A while ago I was invited to write a couple of articles for a local online publication. Because it’s a well-known publication I was invited to attend “Camp Krug,” a marketing/PR glamping event for wine writers. I have to admit, I felt a little guilty for accepting because I’m not actually a “wine writer.” I’m a business owner that on occasion gets invited to write an article. I always accept because I see it as a marketing opportunity for my companies as well a way to support winemakers and wineries I genuinely like and respect. So I arrived at Charles Krug winery where I was greeted by Peter Mondavi Jr. himself. He was so unassuming that at first I thought he was another one of us “wine writers.” After we had all arrived and chosen our “Glamping” tent (which featured a full mattress, down comforter, leather chairs, and cow skin rug) we had a personal tour of the winery given by Mr. Mondavi and Krug’s winemaker, Stacy Clark. Based on the questions that the other wine writers asked during the tour, two things became apparent to me. First, most of these writers didn’t know much about wine or about Napa. One writer even asked Peter Mondavi Jr. how his dad was..which is shocking since Peter Mondavi Sr.’s passing made national headlines. Second, people asked questions to impress the other writers. Every question included a name drop or a reference to some free event they had attended or some article they had written. “I was in Italy last month for the International Food and Wine Ball…” I was thinking how I could include a question about the FREE parent teacher conference I attended but I didn’t think they would be impressed.
After the private tour of the Charles Krug winery we went to the Sauvignon Blanc vineyard where we drank S.B. in the very vineyard from which it is sourced. Winemaker Stacy Clark pointed out where the rootstock had been grafted. I pointed out that some of the baby grapes were in bloom. You would have thought that these wine experts didn’t know about grafting or what a wine grape in bloom looks like. Oh wait, they actually didn’t know about grafting or that grapes have flowers that bloom. Silly me, I would have thought that being a wine writer would mean you spent time in the vineyard since you kind of have to grow grapes in order to make wine.
Next was lunch. There was a beautiful table set on the lawn. Because it was a long table they had to use 2 tablecloths. In order to make it seamless there was the famous “fold.” Oh how I know that fold well. When I worked hospitality for Sutter Home the fold was a matter of pride for a lot of women who worked events. I remember doing the famous fold only to have one of my co-workers redo it saying, “I hope you don’t mind but I like my fold done like this…” Um..Okay. Whatever makes you happy. Folds in tablecloths don’t mean a lot to me but they mean a lot to many people who do events and it’s that attention to detail that makes the event elegant, beautiful, and successful.
Besides the fold I immediately noticed the flower arrangements. One was a long rectangular shaped box holding bright and happy sunflowers with tomatoes. The other was square box holding artichokes, rosemary, and some other greenery. They even used the artichoke plant leaves, which I thought was quite creative. I noticed the catering gal fussing with each arrangement. Watching her fuss over these arrangements brought me back to my event days. I remember Susan Smith telling me, “Go and pluck off every wilted or discolored flower petal. This is like Disneyland. Everything has to be perfect.”
As I ate my lunch, loving being served instead of doing the serving, and just enjoying the food, wine, flowers, and tablecloth that were set for me I was filled with gratitude. I had worked these events for so long but never had I had the chance to be the beneficiary of all the details and planning such an event required. I also knew that the perfection and seamlessness of this meal was not meant to impress me or anyone else. This was a result of what I call “old school Napa hospitality” where everything is done hoping that it makes the guests happy. The fold in the table is there so that the two tables put together seems like one big table so that everyone feels they are part of one cohesive unit rather than feeling separated. Everything is done so that the guest doesn’t have to worry, want, or really do anything for themselves. This is why I love hospitality and why I’ve been involved with it for 20 years.
We ended the night with S’Mores around the campfire. Hershey’s and Honey Maid were not invited. Instead they had handmade marshmallows and cookies and Wood House chocolate bars. Wood House is a high end chocolatier in St. Helena. It’s not inexpensive and it shows CK’s commitment to supporting local businesses and products as well as making sure their guests had the very best.
One of the writers came up to me and told me that she wanted to get to know me because I actually know my “shit.” I told her it’s because I’m actually not a wine writer. I actually work in and own businesses connected to the wine industry. She too had been in the wine industry for many years before she started writing about wine. None of the other wine writers had a background in wine. To be honest I left feeling a little confused. Why do wineries create these experiences for people who don’t know anything about wine, hospitality, or even basic wine history (One of the writers literally asked when Robert Mondavi and Charles Krug met and how they were involved with the tasting of Paris)? Perhaps even more perplexing is why do publications want wine writers who don’t know anything about wine? Unless the blog or articles are supposed to be about someone just discovering wine, shouldn’t the wine writers be wine professionals? Do you really want someone writing about Charles Krug meeting Robert Mondavi and collaborating for the Tasting of Paris? Seems risky for the publication if you ask me. There are plenty of people in the wine industry who write quite well, better than me in fact. I read their stuff all the time. They are funny, entertaining, and honestly, they know their “Shit.”
I really think a better marketing tactic might be to roll out the red carpet for people who are directly involved with consumers or to the paying consumer themselves. Find someone who will appreciate the attention to detail, the winery’s place in history, and feel gratitude for all they are about to experience and be gifted. If you are going to fly people to Italy and Paris for a food and wine experience, find someone who is super excited and giddy to do so, not someone who feels that they are owed such extravagant trips because they have a Twitter account and an Instagram. That’s my take on it anyways.
In the meantime, we’ll try to find a place where Charles Krug and its history and tasting experiences fit into Small Lot Wine Tours. It may not be as important as me sending out a couple of tweets and posting a couple of pictures on Instagram, but it’s the least I can do.