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July 31, 2006

Champagne as Fashion?

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I walked past Harrods a couple of times a few weeks ago and couldn’t help but notice the Dom Perignon in the window.

DP has done a great job over the last year in blinging up the brand, making the connections to fashion stronger and putting a little bit more of the LV into the MH. We like that and have been surprised that it has taken so long.

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If you look closely at the top photo (sorry, it is a bit blurry), you’ll see that this is not a ‘normal’ bottle of DP, but part of what Moet is calling “A Bottle Named Desire” . Karl Lagerfeld ‘designed’ the bottle, which looks like the usual DP bottle with measles. Maybe I am being a bit unfair, but it looks like its got gold dots adhered to the bottle. Harrods PR materials say the ‘studs’ are ‘golden’ so I think that it is safe to assume that they are not ‘gold’.

Lagerfield designs other of stuff for LVMH and presumably ‘designed’ this in between the Fendi and Chanel gigs.

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We’re very much for the notion of wine as fashion, which of course, it is. But, we believe that the fashion should be expressed as a functional enhancement to the product. If the fashion is used in a gimmicky way, it dilutes the effort to enhance the experience. As hard as I try, I just struggle to buy into this bling-ed up DP. More to the point, Harrods quotes the bottle at 1,000 pounds a pop. The price for the regular juice is about 70 pounds

Harrods only has 60 bottles and with the population of London standing at 7,465,100, and tens of thousands of tourists walking by each day, they presumably will find 60 people who gotta have one.

Posted by Jason at 2:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 28, 2006

Game Designers Assemble in Seattle

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Earlier this month Chris Pramas and his fellow game designers came together for some great food, wine and geek gaming chat at their Stormhoek dinner in Seattle.

Whether they were ‘game designers’ a la scrabble and Play station, or rather designers that were game for a good night with a few bottles of wine, we weren’t sure at first. Since hearing accounts of the event, it seems they were both!

Nicole cooked up lots of delicious food, Chris and his fellow gamers gave Stormhoek the ‘geek seal of approval’ and anyone left still standing at the end of the night was enticed ‘up to the office’ to play... board games, we're assured! Sounds like fun.

The night was signed off with friends chatting outside: cigar in one hand, a glass of Sauv Blanc in the other, with all daily worries a million miles away.

Now that’s what we like to hear.

Posted by Jason at 3:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A lethal cocktail of tech, business & wine

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Chicago's hottest new menage of start ups, techs & business - TechCocktail - kicked off earlier this month in Chicago.

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Conversation was duely lubricated with Stormhoek wines as the likes of google, playboy and yahoo mingled offline with founders of hot new companies such as zaptix.com and ripitdigital.com, to discuss the latest trends.

Sounds like quite a potent cocktail. Cheers.

Posted by Jason at 2:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 24, 2006

A Cape Town, South Africa, on availability

Graham and I have been to about 40 restuarants over the last 3 weeks and I am very proud to annouce that we have issued invoice 1 and 4 in Cape Town to one retail outlet and one restuarant. The two most honourable recipients of Stormhoek wine were Observatory Bottle Store in Lower Main Road, Observatory and Gardners Cottage in Newlands. Support these early adopters, they are sure to give you great service and in the case of Gardners Cottage, some great food too to go with our great wine.

Shane

Posted by graham knox at 11:33 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 23, 2006

Pinotage and karaoke - the perfect dinner match

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Belly Timber and Mrs D recently hosted a 'Circus of Innovation and Libation' in Seattle, as part of the 100 dinners campaign, where Chopper Dave apparently couldn't get enough of the Pinotage and declared 'its rich, blackberry flavor perfect for a kick-ass spicy food pairing'

Good job Mrs D is a fan of all things hot then: 'Seriously, if Chopper would cook spicy foods every night for a year and pair it with that pinotage, I’d be in red wine heaven. Love it to death, I say'.

And what better to follow a few glasses of wine than a bit of self-expressive karaoke. Couldn't agree more.

Now this sounds like a party. 'Neil Diamond, Meatloaf, Madonna, Ozzy & Sheryl Crow in the style of Rammstein meets Klaus Nomi!' We're assuming it wasn't some amazing hybrid performance of them all... someone with a long hair wig, wearing cones and declaring they 'feel like a woman'! Or was that Shania Twain? Just as long as there was no ripping the heads off chickens guys, as not only is that cruel but more importantly it just wouldn't go well with the Sauvignon Blanc.

All sounded like a blast.

