August 2011

My displeasure with our winery’s website is nearly irrational. It probably is not mocking me by merely existing, but sometimes I feel as if it is.

I love clean design, with declarative text, and buttons that take you exactly where you want to go to do exactly what you came to the website to do. I love verbs; “buy our wine” is more powerful than “our wine,” and “join our wine club” is better than “wine club.”

I got the green light almost a month ago to take on changing our website as I willed, and I immediately arranged to spend time with the person who maintains our website to plan and execute those changes.

One feature I wanted to incorporate was a series of pictures with text overlaid, that would dissolve and be replaced by a different picture/word art panel. The pictures would feature our vineyards or tasting room with the words coming from complimentary quotes from wine writers about our wines.

Before the changes to our website could occur, the art panels and new text buttons needed to be created. I thought I had decent graphic skills, and created six decent panels, but they proved unusable because they were saved in an exotic file extension that the webmaster could not work with.

I was genuinely disappointed, not just because my work couldn’t be used, but because I found there was one more thing I could not do as well as I thought I could. Sadly, the list of things I don’t do as well as I would like continues to grow faster than the list of things I have mastery of.

Two days later, I realized I knew a graphic designer who might be able to help me with my art needs, Art Zadina. It is one thing to know in the abstract that Art has graphic art skills, but when I recently received these art panels, far better than I could have imagined let alone created, I was humbled by his skill. Art intuitively produced art panels better than what I asked for and gave me what I really needed.

Art will be creating text buttons for our website next, and then changes planned can occur. I am genuinely grateful for Art’s help, and wowed beyond expectation at his abilities. If you have a need for a highly skilled graphic designer, contacting Art at works well; he travels often for work and responds from the road when able.

Thanks Art.


The 20th annual Fall Hopland Passport will be held Saturday, October 22, 2011 and Sunday, October 23, 2011, from 11:00am – 5:00 pm each day.

The theme for the event is “Aged to Perfection” and all 17 Hopland Passport wineries and tasting rooms will be putting their best foot forward with incredible wine specials and delicious food pairings, some wineries will feature tours or barrel tastings, while others host art installations or live music as well.

Tickets for both days are a steal at $45 each (Dry Creek Passport is well over $100), and the folks at Hopland Passport are giving away a pair of tickets free ($90 value) each week for the next six weeks to someone randomly selected from among the folks who “like” the Hopland Passport facebook page.

There’s the link, you know what to do. good luck!

Hi. My name is John. You may remember me from writing I used to do here.

It has been about a month since I last wrote here and I definitely feel a decent post is long overdue, but today I’ll just be playing catch up, letting you know what I’ve been up to when I wasn’t here writing.

I’ve been working the tasting room and wine club for McFadden Vineyard. My job title is manager, but managing sounds passive and I am working every day to improve the state of all things McFadden. I was crunching numbers today, and our wine club membership has increased 25% in five months and our price per case sold is significantly higher too. Our event revenue for our two main events, Passport Weekend and our Wine Club Farm Dinner, is up. The reach of our communication has more than doubled. In email and phone responses, our wine club members are saying that they appreciate the newest service oriented initiatives instituted at McFadden.

The improvements are due to a complete team effort, starting with my boss, the owner of McFadden Vineyard and Farm, Guinness McFadden, including his children Jameson and Anne-Fontaine who care passionately the brand, right on through to my tasting room team of Ann, Eugene and Gary, as well as the Farm team of Shana, Heather, Ernesto, and everyone else who works each day to improve the quality of our products and the way we serve our customers. I also have to give special thanks to Guinness’s girlfriend, Judith, who helps out in ways small and large on a constant basis. Thanks also to my neighbors in Hopland, to my son, and to the significant others of my team who help out directly or indirectly by supporting my team in making improvements.

McFadden is poised to increase production and sales. A second label, a new distributor, two new additional sales channels. I am on the verge of every wine selling out, fortunately new vintages are being labeled and transitions from older to new vintages will happen close to perfectly. Similarly, when I came to McFadden, we had a freezer full of beef, overstuffed. I thought we would never sell all of the beef in our freezer. Today, I have two or three steaks at most and a few packages of ground beef; our freezer is nearly empty. A new steer, nicely packaged, will be taking its space in our freezer within the week.

I have written two e-Newsletters in my boss’s voice this month, the latest to go out September 4. I have also written pieces for two other wineries this month and done some consulting for another pair of businesses.

I picked up the social media marketing reins for both Destination Hopland, where I serve on the board of directors as Secretary, and Hopland Passport, where I serve as the Secretary of the working group. I am also on an unofficial Passport press dinner subcommittee, because I just need the extra work.

I did take a week’s vacation in San Diego, where I worked three 10-12 hour days, and then wrote an online 4,000 word piece about it that caught a couple of thousand hits and far more comments than I regularly get here.

Two possible jobs that I prepared for after being contacted, one big – a web based wine club, and the other small – a social media marketing consultation for a neighboring winery, didn’t pan out. I put in many hours of work, but for naught.

Last week, I spent a few hours in the kitchen of the Hopland Inn helping cook enchiladas and quesadillas for free happy hour bar food, and as much as I love to cook in a commercial kitchen, this was more time I wasn’t here writing about wine.

I am the parent responsible for the upbringing of my son. He is tall, and I take him to basketball camps, tournaments, practices, and games throughout the year, and oversee his homework for school and chores at home.

I took my first nap in a month yesterday, Sunday, and it was glorious.

Believe it or not, I feel guilty that I have not written more recently here.

I have received review samples from Topel, V. Sattui and Fetzer and I really would like to cook to pair with these wines, taste them, and write about them here.

I am grossly overdue to write about Maria Martinson and Testa Vineyard and House. I don’t join wine clubs, I receive more wine than I can drink, but I joined Testa’s wine club and will be attending a special Testa event in a few weeks – and although I am offered press tickets to more events than I can attend, I happily paid for these tickets too.

I am sending out three group wine club orders, covering 75% of our wine club members on Thursday. I am heading to the Farm on Friday, a day off, to help get these orders packed and shipped.

Next weekend, on another day off, I will be pouring our wines at Winesong, a charity event on the Mendocino coast.

I’ve got an upcoming meeting of the Destination Hopland board, an meeting of the Passport working group, more work to do on the press dinner, endless social media marketing, and was called today about starting up the online wine club work again with Passport coming around the corner.

Believe it or not, I am going to make a determined effort to write here more often. I don’t know how, or when; but I’m going to try.


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