Tag Archives: Kickstarter

Winebits 424: Scottish wine, domain names, crowdfunding

Scottish wine

A Scottish wine story requires a picture of haggis, the Scottish national dish.

? Too much rain: Scotland’s hopes for its own wine, which never seemed possible because the climate was too cold and too went, have been dashed once again. The drinks business reports that persistent rain in eastern Scotland has prevented Aberdeen’s Christopher Trotter, a chef and food writer, from producing anything commercially viable. He wasn’t able to bottle any wine in 2015, and the 2014 vintage yielded just 10 bottles — which critics called ?undrinkable.” The Wine Curmudgeon feels Trotter’s pain. Regional wine, no matter where the region, is always more difficult than you think it will be, and there are always problems you never imagined. And I’ve tasted plenty of undrinkable regional wine.

? Bring on .wine: Want to brand your website as definitely wine? Then you can buy the .wine and .vin domain names, two so-called not-coms that are finally available. There was concern from some legally protected wine regions, like our friends in Champagne, that the .wine and .vin names would be used to abuse their place names, but they bought Champagne.wine and solved the problem. The Wine Curmudgeon probably won’t buy winecurmudgoen.wine or .vin — not sure it would make much different to my brand, and winecurmudgeon.wine sounds stupid, anyway.

? Kickstarting a winery: Recent changes in federal investment law allow businesses like wineries to use crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to raise $1 million in any 12-month period from friends, followers, customers and community as long as the sites meet federal guidelines. This is a significant change to current law, though not everyone is sure it’s a good idea. It’s one thing to raise money for a wine book on Kickstarter; it’s another to raise millions to expand a winery. Regardless of anything else, writes Jesse Debban in the North Bay Business Journal, the new regulations mean “the public — including your competitors and customers — will have access to sensitive information about your business.” Which may be OK in the tech business, but is something completely different in the highly private wine business.

Big Wine and crowdsourcing

Big wine crowdsourcingColumbia Crest is owned by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, part of a one-half billion dollar company. La Crema is part of Jackson Family Wines, also a one-half billion dollar company. So why is each using a form of crowdsourcing, letting its customers make key winemaking decisions for one of its wines?

Because it’s not enough to make piles of money in the wine business anymore. You also have to be seen as local and accessible, and these multi-nationals (the eighth- and ninth-biggest producers in the U.S.) see crowdsourcing as the way to make them cuddly and artisan-like. Ask your customers for their advice about making wine, and how can they — and the rest of the wine world — not love you?

The Wine Curmudgeon can’t decide if this is incredible marketing or one of the most cynical things I’ve ever seen in the wine business, where cynical things are a dime a dozen. On the one hand, it’s a clever use for social media, which big companies have a hard time doing well. There aren’t too many opportunities for cute pet pictures on a multi-national Facebook page. And the crowdsourcing is certainly no scam — the companies have been honest and upfront about what’s going on.

On the other hand, it could be malarkey to make P.T. Barnum proud. Columbia Crest is making 1,000 cases of high-end cabernet sauvignon from its effort, not much when you consider its annual production is almost 2 million cases and it normally does 5,000 of this particular wine. La Crema churns out almost 1 million cases a year; it hasn’t announced how much the project will produce. First its crowd has to decide between chardonnay and pinot noir.

Plus, given the odds that each crowd could decide to make really crappy wine even with the best of intentions, how much input will it really have? Yes, each company says its winemaker will do exactly as instructed, but given how little most of us know about winemaking and how complicated it is, what are the chances of that happening? Because Columbia Crest and La Crema could turn into the wine industry’s version of New Coke if the wine turns out to be undrinkable, and one doesn’t get to be one of the 10 biggest producers in the U.S. by doing a New Coke.

There is one thing I am thankful for, crowdsoucing veteran that I am. At least the companies didn’t ask for cash to help pay for production, which is the most typical use for crowdsourcing — Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and the like. That would have been too much to deal with, even for the Wine Curmudgeon.

Winebits 317: Kickstarter, cheap wine, wine packaging

Winebits 317: Kickstarter, cheap wine, wine packaging

How would this look in your back yard?

? Don’t we all need a tasting room? Kickstarter is one of the good things the Internet made possible, and I’d say that even if I didn’t raise money for the cheap wine book that way. Consider this: The WinePort portable tasting room for your back yard, devised by Annette Orban of Phoenix. She needs to raise $5,248 by the end of the month, but isn’t very far along despite the idea’s genius (and my $25 pledge). The WinePort measures 200 square feet and is made of recycled materials. Her target audience is wineries, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work for wine drinkers who live in more hospitable summer climates than mine. Click on the link to pledge; you won’t be charged unless she reaches her goal.

? A toast to Korbel: The California winery’s sparkling rose that is, which was a sweepstakes winner in the 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, one of the most prestigious in the country. The cost? $11, which means it will be showing up a review here sooner rather than later. A $12 rose, from Washington’s Barnard Griffin, was also a sweepstakes winner, though I doubt there is much availability. Korbel isn’t always a favorite of the Winestream Media; I wonder if there will be a backlash against it, as there was for Two-buck Chuck when it won double golds at another big-time California competition.

? Bring on the wine in a box: The always curious Mike Veseth at The Wine Economist visits Kroger to see if wine in something other than bottles is making any headway. His conclusion? There was an alternative packages section in the wine department, which “makes sense generally, I think, because wine has moved beyond the standard 750-milliliter and 1.5-liter glass bottles to include many other containers. The fact that there is a separate wall of these wines suggests that the customer who comes shopping for alternatives is a bit different from the glass bottle buyer.” In this, Veseth has almost certainly identified one of the biggest — and least understood — changes in the wine business: the growing divide between older and more typical wine drinkers and younger and less traditional wine drinkers.

