It’s 2011, and time to announce the 2011 Diaz Communications Pioneering Innovator and Digital Think Leader of the Year Award…

Jose and I, as partners of Diaz Communications, are pleased to announce that the award this year goes to Rick Bakas of  Back to Bakas.

This award is being given to Rick for his tremendous efforts, on behalf of the wine industry, to bring more global awareness to wine. Rick has successfully launched both #Chardonnay Day and #Cabernet Day, which are world wide celebrations of Chardonnay and Cabernet, respectively.  He’d love to see it grow into annual holidays, and we believe he’s well on his way. Rick has stated, “Anyone who loves wine is welcome to participate in #Chardonnay Day, all you need is some wine in your glass.

Stated simply enough, but his efforts are much more complex.

If you missed the second annual #Chardonnay Day, it was a global event to celebrate one of the most widely grown grapes in the World. It happened on May 26, 2011, from 6:00 p.m to 8:00 p.m. (Cabernet day is coming later in the year. In our Q&A below, Rick gives you more details.)

Bakas has given people, who visit his site, great tips for having fun with #Chardonnay Day & #Cabernet Day. We believe that this makes enjoying wine fun and accessible. He’s on the right track for promoting wine in a very social media way, and for that we applaud his tireless efforts.

Why the Innovator of the year award?

As seasoned, wine industry professionals, Jose and I recognize our responsibility to a younger, up-and-coming generation. We’ve long advocated for those who are talented in what they do, and deserve recognition.

This is not a popularity contest.

There’s no panel of judges for this one. This award is given because Jose and I watch what’s happening around us. We keep up with innovation, being innovators ourselves. We recognize it when we see it, and we enjoy shining a spotlight in the direction of those who take the initiative and create new streams of awareness.

His use of social media to inspire the world to share what wine is – in this case Chardonnay and Cabernet – has gone around the world, and back again. According to Jose Diaz, “Anyone who helps to raise awareness of wine as an every day beverage helps the identity and promotion of wine across the board. The industry owes Rick a dept of gratitude for this one.”

Questions created by Jose Diaz for Rick, for a little insight into Rick’s thinking.

[Q]  How did you get into wine marketing?

[Rick]  After working at NIKE for 8 years in branding, I moved to Colorado to take care of my Mom. Not knowing what to do with my career, I decided to get a job in a wine shop hand selling wine on weekends. That led to getting hired by a wine distributor as a sales rep. I applied what I knew about branding to my in-store POS on my route and ended up doing quite well. Two years later I graduated to being a wine broker working for Bartholomew Broadbent. The whole time I was approaching the wine biz with what I learned about branding at NIKE and my wine knowledge kept growing. All throughout my years at NIKE and coming up through the wine industry, I’ve always relied on technology to help share my brands’ message.

[Q]  What was your vision in creating variety days… You have a Cabernet one coming up now, too?

[Rick]  The very first event was #NapaCabs in November 2009. The idea was to carry on the spirit of collaboration growers in Napa Valley have had for decades, but do it online. After #NapaCabs I was getting emails from people saying, “hey! we make Cabernet too” So the next one was #CaliCabs. After that was #SauvBlanc in Feb. 2010. During these two-hour events, people in other countries were tuning in but for them it was 4 o’clock in the morning. So, the varietal “day” concept was born to make sure that everyone in every time zone could participate.

The first one was #Chardonnay day in May 2010. Then came #Cabernet day in September 2010. My big dream is that these can become annual holidays that were born from social media. #Chardonnay would always be the Thursday before Memorial Day and #Cabernet would always be the Thursday before Labor Day. The 2nd annual #CabernetDay is approaching and it’s going keep evolving from what we’ve seen.

I look at these events as setting a giant dining room table and inviting everyone to pull up a chair to be part of the conversation.

[Q]  Statistically, what impact did you see that’s measurable in terms of reach?

[Rick]  The reach of #Chardonnay day 2011 was larger than Wine Spectator magazine’s readership. Stop and wrap your head around that.

We saw 30,000,000 impressions with a reach of over 4,100,000 people from almost 13,000 tweets and almost 4,000 tweeters. And that’s just on Twitter. We don’t have the means to measure these stats across the entire internet but we know there was significant activity on major social sites.

[Q]  How do you measure success of your campaign?

[Rick]  My approach has always been about reaching wine consumers. If we can influence the buying decisions of the average wine consumer out there in the world then I think we’re on to something big. If you think about how powerful it is to reach over 4 million people when Wine Spectator’s readership is 2.5 million you’re scratching the surface of something that can be a game changer.

This is what we all talk about when we talk about the impact of new media for the wine industry and why traditional media (including wine critics) have to evolve or die.

[Q]  What are your key points for measuring success?

[Rick]  Reach, impressions, engagement, etc.. As the concept evolves, it’ll be about drilling down into the KPI’s and converting those into actions (ROI) in some predictable manner.

There’s an intention to include on-premise as well as off-premise brands in the mix as those are the places where purchasing decisions are made.

For any brand big or small this is a level playing field where each brand can benefit from the collective audience. Each brand might have different KPI’s that are important so I just focus on bringing the audience together and giving brands the opportunity to convert eyeballs to action however they see fit.

[Q]  What are your biggest challenges in the social media landscape that you didn’t expect to see?


  1. Accurately measuring impressions, reach, participants across the internet.
  2. Other varietal days have come on the scene that emulate the concept. I hope too many of these don’t water down the idea or turn off participants from too many.
  3. Too much activity online may make it hard for any brand to capture attention and convert eyeballs into ROI (or ROA as I call it — Return on Attention)

[Q]  What do you see as the value of promoting Chardonnay Day?

[Rick]  The cost associated with doing these varietal days is very minimal. That’s the beauty of social media.

So the value is that we are able to be stewards of the collaborative spirit growers have and we’re able to do something significant without investing more than some hours of planning.

What I hope to see wineries and accounts doing is selling wine before, during and after these events. They might not get it right the first time, but with each event we can all learn from the last one and get better at it. The ultimate value will be selling wine with minimal investment.

[Q]  Tell us about your upcoming Cabernet Day is September.

[Rick]  This is the second annual, and again it’s the Thursday before Labor Day. We’re going to see an evolution of the concept that engages even more wine consumers and makes better use of social media.

For #Chardonnay day I introduced the concept of co-hosts in different regions around the world. We’re going to explore that idea further and also have “headquarters” on different continents. Lots of things I can’t share yet, but you can bet it’ll be fun. Wineries will again have the chance to convert eyeballs into actions if they plan for it.

Rick is an author of Quick Bites: 75 Savory Tips for Social Media Success; he’s a Certified Sommelier, and a brand strategist. Recognized as a global thought leader in the world of wine and social media, we applaud you, Rick, for all that you’ve so far achieved! We know there’s so much more to come and wish you continued success!

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