Wine,Wine Writer

Newspapers are dead as we knew them; or, the turkey in the room

One by one, I’ve watched trusted newspaper wine columnists get the sack from their editors. Some have been replaced by younger, rising stars, some columns went into syndication, and some just had wine disappear all together. In all of this, the evolution has been fascinating to watch… But, today the final bomb just fell from the sky; and, in a rush to get this one to print, the owner of the dealership’s name was misspelled. Oh… dear…

It happened in Crawfordsville, Indiana in their Journal Review…


You might want to consider rehiring an editor to cover your own job…

This image was just shared on Facebook by Howard Hewitt.

The stream that followed is priceless. With Howard’s permission to share.

It’s the end of the world as we know it! Local paper puts full page ad on front page!

Howard wrote: It’s the end of the world as we know it! Local paper puts full page ad on front page!
  • Stephen: It’s above and below the fold! Seriously, that is depressing.
  • Greg: That’s no longer a newspaper. It’s just a paper.
  • Dave: Where’s the “news” portion of that paper?
  • Jo Diaz O-M-G
  • Peter: Maybe the fact that they could still sell a full-page color ad is the front-page news!
  • Gregory: Makes those little “ear” coupons on P1 not so bad!
  • Adam: I’m reporting this post! (Still remember your unpublished editorial on this topic. Seems more than appropriate today.)
  • Rob: Wonder how much that cost? (Besides their soul. In addition to that.)
  • Adam: Guess what else? They misspelled Rohrman’s name! Classic.
  • Howard Hewitt OMG Adam, you’re right. Embarrassed to say I hadn’t noticed that …. Classic Indeed. And big shout out for remembering my unpublished rant.
  • Howard Hewitt I’ve written a letter to editor – let’s see if they print it. I may post here regardless.
  • Peter: I’m more interested in WHERE they will print your letter to the editor!
  • Heather: I’m hoping that’s just a wrap, right
  • Howard Hewitt Heather, it’s not a wrap … look at the little note upper right directing readers: “Turn the page for the Journal’s regular content.
  • Howard Hewitt Oh, this has already been shared a couple times…. so I should note here … not only is it an ad on the front page — BUT .. the advertiser – Bob Rohrman – the name is spelled wrong! Ya just can’t make this crap up, folks
  • Kim: I can remember when advertisers begged for page 1, but we said NO WAY. But then our lives changed as we once knew them. Sad day indeed. And misspelling too!
  • Mary: I knew it would come to this some day. The Courier Journal has been running an ad across the bottom of the front page lately.
  • Ray: I wonder if Bob is “Rorhring” mad today. Greg: I didn’t have a problem with the “ear” coupons during my publisher days, but this full-page thing is unconscionable. I am curious as to what readers think. Howard, give us any feedback that you might pick up.
And, I’m one of the people who also shared it. This builds into Howard’s credibility. And, I was pretty disgusted to see this front page… Remember, I was in radio and couldn’t produce a segment of Modern Health, where I disclosed that for every ounce of soda, Sheree’s almost ONE teaspoon of sugar. This was in the 80s, and was pulled by the general manager, who told me that a soda company was one of her biggest advertisers, so it was a no go/no show. Broadcasting 101, people.
I lead in with: Yeah… Okay, finally telling it like it is… Corporations own the news, and copy doesn’t want to tick anyone off, so nothing controversial, please and thank you… So, just put up corporate dribble, in the way of advertisements. It’s still great for starting a wood stove fire, though.
  • Fredric Koeppel speechless….
  • Jo Diaz It’s unthinkable, and truly a sign of how useless papers have become. Everyone’s online; plus, the truth is currently allowed to flourish, because there aren’t any advertisers. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve turned down, who have tried to buy a line in one of my blog stories… Sneaking in their advertising, Fredric. But this? It’s the end of newspapers as we knew them.
  • Katie Jalbert Kelley Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true. Anyone can take this picture and post a caption that says it’s the front page.
  • Tina Caputo: I talked recently with the director of a creative agency that creates ads for various clients, and even he lamented publishers’ willingness to give up formerly sacred editorial space to get money in the door.
  • Howard Hewitt Hey Jo, I’m so glad you shared this. I’m not sure just how many papers have done this .. but I was beyond shocked this morning. I’ve written a letter to the editor. Let’s see if they print it.
  • Howard Hewitt Katie, I took the picture. It happened in Crawfordsville, Indiana, today. I was in the newspaper business, including being editor of this paper for 2.5 years, some time ago. And oh by the way, the advertiser Bob Rohrman – the name is spelled wrong at the top of the page – PAGE ONE!
  • Katie Jalbert Kelley That’s bad. I only commented because so many pictures are shared, even when the source isn’t known. Magazines have been doing this for a while (an “advertising wrap,” I think they call the fake cover), but a newspaper? That’s so disappointing. Unfortunately, it’s a sign of the times. So many papers are struggling to survive in the age of instant/free news.
  • Jo Diaz i also knew Howard is/was a trusted source for this one. I’m happy that you questioned it, Katie, because anyone else that did, but didn’t speak up, now knows it’s real and a sad commentary of our times…


Beaujolais,Gamay,Marketing,Wine,Wine Making,Winemaker

Beaujolais Nouveau Day is Here!

