Disrupting the Digital Wine Communications Community


Two weeks ago, I was one of six speakers recruited to Plovdiv, Bulgaria to inspire and to challenge how Digital Wine Communications Conference (DWCC) participants see the world.

The goal of the DWCC’s Disrupt! Wine Talks is to present new ideas in a high-energy format: one word, one speaker with a microphone and eight minutes. The sessions are a variation on the Ignite format, in which each slide is displayed for 20 seconds, and slides automatically advance, whether the presenter is ready or not.

To make things even more challenging, all six speakers were given the same word, “BLEND” (the conference theme) from which to build an inspirational talk from their perspective or area of expertise.

Our task was to change people’s thinking. We were asked to push our captive audience to look at things from a new angle – to leave them asking questions, challenging assumptions and inspiring new ideas.

One speaker, Richard Heming, MW, encouraged the wine community to “lighten up” and blend wine with humor. Simon Woolf shouted that “blending in is for losers!” and dared attendees to buck the norm. My call to action…

The Booze Bin

The Buzz on Beer Growth

Football season is upon us and I am inevitably thinking about beer.  Beer & football go together like peanut butter & jelly, like Cheech & Chong.  Football means big business for beer brands, and PR professionals should have brews on their minds as well. Take advantage of halftime to “tap” into these three beer trends that have the marketplace buzzing this season.


Craft Beer Finds Its Footing

Craft beer consumption is on the rise.  More and more often, we are seeing Americans opt out of Megabrews in favor of local or domestic craft brews. According to Beverage Information & Insights Group, domestic craft beer sales were up over 15% in 2014, despite that fact that overall beer volume sales actually fell half of a percent from 2013 to 2014. When we’re talking about 2.8 billion cases of beer sold in the US last year, half of a percent accounts for way more beer than you might think. Megabreweries are noticing this shift in consumer purchases. In response to dropping market share, Anheuser Busch (AB InBev) recently announced a deal to acquire MillerCoors for over $104 billion dollars. If

The Booze Bin

The Force Awakens: 7 Wine Pairings for the Star Wars Series

This year’s wine harvest has ended early. Though it’s estimated the 2015 harvest came in at approximately 3.8 million tons compared to 3.9 million tons last year, one winery isn’t worried about the smaller harvest.

To celebrate the end of the harvest season, Jordan Winery in Sonoma created a fun parody of the upcoming December 18 release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. The spoof Cab Wars: The Force of Harvest Awakens, is a hilarious take on harvest season.


As homage for the newest Star Wars film, here are seven wines to pair with the epic series.

1. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Love him or hate him, Jar Jar Binks may have been a clumsy outcast, but he had the best intentions to serve. That’s why the semi-sweet, bold and fruity flavor of Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz pairs well for the beginning of the Star Wars saga.



2. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

The galaxy may have been on the brink of civil war, but there was still room for Anakin Skywalker and

The Booze Bin

5 Beer Cocktails in Honor of the Biggest Beer Deal Ever

The world beer market just got a little smaller. Yesterday, the two largest brewers in the world – SABMiller and AB InBev – agreed on a merger worth $104.2 billion. The beers that this deal will bring under the same roof make an impressive list: Bud, Bud Light, Corona, Michelob, Stella Artois, Becks, Hoegaarden, Leffe, Coors, Coors Light, Grolsch, Icehouse, Keystone, Milwaukee’s Best, Blue Moon, Foster’s, Pilsner Urquell, Peroni, Miller Lite and Miller High Life. And that’s not even all of them.

Reactions are still pouring in: Some predict that this deal will hurt craft brewers, while others see steady opportunities for the craft community despite this epic shift in power. It’s unarguably the biggest news the beer industry’s seen in a long time.

In honor of the historic deal, here are five beer cocktails to sip on featuring signature brands of the merging giants:

1. Sparkling Pumpkin Cider Beer-Tail

Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale and sparkling apple cider make this a great beer cocktail for fall gatherings. Place a cinnamon stick in a mason jar; then pour beer until the glass is three quarters full. Top off with cider and a quick squeeze of a lemon. 

The Booze Bin

The Casual Approach to Millennial Marketing

While I don’t have actual proof, it seems that market researchers have spent more time understanding Millennials – in particular their dining and drinking habits – than any other generation in the past few years. The latest fruit of their labor is an interesting dining model backed by fast food chains and beverage alcohol brands: Fast Casual restaurants (think Chipotle and Fatburger) serving booze. If research is right, a Crunch Wrap Supreme with a Margarita on the side or a Venti glass of wine could be what it takes to get more Millennials in the door. Representing 25 percent of the U.S. population, Millennials mean big business.

Big Players

The concept isn’t new, but it’s catching on like wildfire right now. Taco Bell just joined the club with its first “Taco Bell Cantina,” serving booze next to tacos in Chicago. Diners can expect a slightly nicer brick-and-mortar location with shareable appetizers, wine, beer and frozen cocktails. A place you’d actually want to eat in – which is the whole point – instead of opting for the drive-through. “Alcohol is a way fast casual restaurants can say ‘we are a

The Booze Bin

In Search Of a New Fall Flavor, I Failed

Ask anyone what makes a crowd-pleasing commercial, and you’ll get two answers: Puppies and babies. In beverage PR, babies are taboo, and puppies are almost synonymous with Budweiser’s Super Bowl ads. Many brands therefore jump on a seasonal flavor trend and ride the popularity wave for said “it” ingredient until the next season comes knocking on their door.

