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A comment on marketing, after receiving the latest Bordeaux hype from a press release

10 comments

 

You know, I understanding marketing. When a winery or wine region touts itself as the “best ever,” or “greatest vintage,” or simply uses self-reverential language that makes it sound like it’s sitting at the right hand of God, it’s merely putting its best foot forward in a formal situation—as most of us do.

Say you’re at a job interview, or maybe meeting your new boyfriend’s family for the first time. Of course you’re going to be charming and try to impress these people with what a special fellow you are. You might even do a little discrete bragging…nothing too over-the-top, just enough to let them know you’re better than the average bear. After all, as Rabbi Hillel said two thousand years ago, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”

But really, there has to be a limit. Bordeaux (echoed by its various supportive critics) has proclaimed vintages of the century so often, we might have to reinvent the concept of “century” in order to accommodate all those special years. Its image, conjuring up marble palaces and royalty, is the nearest thing in winedom to the regality of the British royal house, itself a product of the greatest marketing the world has ever seen. And certainly, the proprietors of Bordeaux chateaux know a thing or two about pulling off the elite act! On the other hand, certain Napa proprietors who try to mimic the glamor, fashion and mansions of Bordeaux–and they’re out there–are plus royaliste que le roi, more royal than the King. Which makes them tres amusant, although they don’t intend to be.

* * *

A word about the commotion over Justin cutting down those oak trees. I have a long admiration for Justin, one of the icons of Westside Paso Robles. I always liked their wines, and when Justin Baldwin himself owned it, I thought he was a great guy who brought a lot of savvy to a region that needed it.

Now, Justin appears to be experiencing a rather serious backlash because of the tree cutting: restaurants are canceling their accounts and longtime customers say they won’t buy the brand anymore. As one of them noted, in the Paso Robles Daily News, Paso Robles itself is Spanish for “Pass of the Oaks.” Cutting down a bunch of old, beautiful oak trees must hit locals doubly-hard in that lovely part of Central California.

I couldn’t say if Justin’s ownership was right or wrong. There may be mitigating circumstances. Unlike many people, I’ve learned not to take fast positions on topics I haven’t studied. But I can say that the owners, The Wonderful Wine Company, showed surprisingly little foresight into how such a thing would be perceived. This is the age of the Internet, of social media; cutting down those trees provided perfect fodder to the nimbyism that often runs throughout wine country, where people understandably like the rural, scenic ambience and don’t want anybody or anything to mess with it. Surely, the Justin brouhaha testifies to the need to have a public relations consciousness within an enterprise—not necessarily a department, but somebody savvy who can anticipate public reaction and warn management of the potential risks. That does not seem to have been the case at Justin. There are lessons to be learned here for all wineries.

  1. Bob Henry says:

    “Surely, the Justin brouhaha testifies to the need to have a public relations consciousness within an enterprise—not necessarily a department, but somebody savvy who can anticipate public reaction and warn management of the potential risks.”

    Here’s where the buck starts . . .

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/steven-clark-67a7b66a?trk=pub-pbmap

    Steven Clark
    Vice President, Corporate Communications
    The Wonderful Company
    Greater Los Angeles Area
    March 2015 – Present (1 year 4 months)

    Head of communications for $4.8 billion global consumer goods company with iconic brands including Wonderful Pistachios, POM Wonderful, FIJI Water, Wonderful Halos, Teleflora and JUSTIN and Landmark Wines, among others, all of which are #1 in their respective categories. From strategy to execution, responsible for all aspects of issues and crisis management, consumer and trade publicity, internal communications, external affairs, executive speechwriting and presentations, and personal publicity for company owners, Stewart and Lynda Resnick. Lead staff of 18 with areas of focus including new product launches and brand sustainment campaigns, corporate social responsibility (philanthropy, sustainability, education initiatives, and health and wellness programs), corporate rebranding, mergers and acquisitions, and industry relations.

