June 29, 2006
Stormhoek is the official drink of the [Silicon] Valley alcoholic
“It can’t be a 90s bubble party without Absolut,” says Dot-com marketer David Parmet. “Could we say Stormhoek is the new Absolut?” With marketing blogger Hugh MacLeod pimping this wine in the Valley through branded prints, blogging, and sponsored geek dinners, Stormhoek is the official drink of the Valley alcoholic.Dave and I go back a ways. He did some really incredible stuff for English Cut.
June 28, 2006
the stormhoek guide to wine blogging
Instead of giving them the usual "Here's why you should buy our product" bilge, we decided to give the readers something they might actually find useful. Yes, and that means useful for our competitors, as well.
Hence a 16-page insert, "The Stormhoek Guide To Wine Blogging". Inspired by Robert Scoble's seminal "The Corporate Weblog Manifesto", of course.
It hits the newstands sometime this week. In the meantime, you can download the PDF here. Thanks.
[NB: This was also cross-posted on my personal blog, gapingvoid.com.]
June 23, 2006
[Click on image to enlarge/download/print etc. Licensing terms here etc.]
I'm in London today, signing ANOTHER THOUSAND lithographs for the Stormhoek 100 Geek Dinners etc.
This time we're doing a green [white wine] version of the "Puppy" cartoon.
So while listening to these chaps talking, I'm thinking to myself, "Now here are some guys trying to change the world. Rock on."
Rock on, indeed. Changing the world is a good thing. And one or two of these chaps might actually pull it off. Heck, even trying to change the world and failing nobly is a good thing. Inspiring stuff for your poor cartoonist, stuck under a stack of signature-requiring art.
Of course, "Changing the world" and "The world is changing" are both very common themes in the blogosphere. If you read Jeff Jarvis you'll know all about it. In spades.
I'm getting less interested in changing the world. It's just too damn big and messy. I'd rather just change a small part of it. In my favor.
Hence the "sliver" cartoon, republished above.
Hence why I'm getting more and more interested in the wine business. Changing that business, even in a small way, is both tangible and doable. And getting more groovy to me by the day.
We live in intreresting times.
[NB: This was cross-posted over at my own blog, gapingvoid.com.]
June 22, 2006
Cape Town Bar Camp
Dave Duarte, geek marketer from Cape Town, explaining how he found his way to Stormhoek via gapingvoid.com
It can be thrillingly warm in Cape Town in winter. Between the wet and windy spells, sometimes the sun shines down from blue skies for days on end.
Cape Town geeks chose one of these sparkling weekends to hold their first ever Bar Camp.
Unfortunately, they chose to hold this original exchange of voices and views in the frosty environment of a big classroom in the De Kuilen junior school. Rugged up like arctic explorers, they huddled around the warmth of their wave-emitting laptops and focused on new products and sales pitches without a murmur of complaint.
Dave Duarte chose to talk about Stormhoek and how a little brand can reach millions of people and I brought along some bottles to show that amongst all of this virtualness there is a real product.
There were about 75 unconferencees and roughly 20 gave a talk or presentation. That’s pretty interactive.
I look forward to the first Cape geek dinner.
Today, the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere, the sun rose at 9am and is setting at 4.35pm in our mountain-enclosed valley.
Over millions of years, the river bed has cut a narrow channel through the mountains to the west. The setting sun sends its last rays into our valley down this cleft.
As a result we have fewer hours of overhead sun and longer periods of half light than any of our Western Cape neighbours, creating a unique growing and maturing environment for plants.
England Versus Ecuador
The pundits are confidently predicting that England have a huge task ahead of them if they are to beat Ecuador in the second stage of the FIFA World Cup Finals on Sunday 25th June.
Players are injured and the team is struggling to hit form.
Not as bigger task though as the guys at Chaupi Estancia Winery right on the equator, who make wine from their vineyards at over 8000 feet above sea level in the foothills of the Andean Mountains.
Now that must be a real challenge. I’d love to try them some day.
June 20, 2006
Cristal - An Uneasy Relationship With The Customer
Even if you don’t know much about wine, you’ve probably heard of Cristal Champagne. Made by the house of
Louis Roederer, Cristal has always enjoyed a position of ultra prestige. Even from day one, when it was created for Czar Alexander II in the 19th Century, this extravagant wine in its distinctive clear glass bottle has been enjoyed by royalty, aristocracy and the super rich for over 100 years.
