PR Advice,Public Relations,Wine

The Thank You That Changed My Thinking

Do you have a publicist?

Second question… Have you ever said thank you?

PR – for the most part – is a really thankless job in many regards, and so it should be. I have no doubt about that one. I’ve learned some things along that way that are really worth sharing, though, that have to do with those who have the need for not only a publicist, but also a charm school education. I’ve experienced events worth sharing; things to make you think, and have a better handle on those who help you achieve your goals.

I’m going to first cite some examples from my 30+ years of being a publicist.

First, why anyone would need a publicist?

When I was an artist, I couldn’t say to a potential customer, “Didn’t I do a great job?” That would be ridiculous, right? I’d rather follow in Vincent van Gogh’s footsteps and cut off an ear.

That was the best lesson for me, prior to becoming a publicist. I can tell story’s about others, but I can’t tell about my own accomplishments. My accomplishments aren’t ego driven; they’re task driven. I also subscribe to King James Bible verse of “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” I easily trip in clumsy moments. I don’t need any incentives or help in tripping.

I take my accomplishments as a benchmark being met… Nothing more, nothing less. It’s a great feeling to just get ‘er done.

Charm School Drop Out #1

I had one client a long time ago who said to a wine journalist, whom I had brought to his house on a Saturday morning, “I would never allow to have my publicist in a story about me.” The journalist was quietly taken aback, as was I… both of us blinking…

  1. It was said in my presence, with only three of us being in his kitchen at the time, like I wasn’t event there.
  2. Bringing this writer to him was never supposed to be about me, so “what was he doing?” I thought.
  3. He was never written about by this writer, either, because he didn’t pass Charm School 101, I can only imagine.

Charm School Drop Out #2

During a party, when I tried to introduce a journalist to the host, he verbally abused her. She cut him some slack for being under stress. Clients can be trying, and this one was an extreme case. I didn’t cut him any slack, though. He was just rude, I’m only writing this to show how the job can be thankless for all of us along the chain of publicity, including a writer, of all people.

It doesn’t always have to be this way, and for the most part it isn’t. It’s the only solace I have in this story. I didn’t work for him anymore after this event.

Charm School Drop Out #3 (Final)

Each time I got publicity for this one man, he became hard to manage for a while. When the publicity ended up on his desk, it was like the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde was reignited again. He’d be as nice as nice could be, until something was published. Then, he’s turn into this man who treated me very poorly… as if he was say, “This is about me, not you… You did nothing for this story. I spent my life developing it!”

Well, he did. No argument there. What he missed in this process, though, are the bridges that he didn’t have before I came into his life. Publicists have back stage passes, which some wine writers like to hold in reserve, even. The passes had dried up for him years before, but I breathed new life into his story. I had one person in that company tell me, “You’ve gotten more publicity for this company in one year, than it’s had in its multiple decades of existence.”

That was a great thank you and much appreciated from my friend Lynn. It didn’t come from Dr. Jekyll, though, so it makes for this example.

The Director of Charm School

This past week, I was just reminded… a man for whom I have the utmost respect, to begin with. I believe the universe delivered him to me for a very specific reason. I had to first pass the above tests (along with others), so I could share these stories with you as examples of what not to do.

It’s also great to have that cherry on the top of a hot fudge sundae, isn’t it… And, it was just delivered.

I have a client who is one of the kindest, most generous men I’ve ever met. I have to credit it to his upbringing. Why I say that is when you’re raised in an environment that challenges you continually, instead of simply nurturing you along the way, it takes a bit longer to understand the basics of Charm School. I won’t mention his name, because he’s so humble that he’ll become really uncomfortable, and I don’t want to do that. I just want to let people in my profession know, princes do exist and they’re willing to thank you in ways that will make you exclaim, “What?!” His personal message of thanks, hand written, and sent to me as a “person,”  not as a company performing, and his generosity in ways that I’ve not experienced in the last 33 years of my PR career was like receiving an Oscar.

He told me that I’m an “EXCELLENT writer”… Rarely heard, as I plug away. I’m just doing my job, not looking for applause, but when it comes, it’s delightful.

