Archive for October, 2008

Happy Halloween to You!

I wanted to wish you and your family a very Happy Halloween!  As you can see, our dog Karma is ready for the trick-or-treaters tonight.

Posts from Attendees of the Wine Bloggers Conference

Would you like to keep updated on many of the posts from the attendees of the Wine Bloggers Conference?  If so, visit the page where attendees are posting links to their blog posts on Open Wine Consortium.  And check back often to see the latest.  I think it will take quite awhile for us to complete all there is to write about from the Wine Bloggers Conference!

Wine Bloggers Conference in Sonoma: An Online Community Connects and Demonstrates the Collaborative Nature of Social Networking

My expectations for the first Wine Bloggers Conference were high when I decided to attend early this summer. After months of getting to know several wine bloggers on Open Wine Consortium and Twitter, I was going to have the opportunity to meet my friends and fellow wine bloggers in person. I know it may seem strange to hear me call a bunch of people I’ve never met in person my friends, but that’s what they are.

As a community, we have cheered on each other’s achievements and new ventures. We have jumped in to provide insights, ideas and resources with enthusiasm. We have comforted each other when one of us is down in the dumps or not feeling well. And like all other friends, we can pick good fights in jest, debate a point of relevance (or non-relevance!) and be mad at one another one day, but not the next. We have come to count on and deeply respect each other, whether or not we agree on things.

We share a love and passion for wine and those involved in the industry. We are excited to learn more, share our insights and push the envelope forward to better ourselves and our blogs. This is a strong, vibrant and exciting community and I’m very honored to be a part of it.

This weekend, I met many of my blogger friends and happily recognized several by face from their avatars which made it very easy to walk up and introduce myself or have someone seek me out. The awkwardness that usually accompanies breaking the ice with conference attendees was not an issue, as was pointed out by Joel Vincent of Open Wine Consortium, one of the Wine Bloggers Conference organizers when he addressed us during his wrap up speech today. Another tremendous advantage of social networking, in my opinion.

This first post on the conference is a foundation for the others that will follow to report on more specifics and important take aways. I have some new insights on the Finger Lakes Region after seeing some of Sonoma County. I will fill you in on new ideas that were uncovered at the conference. And I’ll walk you through some more specifics of our weekend activities as soon as I am feeling back to myself. I am still not well after suffering from motion sickness on the bus ride back from our dinner at Sebastiani, but I’ll report more soon and have some great photos to share with you as well.

Getting Ready for Wine Bloggers Conference This Weekend

The first Wine Bloggers Conference begins tomorrow afternoon in Santa Rosa. The conference organizers actually had to close registration at just over 170 attendees!

This will be my first trip out to the West Coast, so I’ll be reporting back on my impressions of the region as well as WBC attendees I’ll be meeting and my experience at the conference. This might seem funny, but I’ll be meeting Lenn Thompson at LENNDEVOURS blog for the first time in person. Do you know how we “met” in the first place? Via Open Wine Consortium. We discovered that we share a passion for telling the story of the NY wine industry and engaged in discussions solely via OWC, email and Twitter. And you probably know that this friendship has developed into an offer from Lenn for me to contribute to LENNDEVOURS as an additional voice for the Finger Lakes as the new Finger Lakes News Correspondent. It has been a great experience for me.

I will also have an opportunity to meet Tom Wark, Partner at Wark Communications, a wine marketing communications firm in Sonoma and very well-known wine blogger at Fermentation. Tom and I have also struck up a friendship and have been collaborating on a project that I will reveal down the road. How did I meet Tom? Earlier this year, I decided to research my idea of starting a business that would focus on Public Relations and Marketing for the wine industry, with a special interest in promoting Finger Lakes Wine Country and other wine businesses both locally and nationally. A Google search revealed Fermentation, a daily wine blog where Tom addresses issues in wine PR, culture, and wine politics as well as his personal experiences as a wine PR guy for almost 20 years. What better way to get an insider’s view of the business that I was researching than to read about the experiences of someone who has been in the industry for awhile. Back to how I met Tom. After devouring many of his posts, I saw a topic that a newbie like me could chime in on…and posted a comment including my name. I have followed Tom on his blog since then and have left a handful of comments. In one of the posts, Tom had revealed that he had been seeking Freelance Public Relations consultants for Wark Communications, so I then submitted my credentials and an email expressing my interest in working with him. A few months later, he had a need for extra hands on a project and contacted me about it. So we’ll also finally have the opportunity to meet this weekend.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I want to share my experiences of the power of social media. I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about the opportunities that I have had come my way because of dedicating some time to social networking. If you have been thinking about getting involved in some form of social networking, just give it a try. Do it within your own comfort level at first, and then start engaging. Give me a call if you’re unsure of how to get started or where.  There are some valuable conversations going on out there that can help you promote your winery or solve a nagging business problem by finding a great new vendor…or even let you have a good laugh at the funny stuff going on outside of your winery’s doors.

