It’s been 12 months since the pandemic officially began. Looking back, I estimate I have attended close to 450 virtual meetings. Between Zoom, Teams and new platforms like Remo I have had work meetings, wine tastings, friend happy hours, book launches (shout out to my aunt, Anne Lakusta for a great book on leadership) and women’s executive groups. In a world of “you’re on mute” and even “I’m not a cat,” how do you break through? You do things with authenticity and organically create one of the most fun social happy hours in the business. You take the Wine & Spirits Spoken Here approach.
Wine & Spirits Spoken Here is a well-known public relations firm for the adult beverage industry founded by Tim McDonald, with Rusty Eddy as a partner and Robert Larsen as a consultant. Together these guys have close to a century of wine experience and have walked the talk from working at big brands to judging wine competitions to even making wine. And, they are people you want to share a glass of wine with.
The agenda is that there really is no agenda. As Rusty said, “I think events are different because we started being interested only in keeping in touch, not in pitching clients and selling wine. Sure, we’ve had guests like Denman Zirkle from Weingut Boecking last week, but for the most part, the three of us just like to hang out and enjoy a glass of wine with a group of people we don’t get to see.”
Robert added, “We knew that we could use Zoom to break out of the mold, but we had to use it differently. We want people to enjoy themselves in an atmosphere where we aren’t throwing branded messaging at them. They come for the company and the wine.”
They keep the group manageable – no more than 15 – and the timeframe to an hour. The themes vary. Last week, Tim, Rusty and Robert chose a favorite beverage to share with the group.
We tried a variety of wines and even a sake. All had balance as a common denominator. Usually winemakers or experts don’t participate, but we had a few notable exceptions:
2015 Richard Böcking Burgberg Riesling
From the steep slopes of the Mosel River Valley, the Böcking Family has produced wine since 1624. Recently, Denman Zirkle and his daughter Sigrid Carroll, a direct descendant of Richard Böcking, purchased the Estate from a cousin. In 2013, Böcking wines were introduced to the U.S. market for the first time. Denman joined us to taste the wine as Sigrid was on a wilderness cross country skiing trip. As expected, this was everything a classic Riesling should be – notes of lemon, honey and yellow fruit with great acidity.
Minenohakubai – “King of Modern Light” Junmai Ginjo
Born in Japan, Sake is made from four ingredients: rice, water, yeast and Koji. There are dozens of strains of rice used to make sake and classifications are designated by polishing or milling away the outer layers of the grains. These layers show flavor and texture.
We were joined by Eduardo Dingler, VP of Wine for Wine Access who told us the story of how he tried to get the 16th generation Owner Mineno Hakubai Shuzo to export this stateside. It took him years to prove his passion, and 30,000 miles in the air.
It’s very small production production and crafted from Gohyakumangoku rice. And at first sip, I see why people love sake. It was almost like a really good Chenin Blanc. I tasted citrus, nectarine, orange and spice. It was really fresh. And the bottle is gorgeous.
2017 Clos des Brusquières Châteaneuf-du-Pape
This tiny estate of Clos des Brusquières is only eight hectares and produces only Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The owner Claude Courtil, is the godson of Henri Bonneau, a legendary producer in the region, who taught him how to make wine. The blend consists of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre.
As Robert described it, “this was the Muhammed Ali of wine – floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee.” It had notes of red berry, spicy, flowers and a great finish.
2017 Trail 3150 Proprietary Red
Industry veteran and founder of Jamieson Ranch Vineyards, Bill Leigon and his wife, Anna, joined us to talk about the next wine. His company, L&S Beverage Company, is its global distributor. Experience Wines is the dream of Catherine and Travis Vale. Travis is from the Russian River Valley and has worked in wine since 1998. Catherine is the daughter of a master brewer and was born and raised in London.
The two met in 2001 while both were traveling in New Zealand. In 2010, they purchased an 8-acre vineyard estate in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley, now the source of Trail 3150 Red Wine Blend, and launched a new wine brand, Experience.
I tasted red fruit, mocha, earthiness, fig and oak. It was very elegant and drinkable.
Over the past year, I’ve also had a number of other tastings with the group. I’ve been impressed how they think out of the box. From an incredible tasting kicking off crab season with chardonnay to one introducing us to local Hip Hop Artist Earl Stevens and his Prosecco and tequila brands, these guys keep us guessing and making sure we are the first to RSVP to not miss out.