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April 29, 2006

100 Dinner Swag

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We've created some cool party favors for the folks attending the 100 dinners.


Somehow, we convinced Hugh to do his very first Limited Edition Print, pictured above and of course, suitable for framing :). It is printed on heavy archival board and entitled, The Hughtrain and Stormhoek. The first run is limited to an edition of 1000. Each is pencil signed by The Artist and numbered. I am trying to convince Hugh that this should be just the beginning of more limited editions.


We have also done a revision to the Wine Blogging as Marketing Disruption brochure that went out to the first 85 bloggers in the UK last year. I am not going to post the new one, but there are lots of

photos and scans of the original one on line, if you want to have a look.

Finally, there is a unique Guest List Print that will be signed by eveyone attending each dinner that needs be returned to us (instructions are being sent to the hosts). We're going to hang all 100 signed guest lists at the winery!

We've been asked to do podcasts and videocasts for the dinners as well as a live video interview. If you're hosting a dinner, just let us know if you want to us to do something special and we'll sort it out with you.

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April 28, 2006

Just About 100 Dinners

With only 10 days to go and the latest count on the wiki now standing
at 69, plus ton of email requests from all over, by our reckoning we're pretty much there.

Hosts so far are quite an eclectic mix of geeks, musicians, mathematicians, actors, explorers and would you believe, nudists. Apparently, we've got those hoping to determine the future of the world, those who'd prefer to write a song about it, suduko
challengers, crypozoological impersonators, and even a GPS treasure
hunt adventurist.

Perhaps most intriguing is the group planning to have their dinner party 'in a natural state'. Well, who are we to judge? It doesn't matter to us what you do (or don't) wear! We just hope you have good conversation, and most of all enjoy the wine! Although on reflection, they may have meant a party in The Natural State of Arkansas … Well either way, we hope you have fun guys. We're pulling straws to see who from Stormhoek attends that one.

We're also getting a lot of requests for dinners to take place in pretty much all four corners of the earth, which we're thrilled about!
Although we are restricted to the USA for the moment, if you would like to hold a dinner elsewhere in the world, let us know and we'll try to figure something out. After all, who are we to stand in the way of marketing disruption?

If you're already signed up but haven't yet posted or emailed us (or Frapered) the details of your dates, guest numbers, theme and location, we need you to do so ASAP so we can finalize the details and make sure we get you your wine in time.

Yes, we're the kinda guys that like to bend rules, but reluctantly (and really just to keep our sanity) we do have to have some of our own rules for these events (subject to change, etc etc). [1] We need for your event to be conducive to free-flowing wine and conversation, rather than a large corporate event. [2] We also need for you need to let us know how many guests you're expecting at least two weeks or more in advance. This gives us enough time to get all of the goodies (and I will explain later) sent to you.

But besides that, Enjoy!

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April 26, 2006

The International Wine Challenge 2006


Every year in April London plays host to the International Wine Challenge. It’s a huge event with nearly 10000 wines being submitted from all around the world. Each wine is judged as to whether or not it can claim a medal position with only very few being awarded a coveted Gold and even fewer going on to win a category trophy. All the wines are tasted “blind” so their identity remains a secret.

I attended the event today. Our team tasted through about 70 wines this morning several of which we judged to be good enough to be put forward to the final taste off next week. Makes your teeth ache, I can tell you!

Apart from having the chance to indulge in some serious tasting, it’s always great to catch up with old friends and colleagues and share our news and views. Bumped into Matt Pym from Majestic Wine, and, Pierpaolo Petrassi from Waverley TBS which was cool. Also had a good laugh with my old buddy Dominique Vrigneau from Thierry’s who like me, reckoned it’s time we got into training for next years London Marathon.

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April 20, 2006

Big and small

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Each carton holds six bottles, packed by hand and sealed by sticky tape.
When one of the UK’s mass wine retailers, a big grocery chain, orders Stormhoek Sauvignon Blanc, the delivery process machinery creaks into action. Pallets, stacked high with cartons, are loaded into a container. The container is trucked to the harbour and loaded on a ship, destined for a UK port and the retailer’s warehouse.
But Stormhoek Sauvignon Blanc is also sold by the restaurant by the park and your favourite deli.
These orders are small and sometimes very urgent. The lumbering machine doesn’t have the time. Cases are ordered from the small carton company. Hands lift bottles and place them in the cartons, tape closes the boxes and Andrew in his light utility vehicle heads off on the 50 minute trip to the harbourside.

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Half year holidays

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The spades, forks and hoes rest on their wall hooks beside the Massey Ferguson 4x4 tractor for the next couple of weeks.
The sound of heavy shed doors sliding on metal coasters in a steel channel announces every day’s activity here. The opening of the equipment shed usually happens at half past seven in the morning.
During Easter, the doors remained closed. They stayed shut on Tuesday, yesterday and today. They’ll remain shut for the next 10 days as nearly everyone here takes a fortnight break after Easter.
While the humans rise later and make extended visits to friends, the raptor birds still circle the valley and water continues to run from the springs. Deep in the soil, among the broken shale rocks, roots spurt with pre-winter growth, in preparation for the spring ahead and yet another crop of grapes.