More recently, the stars of Hip-Hop and Rap have taken Cristal to their hearts and made it their own. Ever since Sean "P Diddy" Coombes famously served the wine at a lavish party, Cristal has become the only Champagne to be seen with by a rapidly growing, wealthy, young, high octane, black community.
It seems to have got to the point where its new followers would rather not drink Champagne at all if Cristal is unavailable. How many brands can boast such loyal customers?
It is possible, however, that the party might be over.
In a recent article, rapper Jay-Z, (who has even written songs about Cristal), accused Roederer boss, Frederic Rouzaud of racism after he described the phenomena of Cristal having become the darling of “Bling Culture” as “Unwelcome attention”.
Rule one – Respect your customers. Rule two – See rule one!
Jason In The Telegraph
Jason was interviewed by business reporter, Jamie Oliver, for The Telegraph the other day. Read the article here.
Jamie was interested to know how people are using blogs to boost their business.
Seems like the message is slowly beginning to get through. Cool.
June 16, 2006
Well Preserved? How to Keep an Open Bottle of Wine Fresh Forever
A few months back, I posted about freshness and offered to tell the world my secret for keeping an open bottle of wine fresh forever.
Once a bottle is opened, a series of chemical reactions takes place that at slower or faster rate depending on the wine, ruins it. The wine oxidizes, loses its fruit and just goes bad. No different than milk or vegetables.
So, clever marketers over the years have developed many, mostly expensive ways, to preserve wine. The basic theory is about keeping the wine away from oxygen. Inert gas (nitrogen, argon or CO2) can be squirted into a bottle, or there are gizmos that try to pump out the air from a bottle and create a vacuum. Problem is that for all the trouble and expense, these products don't work as well as another, essentially free way to achieve the same thing.
Wine is really no different than anything else. Keeping the wine fresh tasting is about slowing down the chemical processes that destroy it once its open. So, if you want to keep your orange juice from spoiling, you keep it in the fridge. And, you probably know, if you want to keep your orange juice from spoiling indefinately, put it in the freezer.
That's right, the best way to preserve an open bottle of wine is to FREEZE IT.
Put the screw cap back on or shove the cork firmly in the bottle, stand it up either on the door or lay it down on the shelf of the freezer and forget about it. (make sure that you have removed at least a few inches of wine from the bottle before freezing).
When you want to drink the wine, take it out of the freezer and let it defrost it in the fridge for a few hours. Or, I do something that still seems really naughty, but works: Zap it. Yup, just put it in the microwave, giving it 30 second shots and when it is still slushy, take it out, give it a few shakes and let if finish defrosting. You do not want the wine to get warm or it will blow the cork. It works, just be careful.
In my freezer, there is an average of about five bottles of open wine. Reds, whites sweet and dry. Some of them are in there for a year or more. When I get back to them, they taste as nice and fresh as the day I opened them. Oh, and it doesn't work on Champagne, unless you like it without the bubbles.
There is one potential downside to this, which I will discuss next week.
Now We Know Why We're Still Alive
As a group, us wine guys tend to imbibe a bit more than average folk. Nothing too serious, a beer or three after work, maybe a small cocktail before dinner and a couple of bottles with a meal-- and, okay perhaps a wee nightcap, just as a digestif. We write off the risks of drinking to being an occupational hazard.
You know, it is vital to our professional standing that we stay on the cutting edge of what is happening in wine (and beer and booze) and one just can't do that by looking at the stuff.
Given all this, over the years, more than one of us have in the most dire moments of introspection, acknowleged to ourselves that our mere continued existence and apparent good health is due to the luck of the genetic draw or something more divine.
Well, now we know-- and if we aint some of the luckiest bastards alive...
Now, where's that bottle of Kahlua I bought last week?
June 15, 2006
Sir Cliff Tells Gordon Ramsay To F-Off!
Having been asked to take part in a “blind” wine tasting for the new series of the cooking show, The F-Word on Channel 4, Sir Cliff Richard was caught out by host, Gordon Ramsay, and openly rubbished his own, high profile, “celebrity” wine, Vida Nova. Read the whole article here.
