What started out as something whimsical turned into a much deeper story for me.

Recognition begins with a first step up the ladder, leading to a point when one’s on a pinnacle, and his or her star is finally brilliantly shining. It’s a journey, not a process.

I recently met Paul Mabray in his VinTank offices in Napa. As we were discussing his life’s accomplishments, I listened to a young man… much younger than I am in years, and yet he had accomplished so much in those (for me) abbreviated years.

Paul’s a man who’s obviously driven by his passions, vision, and someone deep inside of him that has an intense need for high accomplishment… Not for the sake of recognition and adulation, but for a sense of personal well being.

Paul’s bio: Chief Strategy Officer, VinTank

Paul has been in the wine and spirits industry for over sixteen years. He has worked for Napa Ale Works, Niebaum~Coppola, WineShopper/Wine.com and also was the North American Beverage Consultant for Sumitomo Corporation of America from 2003 through 2005. He founded Inertia Beverage in 2003 as one of the first major companies established to bridge the barrier between wineries and their customers. Paul Mabray was CEO from 2003 until 2008 creating the largest and most powerful e‐commerce platform for the wine industry, the Rethink Engine. Under his leadership, Inertia created incredible new products for the wine industry to help open up the ability to sell and market direct including the innovative Direct to Trade, ReThink Compliance, Brix Open Source CMS, Marketplace Services, and many more. For his last six months at Inertia, Paul was Chief Strategy Officer and EVP of Business Development in charge of creating key strategic direction, business development, and mergers and acquisitions. VinTank is a continuation of his desire to help revolutionize the wine industry through e‐business and innovative digital products and marketing.

A key contributor to the Inertia blog, a two time American Wine Blog Awards finalist, he has also been a guest lecturer at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, UC Davis and many other symposiums, seminars, blogs, and periodicals for his leadership in the wine industry. He is also a lecturer for the WISE Academy, the only wine industry education, training and certification program dedicated solely to direct‐to‐consumer sales.

Paul formerly sat on the Board of Directors for the leading wine business social network, Openwineconsortium.org, and the Board of Advisors for Snooth.com.

Paul is currently on the Board of Directors for Cruvee.com and the Board of Advisors of Taste.com.

Paul began his wine industry career at Niebaum-Coppola. This was his initial insight for what does and what doesn’t work well within the wine industry. Both of us are very aware that the wine industry has some catching up to do as regards innovation, regardless of what the collective thinking might be. I personally was shocked by the wine business, after having left radio broadcasting for 11 years, only to enter the wine business. (Remember the innovation in radio was measured in nanoseconds when I was there.)

I couldn’t believe my first few years in the wine business, where it all was in terms of vision and the movement that comes from forwarding thinking. Time and time again, I was shot down, being told things couldn’t possibly happen, but it didn’t stop me, as I knew better.

Anyone who has either sold or purchased wine on line, can thank Paul for the innovation. He was there, right when ordering wine segued from downloading a PDF order form and faxing it to the winery, to successfully purchasing wine on-line.

On May 6, 2009, VinTank, with the help of Derek Bromley and Tom Wark (introduction), published, “We are here. We are HERE. WE ARE HERE! The state of Wine Industry Social Media.”

It is written in the report:

We believe in helping wine online. All of our previous companies (that we worked at or founded) and activities have been expressions of this passion: BevAccess.com, WineShopper.com/Wine.com, Inertia, Direct‐to‐Trade, OpenWineConsortium.org, RethinkCompliance.com and now VinTank. Each one contributing a small modicum of positive change to the industry we love. Considering the amount of transformation occurring between wine and technologies, the best way we believe we can continue to help the industry is by focusing on segments to analyze, give our objective analysis, and publish these reports for free to all wine industry players. We fundamentally believe that this democratization of information is one of the best ways that we can help the wine industry succeed. But we felt more was required than just analysis. We put ourselves in the role of what would we do as an e‐business employee at a wine company and added our opinions of strategies, tactics, tools and measurement techniques we would employ to manage this key emerging channel. With the proliferation of wine social networks (28 and counting) and social media experts, this information could at least create a baseline understanding of how, what and why wine companies should participate with this part of the Internet and where they should spend their resources (dollars and time) to get the maximum ROI from their activities.

This is a body of work that was given away to the wine business… “given away,” being the operative words. Paul believes that he has a social responsibility to give back to the industry that has given so much to him. Very admirable, indeed.

As I pondered recent awards that are being handed out for wine industry innovation, I couldn’t help but think that Paul’s day is coming. He has done so much (and continues to do so much) to revolutionize the wine business. So, I’ve begun what I believe is the first stair for which he’s landing, on that journey to the top (of being noticed). The Award is physically in the mail and on its way to him…

Meanwhile, Ladies and Gentlemen, please join me in congratulating Paul Mabray of VinTank as the Diaz Communications 2009 recipient of the “Pioneering Innovator and Digital Think Tank Leader of the Year.”

Congratulations, Paul. It’s well deserved, and only the beginning for you.