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New grower site good, but needs work


I’m glad to see that the California Association of Winegrape Growers, the state’s leading grower trade group, yesterday announced the launch of its new website for consumers. Their old one was a mess, aimed almost exclusively at member-growers, and with very little interest even to a reporter-hound dog like me.

The new site is a good start, but work remains to be done. Here are some suggestions to make it better.

Have a glossary. There are so many words and phrases connected to grapegrowing. How about a thorough list of them, with definitions? The only word I could find on the site that they do define is terroir, and I don’t even agree with their definition: “A French term used to describe how a vineyard’s geography, soil, weather conditions and farming techniques can impart certain characteristics upon the grapes and wine that reflect ‘a sense of the land.’” I never thought that “farming techniques” were part of terroir. If that were true, then the terroir of a site would change every time the grower altered his farming. I think the proper word for when you add terroir + human intervention is cru.

The “Varietals” section is missing Albarino, Marsanne, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Grenache Blanc and Petit Verdot, among many others grown in the state. This is strange, given the website’s source — California’s growers. And while we’re at it, can we please, please get rid of the term “emerging varietals,” which is what the site lumps Viognier, Sangiovese, Tempranillo and several other grapes under? Until we stop thinking of these varieties as oddballs and upstarts, it will be hard for growers and winemakers, not to mention consumers, to get serious about them.

The “Wine Regions” section is a little, well, skewed. They list 5 — Central Coast, North Coast, Sacramento Valley, Sierra Foothills and South Coast — but, let’s get real here, only a state association of grapegrowers would mention the Sacramento Valley and the South Coast (mainly Temecula) in the same breath as the North and Central coasts. Just sayin’…

The “Stewards of the Land” section puzzled me. Under “Meet Our Growers” they list some well-known ones, while others are left out. In the North Coast, the site admirably mentions Andy Beckstoffer and Mike Sangiacomo, but where are (for example) the Duttons? The Central Coast offers info on (for example) Steve McIntyre, but there’s no mention of that region’s biggest winegrower, the Indelicato family, of San Bernabe fame. What’s up with that?

All the above is meant as constructive criticism. It’s great that grapegrowers — not a group that has historically been comfortable with consumers or the media — is finally understanding the importance of reaching out and making new friends, and through the Internet, much less! That’s pretty rad for farmers. But if they really want their new website to succeed, instead of going to that place in Hell where URLs that no one visits die, they should take my advice and make theirs better. Beginning with a glossary!

  1. Steve, I think is not a good website. Ok for a glossary, but according to me is not the priority. First: where is the feed? where are the social media? It a tradizional old style website in which users go one time and then they will come back rarely.

    It’s ok the possibility to subscrive via newsletter, but there are several other methods and tool to remain in contact with users. Let’s say: still a lot of work to do!

  2. Fabio: You’re right. I had not thought of the interactive or social media aspect. The website would benefit from having a blog, too.

  3. Steve and Fabio–

    Depends on the purpose of the website. A reference site does not need a blog or feeds.

    It does not information, and Steve has done a good job of identifying what is missing. I think I will write a book that answers those concerns. Maybe I can get UC Press to publish it.

    Now, there is a shameless plug for a book that is still months and months away from publication.

  4. Steve, I agree with the idea for adding a glossary. Better yet, I think that wine websites in general need to speak more English (or whatever language they’re written in), rather than becoming so bogged down in technical growing or tasting terms. It’s not very user-friendly.

    A perfect example of a user-friendly site is Chris Riccobono’s new v-blog, where he reviews wines on video for very moderately priced wines. He’s very laid back and uses terms we can all understand.

    I highly recommend you check it out (http://www.

    Thanks, Donnie

  5. Two plugs in a row.

    I heard there’s a job where you can get paid to drop URLS and names on other people’s blog/sites. You can find out about it here:

  6. Morton Leslie says:

    The site made me smile. It represents a view on the world from the standpoint of large often corporate growers who deliver grapes to many wineries. Their view of winemaking hasn’t changed much in 40 years. They grow Zins, Thompsons, Petty Sarahs, and Colombards certainly none of them fancy pants grapes. Albar-who?

    An subtle example. Read the feature..What’s Happening in California’s
    Vineyards Now?” In their view it is the grower who best knows when to pick the vineyard “California growers taste the grapes and test their sugar and acid levels frequently, sometimes even daily, to determine the best time to pluck the ripe grapes from the vine.” Then in CAWG’s view of the world once the grower has chosen the perfect harvest date, the grapes are picked and turned over to the winemaker. “once the grapes are transported to the wineries, the winemakers set to work to bring out all of the dimensions and complexities of the grape in the final bottle of wine. ”

    In CAWG’s view the winemaker with all his fancy pants ideas never sets foot into the vineyard.

    Largely their view is imaginary. I have never know a non-winery owning CAWG grower to test for acid, let alone know how to take a representative berry sample, or for that matter, pick for a reason other than what makes them the most money within their grape contract.

  7. Thomas, I may have to start cracking down on that kind of stuff. I just don’t want anyone to accuse me of censorship.

  8. I looked over the site. I like the interactive map, but I think they should put the “select a region” tabs at the top, rather than stowed away at the bottom. While visually nice, the map doesn’t necessarily allow complete ease of navigation. And yes, I agree a blog is critical in a redesign.

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