Sir Cliff Richard started making wine at his holiday home near Gaia in the Algarve region of Portugal some years ago. An odd decision, as vine growing and wine making in that neck of the woods are damn difficult.
The sandy soils, relentless Atlantic Ocean breezes and searing summer temperatures are not good bed-fellows for the vineyard owner and wine maker.
Perhaps he thought people would buy the wine anyway because of his involvement. Tesco's thought so, because they snaffled up the first wine in 2001.
This was actually made to the north in the Alentejo region, and a fair bit of wine from this area was added to the final blend.
As the wines are now made on site, maybe the only additions are a bit of sugar to soften the raw, acidic edges normally associated with red wines from the Algarve. Although not enough by all accounts, because, as we are told: Since the first vintage, Vida Nova has conformed to type, i.e. “Tastes like vinaigrette” according to the owner”.
Pass the salad then.
Wines Have Good Days and Bad Days, Just Like Us
I’ve often wondered why exactly the same wine can taste different on one day versus another.
I’ve often put it down to the way I’m feeling physically and mentally, the weather (well I’m English and naturally obsessed with meteorology like most of my fellow countryman and use it to blame just about everything!), the circumstances under which the wine is being drunk etc.
I’m sure these factors all play their part.
BTW, this has nothing to do with the wine being spoilt by a bad cork. Purely about knowing the character of a particular wine very well, like a good friend, and finding that character inconsistent with what you would normally expect.
There might be another explanation. According to those interested in bio-dynamics, the phases of the moon dictate those days of the month which are best for the cultivation of certain crops. Wine apparently flourishes best on either a “fruit” or a “flower” day. Avoid “root days” like the plague!
This bio-dynamic calendar should help you enjoy your wines at their very best. Cheers!
June 11, 2006
Stand In Queen
At the beginning of winter, when bees are sleepy, Brendon Ashley Cooper can run the gauntlet of 40000 bees without protective gear. The Cape black honey bee thrives on Stormhoek’s nectar laden slopes. Though the fynbos behind the hive was burnt in January's fire, we have plenty of healthy winter flowering plants
Queen bees are bigger than their subjects (ordinary bees). They are egg laying factories producing up to 2000 eggs a day that will become workers (female) and drones (males).
If anything happens to the queen of a regular honeybee hive in Spain, China or Scotland, wherever, and there’s no virgin queen ready to take over, the royalty-bereft colony will send out signals to other swarms, advertising for a ruler.
South Africa has a unique species of honeybee, apis mellifera capensis, (Cape Black Bee) with a short term, quick solution to queenlessness.
Any worker bee, with an advanced degree in dominance, can jump to the head of the succession queue and become mini-queen for the moment. This normal-sized bee can only lay 30 eggs a day, working without a break. She doesn’t even have to bother having them fertilised. She has a process that short-cuts sexual reproduction and she can do the whole job herself without males having to worry about helping.
At least one of her first born generation will have a large princess embryo that will develop into the next queen. Unfortunately, this means that the days of the mini-queen mother are numbered. And it also means that the males come back into the reproductive picture.
June 9, 2006
Matthew At Stormhoek's London HQ
Our good friend Matthew Jukes visited our London office this morning to taste through the newest and freshest ever Stormhoek wines.
It was great to see him again and catch up on all the news.
Nick and Matthew getting stuck into Stormhoek Shiraz
I think it’s safe to say he was pretty stoked by the tasting and reckons that the new Stormhoek Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Shiraz and Pinotage are our best ever.
No mention though of the new Rosé………The samples painstakingly prepared by Graham, were “lost” in transit from the winery to London.
Sorry mate, but, you’ll have to send some more, Matthew can't wait to try it!
June 7, 2006
Food for the eyes
This little gem delights our eyes and mouths every winter. The tiny sorrel flower (oxalis purpurea) and its vivid-green, clover-like leaves are strewn through our renosterbush hills like hundreds and thousands, the sugared and brightly coloured mini-marbles that my mother used to adorn the icing of the cakes she made for our birthdays.
The sorrel’s arrival also signals a winter change in the dinner menu.
At least since 1670, sorrel has been an important ingredient in traditional Cape cooking.
Some of most influential immigrants were forcibly delivered to the Cape from what is now Indonesia by their Dutch rulers, mostly between 1670 and 1795.
