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Tuesday Tributes
Go Read The Blogs—I Did and Was Amazed

By Charles Olken

Not that things are all wrong, but that even the top blogs have me scratching my head today. I guess that is what comes of being on vacation—having time to read and being surprised by the good, the bad and the ugly in the blogs.

ITEM No. 1: FAKE WINE REVIEWS: Do They Matter?
It is not that Tom Wark asked this question, because his answer is “Hell, yes, they matter”. No it is not that Mr. Wark has got it wrong. It is the comments on his blog that make me scratch my head in puzzlement. Can you believe one commenter suggested that it was okay for small wineries to post phony reviews on places like Amazon and Yelp and Cellar Tracker? This same person then goes on to say that Wine Spectator reviews of 90 points are given to wineries who advertise there.

Now, whatever your position on big vs. small, Wine Spectator scoring, sites that agglomerate ratings from lots of wine drinkers or any other way in which wine reviews are created, there are two things in this debate that are just plain wrong. Any fake wine review is a scam; there can be no two sides to this discussion. And, no matter what one thinks of WS reviews, the absolute fact is that the people who write them taste blind and their 90-point ratings far outnumber their advertisers by a fact of ten or twenty to one.

Nonsense is nonsense, folks. Mr. Wark set out to expose nonsense and uncovered a lot more of it.

Steve Heimoff is a Twitter skeptic. He has been forever, and so it does not surprise that his answer is “Probably not”. But, then people starting piling on Heimoff saying that he did not understand. Apparently, one person discovered Bonny Doon Vineyards on Twitter. And a winery owner claimed that she was selling 90% of her output through Twitter.

OK, I get it. I like Twitter. I manage to post there one or twice a week. I try my darndest to post things that will lead to comments and also bring folks to this blog. Does it work? Yes and no. But, if I tried to make living based on returns from Twitter, I would have retired long ago. And, while Bonny Doon may sell some wine via Twitter, its production is simply too great to rely on Twitter for more than small blips.

Wine is simply too complicated, too complex to be consigned to a series of 140 character tweets. It is one thing to get some extra attention, but there is so far no evidence that Twitter is about to change the world. I agree with Steve Heimoff, but I keep on tweeting because it also does not hurt.

ITEM No. 3: OREGON PINOT GRIS: Super Star or Super Simple?
Ryan Reichardt, writing in Palate Press, asks whether the Oregon Wine Industry is trying to reach a bridge too far with its attempt to turn its Pinot Gris into a wine with the wide and positive recognition that its Pinot Noir enjoys. To put it mildly, he is skeptical.

And I have to agree with him. Despite the fact that Oregon wineries would like to find a second wine to tout alongside their Pinot Noir, I sense that they are trying too hard. Oregon Pinot Noir earned its reputation because of the quality it delivered. There is nothing wrong with Oregon Pinot Gris, but the problem is that there is nothing magical about it either.

There is an argument being made that Pinot Gris can essentially imitate the rise from lesser status that has been exhibited by Petite Sirah. That is a very tall order. Petite Sirah made a comeback because of two major factors. The first is that there was always potential in the grape for depth and longevity, and thus desirability as a collectible, and the second is that well-made Petite Sirah offers as much to like as any red grape save for Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. Yet, even with all that potential now being realized Petite Sirah trails Cab. S., PN, Merlot, Zin and Syrah in acreage. It is a successful grape but not a powerhouse.

That leads me to this conclusion: The way to sell more Oregon Pinot Gris is to make more of it in styles that emphasize its easy fruit. And then to price it right. Whether anything grown in Oregon can ever be priced at popular levels is unclear at this point. I will leave it to others to analyze why, but with lots of good Riesling coming from both Washington and California in the ten to twelve dollar range, there is a real question as to the ability of Oregon Pinot Gris to get inside of that pricing let alone to compete across the board on a qualitative level.

“Super Star or Super Simple” is the wrong question. The wine is always going to be simple. It is Pinot Gris and it has almost never made great wine. Given that reality, perhaps trying to tie Pinot Gris to Pinot Noir is simply too big a reach. And, if that is so, then “Super Simple” may actually be Oregon’s best hope.

ITEM No. 4: JOEL PETERSON: Twenty Year Celebration
Sometimes headlines are just too neat, too clean, too honest. Joel Peterson, in whose inspiration Ravenswood was founded in the 1970s, has clearly been around for more than twenty years. Yet, the twenty year headline was about Peterson, not the great Ravenswood site north of Sonoma. My bad, because I misread it and was about to comment about Mr. Peterson’s status when I read it again.

