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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.)

  1. You “hanged out”?

  2. Oh man, how will I get my fix of web reality TV now?

    (how long has this contest been running, two years?)

    It was an interesting – and by all appearances tremendously successful – marketing campaign by M-G. Their ROI must look great, at least buzz-wise.

    Any day now my inbox is going to fill up with all kinds of PR from copy-cat wineries… I smell a bubble… with a hint of blackberry, and spicy notes.

  3. Rick, my dictionary says” hanged” is the preferred past tense of the verb “hang.”

  4. Steve,

    Love how you’re the NY Times for this story, gaining a reporter’s access to all the important people.

    I’m curious in your talks with Dave whether or not in starting this contest, pageant, reality blog, he figured to gain $60K worth of press before he actually hired anyone? It arguably gave him more bang for the buck than a full page ad in WE, right?

    And was the fact that another winery usurped him by hiring someone from the main field (like giving the tenth place finisher on American Idol a record deal before the winner is crowned) merely an example of others jumping on a bandwagon they’re not even sure exists yet?

    I am curious to see how this plays out and while agree it’s a newsworthy step in the evolution of winery marketing, I can’t help but think of all those people who got their one shot at legitimate Hollywood after posting up a You Tube video that went viral. They got their chance to shine, one chance, and when that didn’t pan out, moved on to chapter 2…

    For every Carrie Underwood, the landscape is now filled with hundreds of “Bachelorettes.”

  5. Hardy is indeed a fine choice and you are correct, there are 9 very talented people out there whose world has just opened wide with amazing opportunities. It will be fascinating to see how Hardy works his magic with a large wine operation who pulled off the PR move of the year and clearly understands the need for excellence in social media. Many wineries I know are still trying to get their arms around this beast but they need to just strap in, hang on, participate in the conversation and hang on.

    Oh, and make goode wine.

    Jim Morris

  6. Jim, you make a great point: Unless the winery is making good wine, all this social media stuff won’t help them.

  7. Eric, I never asked Dave if he calculated the long-range PR benefits of this move in advance. I’m sure it crossed his mind, not that there’s anything wrong with a vintner looking for a little publicity! They all do it, so let’s not begrudge Dave his 15 minutes. As for all the people who got one chance to shine, then faded away, that’s life, isn’t it? As I wrote in this post, there’s every possibility that a few years down the road the social media bubble will burst, and we’ll all be rubbing our eyes, wondering if it was just a dream…

  8. Fully agree, Steve. Great job, as always…

  9. My dictionary says “Hanged is most appropriate for official executions”, while “Hung is more appropriate for less formal hangings”. How’s that work here?

    Now that the circus is leaving town, I’ll be interested to see how Hardy handles the tasks at hand while in the M-G fishbowl; I’m sure that expectations will be high, and I wish him the best. Having said that, I think Mr. Bakas got the better deal (with St. Supery), if for no other reason than the absence of the masses watching him through a magnifying glass.

  10. Jim Caudill says:

    Not to get too hung up on it, but hangin’ with Steve is a good thing no matter what the pluperfect participle might be….

    Doesn’t quite compare with chillin’ with Cronkite though….

  11. Steve, nice post. Particularly like your point that the social media bubble may burst (or might not). Things don’t always go in a straight line or even a smooth curve… Oh—hanged is the past tense when you’re talking about executing someone by suspending by the neck. Otherwise, hung is the correct form, I think.

  12. Goode Blog! Goode Insights!
    I think it will all work out well.

  13. Steve, you are hanged on your own petard on this one, boyo. But congrats on hitting the big time re this story.

    I have told you personally, and I am happy to say it publicly. This is, for my money, the most informative wine blog on the Internet–and no disrespect meant to others, but I am betting that your readership is growing faster than anybody else’s simply because of the info and stories you bring us. Well done.

  14. Steve,

    Thanks for the kind words. I really enjoyed chatting with you this weekend.

    This is the gig of a lifetime. It won’t be a cakewalk– nothing great ever is.

    I owe so much to the online wine community for their support and encouragement. This is a win for all of us.


  15. Hardy is a good fellow and being picked will certainly advance his career. But the whole venture strikes me as much ado about not very much, with the notable exception of shining a light on world of Social Media. I suppose any unique effort to stand out from the pack of 3000 wineries is worth doing, but I doubt that all this attention will sell more wine, even after Hardy works his magic. It does allow us, however, to monitor how one very visible program succeeds or not in improving the bottom line.

  16. Steve, it’s not just a matter of social media. Good marketing/advertising kills bad products faster, regardless of the channel.

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