They brought many talents and skills to their new home. Chief among these were the creation of the Cape-Dutch gabled architecture and Cape Malay cooking.
Most of the European vegetables did not grow in winter. The Cape Malay cooks looked to the indigenous bush for inspiration for warm meals for cold nights.
To the mutton from the fat-tailed sheep they added waterblommetjies (water flower buds) that they found in slow running streams. To add a salty, spicy, acid zest to the stew, they added sliced sorrel leaves and tubers from the sorrel roots.
Waterblommetjie bredie is together with bobotie one of the 2 great dishes of Cape cooking. Famous for over 300 years.
Original cough medicine
Protea repens comes with or without the pink spots. The white version is preferred by the commercial flower market.
When the first humans moved into the Cape, over 40000 years ago, they found cough medicine being made and stored in the base of every protea repens flower cup.
When this chalk-white and sometimes pink spotted flower bud opens in May each year it has about ½ a teaspoon of clear, amber coloured, sweet liquid in the bowl under the spreading petals.
The Dutch settlers, arriving after 1650, soon discovered the all-purpose Khoisan recipe. For 300 years, a bottle of protea bossiestroop (bush syrup) was an essential item in every home medicine chest.
Bossiestroop did not survive the arrival of the first manufacturing chemists in the 21st Century. And the spread of wheatfields and vineyards removed most of the original vast tracts of proteas.
Today a few hundred thousand repens plants can be found interspersed among the fynbos and renosterfeld on the upper slopes of Stormhoek and form part of a protected nature park.
We plan to make a few bottles of bossiestroop this year.
What’s coming up?
Recently germinated winter growth, planted between the rows of Cabernet Sauvignon.
This spot is about 360m above sea level.
Every winter we plant between the vines something that thrives on cold nights, rain and the odd period of sunshine. In fact, just what we get for weather in winter.
This could be wheat, oats, lucerne (alfalfa) or a fast growing indigenous herb, or even a mix of any or all of these.
This introduces fast growing root structure into the soil, while the vines are dormant, and stimulates micro-biological activity between the rows of vine roots.
The new roots take in moisture from the winter rains, retaining this in the general environment of the vines. This is particularly important on our steep slopes.
When spring arrives we plough the new growth into the soil, creating a mulch, hampering the development of competitive weeds.
Next year, we plan to use a mixture of seeds chosen from the lush winter growth under the proteas on our upper slopes.
Island discovery revealed
Water streaming down to the Kromme River from the White River channel. The photo was taken from the bridge over Gawie se Water
Nearly 200 years ago, a channel was cut through a small rocky ridge in the foothills of Wellington’s Limietberg mountains to allow a constantly flowing diversion of some of the water in the White River westward into the Kromme (windy) River, both of which flow through our Doolhof Valley.
The White River flows east into the Breede River and finally the Indian Ocean and the Kromme River flows west into the Berg River, and onward into the Atlantic Ocean.
The diversion allows an adventurous spirit to row, swim or walk in water all of the way from the Indian to the Atlantic, or vice versa. To my knowledge, no one has ever done it.
This flowing water isolates a large part of the Western Cape from the rest of Africa.
It puts Cape Town, Paarl, Stellenbosch and Wellington on an island, with water all around. To get to the African mainland, we have to cross bridges over the Berg, the Breede, the White or Kromme Rivers or over the Gawies se Water diversion (the Bain’s Kloof pass).
Why I Won't Be Buying A Single Damn Bottle of 2005 Claret
Every year there is this standing joke that the good vignerons of Bordeaux have created the finest wines in living memory. I normally treat such statements as pure hogwash.
In 2005 though, there does seem to be some justification to the claim. My impression is based on the quite excellent reports posted by Jancis Robinson, Robert Parker, Jamie Goode and Decanter, to name a few.
The problem is that the Bordeaux mafia are charging accordingly. Prices have gone beserk over the past few weeks. In some cases up by nearly 50% over 2004 (which again was billed as a top quality year).
Although the prices for the First Growth wines, such as Chateau Lafite, have yet to be released, the view is that they could open at up to £3500.00 for a case of 12 bottles. Add to that duty, delivery and VAT on the whole lot and you're staring down the barrels of over £4000. Ouch!
