A thoughtful visit to the far Marin coast
It was an unusual quintet that gathered around the little kitchen table in Bolinas yesterday. There were Jo and Jose Diaz, the husband-and-wife team who run Diaz Communications, a wine and spirits P.R. company; the vintner Sean Thackrey; Hardy Wallace, the “Really Goode Job” winner who, until next month, runs social media for Murphy-Goode; and me.
The trip had been arranged by Jo. She doesn’t represent Sean Thackrey wines — Sean doesn’t appear, quite yet, to need P.R. help, for his wines are coveted. But she knows Sean because he’s a Petite Sirah producer whom she previously invited to speak at one of the events she runs for P.S. I Love You, the Petite Sirah advocacy group she started and manages. Jo invited Hardy because she’s an inveterate people collector, and why would you not invite Hardy on an adventure? He’s so eager and fun and easy to be with. And Jo invited me, I suppose, because some creative part of her thought it would be a hoot to have me round out the menagerie.
Much of what we talked about all day was just as you’d expect: the wine industry, traditional and social media, P.R., blogging. Jo, Jose and Hardy spent as much time twittering as they did actually talking, which mystified Sean a little, I think, as he is not a twitter kind of guy. Nor am I, ever since I largely abandoned efforts to keep up with the demands it makes on one’s time. It’s still difficult for me to get used to people I’m with in a small group who are multi-tasking. When you say something and their heads are bowed down looking at their cell phones and they’re pecking away, you don’t know if they’re hearing anything you say or just tuning you out in favor of some phantom presence who might be anywhere on Earth. But it was really interesting when, at one point during lunch, Jo announced that we were sharing our experience with many different people, who were tweeting and re-tweeting about the fact that she was actually eating lunch and drinking wine with the fabled Sean Thackrey. That’s pretty impressive.
Hardy took a lot of pictures and I’m not sure what he intends to do with them. Could he put up Sean Thackrey pictures on his Murphy-Goode website? I don’t know, but probably not. Could he put them up on his own Dirty South Wine blog? Maybe so. At one point he mentioned that he considers himself to have a day job and a night job. That’s an interesting balance beam. You can perhaps be more yourself during your “night job” but not at the expense of alienating your “day job” employer. It made me understand how it is for a young man, like Hardy, who when his six months at Murphy-Goode are up hopes to land a permanent job in the wine industry. So many things to be careful of, so many lines not to cross and bridges not to burn. Good luck Mr. Wallace!
Then there was Mr. Thackrey, who was a generous host. I had the feeling that, for him, we were rather generic guests. Winemakers are used to hosting all kinds of visitors: private consumers, distributors, restaurateurs, wine writers, merchants. After decades of doing so most winemakers develop a sort of auto-pilot shtick. They say the standard things, make the usual jokes, offer the routine information. It is necessarily “all about them” and they rise to the occasion, to entertain, educate and, ultimately (they hope), do their business some good. Sean doesn’t send me his wines, and I didn’t ask him to and don’t care if he does, but he doesn’t need a good review from me to sell them. Parker does Thackrey, and Sean has his own contacts to sell his 4,000 cases each year.
For me, the visit was an opportunity to get out of Oakland into the wilds of western Marin. Also to see what was up with an old-time winemaker whose career I haven’t really followed, and with a smart, young ambitious kid (which is what Hardy is to me) whose career is just getting started, and with a veteran couple who, like me, have made a successful transition from traditional to digital. Part of what the Diazes and I admire about each other (we’re roughly the same age) is that both of us have managed to continue at our jobs (P.R. for them, print journalism for me) while expanding into social media through our blogs and, in the Diazes case, Twitter.
It was a complicated melange of experiences and points of view that sat around that kitchen table yesterday, a co-mingling of past, present and future. I think it left everyone, in his or her own way, marveling at the vibrant, future-oriented state of the wine industry.