“Crushpad Club Challenge will help one entrepreneur, or a group of entrepreneurs working as a team or group to achieve their dream of creating a new California wine brand.”

Okay, I need your help, voting in this contest started February 6th and the leader has 1,327 votes and the 10th place “bubble” contestant has 377 votes, so I am starting in a hole. I entered today and have six votes – nothing like spotting the competition a few hundred votes.

Crushpad is a custom crush winery in nearby Sonoma catering to hobbyist to professional winemakers, and is offering someone the grapes, winemaker mentor, world class facility, and support to produce a new brand’s first barrel. Crushpad will then help the winner to market and sell that barrel’s 25 cases – 300 bottles.

The Top 10 vote getters will move onto the finals where a panel of wine industry experts will interview the finalists to select a winner.

Please visit this contest page on Facebook, browse/vote, sorting by contestant’s name until you find my entry alphabetically (J for John Cesano): Cesano Wine by John Cesano.

You might have to log on to Facebook and then “Like” Crushpad’s Facebook page before being allowed to vote. Currently, loading the sort pages for voting takes a fair amount of time, but please stay with it, eventually you’ll be able to find my entry and be allowed to cast your vote.

I appreciate any efforts on your part to help me catch up. You can give me one vote per Facebook account each day through the end of voting on March 31. Thank you for any votes you can send my way, if you can help me get into the top 10, then I can enter into the interview process and possibly make 300 bottles of Cesano Wines Chardonnay.

Please throw me a vote from each Facebook account you control, every day from today through March 31, and just maybe you’ll help me catch the contest leaders and become one of the top 10 vote getters.

Here’s the plan I put together for the contest:

• Target Consumer

By making the most delicious Chardonnay possible, everyone who tastes my Chardonnay will become a buyer; I am creating the perfect wine for today’s consumer palate.

In the tasting room I manage, I have new guests try to skip tasting our Chardonnay because they do not like the the over oaked over malolactic manipulated wines too often sold in stores and poured at restaurants. Our visitors are amazed at the stainless steel zero malolactic crisp-fruited food-friendly Chardonnay I pour for them.

I think I could make a wine with even greater appeal by adding a little oak and partial malolactic – say put 30% of the wine into a neutral French Oak barrel with a malolactic culture while holding the remaining 70% in stainless steel without the culture, and blending the 70% back into the neutral oak barrel afterward with no additional or renewed malolactic fermentation. This 30%/70% container ratio would apply to the alcohol fermentation as well. I would also like the 30% barrel fermented portion to be held sur lies.

After my Chardonnay is racked, I would like it to remain unfined and unfiltered.

Anyone who wants to enjoy a food friendly Chardonnay that brings roundness, complexity, great fruit with nice acid and balancing rich roundness will love my Chardonnay.

• Vineyard Selection

100% CCOF certified organic and family farmed McFadden Farm, Potter Valley, Mendocino County

Guinness McFadden is not likely one of Crushpad’s current grape providers, but as I work for him, I think there is a decent chance he’ll let me have enough fruit for a barrel.

• Grape varietal/clone selection

Chardonnay/Wente clone

• Barrel selection

Neutral (used) French Oak

• Aging

18 months in neutral (used) French oak after fermentations (alcohol and malolactic).

• Bottle selection, Bottle Closure Style

Bottle: a well punted bottle tapered dead leaf green Burgundy bottle allowing for a slightly larger bottle circumference suggesting abundance.

Closure: I was a cork traditionalist and used to abhor Stelvin screwcaps because of some ridiculous romantic notion that a wood plug was most appropriate for sealing wine bottles. I was wrong. Screwcaps are infinitely easier for consumers, they prevent TCA tainted or ruined wines, and I relish the opportunity to join Randall Grahm and other premium wine producers in championing this closure. Some folks think romance is lost with screwcaps, but romance happened after the bottle is opened.

• Distribution- Route to Market- (Direct to consumer or third party distributor)

I believe I can sell all of my wine, in very short order, direct to consumer, through the various media opportunities at my disposal.

If faced with any difficulty, I would approach Guinness about letting me pour and sell my wine in the tasting room I manage for him, or I would ask Bernadette Byrne about carrying my wine in her Sip! Mendocino tasting room in Hopland, or talk to Lori Pacini about distribution through Pacini Wines of Ukiah.

Bottom line: my 25 cases will be gone fast.

• Pricing

The prize is valued at $13,000 and there will be 300 bottles produced, so each bottle has a taxable value of $43 to me. I need to enlist help with distribution and some bottles may be used in tasting room or event pouring, while others will be made available to press for review to help launch the brand, and this would drive the per bottle cost up….but I intend to increase production in the future which will lower costs through economy of scale, so with the future in mind I will set an initial bottle price at $34.99, discounted to 29.99 for case sales.

• Marketing “wow” Factor

I am a wine writer and get over 50,000 visits to my wine blog yearly, trending toward over 80,000 this year.

I am the tasting room and wine club manager of a successful winery in Mendocino county, and write a monthly newsletter for our large and enthusiastic wine club.

I am the social media marketing manager for Destination Hopland, the 16 member winery tourism organization tasked with increasing visibility for our area’s wines.

I am the first farm to tasting room all Mendocino County winery manager to secure an invite to a Wine Wednesday visit on KSRO 1350AM’s The Drive with Steve Jaxon to talk about my boss’s wines.

I will use my relationships with other wine writers, wine marketing professionals, and wine public relations superstars to spread the word VERY wide, and host a release party and tasting for the media with an eye toward getting the word about the new brand out throughout the bay area.

Being able to leverage the story of being Crushpad’s contest winner guarantees great attendance for the release event and coverage for the new brand’s wine.

The only cloud I see on the horizon is that the 300 bottles may sell so quickly that the story of my brand’s first vintage will be too short lived for maximum impact.

After succeeding selling the Chardonnay Crushpad helps me make, I will want to continue with following vintages as well as adding a second wine: my Chateauneuf du Potter Valley, an all Mendocino County grape sourced GSM styled Rhone blend.