Posted by Jason at 5:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Gallo Gets Creative

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Came across this press release and the picture caught my eye. A couch made out of empty Carlo Rossi bottles!

Carlo Rossi is an old time Californian jug brand, once probably one of the biggest sellers in the market. It is owned by Gallo and they have come up with a very cool meme on the site. The clever folks in Modesto have commissioned lamps, furniture, chandeliers, etc to be made out of the empty jugs and the site gives instructions on how to make these objects for yourself. For example, all you need to do to make the chandelier is start with 33 empty jugs... They don’t discuss liver damage, but talk about breathing new life into a brand that flatlined years ago. It's cool, contemporary and uses the heritage of the brand.

I won’t venture a guess as to how the wine tastes, but kudos to the Gallo marketing team that dreamed this one up.

Posted by Jason at 4:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2006

An off the Hoek Bloomsday

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As part of the 100 dinners recently in Illinois, Mayo Pants - aka Brett Stuckel - graciously risked his family heirloom oriental rug in the name of Stormhoek to host a dinner for people in Chicago with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which was nice of him.

Just to be sure we had it right, we googled Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Apparently it’s a condition caused by 'repetitive and forceful movements of the hand and wrist during work or leisure activities'. Hmm sounds painful. Are you sure that's mayo on your pants Brett? ;-) Apparently the party was off the Hoek. Sounded cool.

Hope the rug was ok...

Posted by Jason at 4:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Stormhoek Song

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[Download: The Stormhoek Song MP3]

You know what can happen after a couple bottles of wine. People become happy, brave, possibly a little sociable and sometimes, even inspired.

So, we wanted to share something inspired with you...

Rob Lane, aka Weekend Wino, hasn't even had his Stormhoek dinner yet, but couldn't resist trying some. He cracked open a bottle of Pinotage and it was, apparently, a hit. He loved the wine so much, he wrote a song about it! Genius.

We're thinking it will become our official anthem. We may even try to release it. What do you think Rob, can you hear the Ka- Ching of the royalties… ?

Posted by Jason at 4:07 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Stormhoek Pinotage: The unofficial cult grape of the Silicon Valley?

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We've been a bit remiss in not posting more about the 100 dinners sweeping across the US. We hope to remedy this over the next week or so. The dinners are in full swing now, with well over 50 having taken place. We’re getting lots of great stories, snaps and memorabilia back but there is one thing in particular that keeps coming up that we think is quite cool….

Few are sure of what it is, but Pinotage is fast becoming a cult grape!


When I blogged about our Pinotage release a few months back, I mentioned that most pintage is pretty yucky and we were really apprehensive about making it. So, we tried to make it taste more like really nice Australian Shiraz, than Pinotage.

As Tim Elliott of Winecast put it: “...most Pinotage is very earthy and somewhat green in character (”weedy” is a term that comes to mind) and sometimes produces wines that are quite unpleasant to drink” but he claims this was ‘the first Pinotage he has tried with a large group where everyone liked the wine’.

As you may have realised, we’re not ones to follow trends or the crowd, which is why it’s particularly poignant for us that our Pinotage seems to have broken the mould and really be turning people on. We’ve had reference to Stormhoek fast becoming the cult wine of the Silicon Valley, but a cult grape among these guys, a grape which is virtually unheard of outside South Africa - is awesome!

Mrs Deedop of Belly Timber apparently needs her fix too, “please let me know if Stormhoek is going to be available in the Portland Ore., area soon - we're moving there in the fall and I'd be all over going on a Pinotage shopping spree: we are totally in love with the Pinotage. YUM!”

Even the Wine Fools of Atlanta (usually a tough crowd) thought it was ‘the hit of the evening’ and Andrea Rodenberg with her discerning Ambassador & Model guests claimed the Pinotage was ‘by far and away the night’s favorite selection’.

Perhaps the most overwhelming of all the Pinotage stories we heard was that of it even outshining the bride at a wedding in the Finger Lakes! Surely not, we thought. But apparently so. “My wife and I just had to take one bottle of Pinotage with us to a wedding we were attending and Wow!!! Very Fruit Forward, Medium Tannins, Just a wonderful Red. Many tasted it and it drew raves". Hope we didn’t cause any problems on that front, Weekend Winos. White dresses, red wine and lots of excited people all sounds a bit messy!

We’re just pleased it’s starting a conversation –

So, Stormhoek Pinotage a cult grape. Who'da Thunk?

