August 2010

Sutter Home Family Vineyards, the revenue engine behind Trinchero Family Estates, is celebrating the 20th Anniversary of their Build A Better Burger contest.

Back in June, I contacted Sutter Home asking why they excluded California residents from participating in their contest.

Sutter home responded, “we cannot offer the Build A Better Burger Contest or other sweepstakes promotions to California residents. However under California law and regulations, a California wine producer is prohibited from giving a California consumer anything of value over $1.” Sutter Home further suggested that I begin a rallying effort to change things for them.

I contacted the California ABC and spoke with Chris Albrecht, Deputy Division Chief at HQ and member of the CA ABC’s Executive Management Team, overseer of the Trade Enforcement Unit. Albrecht expressed the opinion that the contest, if held in California, was illegal regardless where the participants resided. Albrecht felt that the contest, featured nationally on Food Network, brought Sutter Home material benefit, and therefore the award of a prize greater than $1 violated California Business and Professions Code Section 25600 and the California Department of Alcoholic Beverages Control regulation 106(j). These are precisely the codes and regulations that Sutter Home pointed at when explaining why Californians were excluded from the contest.

I don’t like presenting a problem without suggesting a solution. I explored solutions to Sutter Home’s Burger contest quandary with Albrecht. I proposed, and Albrecht agreed Sutter Home could hold the contest out of state, in Las Vegas (where outdoor grilling in the Summer sun is close to Hell) as an example, and that a contest out of state could include competitors from California.

I shared Albrecht’s comments with Sutter home, and spoke with Ron Larson, Sutter Home’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel. Larson said that he had determined the appropriateness of the contest rules and operation with the [CA] ABC. I suggested he speak with Mr. Albrecht.

In June, Larson and Sutter Home were convinced the contest, held in California without California residents, was legal. I reported here that Albrecht and the CA ABC said it was not legal if held in California. Last week, Sutter Home announced that the Build A Better Burger contest will be held in Miami, FL this year.

Sutter Home explained in part, “Sutter Home Build a Better Burger Contest received more entries from Florida this year than any other state,” but has previously stated that Californians accounted for 60% of all entries when they were previously allowed to compete.

While the move to Miami was likely necessitated by the law (possibly due to my reporting), with the intention of reopening the contest to Californians next year, not all of the response on Sutter Home’s pages has been favorable:

“If I am one of the winners I would preferred to go to Napa Valley and visit that beautiful wine paradise.” – Cynthia

“I really wanted to get into the top ten so that I could get a trip to California…I am not sure they realize that it is 90 degrees in Miami with 95% humidity in September. I built a grill in my house so that I did not have to grill outside in the summer!” – Robert

“Miami??! In the middle of hurricane season? Good luck with that! As a north FL girl, I would so prefer Napa.” – Joy

Sutter Home writes about other Miami events, notably Superbowls and Food and Wine Festivals, but fails to mention that the events are held in February and not September for a reason. No reasonable person travels in August or September to hot, humid, and hurricane-threatening Miami to cook outdoors. This is as nearly as bad as the Las Vegas option I had written about.

I know how Sutter Home can:

  • Solicit Applications from all over, including California,
  • Conduct the cooking at Sutter Home’s beautiful Napa Valley winery again,
  • Award a check for $100,000 to the person the judges deem the best, and
  • Operate completely within the law.

End the Build A Better Burger contest after this year. Call it a successful 20 year run. Put it to bed. Finito. Final. 30. Over. Done.

Beginning with 2011, start the Build A Better Burger job search, modeled after Murphy-Goode Winery’s incredibly successful A Really Goode Job search.

Murphy-Goode received video applications from 1,997 job applicants, including many from Californians, in what may be the most visible publicity coup of recent memory within the wine industry. The job applicants were encourage to drum up support and Murphy-Goode enjoyed millions of hits on their A Really Goode Job website. The almost two thousand were winnowed down to a top 50, and then a top 10. The top 10 were flown to California, put up at the beautiful Healdsburg Hotel, and a more performance oriented interview took place. Eventually, Hardy Wallace was chosen to be Murphy-Goode’s “Lifestyle Correspondent” and received $60,000 and luxury accommodations in wine country.