What a feeling…

Do you have a publicist? Have you ever said thank you to her or him? Would you even consider doing so?

If yes, to all of these questions, you, too, are a prince or princess among princes or princesses. As I’ve said about other things that I’ve witnessed in my life, I’m happy that I lived long enough for this one.


Alameda,Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah®,Dark & Delicious™,Education,Environment,Event,Food & Wine,P.S.A.,Public Service Announcement,Wine

Food safety guidelines for wine and food events, the rigors

I was told, by one of our food partners, at Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah, The Alameda County Environmental Health Department is the most stringent, for compliance regulations being met in the entire US, as an example of letter-of-the-law compliant. That’s the bad news. The good news is that any event, which anyone goes to in Alameda County having been issued a license by the the Environmental Health Department, is going to be one of the cleanest and safest in the entire United States.

My partner told us that nothing is equal to the hoops that each food partner just had to meet and pass for our Dark & Delicious event. I, too, as the organizer, had to jump through hoops I would never have imagined, and am now feeling a bit more seasoned.

As a public service, I’m going to share their rules and regulations, which you can also find on line (links will be provided). If you landed here by searching on “food safety guidelines for wine and food events,” this blog will pop up as a precursor. You have to dig through a site searching for the right forms; so this one will make life a bit easier for you. I’m saying this from experience, now. This is my public service to you, organizer, with my blessings for an easier go of it.

Also, it’s my firm belief that Alameda County is just the beginning for how it will all later become. They’re the benchmark… period. So, get prepared. If you’re attending a wine and food event, and the event organizer has the Food Safety license, you’ll feel more comfortable that everything is as it should be, and no one gets food poisoning, right?

I can give you the gory details of my own food poisoning experiences in Vermont, at one such wine and food event; but I’m going to spare you.

I, more than anyone else, understand why this had to happen at my wine and food event. I just wish I had had more time, and the minimum of $150/hour for the event didn’t have to have a 10-hour minimum rule, which equaled $1,500 in the final minutes of setting up the event for that same night. It’s a steep learning curve.

So, be forewarned… It’s also very expensive, comparative speaking, if you’re a small event.

Begin with your Alameda County Environmental Health Department Sponsor Application Health Permit for Sponsors of Food Facilities at Temporary Events. Then, follow all of their rules and regulations. Give yourself a month to get it all done.

Next, you’re going to have to prepare for a shopping spree, or you can rent it all.

Temporary Event Booth, Preinspection/Self Inspection Form~ Page 1

I didn’t get these papers until a few hours before our “doors” opened. This gave my poor husband a very small amount of time to go shopping for items that he couldn’t even yet imagine. He had gone out about a half hour earlier to get other things that I needed, at the last minute. (This happens to all of us, when we’re setting up an event, no matter how good your inventory details are. “Expect the unexpected” is the rule of thumb.) All of a sudden, he got my panicked phone call, telling him he had to buy things he couldn’t even envision.

The following, however, are best not left to that rule for expecting the unexpected. Get them gathered early, a month in advance, and you’ll be a much happier organizer.

Necessary washing stations for vendors ~ Page 2

We needed nine of these utensil washing stations, because we had 11 food partners. Four of the partners were within five feet of the station, so we didn’t need to have the other two, to make 11 of them. (It was nine tables, 27 bins, nine water jugs, paper towels, soap for washing utensils, solution of sterilizing utensils, soap for hand washing…)

Make a separate check list, or you’ll forget something.

All wine companies had to have the Wash Hands Set-Up within five feet of them. We had 50 wineries. We needed to have one behind each two 8-foot tables that were joined together. So, prepare for at least half of your tables around your event space having a hand washing station behind them. I know, who’s ever done that in all of the Untied States wine events? Don’t forget your tables for them, either…. Table, water, big bucket, soap, and paper towels, a rack for the dishes.

I’ve never seen a crew set up anything so fast as furiously as Rock Wall Wine Company.

This is all serious business and it’s the future. Like I had to, “Get over it, it’s the law.”

We’ll all be safer for it.

