In Loving Memory ~ Wine Professional Peter Nowack

This story originally ran on February 13, 2014. Neither of us saw what was coming soon thereafter. When Peter announced on Facebook that he was given the “cancer” diagnosis, we were all shocked. His life changed from being our “Funny Man,” who was one of our wine pros, into a funny man laughing at cancer… He called himself radioactive, and our hearts were aching. Just a couple of days before he passed away, I went to his page looking for anything current. Nothing… I thought, this isn’t a good sign.

Yesterday, October 7, I read the following on Facebook:

With great sadness and a heavy heart I announce the passing of my brother Peter W. Nowack on the morning of October third 2016. He was at home with his loving wife Karen and myself at his side. Peter loved fishing, wine and we spent many hours enjoying those pastimes. He was a intelligent man with a Marx brothers sense of humor. He will be missed. As per his wishes, please hoist a glass of vino in his honor. There will not be a formal service. Peter‘s ashes will be scattered in the Sierras at a time to be determined. Thank you all for being my bother’s friends, and thank you Peter for a real good time. Steven Nowack

He will surely be missed. My heart is aching. Pay particular attention to my last question of Peter. Even when I asked and he answered, I hoped that it would not make any sense for a long, long time.

[Q]  For what would you like to be remembered?

[A]  I want to be apocryphal. When I am gone from the scene, literally or figuratively, people will say what they want about me. I just hope the fabrications that people tell about me are even remotely consistent with who I really was.

I wish I could come up with something clever right now, being apocryphalistic, but not right now. I’m too sad. What a great jokester Peter was, while on planet earth. I know he’s bringing great joy to heaven. We’ll miss you and your natural wit, Peter.

It was called: Wacky Peter Nowack, a wine professional with a razor sharp edge

Sorry, Peter, if I’ve offended you by calling you “wacky.” I don’t believe I have, but still a disclaimer… I mean it the best possible way. When I’m dead and gone, I hope people refer to me as having been “wacky.” I wear that adjective as a badge of honor; may you, too; although, I do like your apocryphal usage below.

I met Peter Nowack through Facebook befriending. Each day, when I write something on the more “real” side (I’m a huge pure foods proponent), Peter’s right there with a quip that’s either delightful, insightful, or as sharp as Chef John Ash’s knives.

Peter’s my daily refreshing moment… But, he’s also a lot more than that. He’s a fellow wine blogger, a fellow marketing and PR pro, and someone who makes me laugh daily. When I posted on Facebook that I had written about Sue Straight, in a story called, “The Power of the Pen; also referred to today as social media,” Peter commented “Wow! The Jo Diaz bump!” I laughed out loud… I also love Stephen Colbert.

BLOG: His blog is pretty specific. BungRCooper.com is his wine blog, which is uniquely dedicated to family wineries. David Fulton Winery, on of my PS I Love You members, has a great feature.

PR AND MARKETING: His marketing site is called WEMARKETWINE. As a marketing PR person, Peter has more than 30 years of experience in marketing, communications, advertising, and public relations. He’s a veteran marketing strategist and an award-winning creative talent and communicator. He focuses on business-to-consumer and  business-to-business marketing, product positioning, and corporate branding. Peter’s been an award recipient in the CLIOs, the International Broadcasting Awards, the ADDYs, as well as many regional advertising competitions.

Anyone who’s a PR person is first and foremost a writer. Unlike journalists for newspapers and magazine, who take their stories to an editor’s desk or Email in-box, we have to take our stories to another place, the journalists. This is a kabuki dance that’s both art and craft, that Peter knows how to perform well.

  • ART: We have to first write, in order to capture the attention of the writing community. We’re not the journalist, we need to be their inspiration.
  • CRAFT:  We also have to be promoters, with a provocative message that will nudge a writer forward.
  • DIPLOMACY: We have to remain patient, while our clients may not necessarily understand patience, this is the way it goes.

I asked Peter my wine writer questions. The writer in him came out…

[Q]  Many wine writers also have a day job. If wine isn’t your job, what is and for whom?

[A]  I think of myself as a communicator – and that lets me wear a number of hats: Writer; marketer; creative guy; editor; and “Hack with a Mac” when circumstances dictate. I’ve made a living at this since the early 1980s, and put up my own shingle in 1986. That’s 28 years of gainful unemployment!

