Friday, January 30, 2009

It has layers

Okay, I tasted the greatest wine at an event held on Wednesday night by Nordby Construction and Moss Adams LLP. During Unified many companies host events after hours, and a very good wine friend of mine invited me along to this one. The wine being poured was excellent, and the food was helpful to keep me in line. My friend sipped several selections, and then brought along a glass for me to try. She did give it a smiling endorsement, but didn't do more than that. I took a sip, and was floored. It tasted so clear and pure--with excellent fruit flavors and what I guess they call balance. And something strange happened, it felt like there were layers of flavors. It sounds odd, but it's true. I asked my friend about it, and she echoed that experience. I have heard of this, read it in reviews, but was floored to experience it so perfectly. The wine was a 2006 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir. I wasn't writing down tasting notes, so can't tell you the exact vintage/vineyard designate--but I will tell you it was one of the best tasting experiences I've had. Now, of course I know they are a great pinot producer--but that first taste was blind, and it was a great wine. Thank you for the wine and the experience.

Unified Symposium, First Thoughts

Just getting back to my desk after three meeting packed days at the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium here in Sacramento. The first days seminars were mostly about sustainability. The second day, and most attended seminar, was the State of the Industry, where great information was shared about vineyard plantings, sales of wine, consumer attitudes and business issues. Yesterday was more marketing driven, with excellent information on marketing wine to the public, particularly millenials.

On Wednesday and Thursday there was the trade show, with two floors of tractors, barrels, corks and other vendors showing their wares. Here's me on the trade show floor. Although I wish I was on a tractor, this will give you a little view of what the trade show is like. I've been going to the meeting for over 10 years now, and it is very nice to meet up with old friends, learn what's facing the industry, taste some new wine and get some great swag. I now have two free wineglasses to commemorate the occasion, as well as two Riedel O glasses, a few corkscrews, some great "green" shopping bags, and lots of reading material.

The first time I attended Unified I was so surprised to see all the wine flowing at the trade show, and in some of the seminars. During the show, it is not unusual for people to be talking to a vendor with a glass of wine in their hand, and many times also in the vendors hand. Doing business this way is so foreign to many of my friends. When I've been at a hosted lunch and wine tasting at Unified and then stopped by to visit my husband at work, he experiences a culture shock. Drinking on the job for many is taboo--and especially for him. But in the wine world, it's work.

I'll report on some of the specifics soon. I hope to see you there next year.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Unified Symposium

Next week the annual Unified Wine & Grape Symposium will be held here in Sacramento. I will be attending all three of the regularly scheduled days. This is a great opportunity to hear about the latest developments in the wine industry and to catch up with old friends. I'll report back on what I learned next week. If you are interested in learning more about it, please visit

Book Review: The Botanist and the Vintner

Just finished, after struggling through for 6 months, The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell. Yes, I'm a very slow reader--sometimes. This book came recommended to me by some fellow bloggers. Being a botanist and working with vintners, I thought it would be right up my alley. While the book is a great account of how the vine disease phylloxera was discovered and how it was eventually remedied in France, the book was a bit dry for my tastes. It is a great historical account of "how wine was saved for the world". If you are interested in reading about the history of viticulture in the last two centuries, take a look at it. It just wasn't a page turner for me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why Do Companies Use a Recruiter?

Often people ask why companies use a recruiter. Here are some of the reasons why.
1. The company does not have a Human Resources department. While most large companies do have an HR department, many wineries are small operations. After hiring a General Manager, a Winemaker, a Sales and Marketing person and someone who is in charge of the Tasting Room, most wineries have the main managment positions filled. Then the responsibility gets put onto one of those manager's shoulders--while they still have their day to day work to do. While most winery professionals have experience in hiring, many don't enjoy doing it. Taking the time to post a job, go through the resumes, interview the top candidates and then perform references is very time consuming, and not something that they have time for. A recruiter does those functions for them, and presents the best candidates to them for their review.
2. The company requires confidentiality about the opening. Executive searches are often conducted when a company is planning to change the direction of the company, when a current executive is underperforming, or when a key executive is planning a departure. With a high profile management position, the health of a company is brought into question when an opening goes unfilled. Proactive companies want positions filled to prevent any undue attention. This is frequently when I work with wineries to find a new employee. Through my search services I can network with executives, advertise about the opening, and address questions and concerns that job seekers may have about the management change of the company.
3. A company needs to look at a broad spectrum of candidates. Several of the larger wine and spirits companies work with recruiters to make sure they are talking to all of the available qualified employees. Sometimes companies get a reputation of not hiring people from certain competitors or without a certain degree. When companies change directions, they sometimes need the input from people throughout the industry. By using a recruiter they can talk to some people who previously may have avoided submitting a resume to the company.
4. A company wants someone with a particular talent, but doesn't have the resources to recruit. When a special skill is required, the talent pool is much smaller than for a general experience level. To find the best and the brightest, research is required to find out who the qualified people are, and then who might be interested in the new position. HR departments aren't always equipped to do this, and smaller operations don't have the resources to do it. That's when a recruiter is contacted. Having the recruitment experience and contacts within the industry, I'm able to quickly ascertain who the right candidates are, and work to find who might be interested in looking at a new job opportunity.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Praise for the Beer Truck Mentality