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April 16, 2006

Freshness Matters in Lots of Things


If you visit our London sales office, you will be offered a cup of coffee. It’s not just any coffee, but we get it from Peet’s, the Berkeley, California based coffee roaster. We think it is the best coffee in the world. It's a long trip from Berkley to London and when the beans arrive they taste great, but we notice that the beans decline in flavor over just a few weeks. So, to keep them fresh, we freeze them usually. We’ve been told that is not the thing to do, but seems to work pretty well for us. But still, once they are defrosted they do start to lose their flavor pretty rapidly. Being atuned to the taste of the things we drink, we notice the changes and it appears that as in wine, freshness does matter with coffee beans.

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That is why when I read the spin on The Coffee Fool, I thought, well there is good information that everyone who cares about coffee should know-

On the site, they say:

"Nearly all of the coffee out there is stale. The good news is that stale coffee is drinkable if you've never had truly fresh coffee. The bad news is that once you've tasted truly fresh coffee, you'll be forever hooked. It will make you giddy every time you go to make a pot. Tingle right down to your toes. Reverberate around your head like a funky aura. That's because coffee, just a few days out of the roaster, is nature's most flavorful drink - more complex than even wine - containing well over 900 flavor compounds to dance on your taste buds. But after a few weeks, you'd be lucky to see half that number.

These guys comments on coffee are more or less precisely what we have been saying about wine and is why we created a freshness indicator for our wines. Until you taste fresh, you won't know what you are missing.

Now, we’ve not tried the coffee, and we maintain our skepticism, but we think we’ll give it a go the next time we need to order.

BTW, as long as we are on the subject of keeping things fresh, if anyone is interested in knowing a fail safe way of preserving an open bottle of wine indefinitely and with no fancy gizmos, just let us know and we’ll share the trade secret.

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April 13, 2006

Joe in deep water


When the agents for Timotei shampoo asked Joe Wadsack to do a casting shoot they may not have known that he would do it for enough Shiraz and Pinotage. For non-British readers, Joe is a star of wine page and TV screen. Joe is seen above in Stormhoek’s vineyard dam, sampling the mountain spring water. The Pinotage and Shiraz came later.

Last week, a Japanese-branded transporter brought Joe, Jane Parkinson (Wine and Spirit), Christine Austin (Yorkshire Post), Patrick Schmitt (The Drinks Business), Sarah Ahmed (The Wine Detective), Jack Hibberd (Harpers) and Chris Orr, together with Sophie and Emma from WOSA up the mountain pass to see what we do. We had a walk through the nature park, Joe had a swim, Chris had a fall and the girls had showers. Journalists’ hard work is not all behind a word processor.

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April 12, 2006

More Nods

Mike Duffy at winerywebsite.com blog gives us the nod listing us on his comprehensive list of winery blogs. with a nice mention also. (BTW- there are only 22 wineries blogging-- how sad!) Thanks Mike.

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Almost ready for Prime Time?

BBC is reporting on our blogging initiative. In addition to Hugh, it talks about Sainsbury's, Dell and Stormhoek - Pretty good company, I guess?

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April 10, 2006

Long dry summer

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From somewhere deep in the Limietberg behind us, this water flows all year long into our farm reservoirs.|
In the past 4 months, we have only had 48 mm of rain, or just over 4% of the year’s average. We normally get most of our rainfall in winter, but this was really dry.
Fortunately, for the sake of the flora and the less obvious fauna, there is still plenty of water in the soil.
It has only rained twice since December 1, but we have at least 4 springs still running.
One is an ever-present metre-square pool that is Poppie’s corner pub in the orange grove.
Another runs, strongly, filling reservoirs for the general farm needs. A third supplies eau-de-source to the homes.
The fourth flows strongly into the vineyard dam, which has an overflow down through the central line of the property into the Windy River (called that because it winds here and there. To tell the truth it is named Kromme Rivier, which means roughly the same thing).
This overflow stream has not only run all year long for millions of years down though here, it has cut and shaped the valley we live in and is responsible for the fact that we have north facing and south facing slopes.
It has no other name that I can find than Die Sloot or The Channel.

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Extreme Shiraz

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South African shiraz has a unique flavor. It is somewhere between Australian Shiraz and Syrah from the Rhone. Riper and richer than the French stuff and not quite as overblow as the Aussie juice. Of course, all delivered with less attitude.