Today, I focus my writing and marketing in three areas:

  • Wine– In addition to writing BungRCooper.com, work with winemakers and winery owners to build their brands and professional reputations (which, in the Direct To Consumer [DTC] sector, are integral to the brands). WEmarketwine.com has the details.
  • Brand development and message refinement for national and multi-national companies (check out nowack.com to learn more); and
  • Sustainability-issues marketing and management – turning responsible practices into competitive advantage. Somebody has to do it!

[Q]  What aspect(s) of wine do you most enjoy covering?

[A] I launched BungRCooper.com about 3 years ago as a vehicle through which to share my interest in the people behind the wines. I will write about a particular wine now and again, but, for the most part, I focus my writing on the back stories – the philosophies, drivers, and personality “quirks” (that’s a safer word than “defects”) that make family winemakers do what they do. You don’t have to be crazy to start a family winery in these economic times, but it seems to help.

[Q]  How has your job changed since you’ve started?

[A]  I think that I’ve changed more than the job has changed. I’ve become more discerning as to the stories I want to cover, and perhaps more critical (in a good way, I think) about the stories I’m being told. I don’t write stories based on pitches from PR folks, but if a trusted colleague recommends a particular winemaker to me, I’ll check ‘em out. I’m increasingly drawn to winemakers and winery owners whose stories aren’t the standard party line – Anyone can say, “I let the grapes speak for themselves.” Who I want to talk wine with are the guys/gals who are gonzo obsessed about something, so much so that it becomes their personal Grail, and it is manifest in their winemaking and their personalities.

BungRCooper has been a storyteller for the past 3 years. I’ve now realized that he can, and probably should, become more outspoken about winemaking and wine marketing. Bring me a soapbox, already!

[Q]  What’s the most memorable wine you’ve ever tasted?

[A]  My first experience with a single-vineyard, über-peppery Zin opened my eyes to what surprises a wine could hold. That was the late 70s, and I’ve been on a “surprise-me” quest ever since.

[Q]  What’s your favorite variety?

[A]  What are you opening next? 😉

Seriously, I don’t have a favorite – I want balanced wines that are not overly oaked, overly alch-ed, overly tannic, or overly anything else.

[Q]  Do you believe that there are better quality, lower priced wines today, than in past vintages?

[A]  In recent years, there has been a proliferation of very drinkable, lower-priced choices – a lot of these are imports. And they fill an “everyday wine” niche. However, there has also been a proliferation of domestic wines that under-deliver for the price. Apparently “only what the traffic will allow, in small unmarked bills” doesn’t just apply to street drugs. What we need more of, and what I am drawn to, are those artisanal wines that deliver more than they should – and do so at a reasonably comfortable price.

[Q]  What’s your favorite innovation in the wine industry over the past few years?

[A]  I’m going to change this question to “what’s your least favorite innovation?” – to which the answer is “the soulless brands being spit out by the dozens into the marketplace.” These are wines made by large producers shilling as upstart brands. They employ replicable chemical formulae instead of winemaking alchemy, and appeal to slivers of the market with certain characteristics that may or may not have anything to do with a discerning palate. Don’t think so? Then explain the recent proliferation of Muscat. Or the sullying of the once-reputable Rosenblum brand with the “Rose ‘n Bloom,” “Stark Raving,” and “All American Wine Company” spin-offs. Soulless brands are born from calculations, not passions or philosophies, and they have no back story beyond the desire to grab another facing at the MegaWineMart.

[Q]  What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

[A]  Another tough one. The best ever was a flight of artisanal sakes accompanying a sushi breakfast at a place near Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. But I’m game for pizza and zin, or Petit verdot and an array of chocolates

[Q]  What are your interests outside of the wine business?

[A]  Trout fishing. (Thinking like a trout is good mental exercise)

Making fermented food, particularly pickles and kimchi.

[Q]  Who inspires you (wine business or outside of it, doesn’t matter)?

[A]  This will sound really self-absorbed, but I am my own source of inspiration, much of the time – I really don’t want to be like anyone else, or achieve what others have achieved. I just want to push my own creative limits and see what emerges. Sometimes that’s a very, very difficult thing to do. But when I hit my stride, I am energized and elated. And I think my work is better as well.

[Q]  For what would you like to be remembered?

[A]  I want to be apocryphal. When I am gone from the scene, literally or figuratively, people will say what they want about me. I just hope the fabrications that people tell about me are even remotely consistent with who I really was.

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