Posted by Jason at 3:12 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 17, 2006

stormhoek gets pinged by msnbc

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This made my day. From the MSNBC blog:

Though it seems mostly as the result of marketing strategy, Stormhoek appears to have established itself as the geek wine.

I like it when the Stormhoek meme gets picked up by mainstream media, even in a small way. As a marketer, it tells me the virus is working. Even more importantly, it also tells the same thing to the people who pay my wages.

What's interesting to me about being "the established geek wine" or, as I'm fond of shamelessly calling it, "The Unofficial Cult Wine of Silicon Valley", is the fact that [A] Stormhoek is THOUSANDS of miles away from Silicon Valley and [B] Napa Valley is just up the road from Silicon Valley.

In other words, logic would dictate that the Valley folk would've picked a wine a bit closer to home, indirectly or otherwise. But then the blogosphere came along and changed the rules.

Of course, on another level, it should come as no surprise that a South African wine became "the established geek wine". This is what the internet is all about. Eliminating distances etc.

I'm not sure if I concur with the thought that "it seems mostly as the result of marketing strategy". Two reasons. First, this implies that marketing was some kind of peripheral thing, an appendage to the main event. This to me undermines just how important marketing is, to everybody alive, not just us marketing nerds.

Secondly, it wasn't as if me and the Stormhoek boys just sat down one day and said "Hey, let's just market to the geeks", for inherent brand reasons. The geeks just happen to be friends of mine, people I know, and people who reads blogs. If our readers had instead been sweet old ladies from Wisconsin, perhaps Stormhoek would now be selling to them.

We live in interesting times.

Posted by hugh macleod at 5:54 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 14, 2006

Introducing Shane

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Cape Town's top wine bar, The Nose, is setting records with Stormhoek Pinot Grigio.
From left to right, Shane Wilson, blogger and Stormhoek man on the ground, Mynhardt Joubert, Nose's manager and Lee Ann Wicomb, chief record setter

"Hi, my name is Shane and I am..." [I know what you are thinking...wine blog - the opening phrase of a well known support group]
but, actually "I am.....an addict." I am addicted to Stormhoek. So much so that I have joined the sales team.

How? I started my own blog about 2 years ago. It went nowhere (mainly because my posts were less than ordinary). I came across www.changethis.com last year and found "How to be Creative" written by none other than our lad Hugh. Having just attended an amazing Edward de Bono with Nicola Tyler this would have been an appropriate Google - +"how to" +"creative"

From there, "How to be Creative" led me to gapingvoid.com and that led me to English Cut and back the global microbrand thingy and from that, here, into Stormhoek.

I have obsessed about owning a wine farm since I was a teenager. So naturally the Stormhoek blog was a starting point and I voraciously consumed the early conversations the blog had to offer. But I still wanted to know more...

In March 2006, I emailed Graham [Knox] to inquire about the availability of Stormhoek in Cape Town to be met only with an email that there was a distributor in Gauteng, that a local [Cape Town] one was being sought and that I would be contacted shortly.

And then, in April 2006, I reached a personal crossroads and made the decision to follow a dream and go independent from my corporate employer - known only as my "ball and chain" - to pursue my other business interests. Part of this thought process resulted in another email to Graham along the lines of "I am going independent and if you still don’t have anyone to sell the wine in Cape Town, I will do it" with the disclaimer that I "have some wine certification" from the early 90’s (not mentioned then) and "have passion", correction, have "lots of passion". Exaggeration will get you everywhere, but I still had no idea what it entailed. My last sales experience was in my early 20’s as a waiter at a national steak house chain.

What I do believe is that real, authentic, face-to-face conversation is what gets a thing sold and sometimes (more rarely) the thing sells itself. Your passion, knowledge, product and authenticity simply augment the process. What really keeps it sold falls back on keeping the relationship alive and vital through follow up, consistency, availability (you and your product) and caring (for your client and product). Love what you sell, baby, and it will love you back. And so here I am - Storm-hoeked...line and sinker.

Graham and I went on the road on Thursday (7/7/06). It was great!!! I learnt so much! We visited 8 restaurants, mostly in the southern suburbs of Cape Town and the reception was amazing. It is great to have such a good product and a market begging for something out of the ordinary.

As Hugh so delicately puts it, "The market for something to believe in is infinite". Drop us an email and we’ll pop in...at your convenience of course.