Beaujolais Nouveau Day is here once again, and I was fortunate enough to enjoy an early bottle, so I could blog aobut it on this very day. This year the 2014 Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau is très fabuleux, once again.

It has delicious aromas of bright red fruit, like raspberries and strawberries.  When I sipped it, I found and explosion of tart red raspberries that were very young. But the wine also has some lacy edges to it from young and wild tannins… bouncing around… that are going to help this wine age a bit more, for enjoyment throughout the year. Considering its youth, the promise of this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau will be mature enjoyment…

Beaujolais Nouveau Day is celebrated in France on the third Thursday in November with fireworks, music, and festivals. This is the first wine of the harvest, and it’s available nationwide one stroke after midnight on November 20. Nouveau will be uncorked at parties and celebrations across the U.S. (Suggested retail price is $9.99, a bargain of a price, really). And, I wish I could be in Paris, where it’s really happening today! Alas, I cannot, but I certainly did enjoy the wine as we approached the day set aside for Beaujolais celebrations worldwide.

WIKI: Beaujolais nouveau (French pronunciation: ​[bo.ʒɔ.lɛ nu.vo]) is a red wine made from Gamay grapes produced in the Beaujolais region of France. It is the most popular vin de primeur, fermented for just a few weeks before being released for sale on the third Thursday of November. This “Beaujolais Nouveau Day” used to see heavy marketing, with races to get the first bottles to different markets around the globe. The current release practice is to ship the wine ahead of the third Thursday of November, and release it to the local markets at 12:01 am local time.

From the Beaujolais Nouveau Day.com Website: Under French law, the wine is released at 12:01 a.m., just weeks after the wine’s grapes have been harvested. Parties are held throughout the country and further afield to celebrate the first wine of the season.

[Image is borrowed from the Duboeuf Website.]

Last year I had a conversation with Franck Duboeuf, son of Georges Duboeuf, who called from France. We talked about his immediate history, growing up with a father who was so ingrained and invested in the wine business. It’s important to note, for anyone new to the wine world, France’s history is pretty much carved in stone at this point. For Georges to have created something very “outside of the box” is almost unheard of, mostly unthinkable, and very daring… that kind of innovative nature shapes change, and the French wine industry is – as I noted – pretty much carved in stone. And yet, Georges Duboeuf went there in a delightfully positive way… with a big splash. He has that nature that I also embrace, which is to have fun with your wine.

What if?

“What if I create a wine release that’s going to be most phenomenal?

“It should be a red wine, soft and young… supple in body with a spirit of joie de vivre. A cheek with a pleasant, rosy glow greets you… You know you’ve arrived with the wine. . It needs to be one that owns its own day, forever and ever more. A celebration of the most festive kind…”

That’s a tall order, and Georges Duboeuf fulfilled the dream.

“The grapes are mostly hand harvested, still,” said Franck.

[Only the best will still do.]

There were 40,000 pickers during five or six weeks.

[What an interesting influx that must be to see in the vineyards. I see it all here, but what I see is radically, culturally different. It feels more romantic to me, because time moves more slowly there… Slowing down time seems to allows for charm to develop. It’s a French thing.]

While Franck’s father was raised on a small farm, where his family owned a few acres of Chardonnay vines, he grew up in an evolved business and growing up in a vineyard versus the small farm of his father’s youth.

[Imagine growing up in a vineyard… It’s s really a grape farm, for those from other neighborhoods, if you’re wanting to “get it.” All of the elements and sensitivities of nature are there for you. I can’t stop watching the movie “A Good Year.” The film has a very intriguing perspective, having been shot either in the early morning, or just at dusk, for the many interludes presented. It’s a great film, and that’s what I’d imagine for Franck and his sister Fabienne.]

“It was a wonderful childhood, walking, discovering, secrets in the vines. Helping with harvest, because that’s just what everyone does… But, not my favorite work,” he admitted, almost chucklingly to himself. His life evolved as his father’s vocation evolved into a négociant. No longer vinifying wine, the focus switched into checking samples every day during fermentation… tasting the future. It would be at this point that his father… realizing the potential for how the next vintage will taste, and how it should evolve based on foreknowledge, came up with his epiphany. “What if?”

Also, there was another side to that cleverness… the Laws of France… Make a law, government, and there will always be those who will take it right to the very edge… testing the balance between tame and wild, and then experiencing the dream. Georges Duboeuf took it to the limit, and Beaujolais Nouveau Day was born.

The process has winemakers worldwide curious, about the evolved methodology of wanting to perfect the most exquisite of Beaujolais Nouveau. According to Franck, “Each year a few winemakers travel to Beaujolais, France, to absorb what they can. The region has become extremely well experienced with the uniqueness of the Gamay grape and its processes. Beaujolais,” he continues, “Is a local tradition and the first wine we enjoy after hard work. The Gamay grape shows so beautifully just 25 days after harvest, which is why my father chose this grape variety.”

“Your wine is your image,” was his final thought.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, let these two items ignite your imagination, and perhaps your palate. Get in on the fun!



