Filed under: Events | Tags: Binny's, Hein Vineyard, La Encantada Vineyard, Mark Phillips, Pinot Days Chicago, Tastings, Wentzel Vineyard
Pinot Days Chicago was a total blast! The event, on Saturday, November 15, 2008, was our first public tasting. We poured samples of three of our wines: 2006 Hein Vineyard (Anderson Valley) Pinot Noir, 2007 Wentzel Vineyard (Anderson Valley) Pinot Noir and 2007 La Encantada Vineyard (Santa Rita Hills) Pinot Noir and we were thrilled by the positive response. I think Jennifer and I were a bit anxious about hearing the feedback – we like these wines, but we really hoped that others did too. So, needless to say, when people started tasting and enjoying our wines, we were relieved. It started out slowly, though.
The trade tasting was from 11am-1pm and we were a little late getting our table set up (slept in due to our 2 year old not sleeping well the previous night). So after we got our bottles out & opened up, our 40×20 poster on an easel, and collateral carefully arranged on the table, we stood and awaited the masses. Our early “customers” included a couple of sales managers from Binny’s, my favorite high-volume wine/beverage store in the Chicago area. The Des Plaines location is conveniently on the way to my sister’s house from the airport, so I always stop in to pick out a few choice bottles (of Pinot, of course). Other buyers, wine bar owners and distributors came by and tasted as well. We definitely had interest from a few distributors for representation in the Chicago area, which we would love.
The public tasting opened up at 1pm and ran until 5pm. This is when things got really fun. We had a great time chatting with people about our wine, their wines and everything else in between. We looked around at other tables, though, and initially, it seemed that attendees were gravitating towards other wineries and not as many were coming to us. This is where a mix of design staging, salesmanship and PR come in. Design staging: we mounted a 40″ x 20″ poster of our label on foamcore and set it up behind us on an easel – the beautiful photograph was a beacon calling people to our table. Salesmanship: you’ve got to catch the attention of the people walking by at a distance and invite them in to your world of wine. PR: we had more than a few friends and family at the event that were chatting up Waits-Mast and sending people our way.
And then we got some momentum. There were a few people that were really struck by our wines. Notably Luke and his friend Bill. Luke described the aroma from our 2006 Hein Vineyard Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley as “a perfume so lovely I wish my wife would wear it!” As he went through our flight of three wines, he wrapped up with our 2007 La Encantada Pinot Noir from Santa Rita Hills and was beside himself about this wine. I believe he said, “I’ve died and gone to heaven.” He really wanted to know what was the “magic” that went into creating this “perfect symphony” (his words, I swear!) of a wine. I did my best to explain the science of making that wine, but the rest of it is pure art (and an expression of a great vineyard and grower).
Luke made his way around the rest of the show, but came back to us with new friends and others he had been directing towards our table. According to Luke, “the whole show was worth it just to meet the two of you.”
By the end of the day, we had some “regulars,” in addition to Luke, who kept returning to our table, helping us finish off the last few bottles. Mark Phillips, who has a PBS special and his own stemware line and is friends with our friends Lisa and Blair, was there with his friends too. It was also fun to meet a few wine bloggers, including Pinot Noir enthusiast Douglas Trapasso of Chicago Pinot and Bill Wilson from Wine for Newbies (be sure to see his wrap-up post about Pinot Days, which includes some great wine tasting etiquette tips). The overwhelmingly positive feedback was more than we could have ever imagined. Tired, cold and hungry, we headed home for the evening still buzzing from the day’s festivities.
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