Final thought

No matter where I set up a wine and/or wine and food event, I’ll be checking in with the county first. I figure I have one of two options:

  1. Check in with the county, pay the fees, and comply.
  2. Forgo the county, buy event catastrophe insurance, pray I don’t need it, and then refund everyone, because I didn’t do the job right.

Honestly, Plan Number 1 makes the most sense. Frightened with the potential canceled event, it was a lot easier to comply, regardless of how complicated it was. It would have been a major disaster to tell everyone, “we’ll be reimbursing you.” Besides the ill will that would come from that, my career would have ended on the spot. I’d rather do the work, than be out of work.

Take the education and get on with your life, that’s my motto.



Wine,Wine Blogger,Wine Writer

Pardonez moi in writing

Portia (1888) by Henry Woods… Portia is the heroine in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

This is my wine publicist’s journal. In most journals, nothing written matters to anyone but the author… but this one is public. In a public one, everything matters to everyone.

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

The Merchant Of Venice Act 4, scene 1, 180–187

I really do appreciate the edits that people tell me exist.

  • I pull an 80 hour week, perhaps like you do.
    • So you know how exhausting life can be.
    • You manage my slips very well.
  • Keeping up with the blog is fun.
    • Mostly.
  • I feel a commitment to it.
    • Sometimes it’s a real chore.
    • Not writing everyday has people running for the hills.
  • It’s not a paying gig.
    • And I do work for money as a private contractor.
    • Sometimes I wonder, “Why have I made this public?”
    • But, I know that some of this is helpful for others, including flubs… They happen.

When I edit my blog posts, I’m like everyone else

  • I read it as I think it is, not as how it really exists.
    • So, I miss things someone else might not – like you did.
  • I pay an editor for a fee, which will never be returned from this writing situation.
    • But, she also has a life and may not get to the blog post before I launch it.

I’m not living in the days of old in journalism

  •  A story was written.
    • Edited by the author.
  • Handed to the editor of the book, newspaper, magazine, television or film producer, and a final brush-through happened.
  • This is the way that very few mistakes were made.
    • Do you ever go online to find the flubs in any given film?
  • But, still, makes get through; factual and otherwise.

From Successful Blogging:

“For me blog post editing takes longer than writing the post. I may spend one or two hours writing a blog post[;] then, four to eight hours perfecting it. Even then typos can and do slip in sometimes.”

[I just found a place where a semi colon should have been, in the quote above; so, I’m demonstrating that there’s no perfection in this world, by anyone, all of us included.]

Boy, I wish I had her devotion and time, though. I also take a couple hours of writing, but then even more time editing. For me, it’s more like two to four hours of edits. Pay me for those six hours, and I’ll go the extra mile.

Writing is a four-step process

  1. Thinking about the story.
  2. Writing the story.
  3. Editing the story.
  4. Re-writing the story.
    • And the editing continues and continues; for not only content, but also for making sure the edits are happening along the way for style, content, typos, and grammar.

And, I continue to still make mistakes.

So, if you’ve gotten this far in how I’m continuing to write my journal and you find that mistake(s), just leave a comment.

  1. I’ll edit it.
  2. I’ll thank you, with a big pardonez moi.

And I repeat:

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

This blog of 586 words just took four  hours to think about it, do some research, write, edit, and rewrite it…. For free… It’s a journal, people, and that is all. And, yes, I can easily read this below.


Food & Wine,PR Advice,Wine,Winery

From the “Get a Clue” department on Bad PR form

Get a clue, PR people…You’re giving all of us a really bad name, when you do something like the following story, but before I go there…

I once read how this one writer hates PR reps. I didn’t get “why,” because PR people try to bring joy to writers, so they have a good story. We wouldn’t work for someone who’s not worthy, right? When I just read the following on Facebook, I was horrified.

From one of my wine writing friends…

SO ladies what do you do if: A PR rep invites you to a wine dinner, which you assume is a media dinner. Upon arrival and introductions it seems to be a public dinner. The restaurant asks if you want to “revisit” any of the wines (he sees you taking notes and pictures of bottles). At the end of the meal you’re presented with a bill the size of a week’s groceries, and the local sales rep insists you need to get HIS PR rep to call him to prove you shouldn’t pick up the check. Thoughts?

I’m going to withhold the name of the winery and agency pending resolution. I did email the agency and got an OMG response (yes, I was supposed to be comped) and they are checking out what went wrong on their end. But this is why I rarely attend open to the public events upon invitation by a PR rep. If I pay to attend then I rarely write about it unless it’s Fabulous or Horrendous.

I wrote to her:

This PR person isn’t worth his/her salt. NEVER, in my 32 years of practicing PR have I ever done such a thing. N-E-V-E-R This person isn’t going to last long. The agency is going DOWN.

I think the PR folks just assume the sales folks ‘get it.’ And the winery should have moved past OMG into “what was your bill?” Jeeze… Ruining the profession.

She wrote:

I think it’s more the sales guy is new and doesn’t understand /appreciate social media. Figured I was “just some blogger trying to get a free meal.” And I had cc’d the agency reps boss who apologized profusely. The sales guy did end up paying… But I had to argue with him. It seems to be always a local issue. The local reps just don’t seem to appreciate the local bloggers. Anyone else find that?

The thread went on and on, justifiably so.

How easily this gives PR people a bad name. What is wrong with these neophytes, besides having missed PR 101?

I, too, get invitations to wineries events… as an “invite.” “You’re cordially invited…” I’ve never taken anyone up on the offer, because there’s a “register here” aspect, which involves a credit card, most of the time. That’s a dead giveaway that you’ve been blended into the consumer database and maybe you’ll write about this event pre-the-event to help them sell tickets?

Get your databases in order, if this is the case. As in sales, “Know your audience.”

I have no reason to go to someone’s event, so I can pay for it and then be expected to write about it. But, the entire new breed of wine bloggers, who are writing about wine, are unfamiliar with established protocol. They then experience the shock of being “presented a bill the size of a week’s groceries.”

Do these wine reps even get that writers don’t make a bundle of money? Yeah, that’s right/write.

Secondly, if you invite a writer and there’s food involved, do you honestly think that that writer then owes you anything, if you’ve made him or her pay for the meal, after an INVITE?

No one is paying a blogger to write anything; so if you engage a writer, think of it like an engagement ring… When you give an engagement ring to someone, would you even consider presenting that person with a bill?

That’s the clue!


Public Relations,Wine

Don’t burn bridges ~ PR 101

The Lion and Mouse
An Aesop’s Fable

Once when a Lion was asleep a little Mouse began running up and down upon him; this soon wakened the Lion, who placed his huge paw upon him, and opened his big jaws to swallow him. “Pardon, O King,” cried the little Mouse: “forgive me this time, I shall never forget it: who knows but what I may be able to do you a turn some of these days?” The Lion was so tickled at the idea of the Mouse being able to help him, that he lifted up his paw and let him go. Some time after the Lion was caught in a trap, and the hunters who desired to carry him alive to the King, tied him to a tree while they went in search of a wagon to carry him on. Just then the little Mouse happened to pass by, and seeing the sad plight in which the Lion was, went up to him and soon gnawed away the ropes that bound the King of the Beasts. “Was I not right?” said the little Mouse…. Little friends may prove great friends.

It took me a while to learn this one, I have to admit… And, it was taught to me as a child through Aesop’s Fables.

The story is The Lion and the Mouse. It’s been around since 620 B.C.; so most of us have either heard the story, or we’ve read it on our own.

I’ve learned the hard way that this is important PR advice, regardless of the industry. This has been important in all of my careers. (I’ve had seven different ones… including the most important one, motherhood.)

I find myself suggesting this to people, from time to time… Don’t burn any bridges that you don’t have to. I could write lots of words right now about why it’s important to not burn our bridges. I’ll suffice it to say, we do get better with this as we get older… Patience and acceptance of what is at odds with our thinking comes into play more and more as we age.

I have learned over the years, it’s better to see an obstacle as an opportunity for more information, than a be-all-to-end-all stumbling block… Just sayin’…

So, instead of writing more reasons why we’re well advised to not burn our bridges, here’s the story as a refresher, for anyone who’s forgotten and wants to return to the days of youthful stories being handed to us as wisdom…

[Image borrowed from MyFolklore.net]


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Wine,Wine & Food

The food safety license was issued at 5:59 p.m.

… Which allowed the doors to open for another Dark & Delicious at 6:00 p.m., only one minute later. Why? Because we had just successfully passed the food safety licensing requirements of Alameda County. It wasn’t ever official, until that very minute.

Yeah, Dark & Delicious 2015 is going down in history as the steepest learning curve in my 40+ years of event planning. Let’s just say, as you get older, don’t expect things to get easier. Each year you live, the rules and regulation have matured right along with you.

Warning… if you’re having a wine and food event in the future, you’d darn well better read this blog; or this, too, could happen to you.

The US has always had laws for safe food handling; probably right after wagon trains crossed the great divide of settling the west, coming from the east coast.  No harm, no foul on today’s regulations. We’ve come a long way, baby… as the saying goes… since wagon train chow was whatever it was with no one standing over anyone’s shoulder.

Now… Lately, there’s been a tremendous crack down on rules and regulations, with tickets being handed out all over the place, I just heard… And, I’ve been completely out of that loop. But, not anymore.

I’m completely prepared for getting my ABC liquor license; which, for the first year, was also a tremendous learning curve.

Nothing, I mean NOTHING, like I’ve just been through, has ever made me jump through hoops of this proportion.

During the event, I’d point to this barrel hoop sculpture (photo above) and say, “See those hoops? I’ve just jumped through all of them, and it only cost me $3,000.”

Start with a license fine penalty, because I began my process late in the game. I’ve never had to get a food license before (or so I thought) and was told within a week of the event that I needed one. What?

For me, it would have taken 30 days to prepare under proper conditions. I have a ton of all the other details I have to do each year for Dark & Delicious, with many of them being the exact week before. Some of them definitely fell through the cracks this year, because the food safety license took over my life, waking and sleeping. (I’m now sighing and raising my eyebrows in wonder.)

I had one winemaker say to me, and it’s true, “We only got our food partner two days before the event. So, I don’t know how you pulled it all off.”

This is because the winery and food partner had been traveling all around together for other events, and this one was their recent fourth. It had to be figured out if it could even happen or not. It happened in the final hour.

I had someone else tell me, who travels the nation, that “This was the most rigorous investigation, based on the food safety requirements, that I’ve ever experienced in ALL of the US.”

We also had six food partners bail, because they didn’t have time for the paperwork. One couldn’t come up with a safety permit for doing business with the product she was going to be serving.

That’s the complicated news. And it really was the “complicated news” for those who were used to Dark & Delicious having an abundance of food. I’m sure we’re going to be the talk of the town for a long time, as having “altered” that usual expectation. The quality and quantity of food items has been our hallmark.

The good news?

  • I passed the final inspection, at 5:59 p.m., so the doors could actually open at 6:00 p.m. as advertised and planned.
  • I now know that I can pass ANY other inspection in food safety, anywhere in the world.
  • The inspector became my new best friend, because she made our event so food safe that no one should have walked away with any food issues.
    • She was very kind and fair in the process, but would never be again if I overlook anything.
    • She – thankfully – chalked it off to my naivety and willingness to jump through those hoops (above).
  • Most people were still satisfied, and able to rise above it all, because really… we’ve always called it a wine and food event, not a food and wine event. When you’ve got handy dandy wine to drown your sorrows, right on the spot, disappointed feelings can be tempered.

Am I rethinking my business model… You bet I am. People are telling me that I’m too close to the sting to make any judgments at this time… So, I’m sitting here, letting everyone know, who might want to go through this system that I just experienced, get yourself to a class offered by the Alameda County Environmental Health Department… Because:

  • You’ll live to regret it, if you didn’t.
  • As an event planner, you can’t be too prepared.
  • After having taken their class, you can determine if it’s going to be worth your while (or not) to bring in any food partners.
  • You’ll be rest assured that you can pass an inspection, not just before your event begins.
  • NO one will be issued tickets for not having all bases covered, because you’ve covered them all.

Tomorrow, I’m going to share the hoops. For today, I’ve issued some considerations.

This all reminds me of my days as a Girl Scout Day Camp director. When I went to the council headquarters, as all day camp directors in the state of Maine gather for each year’s planning, I was taught by the best with this warning:

You’d better make sure you cover all of your bases, because if anything happens and you didn’t cover yourself, you are going to be held liable. This for a volunteer job… I could lose my home for a volunteer job? Yeah, I got with the paperwork program quickly… Anyone planning any event needs to be prepared for handling everyone’s rules and regulations, and it’s nearly a full time job.

On Tuesday: How to legally set up for a wine and food event, focusing on your environmental health permit process.


Petite Sirah,Wine

It might help to spell Syrah correctly

I got a terse and fascinating Email, which was sent after we had put out an announcement about a Petite Sirah event we annually organize,  direct, and produce.

Nothing more was said than, “It might help to spell Syrah correctly”

Jose forwarded it to me and chuckled. I read it and said, “What? Forward that to me right now.” I was in bed and had turned in for the night, but this one hit a high C chord.

I raced to my computer and waited for his E-Mail to arrive. It finally did. I began:

Dear Terry,

Regarding, “It might help to spell Syrah right.”

This is a true teachable moment. Thanks for the opportunity.

I’ve been working and marketing on behalf of Petite Sirah since 2002, and I’m happy to help you out. I created the group of PS I Love You, and am still the executive director: http://www.psiloveyou.org/ We’re dedicated to education, and as I said… this is a true teachable moment.

You did spell Syrah correctly. Now, I’m going to help you with Petite Sirah

There were a few vintners years ago who confused the matter; however, the ABC has changed all of that, by ruling that there is only one spelling of Petite Sirah, to stop the educational confusion of the two grape varieties.

If any wine brand now wants to release a Petite Sirah, it must be only spelled with an “i,” not the “y.”

Syrah is Syrah.

Petite Sirah is Petite Sirah, and you will only find it with a “y” in media misspellings of the word and a few older vintages of Stags’ Leap Winery, David Bruce, Jeff Cohn’s wine, etc.

Taking from Wiki: Petite Sirah and Petite Syrah

Petite Sirah is sometimes mistakenly spelled “Petite Syrah,” which has historically referred to a small berried clone of the Syrah grape by Rhône growers.[14] In California, immigrant vine growers introduced Syrah in 1878 and used the phrase “Petite Syrah” to refer to the lower yields that the vines then were producing in California. Actual Petite Sirah (Durif) was then introduced in 1884.[1]

On my wine blog: Petite Sirah + Syrah = Correct Spellings

Francois Durif crossed Syrah with Peloursin, and called it Durif. Charles McIver went to Montpelier, France, brought it back in 1887, and named it Petite Sirah.

In the early 2000s… like maybe 2006 or 2007(?), the ABC made its ruling of no more  Y’s.

If you go back and look at old Stags’ Leap bottles you’ll find it with the “y.” Carl Doumani told me he “just felt like it.”… Now look at their younger vintages.


Attending Dark & Delicious will also help you to see what it’s all about… on all of the labels. If it’s with a “y,” it got past a sleeping label approval at the ABC.

Best regards,


IRONY: This person has attended Dark & Delicious; but, still can’t spell it, because it was all about drinking not learning. The most fascinating part is that Terry decided to call us out for being ignorant.

Wonders Never Cease

We can’t always be right, me above all else. I’m clear that I’m here to learn, from my mistakes and otherwise. Humility over humiliation is always a great emotionally intelligent response. It lets the other person know that we appreciate the head’s up, and we fix the problem(s). Messages that disturb us are always our teachable moments.

GOOD PR: Take the time to thank someone.

BAD PR: Slink away.




Can a writer make a cent on a Website?

Question from a freelance writer: “I want to make some changes to make my Website, making it a little friendlier and to perhaps induce more people to subscribe, offering a few more members-only services. Memberships are very low and I’m not making a cent on the site. I may eventually have to go to advertising…….What to do?”

Answer: First of all, there’s nothing wrong with having advertising. Your site is awesome; so, it’s not about making it friendlier, it’s about making more friends… You need to ask yourself, “How did the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, wine magazines, etc. get going?” There’s a myth among writers that when they strike out on their own, they need to maintain their journalistic integrity by not associating with advertisers… The advertisers won’t be the wineries (budget are too small for that, or they’d be drained in no time), so there’s nothing wrong with co-marketing. You’re now in business for yourself, and co-marketing is all it is, and that’s how successful companies stay alive, by aligning themselves to the benefit of all. (Everyone has to eat.)

A winery data base is needed so that you can query wineries, let them know that you exist, samples are appreciated, etc. (“Wines & Vines” has that available. It’s a bit expensive, but it will pay for itself in time.)

You need to send an Email newsletter to everyone on the list, asking for it to be forwarded to the winery PR person. Send it through a company like Vertical Response, so you can legally broadcast to a large audience. This way, people can unsubscribe if they want to. Depending on how many Emails you’re sending, the highest amount you’ll currently spend is .015 cents per Email; so if you send to 300 wineries, it costs a little over three dollars, all of which you can write off to advertising.

In your newsletter, list your credentials. This is like a resume. [Who ever thought you’d need that again, right?] State that you’re now an independent writer. Give a hot link to your site. Have a subscription component in this mailing. There are a few Email newsletters out there, and any good marketing department should be paying attention.

That’s a start. It takes a while to grow a business, and reinvent yourself. Journalism isn’t a well-compensated career when it’s tied to a newspaper, I’m finding. The pattern seems to be that once you’ve helped the paper to grow, firmly establishing itself based on solid advertising dollars, they sell it. New owners come in and make sweeping changes to down size expenses (even though they swore they wouldn’t do that dastardly deed). The first thing they do is let go of those who are on the higher end of the salary spectrum, those who built the paper in the first place. No one is sacred from this practice in the corporate world. It’s business evolution.

Once you’ve been given your pink slip, it’s all about marketing yourself, as you’re now the product.

(My own story’s called, “Bitch in a Pink Slip — or — The Layers of My Tulle”©)


Organization,Petite Sirah,Wine

How to start a wine organization

I once received an Email from someone wanting to create a wine organization: “How did you organize PS I Love You, as there are some wineries in this state that I just moved to [not California] that would like to start an association for a particular hybrid that grows here?”

Answer: Start with passion, build with patience, and be willing to throw yourself into it, which means that you’re going to have to give yourself away. Finally, find a way to live within a shoe-string budget… This is very much like giving birth to a child. Although it doesn’t have a body, it has an extension of your soul.

This is not the first time I’ve been asked about organizations, as I’ve been an organizer since the time I started a club in my neighborhood when I was about 12. By the time I was 23, I has hired to set the curriculum and then be the director of a school. By the time I was 35, I was the director of Androscoggin Girl Scout Day Camp, with 200 kids to keep busy and happy. (I was the only one old enough to be able to spell and pronounce Androscoggin… It’s amazing what the “benefit of age” delivers as a gift from the universe.)

Here’s my 12-Step program

And remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day

Step 1: Dan Berger was asked if he thought there should be a Petite Sirah Symposium. Dan said, “Yes, and there should also be an advocacy group called PS I Love You.” Dan had already identified a need, and I moved it forward to execute.

Step 2: After Foppiano’s successful First Annual Petite Sirah Noble Symposium, I sent out the evaluations, and asked, “If there were a group, would you join?” (All this time, I had Christine Wells of Foppiano whispering in my ear, telling me things that would help to grow this dream. This was all done with the blessings of Louis M. Foppiano. If you are to start an organization, you need advocates on your side. They may not do the work, but they’ll objectively lead you in ways that you can’t subjectively see from your vantage point.)

Step 3: While waiting for the answers to arrive, and in anticipation of success, I created a registration form. Within the registration I stated a) the mission, b) what I planned to achieve as a group, c) the dues structure to carry the group’s expenses in actualizing how it would all be done. I was then ready when the “Yeses” began to arrive.