Jo's World,Wine

Still blogging after all these years

What does a wine blogger do on her time “off.” Hum… Still writing, when so much else has to get done, but the focus has greatly shifted…

And, it’s not about wine.

It’s come to writing children’s stories for my grandchildren. It slowly started years ago, with my two first grandsons Jonathan and Nate, given to me by my Katie and her (our) Ray. And then the Chloe Clo, my natural granddaughter, given to me by my Heather. Chloe and her new siblings have been inspiring me, but always the writing about wine won over and the dream of children’s story kept simmering. Someones an occasional eruption would spew forth, but the lava was flowing forward, but in a very slow way.

I’ve also become inspired by one of the most amazing men that I’ve had the pleasure to have in my life, because he’s so inspirational. In a moment when we were talking, he told me that when he had his heart attack, and his son saved his life, he made some promises to himself, which he’s kept. That promise was to write to his grandchild every weekend since. He’s kept him promise and it’s been years of writing to her. Please understand this is a very busy man… A very, very busy man, and yet his family is first and foremost. His words are a good reminder for me of what’s the most important in life… And, the little children have always been my real number one. If I told you that I was the director of a Girl Scout Day Camp, would that help you to understand how much I love children?

When they come from you, they’re wonderful.

When they come from your children, they’re grand, and that’s why we call them that, if anybody ever asks you…

This year, it’s become more important to take care of some family writing, along with the needs of others. Such a gift to give these A-list people, some stories of their very own, where they’ve become the stars… And…

Then they gave the greatest gift of all to me…

The words that would inspire the story just for them.

  • Let’s go knit nets while we’re eating nuts
  • My Mommy is a Monster
  • Evelyn’s Popsicle Fairies
  • Nana, What Time is X O’Clock
  • Astrid’s First Birthday (Okay, she didn’t give these words, but the rest came right out of the kids mouths.)

And, the stories have been flowing with future projects in my mind… Some wine along with it, not always, though… It’s a mood thing, the time of day, the amount of light, the quietude of the weekend to do a really fun craft. The craft of words for the children that I hold most dear… My inner circle of youth.


So, this is my story for today, I’m still blogging about being a wine publicist… But, I’m the one who is also beginning to find stories for children about themselves to be an outstanding gift… And, I’m doing it all from the heart of wine country in California.


Paso Robles,Wine

How important is defining an AVA? Ask anyone in Paso Robles

Paso Robles has just gone through tremendous growing pains, and this map is proof of all of their geological research… Air, soil, water, and climate all playing contributing parts to defining terroir; as well as the people involved, the flora, and the fauna… Having traveled to 41 of our 50 US states, I can tell you that each one is so unique that I would never – going to the furthest extreme to prove a point – tell you that apples grown in Maine are going to be anything like apples grown in Hawaii, for instance. Hawaiian apples are called pineapples, truth be told. When I visited Tedeschi Winery in Maui, I spoke with employees. At that time in the 1990’s, they were trying to only have one crop a year of wine grapes. The vines weren’t going through a dormancy period, so as soon as one crop was harvested, the next growth cycle would begin, with two crops per year.

I’m very interested when I hear people say that terroir isn’t real. I know it is, having been connected to the earth since the day I was born into my grandmother’s garden, and have had my own gardens, since the late 60s. What grows in the tropics for plants, which become ginormous, wild proportions, were puny house plants in Maine for me. If I had put them out of doors in the winter, they would have instantly frozen.

Terroir is very real and defines regions. I just spent a great deal of time studying the Green Valley of Russian River Valley this year. I order to really “get” it, I began with Pangaea. Yeah, it’s like that, if you truly want to understand the geology, first and foremost… Then, I worked my way up to the soils of today, based on what created them.

So, Paso Robles… Just look at this map above. This region is really coming into its own, as are the wines. Gone are the days of people who, when word association was played, would say “Napa,” when California wine was mentioned. yes, Napa has it’s terroir really well understood and defined, and it has become an inspiration for other. But, to believe that Napa is the be all to end all wines in California is very myopic, in my humble opinion.. And, quite boring – with all due respect to Napa. It would be like saying, “I only eat peaches for fruit, because peaches are the only fruit worth enjoying.”

Let’s take Petite Sirah, for instance. Petite from Napa can be very elegant, with some of  it – beyond cold fermentation, natural punchdowns, etc. – having to do with the funding available, based on winery owners. If anyone can afford property in Napa, they’ve got cash to spare.  Investing so much money for land carries into all other aspects for what else can happen with winemaking; from rock star winemakers, to the finest viticulture people and the finest treatments on all levels. This impacts the wines, of course. So, is Napa the be all to end all for Petite Sirah? Nope, they’ve got great Petites, make no mistake abut that. Then, on the other hand, also just try some of the Petite Sirahs coming out of Paso. When I’ve been out tasting Petites from many regions at the same time, and consumers tasting a Paso one invariably say, “Wow, can I taste that one again?” And, they also buy them. This works for other varieties, too. I just have a very firsthand knowledge with Petite, so it’s a natural example for me.

Just look at all of the sub regions of Paso Robles. This is a flavor chart, if you understand geology at any level… Soil science, very complex to completely understand, is in the realm of PhDs. A lifetime could be spent trying to get a handle on  this one. That I’m very clear about, given this past year for me. What I do know well is how little I do understand, because in one year, I’ve only scratched the surface, so to speak. I just had a renowned geologist say to me (wanting to remain anonymous, so as to not offend anyone):

“A winemaker will wax poetic about the flavors that come from his or her vineyard. Those flavors run a spectrum of possibilities for the winemaker. Meanwhile, ask a group of geologists the same question about that same soil, and there will only be one consistent answer for what the soil will impart to that wine.”

And so, with terroir, we have to respect those who have tried to define their regions. It’s not done in a willy-nilly fashion.

In their new map, pay close attention to the rivers that run through the regions. Water moving soil carries unique nutrients, and causes differing humidity ranges. This begins the process. EXAMPLE: Apples in Maine have juices dripping down your chin when plucked from a tree and eaten on the spot, in September and October. That won’t happen with apples from Sebastopol, California, for instance. California just doesn’t get that much water feeding into the root system and fruit over the course of a growing cycle, the way Maine apples do. so, they’re dryer and pithier.

Through PS I Love You, I have long ties to the Paso Robles area, and love visiting. If I were headed to Paso Robles,a nd this could be sooner rather than later, the wineries of special interest to me are the following:





Marketing,PR Advice,Public Relations,Wine

Tell me why I should be a member of your group

If I hear “Tell me why I should be a member” one more time…  Well, I still don’t know what I’ll say; but, I know what I’d like to say. It would go something like this:

If I have to tell you why you should be a member of any organization, I’d just be wasting my time. It’s like trying to tell you, if you already have 10 kids and want to know if I think you should have one more, as a great idea. I won’t convince you on way or the other, regardless of the stance I take. It has to be within you to have one more. That kind of a decision doesn’t come from outside of you to be convinced… It comes from within.

I can’t count how many times I’ve answered that question. What I can tell you is that it’s only been once, as many times as I’ve answered it, that one family said to me… “Wow, you really convinced me. Let me sign up today!” The ironic part to this story is that it happened right after I decided to not get into the “pitching process” anymore. I was asked to join a Lodi Petite Sirah tasting for newly released Petites. I hadn’t excepted to be called upon to speak on behalf of Petite Sirah, but I certainly can when called upon. I went to this event as a media person.

So, I deferred to Jose as the spokesperson, having already given up on the process. So while having lunch, Dennis and Diane DeCosta of DeCosta Family Vineyards were at our table, and I still just couldn’t bring myself to “pitch” PS I Love You when queried. Jose took over, and I just let it be. I felt it was futile; however, the DeCosta’s sent in a check as a growers, and restored my sense that there are some people who do get marketing. For them, I’m grateful.

I’ve spent a couple thousand hours studying marketing (between classes, home work assignments, and having to write research reports), and 30 years of practicing marketing. How can I possibly condense all of that that down to 500 words or less to convince someone of the value of collective marketing?

So, I won’t be answering that question in the future… Nope, I’m done with that… Well over it, because it’s futile.

Instead, I’ll simply turn the tables and as a question back to that person, like, “Why do you think you should be a member?” Or “What do you think about group marketing?”

Member profile is someone who understands:

  • Brand marketing for your own company
  • Group marketing, which increases knowledge of your own target market at an unprecedented rate, thereby speeding sales along
  • Membership links you to a common good and offers increased opportunities to expand your brand
  • It’s a tax write off, because you’re contributing to a charity within your own special interest, if you’re joining a non-profit, like the Chamber of Commerce
  • Think of it as advertising, because you are

Benefits received:

  • Added to a website, where people go for more information… You become an influencer
  • Included in social media campaigns
  • Receiving occasional PR/Marketing opportunities, as they’re presented from the outside world
  • Included in press releases
  • Participating in events

These reasons haven’t been good enough for anyone, yet… except the existing members of the group of people who join the group, because they’re marketing savvy.. I can guarantee that somewhere along the way, someone studied marketing.

I once had a boss who hated that she inherited me. She saw no use for PR and marketing. She did let me stay on for eight more months, as a volunteer, so I could complete projects that had begun, including a scholarship that I had set up for immigrants and refugees through a university system. Then four months after I was gone, she called me to see if I’d recommend someone that she needed to replace all that I had done. I just blinked my eyes…

Somehow, the people I’ve mentioned above who want me to convince them of marketing in 500 words or less, and this person who hated that PR didn’t being immediate and provable money to her daily coffers, are one-in-the-same.

If you don’t get it, I won’t be the one to convince you… But, time will prove to you that you needed to do something to play a better game.



Diaz Communications,Event,Food & Wine,Russian River Valley,Sonoma,Sonoma County,Wine,Zinfandel

Acorn Winery ~ 25 years in the making and worth the celebration

Acorn Winery  & Alegría Vineyard

When Acorn Winery was just a twinkle in Bill Nachbaur‘s eye, I was there to see the glow. At that time, Bill and Betsy Nachbaur only owned Alegría Vineyards, and Bill was getting itchy to see what his grapes would taste like, if he were involved in the winemaking process. Bill and I were both in a wine sales and marketing class at Santa Rosa Junior College. SRJC’s courses are taught by local professionals representing their vocations. In the case of the wine sales and marketing degree program that I took, all of the classes were taught by local wine pros, including the one that Bill and I attended.

I was there to learn about marketing wine. I was in wine sales at the time. And Bill was ready to move to the next step of owning a vineyard. Everything he learned was being applied to creating his brand; everything I learned helped me with Belvedere wine sales. (I used to sell wine in Northern CA, Northern NV, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Iowa, and Puerto Rico. As I told everyone at V. Suarez in Puerto Rico, “Mi esposo es en puertorriqueño.” I consequently sold a lot of wine on the island.)

From Classroom…

Meanwhile, Bill and Betsy were also planning for their future success. Bill and I were on the same team, for a wine company presentation. We were all given the name of a winery and we had to completely create the legend, a press kit, and all the marketing materials. Bill took what we worked on together as a group and applied it to his new wine company name of Acorn Winery.

Neither one of us realized that we were living only a few miles from each other at the time, and it took years after before I realized where he was and what he had accomplished. Now, as neighbors and former classmates, I’m willing to help when they need us… Acorn Winery and Diaz Communication. They aren’t clients, they’re friends. We just help each other, just as we did in class. It’s a friendly,  personal thing…

to 25 Years Later…

And so, when they wanted advice on how to celebrate their twenty-fifth vintage, Jose and I sat with them at their winery; and then, again, over dinner to explore their options. (This image is of son Peter, enjoying the event with parents Betsy and Bill.)

When we got their invitation, we were so ready… Let me just say, they were so successful at getting out the word, that Jose and I circled the entire property and had to go back onto Old Redwood Highway, to circle back again and see if someone had pulled out. We found one spot, but not before I had told Jose in preparation for not finding a parking spot, “Okay, if there’s no spot, we’ll go back again, I’ll jump out and visit.  You go back around, and when you return, you get out and I’ll go around the property again. We can do this until a spot becomes open. It wasn’t that they had no parking available; it was because they’ve got a tremendous fan base and they came out in droves.

On Sunday, October 19, from noon to 4:00 .p.m, we were greeted by staff, and then celebrated Acorn Winery’s twenty fifth harvest, from their Alegría Vineyards. The wine staff not only poured the current and library ACORN wines, but they also poured wines made by other wineries from the Alegría Vineyard grapes (both images below are representative).

All of these wines were accompanied by nibbles from ZIN Restaurant and Wine Bar… a delicious day, as well as being gorgeous Sonoma County weather.

It’s delightful to have watched, for over two decades, a wine inspiration become a winery destination.

The following are images from the celebration



Wine,Wine HIstory

Throwback Thursday ~ Wine and other medicinals

Here’s a little Throwback Thursday for you…

These Were the Good Ole Days?

I just got one of those Emails that circulates around and around until it finally makes its way to your computer. Being in the wine business, I’m fascinated by the history of wine. I didn’t realize that at the turn of the twentieth century, wine had the following medicinal uses. This stuff makes medical marijuana look like pablum by comparison. I do believe in medical maryjane, BTW. It comes from nature, and could be managed by the FDA, but I imagine that pharmaceutical companies have a major invested interest in their chemical concoctions continuing to be produced to the exclusion of marijuana. Who knows the havoc chemicals causes our bodies? Can we process that stuff without doing eventual damage to our liver and kidneys? These are the questions I take to heart. Meanwhile, this flash from the past is like walking through a snake oil museum. Enjoy!

Bayer’s Heroin:

A bottle of Bayer’s heroin existed between 1890 and 1910. Heroin was sold as a non-addictive substitute for morphine. It was also used to treat children with a strong cough. What’s that non-addictive stuff about? Just goes to prove how the marketing arm turns, and what jest it spit out for us to swallow… literally.

Coca Wine, anyone?

Mariani Wine (1875): This was the most famous Coca wine of it’s time. Pope Leo XIII used to carry one bottle with him all the time. He awarded Angelo Mariani (the producer) with a Vatican gold medal. I honestly think that if priests were allowed to marry, all these issues of not being able to face a day as a human being – but trapped in that kind of a body – would just go away. I can say this, as I recover from my youth being spent in a Catholic School.

Maltine Coca Wine: Produced by Maltine Manufacturing Company of New York, it was suggested that you should take a full glass with or after every meal… Children should take half a glass. I like the philosophy (for adults, only), just remove the cocaine, please. That’s a bit over the top for functioning after a meal.

Metcalf Coca Wine was one of a huge variety of wines with cocaine that was commercially on the market. Everybody used to say that it would make you happy and it would also work as a medicinal treatment. We’ve got a few examples of this one. Totally kookie. I’ve not yet heard about this one. I wonder if all of this gave birth to the FDA. Feel free to jump in and educate me on this one. At some point it would be fun to do some research on it. For today’s purposes, I just spent a boatload of time just copying these images, so they didn’t distort.