Posted by graham knox at 9:48 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 12, 2006

MW's Symposium - Napa Valley 2006

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Rather like the FIFA World Cup Finals, every four years The Institute of Masters of Wine, gather together. The opportunity is used to discuss a wide variety of issues affecting the wine industry.

This year the symposium was held in the rarefied atmosphere of the Napa Valley, California.

I had an email sent to me the other day from our good friend, Jancis Robinson. She had just returned from the event and said that by far the best presentation, to her mind, was given by one of the few “outsiders” invited to speak there.

Terry McBride from Nettwerk Productions gave a detailed talk on “Innovative ideas for creating new micro-marketing techniques”. Much of his presentation focussed on how the internet has become a powerful tool in this area. Cool!

Our industry needs all the help it can get in connecting with the consumer and it’s encouraging to see people from other areas of business sharing their views and experience with us. I hope that the MW’s will use the information positively.

PS. Terry, it would be good to meet with you sometime. I’ve always considered wine to be part of the entertainments business and there are many common links between our industries

Posted by nick at 9:23 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 7, 2006

stormhoek video

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[YouTube videocast here.]

Stormhoek's Jason Korman and I recently did a videocast, along with Johnnie Moore. Directed by Lloyd Davis.

This videocast was made not so much for the general public, but for the Stormehoek sales team in America. Trying to get them up to speed with what we're doing etc. Johnnie kindly agreed to moderate.

[This post was cross-posted on my personal blog, gapingvoid.com]

Posted by hugh macleod at 6:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 5, 2006

One Potential Problem With Freezing Wine

I posted recently about how to preserve open bottles of wine indefinitely by freezing. I mentioned that there is one potential problem.

Before most wines are bottled, they are chilled to below freezing in order to remove a substance commonly referred to as, tartrates. In white wines tartrates can look like glass crystals or a darkish colored sand. In red wines they take on the color of the wine and can just look like red muck. They are harmless. ( The substance ia actually potassium bitartrate, also know as cream of tartar, a key ingredient of baking soda). When this is done in the winery, the tartrates drop to the bottom of the tank and the wine is then racked off the crystals, filtered and bottled.

Many wineries don't do a great job stabilizing wines before bottling, so if you freeze a bottle (or even just chill it), you will 'stabilize' the wine and tartrates will drop out of the wine in the bottle. It is a bit unsightly, but completely harmless. When I have a bottle with tartrates, I stand the wine up for ten minutes and then decant the wine or just carefully pour it into the glasses. The crystals will stay behind in the bottom of the bottle.

Tom wrote to me several months ago asking about what was in this picture and despite the fact that this is yucky looking, I advised him that it was just harmless tartrates.

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So, Freeze, let the settle, if there are crystals, just decant it. Still the best way to preseve an open bottle.

Posted by Jason at 5:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Kick start

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We have hundreds of very slow growing vines, roots intertwined with rocks, at the crest of the mountain ridges. More than 50% of some of these soils is shale stone. We want all of the vines in a single block to ripen their grapes to the same level at the same time.
We have decided to add some organic stimulus to help these weaker vines catch up (get their roots down deeper). And we’re hoping that free range chicken droppings will help.
The floors in the pens in our neighbour’s chicken farm are elevated by annual accumulation. So we’re helping him as we provide an energy boost to the battling vines.

Posted by graham knox at 3:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 2, 2006

Risk Profile

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To protect their water and meat supply system at the Cape, mid point on the trade route between Europe and Asia, the VOC (Dutch East India Company) built this castle fortress on the Cape Town shore in 1666. It still stands today. By contrast, there is a 313 metre long mini-oil refinery moored in the harbour in the background. This is the FPSO (Floating Production Storage and Off-take vessel) Dalia, soon to go to a permanent site in the Atlantic, off Namibia.

Have you ever thought about setting up a company to mine the moon, or to trade with Martians, presuming that we find some?
Sounds like a risky venture. Imagine what your bank manager would say when you outline your Martian business plan.
When the Dutch East India Company was founded in 1568 to trade in rare goods on the other side of the planet, that’s what their risk profile looked like. Out of every five ships that left Europe to fetch nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, tea and Chinese porcelain, only one returned, sometimes empty-handed.
In 1602, the VOC had an amazing break when the Dutch government granted the company a monopoly on trade in the East Indies (today’s Indonesia, India etc.). They were empowered to use any and all means to achieve their goals, including fighting enemies of the Dutch and preventing anyone else from anywhere trading there.
The VOC rapidly became the richest and most powerful company on earth.

Posted by Jason at 3:56 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack