hard to single out what really caught my eye. That said, there was one thing that really stuck out: In addition to selling t-shirts and pre-purchase punch cards, Toast is raising start-up capital by selling memberships:

We need YOUR help! In the past, when someone needed help building something useful, such as a barn, the local community got together and built it. Once built, everyone would celebrate by sharing a meal under the new roof. We seek to build TOAST in the same manner. Help us Raise Our Barn! Your participation by purchasing wine glass punch cards, toast-tees or better yet a membership is all it takes to open the doors to TOAST. We are certain we will reach our goal and that one day soon we will all sit back and celebrate our collective accomplishment by enjoying a glass of wine in an inspired setting.

There are a range of member benefits, depending on the investment level, but they include things like complimentary tickets to winemaker dinners, a TOAST email address and calling cards with a “Founder” title, vouchers for glasses of wine, priority seating at the Melchior table (reserved for members only) and ‘serious celebrity status when you visit Toast.’

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