Sunday, October 17, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Traminette as the signature white wine grape of Indiana. Traminette, like its Gewürztraminer cousin, is spicy and floral and delicious and grows well in parts of the Midwest. This particular Traminette is a lightly sweetened (about 1% residual sugar) and was cool fermented in order to bring out its floral and tropical fruit qualities. We bonded over two bottles.
Crystal blue skies, and near record warmth, welcomed us on Saturday and after removing my Wrangler soft top we headed off on a winery road trip. We planned to make four stops: Sutliff Cider, who makes some of the very best hard ciders I’ve ever had, ultimately was scratched from our list because of time constraints. So our first stop was Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery, located between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.
Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery was located in downtown Cedar Rapids but because of the devastating floods of 2008, they moved their operations to their nicely situated vineyard location. From the highway Cedar Ridge is a beautiful building surrounded by vines and situated atop a hill. Once inside we were greeted by the tasting room manager, who was multi-tasking tastings for a full tasting room.
The tasting room was nicely adorned and we were treated to a full tasting, including a few sips of three of their spirits: bourbon, brandy, and a lamponcello. The red wines were a combination of California sourced and locally grown grapes. The St. Croix was one of my favorites – a challenging grape to make into good wine. Their locally grown white wines were all pretty good. My favorite was probably the Brianna, although it was a little sweet for my taste, but a nice wine.
Our second stop was going to be Ackerman Winery in the Amana Colonies but the town was so busy on this beautiful day that we couldn’t find a parking spot. Generally, when people think of Iowa wine they think of Amana wines – meaning, sugary fruit wines. Much has changed throughout the state but in Amana there are still fruit wines. And if you want to taste spectacular fruit wines, wines whose essence captures the fruit it was conceived from, then you need to taste Ackerman wines. The Raspberry wine is a perfect example of how to make fruit wine and was a 2010 Gold Medal winner at the Iowa State Fair.
Fireside Winery. (Disclaimer: I am the winemaker assistant at Fireside Winery). I wanted to take my brother to the winery where I work and give him a thorough tasting and a tour. We ended up sitting on the back porch area with a bottle of Vignoles and appetizer.
Cassie, the marketing manager, was our tasting room attendant during our visit. She provided us with a full tasting of their wines. Terry said he really liked the Seyval Blanc and Vignoles. After our tasting I took my brother on a tour of the winery and gave him a barrel sample of the, soon to be released, Zinfandel. It was very good!
After a day of Jeep driving and winery-hopping we finally got back home, dry-eyed, sunburned, and pooped-out! Dinner was simple, we were tired, and as we sat on our back porch we waited patiently for the clock to reach 9pm so we could, with some degree of dignity, say it was bed time. 20 seconds after the top of the hour we were all headed to bed!
What a great day of wine bonding!
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Ask most winery owners how much they know about their customers and you’ll likely get the same response I frequently hear: “I know my customers pretty well”. Moreover, most winery owners also claim they know the preferences and kinds of experiences visitors have at their winery.
Or at least they think they do.
Blockbuster, the now defunct video store, once thought the same thing. All it took was one disgruntled customer, who later built another more responsive enterprise (i.e., NetFlix), to run the former video rental business into the ground and out of business.
Paying attention to our customers and understanding their experiences is crucial to keeping a business running effectively. We know our customers – or at least we think we do, but more accurately, we know our “regular” customers.
What do we know about those visitors who never return?
When I was living in Seattle and working at a marketing research company, as research analyst, a challenger to the prominent Seattle coffee giant asked us for help. This new coffee business surely understood the market, just like winery owners do, but they asked us to delve a little deeper and to help identify possible unmet needs.
They understood the business of coffee. They understood they didn’t know everything about their customers. They understood there was a possibility of an untapped market segment they might fill. They asked for research help because they weren’t market research experts.
Ultimately this new business challenger successfully invaded the market space formerly held by the coffee giant and has seized market share. Using qualitative and quantitative research methodologies we were able to uncover dissatisfied customers and key into a new, formerly untapped segment.
It’s what you don’t know that’ll hurt your business.
The danger of believing we know everything about our customers may be our biggest potential pitfall. In the winery business we do everything: we grow and harvest the grapes, run the fermentation operations, do our own bottling, and transport and sell our wines.
Focus on the Fundamentals of Wine.
Wineries should focus on winery related activities not on research. In the computer programming trade there is a maxim that goes like this: garbage in, garbage out. The same adage works for the research business: poorly designed research yields and questionable findings.
Professional researchers understand the complexities of conducting social research. Consumer behavior research requires a comprehensive set of tools that include qualitative methods: interviews, observation, and focus groups; and quantitative methods: survey research (mail or Internet), and even experimental designs (e.g., which communication program is most effective or which label design will sell more wine).
Building a long term research program to assess consumer satisfaction is fundamental to a winery business. Knowing what your customers love and sometimes more importantly, what your visitors do not love, can make the difference between success and failure.
Just ask Blockbuster.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Blockbuster, the movie rental company, recently filed for bankruptcy protection. This is something which seemed utterly impossible for a company once valued at over $8 billion dollars. For those of you who were napping here is a quick summary of Blockbuster's decline:
1985: First Blockbuster store opens in Dallas.
1994: Viacom acquires Blockbuster for $8.4 billion.
1997: Reed Hastings returns Apollo 13 to Blockbuster six weeks overdue, and is dismayed by the $40 late fee.
1998: Reed Hastings founds Netflix.
1999: Viacom holds Blockbuster IPO, valued at up to $4.8 billion.
2000: Blockbuster declines several offers to purchase Netflix for a mere $50 million. Instead, the company signs a 20-year deal to deliver on-demand movies with Enron Broadband Services, a subsidiary of Enron.
2001: Enron files for bankruptcy amid accounting scandal.
2003: Netflix posts first profit, earning $6.5 million on revenues of $272 million. Redbox launches a kiosk rental service.
2004: Blockbuster enters online DVD rental market. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings tells analysts in an earnings call, "In the last six months, Blockbuster has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at us." The following day, Hastings receives a package from Blockbuster. Inside: a kitchen sink.
2005: Blockbuster launches a marketing campaign touting its new "No Late Fees" policy. Subsequently, 48 states launch investigations into the program, charging Blockbuster with misrepresenting its late fee policy to customers. Blockbuster settles for $650,000.
2006: Blockbuster, now valued at $500 million, surpasses its goal of two million subscribers for its online platform. Netflix reaches 6.3 million subscribers by December.
2007: Blockbuster hires new CEO Jim Keyes, formerly of 7-Eleven. Keyes decides to roll back the company's Total Access plans. "Clearly our spending on that one channel was exceeding our returns," he said during a company earnings call. After losing a half-million subscribers in the third quarter, Blockbuster announces it will no longer report its subscriber count.
2008: Blockbuster CEO complains about Netflix in an interview: "I've been frankly confused by this fascination that everybody has with Netflix...Netflix doesn't really have or do anything that we can't or don't already do ourselves."
2009: Blockbuster rolls out Blockbuster Express, its kiosk system designed to compete with Redbox.Looking at the summary one thing jumps out at me: distribution channels - let me explain. Blockbuster, Netflix and Redbox are all about distributing the same content via different channels. Each company sells essentially the same product (movies) via different means to the same end user. Blockbuster's wildly high valuation in the 1990's was a reflection of how dominant they were at brick and mortar distribution at that precise moment in time.
Blockbuster was the brick and mortar channel leader, followed by Netflix which dominates the on-line channel (or electronic distribution) and Redbox which is smaller (less costly) footprint version of Blockbuster.