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Bay Vieux Briefs

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Appellation America’s Ailment

I was surprised by the news that Appellation America’s founders resigned, but it was no surprise to learn that their reasons concerned “differences with the lender” and “the constriction of working capital.” These are obvious references to the nation’s credit crunch, and, after all, you can’t run a business without capital. AA’s new head, Tom Welch, said he will focus on developing “advertising and content sales,” among other revenue-generating tactics.

Appellation America has some of the smartest wine writers around, including my old friends Dan Berger and Alan Goldfarb, and I wish the online publication well. It just shows to go how the economic crisis is touching the local California wine industry, which until lately has seemed largely immune. AA’s problems also highlight the traditional challenge to an Internet-based business: how to make money. It’s the same issue that bloggers are confronting. Monetizing the web isn’t as easy as it seems.

Social Media Redux

It happened again. I got slammed for my post last week, “Bloggers and wineries: strange bedfellows,” with some comments saying that I just don’t get the value and impact social media will have on the wine industry. Now, we have a new and thoughtful analysis of the situation from a blog called Wine Life Today, in which the writer introduced me to the concept of BPIs — Buying Pattern Influencers, or people who can influence large numbers of other people in their buying choices. The writer argues that social media are the BPIs of the future. The “two-way communication” that social media (unlike magazines) offers creates “a bond” between writer and reader, and this in turn creates “a fantastic new frontier” for the wine industry. Well, this is all true in theory, and there’s no denying that younger people spend all their time online, text-messaging and Twittering and what not. What I haven’t seen yet is how individual wineries factor into the equation, and how they’re supposed to take advantage of social media to boost sales. But there’s no question that they’re curious. One of the comments to the Wine Life Today post was from Mia Malm, a heavyweight wine P.R. professional whose New York company, Cornerstone Communications, represents top wineries around the world. If Mia’s paying attention to something, it’s important.

Picnicking in in San Leandro? Skip the wine

San Leandro is a city just south of Oakland, where I live. It’s a pleasant bedroom community that’s put a lot of money and effort into sprucing up its parklands along San Francisco Bay, just south of Oakland International Airport. In warm weather, the area lures picnickers by the dozens, who watch the marsh hawks and black-shouldered kites fly through blue skies, with San Francisco’s towers soaring in the distance.

The picnickers will still come, but they won’t be able to enjoy wine, thanks to San Leandro’s City Council, which yesterday approved a proposed law that would ban bringing or consuming liquor, wine or beer in city parks or open-space areas. First violation will cost you $100. Third could set you back $1,000. Expensive picnic.

  1. Steve, I don’t know that I’m much of a heavy but I am definitely paying attention to Twitter and other social media, including blogs such as yours. Thanks for the shout out to the good folks at Cornerstone; FYI, I decamped to the “left coast” to join Icon Estates here in wine country.

    I do see individual wineries finding success by joining the vinosphere — Twisted Oak’s Jeff Stai has quite a loyal following on Twitter: follow him at @elejefetwisted

    Thanks for keeping the conversation going!

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