Sutter Home could post an employment opening for a “Burger Ambassador” with a $100,000 paycheck. Applications with a recipe resume could be solicited. Californians could compete for the job. Applications could be winnowed down to a top 10. The top 10 applicants for the Sutter Home Burger Ambassador job opening could be flown out to California, put up in Napa Valley, and their performance oriented interview would entail cooking burgers for judges. The judges would award a job to the person who cooks the most delicious burger, and the one year paycheck of $100,000 would be awarded.

Sutter Home gets to have their winery location in all of the Food Network camera shots, Californians can compete, someone is chosen the best and receives $100,000, the CA ABC’s codes and regulations regarding contests become moot, because Sutter Home is not holding a contest, but a thoroughly vetted employment interview competition for a job.

If Trinchero Family Estates wants to thank me for following up, for thinking outside the box, for coming up with the solution that eluded every great mind employed within the company – well, you know how to contact me. I’m available for Social Media Marketing, Traditional Marketing, Special Events Marketing, and Corporate Communications. You can also add me to the Trinchero Napa Valley review sample shipping list. Cheers.

With nearly 1,000 hits, my piece about the V. Sattui Winery 125th anniversary celebration lunch at the North Beach Restaurant in San Francisco, near where the winery started, is one of my more popular pieces of writing.

V. Sattui Winery has very loyal customers, selling all of their wine directly to consumers either at their Napa Valley winery or through direct shipment (where legal). Wine buying is not a passive, pick it up at the market sort of activity, but an act of intention on the part of a consumer. V. Sattui enjoys a unique relationship with their customers, who often see themselves involved in a relationship with the winery.

V. Sattui Winery, aware of the perception of relationship, has been active in Social Media Marketing (SSM) efforts, built upon proto-SSM telephone and direct mail marketing efforts.

Today, I approved another comment to my blog, from a V. Sattui fan, Shey Robinson:

I love V Sattui’s Port!

I was just there yesterday and bought a couple of Madeira and of course the 12year commemorative port that they have. It was awesome.

I envy you for getting to meet these wonderful people who make wonderful experiences possible.


What led me back to write about V. Sattui Winery and their Social Media Marketing efforts? I just received a shipment of wine samples from the winery, packaged with cheeses from the deli co-located at the winery, along with a wonderfully written letter from V. Sattui Winery winemaker Brooks Painter.

I receive a considerable number of wine samples, but I was impressed by the attention to detail, the extra effort, the attempt to positively impact, perhaps influence, what I might write in the future. Any review I write will include a disclosure that the wine tasted was received as a sample, at no cost to me; but it is likely that the recommended wine and cheese pairings will lead to greater enjoyment of each wine – everybody wins.

I am grateful for the information provided, for the thoughtful wine and cheese pairing recommendations, and for the personal touch conveyed in the letter from Brooks.

I consult to wineries, help them in their Social Media Marketing efforts, and recently shared with V. Sattui Winery’s publicist Julie Ann Kodmur how impressed I have been by V. Sattui, after some initial SSM hiccups, how they have adapted, learned, improved, and seem to be firing on all cylinders.

I have seen Social Media Marketing managers, hired by wine companies, who tweet and retweet their own personal hair appointments on the winery site, as if anyone cares. I have seen another SSM hire, at a prominent wine company, who declared online at the company’s expense that the his job was to increase his own personal brand awareness – as opposed to increasing the brand awareness of his employer’s wine labels.

Treating a sample wine shipment to wine writers as a Social Media Marketing opportunity is just the latest example of V. Sattui Winery’s dedication to making sure that there is actually marketing in their Social Media Marketing efforts, and a welcome counterbalance to the less than stellar efforts of other more social, less marketing, endeavors from other wineries..

I have just sent off multiple copies of what appears to be a high impact, graphic rich newsletter, but is actually a uniquely formatted cover letter and resume, to officers at a wine company, asking to be their new Social Media Marketing manager. I would like to have the consumers of the brands I would represent feel as passionately, and as involved in a relationship, as the customers of V. Sattui Winery.