No Pumpkin Backlash in Sight

Since today marks the first day of fall, my curiosity in emerging seasonal flavors is at its peak. Sadly, those flavors must be late to the party, because what I came across in my research is pure “Pumpkinsanity.” Each year, every year, pumpkin (spice) seems to take home the people’s choice award for the most popular fall flavor and dominates the beer aisle of the grocery store. 2015 is no different. According to food industry tracker Mintel, use of pumpkin as an ingredient in beverages alone has grown 130 percent since 2006. Last year, almost four in ten Americans bought a pumpkin-flavored product. Only pie filling was more popular than beer in that flavor category (see infographic). Breweries like Blue Moon are taking note, and are releasing…

The Booze Bin

Not Your Father’s Root Beer – Growth Strategies for Small Brands

an adult root beer float

One of the most popular products to hit the beverage industry in recent history came in the form of Not Your Father’s Root Beer (NYFRB). This beer-slash-soda brand has taken the market by storm, as it represents one of the newest trends in alcohol, “malternatives” aka alternative malt beverages (usually artificially flavored). Social media has been in a tizzy as consumers frantically search for it on the shelves of their local retailers. The consumer is truly engaged with the product and shares updates about where to find it and what it taste likes.   Instagram feeds flooded with photos of the bottles with captions such as “YES! Finally, was able to get my hands on some. Now to see if the hype is true” and “I tried it and like it! #NotYourFathersRootbeer.” One NJ liquor store posted: “Not Your Father’s Root Beer is back in stock. Limit one six-pack per person. Don’t wait it will be gone in a day or two.”

But why has this brand been so successful and what can we learn from their product launch? Not Your Father’s Root Beer…


License to Brew: 3 Ways Beer Partnerships Improve Brand Awareness

According to Global License, food and beverage licensing grew 9.5 percent representing $8.04 billion in licensed merchandise in 2010. It remains to be a growth segment today and increasingly you see it in brand extensions in the craft beer industry.

From Fulton Brewery and New Belgium Brewing to Brewery Ommegang and 21st Amendment Brewery, a number of breweries are partnering with big brands like Wheaties, HBO, Ben & Jerry’s, and Count Chocula to create craft beers to reach broader audiences.

Here are three ways your brand can improve consumer brand awareness with a strategic beer partnership:


1.      Get creative and forge authentic partnerships.

Just listen to these creative beer descriptions: 21st Amendment’s homage to Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts with its release of Toaster Pastry, an India-style Red Ale, New Belgium’s Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream inspired Salted Caramel Brownie and Fulton’s Wheaties and Hefewizten beer, HefeWheaties.

Although not technically a licensing deal, the Wheaties brand extension didn’t come out of nowhere. The idea for the limited-edition HefeWheaties came about because Fulton has close ties to General Mills, which owns Wheaties. It also doesn’t hurt that the two Minneapolis companies use…

Digital Marketing

Report from TEXSOM: Top Beverage Trends

TexSom.jpgAttending TEXSOM has been on my bucket list, and this year, I finally made it. In its 11th year, the 2015 conference brought together more than 1,000 attendees, including roughly 25 percent of all industry pros who have earned the title of Master Sommelier.

Below are five takeaways from the “BevLab: Ideas and Issues in the Modern Beverage Industry” session, a panel discussion of current wine trends. Moderated by writer Jordan Mackay, the panel featured John Blazon MS; Levi Dalton (host of podcast “I’ll Drink to That” and wine columnist for; award-winning restauranteur Shelley Lindgren, and Antony Moss MW AIWS. These five beverage trends were worth noting:

 1: Restaurant Costs Skyrocket: Ready-to-Drink Wines Benefit

As the economy improves, restaurant rents are skyrocketing. Lindgren, who is in lease renewal negotiations now, said her landlord proposed a 43% increase over her last contract. How does this affect food and wine programs? Dalton suggested that restaurants can’t expect to be 20-30 year propositions any longer. That affects how wine directors buy wine and build restaurant cellars – there is not as much inventory, and…

Crisis Management

How To Avoid Creating Your Own PR Crisis: The Case of Riedel + The Blog World

Over the past week, people in wine PR have witnessed a dispute between glass manufacturer Riedel and Ron Washam, the man behind the wine-based satire blog “The Hosemaster of Wine™.” It started on August 3 when Washam, a comedy-writer-turned-sommelier, released a satirical piece about Riedel on the blog of his Master Sommelier friend Tim Atkin. In the column called “Riedel Me this,”Washman had a field day with Georg Riedel, the Austrian who pioneered different shapes of glassware for different grape varieties. You should know that people either love or hate the concept of varietal-specific wine glasses (VinePair addresses the debate). Some think the concept is bogus, some – among them Robert M. Parker Jr. himself – think it’s genius.

Riedel was – in my mind understandably – unhappy. At that point, the Goliath of stemware (over $300 million in sales in 125 countries) had a lot of options to choose from how to react to the article. From a PR perspective, I think they had an amazing opportunity to open up a real dialog with consumers and influencers about wine glasses. Having a special glass for each type of…