Step 4: Those who answered my anticipated “Yes” were sent the registration form.

Step 5: I opened a bank account.

Step 6: I got a P.O. Box number.

Step 7: Meanwhile, I turned to my husband and said, “Build a site; they will come.” Anyone wanting to do something like this needs to find a Webmaster who’s willing to be a volunteer in exchange for a link on the home page to his/her Web business. My husband built our first site, and it’s now in its third incarnation.

Step 8: Once the membership began to build, we became a 501 [c] [6]. — Not a 501 [c] [3]. The [c] [3] is for charity groups; e.g., American Red Cross, United Way, United Cerebral Palsy, etc. These groups raise funds in order to help others in need. A 501 [c] [6] is a trade business-2-business, non-profit group that supports the group’s business concentration e.g., Chamber of Commerce, PS I Love You, etc.

Step 9: We identified who would serve on our board of directors, as every group needs leaders and active participants.

Step 10: We next incorporate to protect ourselves form those who might see us as a target. [Imagine that you’ve had a tasting, and someone who didn’t take responsibility for him or herself has an elevated blood alcohol level, and then has an accident. The usual next step is to blame someone else; which of course, will be the event. All of a sudden, our event would become liable. (This reminds me of Joan Rivers’ “Oh grow up!” but I know that’s just too much to ask of our litigious society.)]

Step 11: Get insurance.

Step 12: Keep the camp fires burning, because most organizations are related to the energy of the person who started it; and, when that person walks away from it, it’s possible that the organization will dissolve, without solid backing from the members. The only way to keep something like this afloat is to find a person of similar passion and mission. And, say a few prayers to Bacchus. I’ve seen a few groups fold up, when the original creator moves on. Like any other body and soul, there’s a life cycle.



Cork removal from a bottle is NOT brain surgery

Cork Removal

Filling the heartiest among us with fear, when we’re on stage…

I’ll never forget the image of a brain surgeon fumbling with a wine cork, trying to get it out of the bottle. I thought to myself, “Really?” Then I thought, “I hope you’re better at your own craft…”

Why is pulling out a cork so darn intimidating?

Perhaps it’s because very few of us in our American culture were raised on wine, so we don’t know how darned easy it is.

As we’re on stage when it’s our turn to remove the cork, our palms begin to sweat as we begin to insert the cork screw’s sharp, little point. Moisture begins to gather around our hair line, as we turn the cork screw in a clockwise motion. Then, it’s anybody’s guess what will happen next. Will we get it out, as the cork screw descends further into the bottle? Again, it’s anyone’s guess…

Well, that used to be the case for me. Once I began to work in winery tasting rooms, and that cork had to come out (because people were standing before me eager to taste the wine I was about to pour), I learned how to do it so quickly and smoothly that I surprised even myself.

Here’s how you, too, can look like you’ve opened enough corks to fill that wine barrel table you’ve created that’s full of corks, and has a glass top covering your masterpiece, so everyone can gather round and ogle at what you’ve done.

1. Securely grab your cork screw in one hand and your bottle of wine in the other.

2. Use absolute straight down aiming at that tiny cork (you’re so much bigger than that cork, so you’ve got to win this battle, and you will).

3. In the absolute dead center of the cork, insert the cork screw tip in a straight downward motion. (Don’t angle this procedure, as that’s the REAL trick in all of this… straight down.)

4. As the cork screw enters the cork, use a bit of pressure to make sure that the cork screw and cork are united in harmony.

5. Without any angling of what you’re doing, begin to twist the cork screw while simultaneously pressing downward, until all the “screw” part of it is inserted into the cork.

6. With a smooth, gentle force (you don’t want any splashing onto what you’re wearing), pull the cork straight out of the bottle. It’s all in the wrist pulling in an upward motion, too.

This is guaranteed to make you look like a pro, and may the sweat never bead up on your forehead, again. (Three) Cheers!

And, welcome to Removing the Cork 102, where many producers are switching to screw caps!