I’ll be back in touch during the conference to keep you updated on how things are going. Tomorrow Lenn and I will be pouring Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Rkatsiteli during the Live Blogging session scheduled for 3:30 PM Pacific, 6:30 PM EST. Dr. Frank’s signed on as a winery sponsor for the session as outlined here and will have Rkatsiteli in front of the bloggers who will be tasting and blogging about their impressions of each of the 14 wines that were sent from sponsors as they go along. The 14 wineries that have signed up to pour live include:

  • Bink Wines
  • Boho Vineyards
  • Bonterra
  • Clos LaChance
  • Dark Horse
  • Dr. Konstantin Frank Wine Cellars
  • James David
  • Kanzler Vineyards
  • Killer/Angel Juice
  • Lionheart
  • Pinot Evil
  • Sean Minor Wines
  • Small Vines Wines
  • Twisted Oak
  • Yellow & Blue
  • Capozzi

I’ll be back in touch soon with updates.


Interview Series: Finger Lakes Visionaries #3-Frederick Frank, President of Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars

I was recently honored with an invitation to the celebration of the release of Dr. Frank’s N90 Riesling Clone and had an opportunity to meet and share lunch with Frederick Frank, President of Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars. I found him to be gracious, down-to-earth and passionate about the future of the Finger Lakes wine industry.

Frederick, Willy and Dr. Konstantin Frank

Frederick, Willy and Dr. Konstantin Frank

Melissa Dobson: Tell me about how you selected the Finger Lakes region to pursue your passion for wine.

Frederick Frank: I spent many summers while in school working with my grandfather, Dr. Konstantin Frank. I enjoyed learning from him and realized at an early age that I wanted to continue the family winery. My father, Willy, took over the winery in 1984 from his father Konstantin who started the winery in 1962. Willy encouraged me to get a good education and experience before joining the winery full time. I received my B.S. from Cornell University School of Agriculture. After graduation I went to work for Banfi Vintners as a sales manager in New England. In 1982 I left Banfi to attend the Geisenheim School of Viticulture and Enology in Germany. I was then rehired by Banfi Vintners to be their Managing Director for Banfi Vineyards in Old Brookville, New York. In 1993 my father was hospitalized and asked me to return to Dr. Frank’s Winery as President. I have enjoyed working at Dr. Frank’s Winery and look forward to passing the reigns on to my son, Kyle, after he has completed his education and gained experience.

MD: If you could deliver a “State of the Finger Lakes Wine Region” speech today, which main points would you include?

FF: I have seen the Finger Lakes Wine Region experience many changes in the last 45 years.When my grandfather started the family winery in 1962 as an all Vinifera Winery he was laughed at and ridiculed by many industry and academic leaders. He was called ,”the crazy old doctor on the hill”. Today many of those industry leading wineries are no longer in business because they failed to adapt to changing consumer tastes demanding higher quality wines made from the Vinifera grapes. Recently the New York Wine & Grape Foundation hired the market research firm, Wine Opinions, to do a study on brand awareness among the 240 wineries in New York. The winery with the highest brand recognition among New York wineries was Dr. Konstantin Frank which was picked by 17% of the respondents. The winery that came in second had a 5% recognition rating. We have worked hard through three generations to increase the brand awareness of our winery and the Finger Lakes region. We have improved quality and increased production at the same time we have expanded distribution of our wines to over 30 states and several foreign countries.I believe the Finger Lakes Wine Region is becoming known as the best cool climate region in America. This gives us an advantage in producing wines from the Northern European grape varieties. Our cool climate then becomes an asset and allows us to compete among the best wines in America.

