And the winner is…
Murphy-Goode announced the winner of their “A Really Goode Job” one minute ago. I was embargoed from going to press before the official release, so here it is. (And by the way, I was not part of the selection process!)
Hardy Wallace. More on him in a moment.
I hanged out on Sunday with the Final Ten, where we toured one of Murphy-Goode’s Alexander Valley vineyards with Dave Ready, Jr., did a Meritage-style blending session back in the winery’s new tasting room, in Healdsburg (about a 10-minute drive) and then, after that, the ten took turns staffing the tasting bar, serving wines to the public on a crowded, hot Sunday afternoon. All, mind you, while they were being watched, questioned and scrutinized by their judges — the M-G execs, including Ready — who would be deciding who got kicked off the island. I tried to imagine the pressure these guys and gals were feeling. They’d come this far, and worked so hard, to land the job of a lifetime! But if they were feeling any stress, they never let it show. Instead, there was laughing, joking and lots of good humor. Although they’d met up for the first time, physically, only the day before, most if not all had known each other digitally for many weeks. There was the feeling of kids at a summer camp.
After the vineyard tour we drove up to a nearby peak where everybody posed for pictures. It was an absolutely clear day, late in the morning before the valley heat built up, with a cool breeze from the sea and the sky an unreal blue. As the Ten sipped M-G Zinfandel from paper cups, they glowed with joy. Here, all around them, was the majesty of Alexander Valley, ranging from the vine-covered flatlands along the Russian River to the heights of the Mayacamas (much of it owned by Jess Jackson). Many of the ten had never been to California wine country, and they were so excited to be there, at that time, on that day, under those momentous circumstances.
The ten. That’s Dave Ready, Jr. (back row, middle, with cap) and Hardy, lower left.
People who haven’t kept up with this story can hardly imagine what a big deal this is, not only to the contestants but to so many across the world who have been following developments. This is The Apprentice, the Project Runway of an emergant model in which the wine industry and social media coalesce, like colliding galaxies, to form – – what? No one yet knows. In private chats with many of the Ten I asked where they thought it’s all going and, not surprisingly, their guesses were as good as mine or yours. Many expressed the wish that, regardless of who wins, they all would continue to know, and maybe even work with, each other. Some clearly wanted to remain in the wine industry. Others would be content to work in social media and marketing, whether in wine or some other industry. It was very Millennial. All felt themselves riding the tiger.
The blending session was fun. Each finalist had to assemble a mixture of 2008 Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, with Dave Ready, Jr. judging which was best. He kindly asked me to co-judge with him, and both of us were delighted that, after the blind tasting during which we’d had virtually no communication, we were strongly agreed on wine #3 as the best. (So delighted that it resulted in a spontaneous high five.) It was neat for me to be able to tell the group that this sort of thing is no coincidence: although each of the wines was basically similar in that they were blends of the three same base wines, #3 exhibited the greatest balance.
I liked all the finalists. Everybody was nice and personable and smart, although each, of course, had his or her distinct personality. There was some behind the scenes talk, among the M-G and Jackson staffs, concerning who was best, who would win, “who’s your favorite,” etc. I was asked for my impressions, but refrained from answering. It would have been inappropriate. All I could say was that whoever won will be terrific. At one point Barbara Banke — Mrs. Jess Jackson — and I were chatting, and when I told her how sad it was that nine of these talented and charming folks would have to be turned away, she allowed as to how the Jackson family (who own Murphy-Goode) are contemplating hiring more than just one, to work at wineries within Jackson Family Wines’ extensive portfolio. At least one contestant for A Really Goode Job already has landed a job: one of the top fifty, who didn’t make the Top Ten, was recently hired by St. Supery Winery, in Napa Valley, as their social media director. Salary: $90,000 a year.
I think this Murphy-Goode thing represents an important milestone in the recent history of the wine industry. Will it be as remembered as, say, the French Paradox? Probably not at that level. But it will be remembered. Another question: What happens to Hardy in six months when his job ends? I don’t have a crystal ball, but I predict a glorious future. A bidding war will ensue for his services. Other wineries will be forced to look for social media directors, and find the budget to pay them. Beyond that, the mists gather; prognostications over “the future of print,” “the relevance of social media to wineries,” “how to calculate ROI for Twitter” etc. etc. are useless. Plus, there is always the possibility that the oncoming proliferation of Director of Social Media for wineries will be a bubble. A few years from now some CFO might dare to ask, “Hey, what are we really getting for the $100G a year we’re paying ____?” The DSM may find herself doing more traditional marketing and P.R., which means — sending me pitches!
Now, a personal word about Hardy, who has commented on my blog in the past, and on whose blog (dirty south wine) I think I’ve commented. Although I didn’t have a favorite, as I said, I believe the M-G people chose a fantastically talented person. I got to know him better on Sunday and came away impressed, not just with his knowledge and enthusiasm, but with his sense of humor. He’s a funny guy! And, last but not least, it was Hardy’s blend that won the contest. A man of many talents. Good luck, Hardy. You’re on your way.
(Later this week I blog on my conversation with Phil Bronstein, the former editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and now editor-at-large for the Chron’s parent company, Hearst Newspapers. We’ll talk about the future of print journalism, monetizing the Internet, social media and, no doubt, the meaning of A Really Goode Job.)