C.F. Boehringer & Soehne’s Quinine and Cocaine: The paper weight image is promoting C.F. Boehringer & Soehne from Mannheim, Germany. The company was promoting the fact that they were the biggest producers in the world of products containing quinine and cocaine.

Opium for Asthma, National Vaporizer Company: Vapor Oil Treatment No. 6 contained 40 percent alcohol and three grams of opium per ounce. Sure to cure “the vapors,” it was recommended for asthma and other spasmodic affections, the price was 50 cents, and was produced in Kalamazoo, Michigan. June 30, 1908 date is on the side of the bottle.

Dragees Antiseptiques Au Menthol: A product of Anvers, France, at the time it was recommended that this snake oil was to be used by all stage actors, singers, teachers, and preachers, in order to have a maximum performance. It was “Great to ‘smooth’ the voice.” This was a cocaine product.

Lloyd Manufacturing Company: It was advertised as being very popular for children in 1885. “Not only did they relieve the pain, they made the children happy!” Instantaneous cure. Price was $0.15. Produced in Albany, New York.

Stickney and Poor’s Paregoric: It was used to treat diarrhea, but moms also learned that it would quickly help a fussy child fall asleep. This old image shows that it contained 1 1/16th gram of opium and was 46 percent alcohol. Today? Paregoric Oral is still used to treat diarrhea, and Paregoric Oral may also be used to treat Codeine/Morphine-Like drug dependence of a newborn.

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Italy,Pinot Gris,Washington,Wine,Wine Business,Winery

Stiletto Wine ~ The making of a wine brand

Stiletto Wines is brought to us by Middleton Family Wines. Middleton is based in Washington State, and these wines have been carefully selected and imported from Sicily.

Four generations of family have been contributing to this company. According to them, “Our family has been working the land since 1898, when we started a lumber business in Aberdeen, on the coast of Washington State. We began with lumber and forestry, and have thoughtfully and gradually expanded our family business to include table grapes, wine grapes, and wine.”


Stilettos are tiny stilts in my world… the miniature of stilts for many young women who wear them almost everyday. Something that I’ll not be wearing in this lifetime, because my days of provocative fashion are well over. I left that and the cat walk behind in 1969, when modeling was no longer important to me… I had come to age in my own world when I didn’t need any more props, like stilts. I can, however, still remember how important props were to me and the thrill of being at the height of fashion (as one chosen to walk a ramp with the latest styles), when it was my time to do it right.

Now, I look at young women in stiletto shoes and marvel at a few things:

  • How the heck they can balance themselves, while on the dance floor
  • The size of the platforms that supports their bodies
  • The ultimate lift of today’s shoes
  • And no one has considered their skeletal systems; or maybe someone has, like a chiropractor or a neurosurgeon, dreaming about future patients.

Meanwhile, these young women in stilettos look great… they really do.

Now, imagine sitting around and wanting to start a wine line. You have to think of a name and what you have to consider in the process.

Stiletto Wines

What’s the back story

  • is there a family behind this wine ~ the Middleton Family
  • what’s the region of origin ~ Sicily
  • is it domestic or imported ~ imported

What names

  • aren’t taken ~ Stiletto:
  • will attract ~ both men and women for the obvious reasons
  • are emotive ~ Very… I gave you a story about Stiletto, without even trying

What color packaging

  • Stiletto Wines matches with what variety
    • Yellow with Moscato
    • Green with Pinot Grigio
    • Red with Rosso (red wine)

The Middleton family was approached by two Ruffino veterans Michael Truffini and Alessandro Costantini. At first the Middleton family said TBNT (thanks, but no thanks). The Ruffino vets asked the Middleton Wines family to take a closer look, so, as a courtesy they did. And, what they found changed their minds:

  • Sicily is very quickly becoming the next bet thing from Italy. (Opportunity)
  • The wines offer top quality and great value. (Opportunity)
  • They also found that their distributor partner’s books had few if any Sicilian wines (Opportunity)
  • Substantive winery partner: Cantine Ermes is Sicily’s 2nd largest winery (Opportunity)
  • All-occasion wines: lower alcohol, fresh and fruity, to match today’s to cuisine (Opportunity)

On closer look, this appeared to be a win-win, so the family has gone with it, and the suggested retail is only $9.99 a bottle. This is a price that anyone can get behind, if the wines are worth it?

Are they? Oh, yes…

  • 2012 Stiletto Moscato
    • Typical orange blossoms and white peach flavors, being a southern Italian wine, expect it to also have subtle tropical flavors of pineapple and a hint of banana.
  • 2012 Stiletto Pinot Grigio
    • Citrus and pears mark this wine with distinction… Along with floral notes.
  • 2013 Stiletto Rosso
    • Juicy, ruby red berries, with a medium smooth finish… with the “medium” being attributed to the length of the finish, as tannins don’t dominate… silky fruit does.

Disclaimer: Middleton Family of Wines is one of our Diaz Communications clients. We don’t, however, take on clients without approving of their products and integrity of the people with whom we work, first and foremost. I would highly recommend this wine regardless of the company being a client or not.



Food & Wine,PR Advice,Public Relations,Restaurants,Travel,Wine

Customer service PR lessons; the good, bad, and the ugly ~ Part 2

Today’s part of this two part story is about the good…. Culinary customer service at its worst… Yesterday’s blog post was about customer service at its best.