  2. it seems like I’m missing something from this Justin story. Were these trees particularly old, or endangered? Was this previously public land? Or are consumers operating under the assumption that 100% of vineyards didn’t replace a previously natural habitat to plant a monoculture?

  3. Bob Henry says:

    Gabe,

    W. Blake Gray writing for Wine Searcher addressed some of your questions in this report:

    “Paso Robles Winemakers Divided Over Water”

    Link: http://www.wine-searcher.com/m/2016/06/paso-robles-winemakers-divided-over-water

    ~~ Bob

  4. Bob Henry says:

    On the subject of water use in food . . .

    Excerpts from The Wall Street Journal “Main News” Section
    (February 17, 2009, Page A11):

    “Yet Another ‘Footprint’ to Worry About: Water”

    Link: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123483638138996305.html

    By Alexandra Alter
    Staff Reporter

    It takes roughly 20 gallons of water to make a pint of beer . . . A cup of coffee takes roughly 35 gallons . . . as high as 132 gallons of water per 2-liter bottle of soda if you add the water used to grow ingredients such as sugar cane . . . A typical hamburger takes 630 gallons of water to produce . . .

    See also this article . . .

    From The Wall Street Journal “Main News” Section
    (June 21, 2015, Page A2):

    “The Numbers Behind Agricultural Water Use”

    Link: http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-numbers-behind-agricultural-water-use-1434726353

    By Jo Craven McGinty
    “The Numbers” Column

  5. thanks Bob, that makes a lot more sense.

  6. Bob Henry says:

    I have a comment awaiting moderation, so I am going to divide it (and its links) into two parts.

    On the subject of water use in food . . .

    Excerpts from The Wall Street Journal “Main News” Section
    (February 17, 2009, Page A11):

    “Yet Another ‘Footprint’ to Worry About: Water”

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123483638138996305.html

    By Alexandra Alter
    Staff Reporter

    It takes roughly 20 gallons of water to make a pint of beer . . . A cup of coffee takes roughly 35 gallons . . . as high as 132 gallons of water per 2-liter bottle of soda if you add the water used to grow ingredients such as sugar cane . . . A typical hamburger takes 630 gallons of water to produce . . .

  7. Bob Henry says:

    See also this article . . .

    From The Wall Street Journal “Main News” Section
    (June 21, 2015, Page A2):

    “The Numbers Behind Agricultural Water Use”

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-numbers-behind-agricultural-water-use-1434726353

    By Jo Craven McGinty
    “The Numbers” Column

  8. Bob Henry says:

    And here’s where the buck stops . . .

    “Statement from Lynda & Stewart Resnick, Owners Justin Vineyard & Winery”

    http://www.winebusiness.com/blog/?go=getBlogEntry&dataId=170741

  9. Bob Henry says:

    Update on Justin Winery oak-felling story.

    From the San Luis Obispo Tribune
    (July 2, 2016):

    “Justin Vineyards to start repair work after cutting down thousands of oaks”

    http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/local/article87430572.html

    By Lindsey Holden

    “Plans are expected to move forward this week for repairing the North County parcel where Justin Vineyards and Winery ripped out THOUSANDS of old stand oaks and caused erosion concerns with steep grading — damage that provoked outrage throughout San Luis Obispo County and beyond.”

    This is the first time I have heard a number linked to the oak tree clear cutting.

    THOUSANDS of felled trees?!

    Puts the San Luis Obispo County community outrage into better focus.

  10. Bob Henry says:

    Postscript.

    Seems the person tasked with the thankless job of ‘splaining the removal of the oak trees has (like Elvis) “left the building.”

    Job posting:

    “Senior Vice President, Public Relations & Corporate Communications”
    The Wonderful Company LLC – Los Angeles

    Link: https://recruiting.adp.com/srccar/public/RTI.home?c=1057741&d=TheWonderfulCompany-External&rb=INDEED&r=5000258294606#/

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