Regional Wine Week (10/9 – 10/15) is an opportunity for us blogging wine geeks to spend time focusing on the wines from near where we live. Hundreds of us will be typing and tapping away all next week. Some of us do this all the time. Some of us live in the “Other 3” states and maybe once in a while want to learn something about what other wines are like (I hope they do anyway). I have personally invested a lot of time, and more money than I want to be aware of spending on wine, learning about wines from the eastern states. I am hugely encouraged by the steady increase in the quality of these wines over the years, even as the uncontrollable weather elements loom all around us. Consistently better and better wines are being made in states that were never considered optimal for fine wine grape growing. Now if we could only see more reach in availability, or an ease on restrictions that prevent people in some states (Massachusetts) from having a perfectly legal, American made product delivered to my home (a big rant coming up soon on this subject), we’d all be better off. I read so much good material from wine bloggers who write with knowledge, passion, and pride about their local wines and I visit some of these places and taste the wines and think – if only I could order some of this when I get home. Ok, a little off topic, reigning in.
What I want to communicate to the winemakers of New England is that I wish they would pay more attention to what social media can do for them. Comparatively few New England winemakers actively participate in any form of social media and yet there is a significant audience out there eager to know more about them. Bill Russell from Westport Rivers in MA, Marco Montez of Travessia Urban Winery in New Bedford MA, Michael Fairbrother of Moonlight Meadery in Londonderry NH (burning up the Twitter threads!) are a few who get it and really make an effort to connect with us. I get it too that the majority of these businesses are being run by a dedicated small staff, or, in many cases, family (often unpaid). These are not the large operations owned by celebrities and backed by big money. Most are working farmers, or folks who are only a step away from the hobby that ran amok, still maintaining other fulltime employment. But please don’t ignore what participating in social media can do for you. Perhaps not me at this stage, but some of my fellow bloggers have substantial networks of followers who trust their recommendations.
Before attending the Wine Bloggers Conference in Charlottsville, VA earlier this year I heard that the local social media community there rushed around encouraging many of the winemakers to sign up for Twitter accounts and get involved, and they did. As bloggers from all over the country started to familiarize themselves with the local wine community they started to connect, reach out, and spread the word about Virginia wines. I count myself fortunate enough to have been able to visit and learn and taste Virginia wines and even now, months later I keep in touch with the friends I made there and continue to feel connected to their wine community. I’m nursing the bottles I managed to smuggle back with me and do wish I had better access to some of that fine Viognier they go on and on about.
I visited Long Island this past August. One of the finest places in the US to experience agri-tourism. They have a thriving social media community. I connected with them and now I have spent September and October riveted by their struggles with weather and how much it has effected the crop. I should be riveted by what is going on with the New England harvest but our winemakers are not making a lot of noise about anything, good or bad. It doesn’t hurt Long Island wine to communicate their struggles. If anything it will make me more interested in seeking out the best of the 2011 vintage when it comes out. Some will make outstanding wines in a bad year and others will do their best with what they’ve got. In either case I feel like a supporter of their wine community.
Last week I attended a get together at Jason Phelps (@ancientfirewine, and author of Ancient Fire Wine blog)) house to taste wines from each of the New England states. It’s not easy to gather wines from the six New England states. Many of the winemakers are too small to have distribution, so you don’t see a lot of New England wines in retail stores. A lot only sell their wines out of their own tasting rooms. Nevertheless Jason was able to gather 22 wines! He himself is a very fine award-winning home winemaker (and his wines most definitely rival the quality of some of the commercial winemakers).
He invited blogger wine geeks like me, friends, other home winemakers to taste and talk about the wines and the quality and the hopes for the future of New England’s wine economy. It was a great opportunity for me. I had not tasted wines from Vermont before, and that night I learned that there is a winery (Willow Spring) in the very town where I have been living for 16 years! Now I can be a supporter of their wines too.
Back to my point to New England winemakers – much of social media is free. If you invited us to your events, kept us in the loop, you could increase awareness for your product exponentially. Wine bloggers are for the most part enthusiasts who enjoy your wines and are willing to try, buy, and spread word of mouth at no cost to you. We visit your tasting rooms and then rave about your successes all on our own time and dime. Dedicate someone in your operation to connect with us – even if it’s the local kid who comes by to help pick your grapes during harvest. Let’s raise the buzz meter a few notches. Wine geeks and enthusiasts are out there eagerly waiting to hear from you. We want to support the local economy. New England is a booming tourism region with so much to offer. We do nothing to promote our wines to visitors. MOST visitors to the major cities of Boston, Providence, Portsmouth, Concord (NH), Portland, and Hartford have no idea that there are vineyards to visit within a hour’s drive. No budget for advertising? Start with social media. Invite us to follow you. I can be reached @WiningWays