Tag Archives: La Crema

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.

Mother’s Day wine 2011

Want to buy Mom wine for Mother's Day? Or serve something she'll enjoy for brunch? The Wine Curmudgeon is ready, willing, and able. Keep in mind our wine gift-giving guidelines ("Don't buy someone wine that you think they should like; buy them what they will like"), as well as these suggestions:

? Naked Grape Pinot Grigio 2009 ($8, sample): Pleasant pinot grigio, which isn't easy to do for less than $10. This California white has more lemon fruit than Italian versions, and is missing the off-flavors that frequently crop up.

? Robert Mondavi Private Selection Meritage 2009 ($11, sample): All in all, a well made $11 red blend. It has California-style black fruit, but not overdone, plus better balanced tannins than one usually finds at this price. There is even oak for people who like that sort of thing.

? La Crema Monterey Chardonnay 2009 ($20, sample): Some oak on the nose, but it's balanced by lots of green apple fruit and clean, lively acidity. Think of a California version of Chablis.

More about Mother's Day wine:
? Mother's Day wine 2010
? Mother's Day wine 2009
? Wine of the week: Casteller Brut Rose NV