Oh, BTW, if you do lash out the cash, you can probably expect to wait for up to 50 years before the wine will be at its best. I reckon I'll be dead by then.
I'd rather fill my cellar with a selection of my favourite bottles to drink now, so by rough calculation I could buy the following for £4000. (12 bottles of each):
Champagne Billecarte-Salmon Rose Brut
Champagne Louis Roederer Brut Premier
Meursault Domaine Vincent Bouzereau 2004
Bernkastler Lay Riesling Spatlese Dr. Loosen 2004
Keith Tulloch Huter Valley Semillon 2005
Yering Station MVR Yarra Valley 2005
Piero Chardonnay Margaret River 2004
Chambolle-Musigny Les Fuees Nicolas Potel 2003
Castello di Calosso Barbera d'Asti La Badia 2000
Flagstone Mary le Bow 2003
Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel 2002
De Toren Fusion v 2003
Felton Road Block 5 Pinot Noir 2004
Cote Rotie Rene Rostaing 2000
Let me see....um... one case of Bordeaux that won't be drinklable for fifty years or fourteen cases of really yummy stuff I can start dipping into tonight...hmmm hard decision.
I Reckon that the latter would keep me amused for the foreseeable!
James Forbes Moves On
Just found out that our good friend from Oddbins, James Forbes is moving on.
He's set to join Wines of Argentina as their head honcho in the UK.
Well done James and all the best.
June 6, 2006
SF Bay Area Geek-travangaza
Kai Chang sponsored our biggest dinner yet in Redwood City, California, about 140 people attended.
By all accounts it was an amazing event. Eric Cheng, who is a renowned underwater photographer, concert cellist and software engineer, did a presentation of some recent photos:
There was live fauna there too :-)
Stanford Harmonics performed
Chuck Siegel from Charles Chocolates talked about his Global Micro-brand.
Kai is organizing another dinner at a presently secret location in a month or so. If you are in the area, email him for an evite.
We're going to try to have someone from the winery attend the next one.
There are tons of pics and links to blog posts about the evening on Kai's blog
June 3, 2006
Indie Film Makers In Tuscon
Andy and his buds got together for a talent filled night of veggie chile, poetry, illusion and Tarot Card reading. It seemed, all lubricated by some Stormhoek.
They also made a short
Thanks to Andy and all his friends in Tuscon
One Unhappy Cat
Mrs. D and Chopper Dave of Belly Timber are apparently off to a Stormhoek geek dinner and someone of the feline sort is not very happy.
But, Cat was kind enough to make us a little Stormhoek ad, which she apparently is proud of.
She likes her Stormhoek...
This is one cool Cat :-)
Thanks Chopper Dave and Mrs. D.
Let us know how the dinner went.
June 1, 2006
The night the roof blew off
Missiles were flying through the dark
We were tucked up in bed in the middle of the darkest night, with the wind howling outside and rain spitting on the windows. You know the feeling, warm, safe and cozy.
The house has walls as wide as your forearm including your hand, but it began to feel as if the house was being pulled this way and that by angry forces.
Then the tearing began. It started as a wrenching and flapping sound. Then quiet. Followed by more grinding and tearing. We could hear metal creasing and ripping. Vicious and violent, like two tractors in combat.
We knew that the roof was made from sheets of corrugated iron. They’re so rigid that you can’t bend them with your hand. Or even both hands. But it sounded like they were being torn into strips.
Finally one was wrenched away from its connection with the house, followed by silence. Well, not quite silence. There was still the buffeting of the gale.
Because I have never been in a tornado, I have never thought to prepare myself for one. When I reached for the light switch, I found that we there was no electricity. I stumbled through the blacked-out house, feeling for a match and a candle.
I heard another sheet of iron part from the house with a drawn-out groan. Then another.
I had an idea that I should go outside to survey the damage. But I had visions of sheets of iron with razor-sharp edges aimed at my neck, hurtling through the air, and I retreated to bed.
In the morning we found hundred of logs, branches and even trees, strewn across vineyard roads and even blocking the main access road.
Though I had heard hundreds of sheets of iron ripped from the roof, we only found four missing and these were spread across the garden.
Fortunately, the next day was Monday and we got a new tight roof into place before the downpour started.