Wine keg: A must have for your wine cellar

It’s time to ditch the bottle and add a wine keg (or two) to your cellar selection. Buying wine by the keg has many benefits, including being more cost effective, lasting longer than an open bottle, and reducing waste (do your part to reduce your carbon footprint!). I should know, this summer, we have tapped two different kegs: a rosé and a pinot gris, and it’s been marvelous.

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Bonterra Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon

While scrolling through Amazon Video recently, I came across the Wine Enthusiast show: It starts with wine, California: The organic way (Season 1, Episode 3). The show highlighted the winery Bonterra, and I was instantly intrigued by they’re unconventional farming methods highlighted in the show.  After reading more about the winery, it’s organic and biodynamic wine, I had to give it a try.

I couldn’t help but laugh at the video on their homepage, and its lighthearted nature towards their wine (and the opinions of various wine connoisseurs). Not to mention, with climate change and natural resources becoming more scarce, businesses that are doing their part to save the planet deserve a little recognition.

I decided to try not one, but two different bottles, the 2017 Merlot and the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, both of which were pleasant, though my favorite of the two was the Merlot. These wines are moderately prices and an overall good value.

Tasting notes:

Bonterra Merlot

2017 Merlot

This wine had an earthy nose with notes of tomatoes and black pepper. It was a lovely dark red color and had a tart, but bright palette with a hint of spice.

Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine had a nose of soil, cherries and black pepper. It was a dark red-ish purple color and the palette was slightly lighter than the Merlot. It was peppery but also had hints of plums and light stone fruits.



How would explain [topic] over a glass of wine

Conversational writing isn’t easy for everyone. Defined as making your writing sound like a conversation between two people, it can be a struggle to put thoughts into words in that particular way.

Why? My theory is that during our grade school, high school and college years, our noses are buried in text books and a lot of our writing is for term papers. Stuff that really doesn’t lend to conversational tone.

One of my past jobs was at a legal blogging network and part of what I did was coach lawyers and legal professionals on how to write blog posts. Blogging definitely lends towards conversational writing, and many of my clients struggled with how to do this with the technical and in-depth topics they were discussing.

When asked how to overcome this struggle, I would suggest the following:

How would you explain [insert topic here] to a friend over a glass of wine.

When sharing a drink with a friend, it’s a relaxed setting and the conversation is just that – a conversation.

So, next time you are struggling to write using a conversational tone, think of how you would explain the topic to your best friend over a glass of wine. And if it helps, have a glass of wine while you are writing (well, unless you are at work).

Wine I’m drinking right now

I decided to try a Washing Red from Maryhill Winery.  This winery overlooks the beautiful Columbia River Gorge and has more than 75,000 visitors each year.

Maryhill Winery
Winemakers Red

This red blend had a light nose of raspberries and tart cherries (with a hint of latex that went away with air), which contrasted with the dark red color. It had fruity palette of sweet cherries and plums. This wine is definitely a nice table wine to have on hand. And the price is right for those on a budget.





Taking a breath and switching directions

When I started this blog, my goal was to learn about wine and eventually become a wine expert. I started out strong, blogging weekly at points. But life happened, and between moves, job changes and a new baby, I strayed and eventually took a long hiatus.

After a few false starts, I am slowly returning to my wine education and interestingly enough, I have discovered two things:

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On the nose: Understanding how to smell your wine

It’s easy to get intimidated when at a wine tasting event. All around you, people are swirling, sniffing, taking notes and making comments about fruits and spices. For you, its all grapes: looks like wine, smells like wine, and oh yeah, it taste like wine too. That’s a perfectly fine way to drink your wine, but if you want to go just a little bit further, here is some additional information about smelling your wine (often referred to as the “nose of the wine.”

A little preliminary stuff to start: wine does pick up smells and tastes beyond the grapes that it was used to make it. How? Simple answer: from its environment. Everything from the soil the grapes were grown in, to the machinery and barrels the wine was made in, to how it was handled all along the way can impact or add a little something-something to the wine you are drinking.

Now, knowing that, it often leads to the question: how does one smell these things? Spoiler alert: it takes some practice. Starting out, when you go to take a big whiff of your wine, it’s going to smell just like, well, wine. However, over time, and by trying different types of wine, you will start to notice little differences and scent notes here and there.