Jose and I recently went to the Asheville, North Carolina, area to visit my daughter Katie, son-in-law Ray, and our two grandsons; Jonathan (14 years old) and Nate (11 years old). Jonathan decided to create a culinary adventure for us, once he knew we were coming to visit.

Both J and Nate have been on ice skates from the time each of them could walk; a tradition for both sides of their families. Now they both play a good amount of hockey, so some of our dining out was due to Jonathan’s hockey schedule while we were there; but, the rest of our dining was based on Jonathan’s choreographing our culinary feasts…

Jonathan and Nate were also having Monday and Tuesday as school-free days, due to workshops in their town. We knew we were flying in Asheville to experience dining out, from the eyes of our 14 year old grandson. Which as quite an adventure. In these experiences was also our final meal, of having leftovers together. He had it all mapped out.

What we experienced, though, was not about the food (it was all very good), the ambiance (also very respectable), and most of the locations (Asheville is gorgeous). The experiences we had had to do with customer service PR; from what to do well, to what to never do, as that could be the kiss of death.


The BAD goes to Mellow Mushroom in Asheville.

This has been a family favorite location since my kids first moved there. It’s downtown, it’s eclectic, and the food’s always delicious. No complaints this time with any of the usuals just mentioned. It was also a gorgeous day, mid 70s in October, no complaints about that, either.

What was unusual, though, was the hostess. Mellow Mushroom has an outside dining location at the front of the restaurant, and we decided that we wanted to have lunch outside. When we approached the hostess, she began… “Well, your wait server just got another table and you’re going to have to wait a long time before he can help you.” (For the record, there was no waiting, he was prompt, helpful, and very friendly.) She continued, “The only table over there, which will fit your group, is partially in the sun. You’re not going to like it,” or some such yammering. (For the record, those of us who wanted the sun sat in it, and those who wanted shade sat under the umbrella. There was no conflict, except in her mind.)

I was going to cut her some slack… Perhaps she was feeling ill, maybe she had a headache, maybe she wanted to be out with friends but had to work… Something seemed to be irking her.

I watched as she sat a family with two small children. She brought over high chairs and rolled her eyes as she placed them at the table. “They must be so heavy for her to carry,” I thought, beginning to see the real person. I mentioned it to Katie, because now it was becoming almost comical. Once the family sat down, she walked away, continuing to roll her eyes like they were the family from hell. (Didn’t she realize that she was making a public spectacle of herself?) Lost in her own world, we realized that she really needs another job, which serves her passions, and isn’t a disservice to the company that has hired her.

The coup de grace? I went inside to use the ladies room, before leaving. The big place was empty, except for just one family. Everyone was outside, and perhaps that was her bugaboo. As I was exiting the restaurant, this young woman was entering. She was reading something that was greatly amusing her (proving that she can be happy) and walked right past me as I held the door for her, like I was her door person. No thank you, no smile, no acknowledgement that I even existed… The door had magically opened for her self absorbed self. That did it for me.

PR LESSON: Keep an eye on your staff. Just because someone is artsy, doesn’t mean that this person should be the face of your establishment. I’ll never return. She’s set a stage of being insulting and I’m not into S&M, unless the management reads this and issues an apology. I doubt that that will happen; this is just my wine blog, so it’s off my list for the future.

The UGLY goes to Smash Burger in Irmo, South Carolina.

We were in South Carolina, because Jonathan had three hockey games that weekend, and this was our first dining experience. After the first game on Saturday evening, Katie suggested that we all go to Smash Burger. When it’s fast food, you don’t think to call ahead to say that a large party is arriving, but perhaps we should have, upon reflection. I have no beef with the company. I had a great salad, but it became complicated to even enjoy it.

We all arrived, with Michelle and Ed just behind us. We knew that they were “in the weeds,” as they say, because they told us that it would take 20 minutes for our order. But, little did any of us know that once my order had been filled (and it took a very long time to do for a simple salad), poop would hit the fan. You need to also know that perhaps 20 more parties (hockey people and other people not connected to us) placed orders after mine.

Mine was the cut off… it was over, just as I was about to eat my salad. The manager came out and first announced that she had been there all day (we could understand that, as we’ve all been there). Next, she explained that all orders for people who had been waiting for theirs perhaps for as long as a half hour (like Michelle, her husband, and their children) were going to have to be refunded their money. She went on to explain that they would have to prep every order in order to feed everyone, and that wasn’t possible, because they lacked the staff. People had called in sick and had left early that day, and they couldn’t recover.

Major grumblings; but hey, poop happens.

What then happened as everyone was refunded and then headed next door to Moe’s… (yeah, the same consistent Moe’s above) was the deal breaker for many, including Michelle. She got her money back for the food she ordered, but the manager REFUSED to refund the beverages. The manager’s thinking was, “I can’t give you a free beer.”

Oh my gawd… For the cost of drinks, she lost innumerable customers, I could see, when Michelle said, “Never again, Smash Burger, never again.”