The party at Ravenswood is to celebrate the site. It sounds like a fabulous party. And at $20 for first tastes of the new vineyard-designate Zins, great food and a chance to rub elbows with Joel Peterson and several Ravenswood growers may not be a Peterson party per se, but it is still a great party.

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Oregon Pinot Gris
by Sherman
Posted on:8/23/2011 9:37:12 AM

I've attended a number of conferences in the last year here in Oregon about sales and marketing, with particular attention as to how to make Oregon known for something in addition to Pinot Noir. Being on the wholesale side of the wine business, it amazes me that Pinot Gris in Oregon is a relatively expensive wine. There's a fair amount of it grown in the state (2440 harvested acres in 2010, up from 2360 in 09) and it is second only to Pinot Noir in acreage.


So why is it relatively expensive? One would think that, with this kind of acreage, the supply would be up and the prices would moderate a bit. Washington Pinot Gris is less expensive in Oregon, and that's after the additional cost to ship from WA!


When you factor in the "nothing magical" factor, it's a double blow for the wine that is simple and straight-forward. I'm betting on southern Oregon making Rhone varietals the other grapes for which Oregon will be known -- but that will take a few more years.  

today's blog
by Steve Heimoff
Posted on:8/23/2011 11:06:44 AM

Thanks for agreeing with me Charlie! I too tweet every once in a while but I don't live on it like some people do. I agree with you that it can't hurt for a winery to tweet, but it's a minor factor in their overall marketing mix.

JOEL PETERSON: Twenty Year Celebration
by Jo Diaz
Posted on:8/23/2011 11:47:01 AM

Thanks for the mention, Charlie... Yes, it's 20 years at that location, and that's their big deal. Sounded like fun and I'll actually be going out on a Saturday, when I'm normally chained to my desk writing. But... I have an exclusive half hour to myself with Joel. That's going to be worth it. Can you say P-e-t-i-t-e  S-i-r-a-h, boys and girls. (Okay, maybe I'll only say it once, but it will slip out of my mouth, you can count on that.)

by Brian
Posted on:8/23/2011 5:59:53 PM

I think a winery can gain more from someone else's Tweet than they could from their own. For instance, if Kim Kardashian tweets about pouring Schramsberg's Blanc de Blanc at her wedding, I don't think there's any doubt it would boost sales significantly. But I still doubt whether it could be more than a short boost. The buyer still has to like the wine and consider it a good value.  

OR Pinot Gris
by Ryan Reichert
Posted on:8/23/2011 9:11:12 PM

Charlie: that's the first time I've seen my name spelled that way. ;-)

Thanks for the mention, and for adding your thoughts to the conversation. Much appreciated!

Thanks for mentioning
by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:8/24/2011 7:04:45 AM

What's with the "thanks for mentioning, thanks for agreeing" posts?

Is Charlie's blog all of a sudden to be viewed as a name-dropping vehicle?

Correct me if I'm worng, Charlie, but I believe that you don't mention names to boost the sales or reputations of others; you do it to tell a story.

Constant blogger back slapping is likely part of what makes blogging suspect, but only in my opinion, of course.

by Charlie Olken
Posted on:8/24/2011 9:30:11 AM

Thomas, I certainly don't mention Steve Heimoff to boost his reputation. Nor does Tom Wark need any more publicity.

Ryan Reichert clearly needs more because I did not spell his name correctly. After careful consideration, I believe his name is Reichert. But, a word of advice, Ryan, I have been writing for decades and folks still get my name wrong.

As for Joel Peterson and Jo Diaz, well, I do mention them to get attention for myself because they are gods in my world.

And, Mr. P., I am in curmudgeon training now and will join you in the world of skepticism as soon as I am old enough.

by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:8/24/2011 10:12:13 AM

Who me? I just tell it as I see it...

But I am serious about the reflection of blogging, especially when comments generally arrive only after names are mentioned--if you don't believe my perspective, ask the ex-Hosemaster...

Name dropping?
by Ryan Reichert
Posted on:8/25/2011 2:40:05 AM

@Thomas P: I definitely had no idea Charlie had mentioned me by searching my name. I actually saw the headline in a news business feed, opened the story to read it later, and then only after did I realize I was actually in it! Coincidence, truly. Navel gazing is an issue though. Hell, I only expect my mother to actually read my stuff anyhow.

@Charlie: Oh, I imagine so! I'm used to "Reichart" but I'll add your spelling to the list. Woohoo, I've got 2 on it!

What's in a name?
by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:8/25/2011 6:16:16 AM



You should see how my name has been scripted by various and sundry observant people like teachers, Air Force drill seargants, friends, relatives, other bloggers, etc.



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