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Horse power

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Introducing Poppie, a descendant of French immigrants.
Poppie is a working horse, though that is not often apparent.
She has a few days’ work in spring, every year, when she pulls a plough between the rows of our oldest vineyards, too narrow to navigate by machine.
Poppie is an aristocrat. Her Percheron ancestors carried French knights in mediaeval battles, both mock and serious. When the French Crusaders left Europe to go crusading they went mounted on Percherons.
Heavily muscled, with stout legs, these exclusively black or grey horses were also the choice to pull the mail coaches over steep and stony ground when the French started writing to each other.
When not pulling a plough, Poppie has a hard life in our orange grove, drinking spring water and eating grass.

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April 9, 2006

Just checking

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One way to taste all of the Stormhoek wines at once is to find your way to a Wine Trade Fair. Last week, wine buyers and critics from across the world winged their way into Cape Town for the bi-annual Cape Wine showcase event. Among them was Chris Orr, MD of Quintessentially Wine Limited, London. The guys were kept very busy, so occupied that even lunch had to wait, patiently, on the stool.

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AYYYYYY! The Manolo, He Loves the Vino


One of the great things about blogging is that us bloggers get to meet all sorts of interesting people. One of my fav blogs is Shoeblogs.com, authored by no other than the super fantastic "Manolo". I have had the privilege to speak with “The Manolo”, blogger, journalist, fashion guru and social commentator. Despite a number of late night sauvignon blanc fueled telephone conversations, its been hard to strike up a meaningful rapport bacause of Manolo’s really thick, hard to understand, Euro-esque accent. One of those accents you just can’t quite place, but you know its from somewhere exotic.

So, it came as a complete surprise when Mr. M emailed me saying "The Manolo, he loves The Stormhoek" and asking to be the wine blogger on his new site, Manolofood.com.

I did my first post over the weekend, which of course, is on one of my favorite topics, Promiscuity and Wine. Hey, it's a bit of a trashy start, but some topics need to be tackled head on. I am looking forward to the opportunity to spread the word and help make wine a little easier to swallow for all Manolo's Foodie-Fashionistas.

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Over time, the connection between art and wine has often been made. To be sure, many winemakers view themselves as “Artists” and without exception these are the folks that take themselves a bit too seriously. Any winemaker worth his salt will acknowledge that they are stewarding a natural process. A course that Mother Nature will take with or without them and the winemakers job is much more about process management than it is about creating art.

Yet, art has entered into the wine frame in many other ways. Of course, the old world offers many physical places where art and wine intersect. In 1945 one well known Bordeaux producer, Chateau Mouton Rothschild, began selecting a different artwork for each vintage. Vertical collections of Mouton are as valuable for their label art as their wine. Lots of other wineries have taken works of art and shrunk them down onto a label in an effort to create "collectors pieces". But I have always found these aesthetically unpleasing as these shrunken works on labels usually don’t quite work.

I believe that probably the strongest connection between art and wine is more about the potential common ethos of artist and wine producer, than the physical combination on a label. Perhaps there could be a paradigm shift with the art imitating the wine bottle and not the label imitating the art?

For certain, great art is often not beautiful in the conventional esthetic sense, but it is always culturally disruptive. It evokes emotions, argument, discussion and in years past, even war. The recent Danish cartoons show the power of art.

Wine too offers an opportunity for expression. I find that we at the winery tend to view many aspcts of what we do much differently than most producers. This starts in the vinyard and continues through the winery and into the marketplace. We’ve been referred to as ‘hackers’ for our approach to tech in the winery and our novel approach to bringing Stormhoek to the market. This seemed natural to us, but not so to any other winemakers. We just look at things through a different filter. Our form of communication certainly has disrupted the market.

This is why when, Chris Forney of Artworks Gallery in Pasadena, California, approached us to say that Michael Kalish, had noticed what we are doing with Stormhoek and was interested in teaming up with us to create wine themed artworks, we were really interested: Michael shares our slightly off center view of the world. He is a disrupter.

Michael is a well known, accomplished artist in Los Angeles. He has been written about in People Magazine, Elle, US Weekly, Readers Digest and many other mags. He does something very special: He creates magnificent sculpture from old, discarded license plates. He visits wrecking yards and collects the plates, fixes them, sculpts, welds and paints them to create beauty from something that others discarded.

Michael takes the old and creates amazingly intricate, beautiful works that adorn the homes of the Hollywood “A” list and galleries around the world.

Michael has a “hacker” approach to art: Take what no one else wants. Manipulate it, sculpt it, create beauty and value from junk. He sees something in a junkyard that nobody else sees. For us, we have the same sort of view of the world. Whether it is how we create seriously good Pinot Grigio (a grape that is almost always blended away in SA), or how we view the on line world. We together see things that others often do no

Tonight there is an opening in Los Angeles, and unfortunately, I could not be there due to health reasons. But there are a couple of hundred people who are showing up to look at the new Stormhoek sculpture as well as a team from the CBS Charles Osgood show who will be filming and doing a feature on the creation of the Stormhoek sculpture.

We’ll post some photos when we have them from the show. Cheers to Michael, Chris and the folks at CBS for what I am sure will be a great event.

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