Ready to get started? Here are some tips that are helpful to those of use that are new at the sport:

  1. Don’t read the tasting notes or the back of the label. This will just put preconceived thoughts into your head.
  2. Fill your glass a quarter to a third of the way full. This will allow you to swirl and smell without your wine sloshing everywhere. And don’t worry, you will get to top it off later.
  3. Have a piece of paper and pen/pencil or a notepad by your side. Writing down what you smell is interesting, and it makes you look really official.
  4. Give your glass a swirl. This will put some oxygen into your wine, allowing it to “breathe.” Basically, it opens up the wine a bit, so that you can smell more then just grapes.
  5. Tilt your glass, open your mouth slightly and take a good, deep breath. Sometimes closing your eyes helps. Stay there for a moment and think of what you smell. Remember that wine is subjective, per Wine Pair:

    Your brain can only pick up scents that are in your memory, meaning they are scents you’ve smelled before or smell often. That’s why ten people could be sitting around a table smelling the same wine and say they smell ten different things!

  6. Write down what you are smelling, even if it seems silly. Does the wine smell spicy or like a leather jacket? Does it remind you of fruit jam?

Voilà! You are one step closer to becoming a sommelier.

Smelling wine actually can get pretty intense with different layers of scents. So when you are ready to go to the next level, check out this post by Wine Folly, Tips on Tasting: Wine Bouquet vs Aroma.

Happy sniffing!

Three tips for buying wine at a grocery store

Ever run to the store for a few quick items only to find yourself stuck in the wine aisle (or aisles) unsure which bottle to select? This type of wine paralysis is pretty common, especially when one is new to drinking wine or is trying to impress a dinner party of connoisseurs. While I would love to say you should just go to a wine shop, I know that it isn’t always a possibility, and with two busy girls and work, I often find myself grabbing a bottle or two while shopping for the weekly groceries.

Here are a few tips I use when buying wine at a grocery store:

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How well have you defined your customer?

Do you really know who your customers are? When it comes to selling wine, it is easy to think that your customer is anyone who drinks wine. But, that’s not necessarily the case. Wine can actually be a pretty personal choice – some buy for cost, others it’s loyalty to a certain region, grape or winery, sometimes a decision is based solely on the label design. See where I am going with this?

To successfully sell your wine and build a following, you must first take time to define your customer. This allows you to created tailored messaging and content that will not only reach your target, but also resonate with them. How? It all starts by defining your ideal customer.

The importance of narrowing down your audience

Plain and simple, there is no way to create a message about your brand that will speak to everyone.  Anyone that drinks wine makes up a massive audience. Think about it for a second, it includes everyone from the freshly turned 21 who want to go wine tasting to celebrate, to the seasoned wine drinker. These two audiences alone are so vastly different, it is almost impossible to create one message that will get both of them interested in your wine.

Taking the time to drill down and define your ideal customer helps you create a message that will resonate with your customers. The first step into getting to know your ideal customer is by creating a customer persona.

What is a customer persona?

A customer persona is a generalized description of your ideal customer. Now this will take a little work, but you basically need to sit down and write out every detail about the audience you are trying to reach.

The Forbes article, How To Identify And Speak To Your Customer Personas, offers a great list of questions you should ask yourself when creating your ideal customer, things like age, marital status, how they spend their money, and everything in between.

Detailing out this information will help you with everything from what you should put on your website, how you should set up your eStore (if you have one) and what marketing channels you should use.

Ready to get started?

It can seem overwhelming at first, but taking the time to really outline who your customer is will pay off in the long run. I find it works best to work with another person when create a customer persona, whether it be a coworker, spouse, friend, marketer (like me!), etc. Having a sounding board and getting another perspective goes a long way into really getting to know who will not only buy your wine but become loyal to your brand.


A brief look at automation in winemaking (and a flashback to Januik)

Plainly speaking, automation is a part of wine making. The larger the winery, the more automation is used. Why? The use of automation in winemaking saves time and money for wineries. Granted, there is always the initial investment costs, but more often than not, the return on investment (or ROI) is well worth it.

In my previous post, I highlighted Artificial Intelligence (or AI) in winemaking, but before I continued down that path, I wanted to take a moment to make note of some technology that is currently being used in winemaking now. And what better way than to be be sipping a glass of Januik wine, which integrates automation in their process.

Is there a difference between automation and AI?

Simply put: yes. Both automation and AI use advanced technology, but with slightly different purposes. Automation is used to do repetitive, monotonous tasks (such as the remuage process in making Champagne), where as AI is designed to think and act like a human (such as using data to create the best possible operation schedule).