Winebits 316: Two-buck Chuck, Pennsylvania, Kickstarter

Winebits 316: Two-buck Chuck, Pennsylvania, Kickstarter ? But what about the terroir? Ben Robinson at The Thrillist challenges a sommelier to taste Two-buck Chuck to find out “which bottles are totally palatable and even enjoyable. …” It’s an intriguing exercise, and most of the eight wines do well enough (as regular visitors here know). The annoying bit is the post’s snarkiness, because this is cheap wine and it certainly can’t be approached seriously. The most interesting? That the sommelier could only identify the varietal in four of the eight wines. If someone whose entire wine reason for being is baffled by what’s in the glass, what does that say about how indifferent the winemaker is to varietal character? And, more importalty, given Two-buck Chuck’s popularity, it demonstrates that the producer understands that varietal isn’t as important as price with consumers. Not that I’ve ever argued either of those points.

? Finally, after all this wait? Pennsylvania’s state store system, in which the government owns the liquor stores, may finally come to an end. That’s the optimistic reading of this report from Morning call newspaper website: “A suitable deal has eluded lawmakers for the last three years ? really for decades ? as other Republican-led liquor privatization efforts have fizzled. … Republican House Majority Leader Mike Turzai said he hopes to have a liquor reform bill passed and on [the governor’s] desk before the governor’s Feb. 4 budget address.” If Pennsylvania reforms its state state system, that could be the first domino to fall in reform plans elsewhere, including grocery store wine sales in New York. Which means, as the story also notes, that it probably won’t be as easy to change the Pennsylvania laws as everyone hopes.

? Another wine book: Congratulations to Alder Yarrow, the long-time wine blogger at Vinography, who raised $24,200 on Kickstarter for the publication of his new book , “The Essence of Wine.” That beat his goal by more than $6,000. Welcome to the club, Alder. The more I see this going on, the more convinced I am that self-publishing, using some sort of crowd-sourcing, is the future of the book business for those of us who aren’t Stephen King.

Cheap wine book update: 1 chapter to go

The next to last chapter, ?How to buy cheap wine: The basics ? was sent to the editor this morning. All that ?s left to write is the final chapter, ?How to buy cheap wine: Advanced course, ? flesh out the winespeak dictionary, and fine-tune several short essays that will serve as appendices. That will include a very clever bit about wine labels (because, of course, no sense in false modesty when I ?m plugging the book)..

Which means we ?re on schedule for publication around Labor Day. Which also means that will be when the Wine Curmudgeon hits the road to promote the book. I already have three events scheduled ? the Kerrville wine and music festival over Labor Day weekend, Grapefest in Grapevine, Texas, a couple of weeks later, and the American Wine Society annual conference in Sandusky, Ohio, in early November. That one will be fun ? talking and tasting about cheap wine.

Those of you who pledged on Kickstarter will receive your premiums as soon as possible after publication. The book will also be for sale on the blog, as well as the usual on-line suspects. If you want to talk about an appearance, or have any other questions, including the Kickstarter premiums, send me an email.

Kickstarter, wine writing, and a Cheap Wine Book update

The Wine Curmudgeon has been remiss in updating the cyber-ether on the progress of the Cheap Wine book, which was scheduled to appear sometime in the next six or eight weeks. That’s not going to happen; call it the vicissitudes of book writing in the 21st century. How was I to know the city of Dallas was going to jackhammer my street while I was working on the second chapter?

The good news is that the book might still make the July 1 Kickstarter deadline, and will certainly be out this summer. Oddly enough, I did some quality work on the airplane when I was travelling to and from Denver over the weekend, which I take as a good sign. Who can write on an airplane? I’m about a quarter of the way through the manuscript, and it’s very nicely done. No point in false modesty here, is there? A sample:

We assume our betters know better. Ask an American about football, and they’ll have an opinion, and it doesn’t matter if the only thing they know about the game is that each team has 11 players. Ask them about politics, and they’ll have an opinion, and it doesn’t matter whether they vote or aren’t sure who the vice president is. Ask them about wine, on the other hand, and you’ll get a blank stare. ?It’s too complicated, ? they’ll say. Or, ?That’s too fancy for me. I drink beer. ? Or, my favorite, ?I don’t know wine. What do you think I should drink

As part of this, I wrote a story for Palate Press, the on-line wine magazine, about funding wine writing projects tthrough Kickstarter. In the article, I talked a little about my experience, but focused on two of the most successful efforts, Alice Feiring’s natural wine newsletter and a series of on-line wine guides written by Lisa Talarico.

The Kickstarter model, transformed into some sort of author’s co-op, might well be the future of book publishing, given that there doesn’t seem to be much of a future for book publishing. Like-minded writers get together to finance each other’s efforts, much the way farming co-ops work. Interestingly, a Kickstarter spokesman declined to be interviewed for the article; I think alcohol-related projects are a touchy subject for them.

Update: Final day for the Cheap Wine Book

This is the final day for the Kickstarter fund-raising period, and the project still needs $2,500. Thanks to those of you who have contributed, and you can still help by passing this link to friends who see a need for what we're trying to do. Or, as one contributor wrote: "This is going to be the best way to get the word out to everyone
about how wine should really be appreciated."

If you haven't contributed, know two things: If I don't raise the entire $8,000, I don't get anything, and I probably can't do the book. Second, you can contribute with a pledge of as little as $25. That gets you a copy of the ebook (and the second edition), which means all you're doing is buying the book before it comes out.

Here are the links that explain all:

? The Q&A explaining how Kickstarter works.

? The Kickstarter link.

? What the book is.