PR LESSON: If you run out of food, offer something as a goodwill gesture… a coupon for a free soda next time, for example. This gives someone a reason to return. And for gawd’s sake, if people have been having a beverage for a half hour while waiting for anticipated food… COMP it. A coupon for next time is a MUST… Or, perhaps a discount on a total order. Offer SOMETHING, anything. Don’t spend time bickering over the cost of a drink and refusing to refund it. Once the announcement had been made that there was no more food, it took another half hour to process the whole deal, before these people could go next door. Moe’s won, Smash Burger lost in a big way.

No matter how good my salad was, this wasn’t good, and so it was a sad fail for all of us, even if we got our food.

Good customer service PR is the difference between bending over backwards to please customers and clients, or feeling like it’s beyond your dignity… And, that’s the difference between success and failure.


Food & Wine,PR Advice,Public Relations,Restaurants,Travel,Wine

Customer service PR lessons; the good, bad, and the ugly ~ Part 1

Today’s part of this two part story is about the good…. Culinary customer service at its best…

Who thought when I’d visit my kids I’d end up with a customer service story. Proving… you can take the wine PR person out of wine country, but you can’t take the PR out of the wine person. And so, it didn’t take long to realize a constant customer service PR theme.

Jose and I recently went to the Ashville, North Carolina, area to visit my daughter Katie, son-in-law Ray, and our two grandsons; Jonathan (14 years old) and Nate (11 years old). Jonathan decided to create a culinary adventure for us, once he knew we were coming to visit.

Both J and Nate have been on ice skates from the time each of them could walk; a tradition for both sides of their families. Now they both play a good amount of hockey, so some of our dining out was due to Jonathan’s hockey schedule while we were there; but, the rest of our dining was based on Jonathan’s choreographing our culinary feasts…

Jonathan and Nate were also having Monday and Tuesday as school-free days, due to workshops in their town. We knew we were flying in Asheville to experience dining out, from the eyes of our 14 year old grandson. Which was quite an adventure. In these experiences was also our final meal, of having leftovers together. He had it all mapped out.

What we experienced, though, was not about the food (it was all very good), the ambiance (also very respectable), and most of the locations (Asheville is gorgeous). The experiences we had had to do with customer service PR; from what to do well, to what to never do, as that could be the kiss of death.

Let’s start at the top, and each one has an excellent PR lesson.

The BEST goes to PF Chang’s in Asheville.

Yes, a franchise location. Menu and decor was created by my wine/chef pal Mark Miller of Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A lover of Asian culture and food, Mark has done a great job. As usual, we all loved the food. But, it was all about their approach to PR that really made this restaurant the BEST on our list.

Nate is like me; he has a super palate. He has very few “loves” in food, but he’s also willing to try, and he’s a gifted artist, too. Katie asked a wait server passing by our table if Nate could have the “chop stick set up.” This is when someone ties a rubber band around the ends of the chop sticks, so kids can begin to get the hang of it. The wait server misunderstood, and she brought Nate another pair of chop sticks. Katie apologized for not being more clear in her request, the wait server smiles and nodded, and disappeared… She reappeared with not only the chop sticks “all set” for Nate, but she also brought a children’s menu to him with a box of crayons. Somehow she had picked up the artist in our young man, and delivered something to him that was delightful. Nate spent the rest of his time coloring dragons and Asian cultural pictures until the food arrived. GREAT MOVE.

Our actual wait server was attentive to every detail, and made every effort to give us the best dining experience possible. This had also come after a few missteps (below) by others, so we were given a break at PF Changs.

PR LESSON: We’ll always return with this kind of service, from both our regular server and someone who just took the time to make it the best possible experience that it was.

The BETTER goes to Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack in South Asheville.

This one is all things hot, as it pertains to chicken…. unless you get the rotisserie chicken.

I went for mild wings and they’re hot. Katie warned me that everything is hot, just as the name suggests. If you love hot, you’ll love Rocky’s. The food was fun, as was all else. Their PR was also really great. Katie’s order was also a mild order, which she’s ordered numerous times before, but this time it was different in that it was way to much for her. Having been a wait server (through high school and college vacations), she wasn’t afraid to say something.

Our wait server didn’t argue, because no one was going to taste it to get a read on its hotness. She was served another “mild chicken.” Remember, mild will make your eyes water at Rocky’s, if your not a masochist and I say this very affectionately. Her next plate was really down a notch, just in case… They didn’t know her and they weren’t going to take any chances. As she tasted it, she told the wait server that it was milder than normal, but it was okay. She still enjoyed her lunch.

PR LESSON: We’ll always return here, because they made the effort, with no questions asked. While they erred on the side of caution to keep a family returning, they hit a bull’s eye. None of us could be upset with this decision. She knows next time, she’ll get what she wants, no doubt, but also didn’t have to struggle with anyone to have a decent experience.

The GOOD goes to Moe’s Southwest Grill

A fast food, Mexican cuisine franchise, they know what they’re doing and prep for the unforeseen.

PR LESSON: Great attitudes get return customers who build your business. We always do when in North Carolina.. But, they’re everywhere, people. They’ve carefully and purposefully created their own success.

Tomorrow, Part 2, The Bad and the Ugly; and sadly, they truly are…