In my old corporate life we were always talking about databases and personal knowledge. The company was trying to get employees to put all of their client and candidate information into the database, instead of in files, on scraps of paper, or in their memory. The idea was to make all the information readily available in the event an employee was not available. As was commonly said, "What happens to the company if one of our top salespeople gets hit by a beer truck?". As a manager, I understood the desire to have all of the information available and not held captive in a person's head. But as an employee, I also understood the power to be had by keeping the information to myself.

If you are an invaluable employee, you most likely have some valuable information and skills that you alone possess. In a company without any databases or free information sharing, you can become quite powerful. This is often the case when you are working independently, have a lot of interaction with people outside the company, and are a hard worker. While companies work to get systems in place to prevent this from happening, frequently the systems are cumbersome and slow. If you are out there doing business, making sales, putting together successful projects, growing excellent grapes or making stellar wine, many managers will turn a blind eye on your failure to document.

I say this half-jokingly. No one wants you to be hit by a beer truck. But being irreplaceable to your employer helps keep you fully employed. While I hammered the importance of using the database, I knew that a great performer was worth far more than a completely executed data file. Surprisingly, many of my best performers through the years have also been highly motivated to keep their information up to date. Knowing all you can about your work is helpful in moving forward and finding new successes, which was probably why those good employees were interested in keeping current with their data.

My take-away for you. Become irreplaceable. Being great at what you do will pay off today and tomorrow.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Never Go Wine Tasting

Over the holidays I visited many of my client wineries. One of the perks of wine recruitment is that you get to taste a lot of great wine. This was very true of my most recent visits. And here's the rub. I can't stand any of the "day to day" wine in my house now.

Many wine writers mention the "tasting room" effect. This is the phenomenon where when you taste it at the winery, it is magnificent, and then once you open it up at home it isn't quite as good. I have experienced this many times. My most recent problem is a bit more economically challenging. This last year I have worked with some outstanding wineries. Tasting the wines on the premises was fantastic. And I haven't had the displeasure of the "tasting room" effect because the wines are just as good at home. Yet, they are cracking the $50-$150 per bottle price range. This would break the WineTalent bank if they became my house wines. I have to keep them in the wine cellar (or closet so to speak)--not the wine fridge in the kitchen.

I have always been a savvy shopper, whether it's for clothes, housewares or wine. I think there are a lot of great wines in the $7-$10 range that we can all enjoy on a regular basis. I've become a regular at the fancy Grocery Outlet nearby--and regularly pick up an assorted case of wines. Sometimes they are knockouts at $5. My husband also loves a good find, and picks up his favorites at the grocery store. After a day's work, relaxing and catching up over a nice, affordable glass of wine is a pleasure.

So I have been quite disappointed when my usual economical wines just haven't been up to snuff. With a busy life, I don't have time to read tons of wine reviews, visit lots of different wine shops and scout out the best deals. I also like to be adventurous and try lots of different types of wines. Don't get me wrong, I encourage everyone to go wine tasting, and to learn more about wine. I also think it is a great idea to go to any local winetasting events held at retailers or local wineries, to learn what wines are out there that you might like. Yes, those higher priced wines I've been tasting recently are excellent, but there are a lot of winners out there at a lot lower price point. If you are looking for a good bottle, ask a friend, or better yet, ask the wine shop merchant. There you can find a lot of great deals.

Oh, for the good old days before swirling those beautiful wines in my glass. A kinder, gentler, more affordable time. As I've written here before, sometimes ignorance is bliss.