A shout-out to a little automation in winemaking today

Winemaking can be seen in temperature control or the fermentation process in the tanks, to name a few. A few good examples highlighted in the article,  Do we still need winemakers? include:

The VinWizard system from New Zealand has probes for measuring Brix/density directly; the Kreyer VinInfo systems from Germany measure the rate of CO2 production as a proxy…

Januik uses Logix systems for monitoring temperatures in their winemaking process, along with other tasks, such as raising water temperatures and monitoring ventilation to prevent molds. The system saves the winery on both time and money, allowing for attention to be given to other areas of the winery that might otherwise be overlooked.

Januik tasting notes

I thought it was only fitting to enjoy a glass of Januik red wine while reading about the automation used in their winery. Januik was actually one of the first wines I had tasted on my blog, so it was interesting to see how my palette has changed over the years. Let’s just say, I thoroughly enjoyed my glass.

The wine was a brilliant ruby red, with a nose of tannins, as well as stone fruits. The wine was smooth and the palette was robust, earthy and reminiscent of pie cherries.


Wine quality and automation

Does automation impact the quality of wine? Not necessarily. Purists may not agree with me, telling me that a wine is the makers heart and soul. But, where I see automation being plugged in doesn’t tell me that the overall integrity of the wine is compromised. To me, having temperature controls monitored by a computer allows the winemaker to spend more attention to other aspects of the process. I would be interested to hear your thoughts though.

Watch for more on AI in winemaking as I continue to explore this subject.



Are robots making your wine?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is taking 2018 by storm, becoming mainstream in just about every industry. From capturing and analyzing large amounts of data, to automating workflow processes, the possibilities are endless. In the wine industry, consumers have actually been using AI for awhile now in the form of apps, helping them to chose their next bottle or glass of wine. However, growth and advancement in the field has opened up opportunities for wine makers to take advantage of AI technology.

Let’s be clear about one thing. This doesn’t mean actual robots are going to start making wine (well, at least not yet). AI comes in the form of computer programs, or algorithms, created to perform specific tasks. Often times, these tasks were once done by humans, but with AI can now be done faster and more accurately.

This is exactly what a South Australian technology firm, Ailytic, is doing to increase efficiencies in the wine production process. Their program uses “prescriptive analytics” to account for all the different variables that go into making wine (temperature, inventory, etc). Prescriptive analytics is basically using data to determine the best course of action. And by gathering and analyzing this wine making data for a specific wine maker, Ailytic is able to create the best possible operation schedule, saving time and money in production.

Making wine is often a labor of love, and saving time and money in production can make a huge impact on the bottom line. Using AI can open up opportunities for wine makers that may have not been available before. But as with any new technology, there are a few considerations to take into account, the first being cost, the second being integration.

The way I see it, AI will probably be integrated more quickly into the large or conglomerate wine companies. Cost is not as big of a barrier to entry as it may be for some of the smaller batch wineries. In addition, AI works best when it is used to take over processes that are already in place. Large wineries already have a streamlined production system used to mass produce wine, so incorporating AI is fairly efficient.

This doesn’t mean that smaller wineries do not have opportunities for using AI. Like any other new technology, as it continues to develop, the costs eventually go down.

With AI making headlines, wineries of all sizes are best served by taking notice, researching and becoming more aware of where this technology may help them in their day-to-day processes. Embracing these changes in the industry will make a huge impact on future competitiveness.


My Love/Hate Relationship with Weekly Meal Planning

It all started two January’s ago, when I decided to make meal planning my New Year’s resolution. I was tired of the nightly scramble for dinner, the constant grocery shopping and way too much money spent on last minute takeout. Not to mention, it made for some pretty unbalanced meals.

I wanted to succeed at this resolution, so I first started by doing some research and talking about it with my husband, and then my friends and family. A friend recommended a great lifestyle blog, Live Simply, which includes a whole guide to menu planning, along with monthly ideas and recipes. I read through the materials, feeling more knowledgeable about what it takes to make meal planning a success.

I also sat down and made a list of all the meals my family likes to eat (and that I know how to cook). This gave me a base of meals to use for my weekly planning. I focused mainly on Sunday – Thursday, since the weekend was usually pretty unpredictable and figuring out two meals on the fly would not be that much of an issue.

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