Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Dutch Point of View

I’ve been in Holland for a few days for meetings with our client Canei wine and next week with the folks from deKuyper.

Jean Erickson and I did some busman’s holiday work and checked out a bunch of retail wine and spirits stores as well as on premise accounts for a sense of what’s going on here.

Door 74 looks like it would be at home on the lower East Side, 
Door 74.  We were directed (actually got a great cocktail bar recco sheet from the Bols Experience, see below) to one of the top cocktail bars in the world, right here in Amsterdam.  Door 74 was a finalist in last year’s TOTC best international bar competition, and now that I’ve been there…I’d have voted for them. It's got a PDT-like vibe in that the entrance is an unpreposessing door, with no signage to indicate what's there.

We met mixologists Remco Babay and Bas Verhoeven and partner in crime Frederico Fusco
Simon Difford doppelganger Bas Verhoeven
and had a couple of wonderful evenings talking bidness.  First item was my request for somethign special with Mandarine Napoleon.  Remco did great, but for the life of me, I can't remember the recipe.

Bas explained a drink concept he came up with for one competition that involved real smoke, wood chips and shaved chocolate in a two layer glass…it takes molecular mixology to a whole new level.  He also treated me to his signature drink, the Martila:  

½ shot Reposado Tequila
1 Barspoon of lemon rind scrapings (not a zest, but scrapings with a serrated knife)
2.5 Barspoons of Maraschino Liquor
1 shot of dry white vermouth.

Stir, garnish with lemon twist and voila…

We talked at length about Pisco which they were somewhat familiar with.  I gave the 5 minute version of  Pisco 101, told them all about Pisco Portรณn and the mosto verde process, and promised to get them the first bottled that exports to the Netherlands. (Johnny and Andrea…you’ll have to help me with delivering on that promise)

The Wine Side

I’ve seen more presence of Chilean and Argentinian wines than I had anticipated.  I expected to see French/Italian and Spanish wines, which I did, but there is surprisingly noticeable distribution of New World wines, according to my unscientific retail review in Amsterdam, Delft and The Hague.  Pricing seems to be a bit lower than the U.S. and in fact I saw a bunch of entry level wines at the 6.99 /7.99 level…translated into dollars that’s still below the $10 price point.  Valdivieso from Chile was especially noted as having good floor stacks in stores that had very limited real estate allocated for displays.  Canei was pretty well distributed by commonly on the bottom shelf with just one or two facings.


We had stopped by the Bols Experience, a mini-exhibit that was very well done.  The location can’t be beat…right across the street from the Van Gogh museum.  There were some good displays of atomizers with flavors used in their liqueurs and real samples of the various botanicals used as well.  They end the exhibit in a real bar (albeit stocked only with their products), but you can design a drink or choose one of their cocktails and have it hand-made and served with a flourish by bartenders trained upstairs at the Bols Bartending Academy.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Are We Engaged Yet?

I had just finished writing my presentation for the U.S. Drinks Conference and was reflecting on a few recent conversations I had on social media marketing and it dawned on me that we’ve turned a corner.
Within the past two days I’ve spoken to self-described Luddites or representatives thereof (guy has his secretary print out emails for him), expert practitioners of the craft, and a bunch of folks somewhere in the middle.

That whole spectrum will always be there, but what I realized is that I’m no longer an evangelist having to explain the new thing.  We’ve finally reached a point where at least everyone’s heard of social media. And while they might be a bit hazy on the definition and terminology (social media, social networks, word of mouth, viral marketing etc.) there’s pretty much universal recognition of its existence and importance.

That’s progress.  In spite of the few comments you still hear that “this Internet thing is gonna blow over” I think most people in the marketing business recognize that there’s been a sea change in the way we need to communicate with our customers, prospects and suspects. 

Simply stated, it’s no longer a situation where marketers are shouting at the multitudes and hoping someone hears and maybe even pays attention, but rather a conversation among and between people whose actions indicate they share an interest in a subject.  Whether they’ve become a Fan of a Facebook page, bookmark a forum or newsgroup, read or get an RSS feed from a blog, they…WE… all have one thing in common…we’re ENGAGED.

Engagement, however, is a two way street and has an implicit agreement that the commitment is mutual.  So it’s incumbent on marketers to recognize that at its very core, social media is personal.  Even a brand with a quarter million Facebook fans has to make each one of them feel an individual connection.

Coming back to my intro thought here, we have turned a corner, but we still have a long road in front of us.  The challenge now is how to scale personal communications within larger communities. 