MD: Are you satisfied with the visibility and progress of the region? If yes, please explain why. If not, what are the strategies that you favor to raise awareness?

FF: We need to continue to work to improve the visibility and progress of the Finger Lakes region. This starts with wine quality and ends with wine marketing. Awareness for the Finger Lakes region will be improved by working together with all the wineries and attractions to promote the region.

MD: What are your greatest challenges in promoting your wine, both to consumers and to the trade?

FF: We need to continue to gain more recognition for our wines and the Finger Lakes region. We are a small region that has to gain more credibility by producing world class cool climate wines.

MD: What hopes and dreams do you have for the future of the Finger Lakes Wine Region?

FF: I believe the Finger Lakes Wine Region will continue to grow and gain more credibility as America’s best cool climate region. I am excited to see more of my fellow Finger Lakes vintners following Dr. Frank’s lead and planting Vinifera grapes. I want to thank you for your fine coverage of the Finger Lakes Wine Region.

Thank YOU, Frederick.

WANTED: Your Finger Lakes Wine Country Harvest Photos

One of my latest projects is to compile a 2008 Harvest Report of Finger Lakes wineries to include photos and quotes and/or harvest observations. This project was developed by Morgen McLaughlin and the Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association. The Finger Lakes Wine Country office will distribute the report to their media contact list in an effort to tell our harvest story for this year. I’m also creating slideshows to be uploaded to online photo sharing sites such as Flickr and the photo section of the Open Wine Consortium.

So please send me your Harvest photos and observations by end of day 10/31/08 if you would like to be included in the report and media outreach efforts. You can send to me at melissa (dot) dobson (at)  If you’re interested in having me come out to shoot photos and make observations in person, let me know.  I have several wineries signed on for an in-person visit, but I’ll get to you if possible.

Come on Finger Lakes wineries, let’s show ’em how beautiful and bountiful Harvest time is here in Finger Lakes Wine Country!

Cheers! From Melissa’s Desk

The Vista from Atwater Estate Vineyards

The Vista from Atwater Estate Vineyards

For Week of 10/6/08:

  • This week, freelance writer Patricia Savoie featured The Finger Lakes in a seven-page spread in Sommelier Journal. The publication has carved out a niche as “the only magazine specifically targeting restaurant wine professionals. Wine retailers, importers and distributors, winemakers, and serious wine consumers will all be strong secondary markets. In fact, anyone who is serious about wine will be interested in this magazine.” There is also a forum post about the article beginning a discussion debating whether or not one of the reasons that the Finger Lakes wine industry has not been able to break out into the mainstream is due to lack of production. Thus far, only Bob Madill of Sheldrake Point Vineyard and Finger Lakes Wine Alliance has responded with his views. If you have a moment, and would like to provide your insight into the wine industry in the Finger Lakes, go to the forum and set up a profile so that your views can be heard. These types of forums are valuable, free educational and marketing vehicles that can create two-way conversations and drive further understanding and awareness to the region as well as to you and your winery as a source of information and quality wine.  And it shows that you’re plugged in and interested in supporting the efforts of your fellow winery owners.
  • Looking for further insight into how social media can help you?  See a recent post by Judd Wallenbrock, Owner & Founder, Humanitas Winery; President/GM, Michel-Schlumberger Wine Estate, and check out the comments section to decide for yourself.  Judd explores how blogs and other social media platforms allow for the return of two-way conversation in the wine world.
  • The Wine Bloggers Conference is just over a week away with over 150 wine bloggers from across the U. S. expected to attend and participate.  Lenn Thompson at LENNDEVOURS blog was the driving force behind creating an opportunity for an informal tasting of New York wines during the conference.  See Lenn’s post and thoughts on the upcoming conference here.  Lenn and I are both planning on representing and educating attendees about the wines of New York within casual conversations as well as during the tastings.  Many of the attendees originally connected via a social network called Open Wine Consortium.   I highly recommend visiting the site, poking through the content, forums, groups and members and setting up a profile for yourself.  This site attracts the thought leaders in the industry, those who are pushing the envelope and embracing new technologies because of the power these strategies have for wineries and wine businesses.  If you haven’t participated in social networks much, I recommend setting up a profile, filling it out completely including links to your website and a clear description of who you are and what your business is.  Then you may want to “lurk” for a bit, or just look around at the conversations taking place, utilize the search function and look for content relevant to your wine business, AVA or related subjects and once you feel comfortable, start by joining into a discussion and posting your views.  Avoid pitching yourself/your business or using marketing speak in your posts as these types of posts will be seen as self-promoting and will turn off members.  The purpose is to collaborate, educate and add to the conversation rather than push your wares.  There is a strong sense of community among members of OWC which is now being taken offline and to the Wine Bloggers Conference.