That’s one of the subjects we’ll be hearing a lot about at the USDC…I’m psyched to hear what Gary Vaynerchuk has to say, as well as the folks on the panel I’m moderating on social media.  So Tyler Colman, Colleen Graham, Nora Favelukes and Carter Reum….what do you think?
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Monday, September 13, 2010

Let's meet at the VinItaly USA Tour 2010 in NY 10/25 and PHL 10/27

     VinItaly returns to the US in October with two events, one in NY Oct. 25 the second in Philadelphia Oct. 27.  The NY event will be held at the fabulous new Eataly venue on 23rd and 5th that's managed by the Bastianich family and Mario Batali.  More about Eataly below.
     The trade tasting in New York is from 2PM – 6PM at Eataly (200 Fifth Avenue) followed by the consumer tasting  from 6PM – 9PM.  There will be a closed pair of B2B sessions for the participating wineries and  I'll be speaking on a panel discussion focusing on how producers can find importers in the US.  On the panel with me will be Nunzio Castaldo, SVP at Winebow, Gianfranco Sorrentino of Il Gattopardo restaurant and Bill Ippolito, of Charmer Sunbelt.  A second session follows on marketing and promotion of Italian wine in the US with Enore Ceola of Mionetto USA, Susanne Bergstrom of Folio Fine Wines Partners, Gino Colangelo of Colangelo and Partners PR and Jay Spaleta, Assoc. Publisher of Wine Enthusiast.

     The Philadelphia trade event takes place from 5PM – 9PM and I'll publish the participants on those panels as soon as they're finalized

     Have you checked out Eataly yet?  Imagine a microcosm of a street in Roma, a trattoria from Venezia  a pizza joint from Napoli and a grocery store packed with more Italian cheeses, olive oils, meats and bread than you'll see in a hypermarket.  But that's not all, right next door is a fabulous wine shop with a selection of some of the most interesting wines from Italy. It just opened last week and there have been lines out the door for real Italian gelato.  Constance stopped by yesterday and saw Mario Batali, and when I visited with Stevie Kim of Veronafiere last week I spotted actress Emma Thompson mmmming on pistachio gelato. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, September 9, 2010

U.S. Drinks Conference 2010 coming in October

As many of you know we’re one of the organizers of the U.S. Drinks Conference. This will be the fourth year that we’ve held the event and is scheduled for Oct. 12 and 13 in New York.  Check out the website ( for more details on speakers, agenda, registering, and hotel accommodations. Registrations are running at 3X the pace of last year and we fully expect to max out the room.  We moved to a bigger space this year, but indications are we'll have to expand further next.

Here are just a few of the highlights of the program:

Social Media:  Gary Vaynerchuk.  He’s been a one man revolution in the wine business in the U.S. and globally as well.  .  Gary’s cut back his speaking engagements as he’s broadened is brand to be a media and marketing consultant.  So we’re thrilled that the USDC is one of the few events that he’s kept on his schedule. (I’ll admit I was a little worried earlier this year, but thanks Gary for the commitment.)
For those of you who don’t know about him, that alone is a compelling reason to attend this year.  Word is he’s more influential to a broader audience of wine consumers than Robert Parker, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast…combined.  His grasp and application of social media strategies is setting the bar very high for the wine industry.  Not only that, he’s one heck of an entertaining speaker…expect your boat to be rocked.

Complementing Gary’s speech will be a panel I’m moderating on social media and I’m particularly pleased and proud to have Tyler Colman of Dr. Vino, Colleen Graham of, Christian McMahon of Heineken USA and Carter Reum of Veev Acacia spirits on the dais.  They all bring a level of expertise in social media to the discussion that’s unique their field of interest, and our focus will be on real world best practices in this new media channel.

Distributor Panel:  One of the most popular sessions, you’ll get an earful of good advice from distributors on how they decide which brands to take on and support what they expect from suppliers and how they manage and motivate their sales forces. The moderator will be our good friend Ted Roman from William Grant and panelists include Kevin Fennessey of SWS, Efren Puente of Charmer Sunbelt, Bob Hendrickson from RNDC and Jeff Altschuler of Allied Beverages.

Financial Panel:  New to the roster this year is a panel on finding financing in this changed economic climate. We’ve got speakers from some of the major VC and investment capital sources working in our industry, and I’m really looking forward to what they have to say.

As I said, details are on the site, but here’s a list of the other panels…each boasting a stellar list of industry luminaries.

  • Regulatory Panel:  Answers to the questions you didn’t even know to ask
  • Navigating (what may seem to be the labyrinth of) brand entry and distribution including price structures and logistics options
  • Supplier Panels on spirits and beer, and a separate simultaneous session on wines sharing case histories and lessons learned.
  • How to allocate marketing budgets
  • Retailer panel including on and off premise independent and chain specialists.
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