Cheers to you until next week and thank you to all of my wine friends who have been extremely supportive and helpful in introducing me to their wine friends…it is very much appreciated!


Mark Your Calendars for PALATE, A Wine, Food & Art Showcase in Finger Lakes Wine Country

The grassroots buzz is beginning for a new, week-long showcase of wine, food and art in Finger Lakes Wine Country called PALATE. The first event will be held in Corning, NY during the week of February 16-22, 2009 and is a partnership between Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association, Inc. and Corning’s Gaffer District.

What will PALATE offer to its attendees? Opportunities to attend winemaker dinners and get an intimate, first-hand perspective on some of the region’s finest wines, beer pairing dinners, cooking demos with top local chefs and art open houses as well as a poster design contest open to adults 21 and over. This is winter break week for the kids and educators and is planned in conjunction with the 2300 Degrees event being held on February 19, 2009 at the Corning Museum of Glass and Cabin Fever on February 22, 2009.

I am feeling very lucky to have been asked to contribute ideas to PALATE and I’ll provide more updates as we have them. So Finger Lakes Wine Country wineries, Corning restaurants, stores, and museums, be on the lookout for our team to get in touch to share the details on how you can get involved sometime soon!

Cheers! From Melissa’s Desk

On my drive into Atwater Estate Vineyards this past weekend, I noticed that Finger Lakes Wine Country’s fall foliage is beginning to show with deep golds and bright reds popping up among the trees.  Beautiful!

For Week of 9/29

  • As you know, October is New York Wine Month with just over 250 restaurants and wine retailers featuring wines from 32 New York wineries.  This is an annual promotion of the New York wine industry, a promotion designed to drive awareness of the wines made here in New York State to visitors and locals alike, with a separate promotion in New York City called New York Wines and Dines.  Frankly, I’m surprised by the small number of restaurant, retailer and winery participants in both of these campaigns. I have heard about restaurants in other wine regions who proudly feature a significant number of local wine producers on their menus every day, not only during a special promotion such as ours.  What type of message are we sending to visitors of New York and potential new fans of our wines when there is a lack of a strong presence of New York wines on many wine menus within our state, both during promotions such as these and every day?  New York Wine & Grape Foundation’s President Jim Trezise says, “When we buy New York, we build New York.  The wineries, restaurants and wine shops are all New York businesses which provide New York jobs and pay New York taxes.  It just makes sense that we all work together.”  He said ALL, right?
  • The New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua, NY is featuring the wines that won a gold in the New York Wine & Food Classic Competition for the month of October.  For a listing of the wines being poured during Gold Medal Month, go to
  • The Hudson Valley AVA received great press this week with a feature in USA Today’s Travel column.  Included is a video interview of historic Brotherhood Winery’s Winemaster Cesar Baeza and footage of the classic grape stomping tradition.  Grape stomping also made other news. What made grape stomping news worthy?  Tradition, fun for participants, a tie-in to an “I Love Lucy” episode that many will remember and a strong visual component. If you’re wondering why your events aren’t getting the attention of the media and the coverage that you’re looking for (which would continue to drive awareness, often leading to upticks in sales and website visits) put some thought to creating fresh, new events with something unexpected, fun, engaging and an element that will translate well via video and photos.  In a sea of wine events, it will be time well spent if you can stand out and garner the coverage you’re looking for.

From Melissa’s desk (and my heart), I say Cheers until next week!  And be sure to order New York wine on your next restaurant visit or trip to your local wine retailer.