SommCon Day 2 Recap:
PAY DAY! Which provided the chance to sleep in a little bit and take the luxury of Uber to the conference. I was able to make it just in time to grab a coffee and to my first session.
Lead by: Carl Winston
As someone who did not study marketing or business in college it was worthwhile to sit in this session. It was well empathized that working in wine I am a part of the “experience economy”. Which is the hustle of selling memories to guests by way of a pieces that make up an experiential value. The idea that consumers (guests) need to decide between buying a toaster or an experience. It highlighted the four “Es’” of making up that experiential value: education, esthetic, entertainment and escapism. By framing your business in these categories then you can capitalize on your guest. It was illuminating to consider how my own place of employment worked to accomplish this feat. Throughout the session Mr. Winston utilized participation to enhance the session. It was useful to receive feedback and hear other’s ideas on areas of improvement. The session was a good lesson in hospitality as a business model.
Lead by: David Glancy, MS (Moderator), Peter Weber (Executive Director, Cork Quality Council), Lisa Mattson (Director of Marketing & PR, Jordan Winery), Katie Madigan (Winemaker, St. Francis Winery ), Jeff Meier (President & Director of Winemaking, J. Lohr Vineyards)
This session required a little bit more deep listening to glean lessons from. The discussion of cork and science behind different cork closures is not a sexy topic. It was not made any more interesting by Mr. Weber ,who while has a strong platform of expertise, did little to inspire me. I was able to take away the commitment of wineries to the usage of cork closures that promoted aging in their wines. It was at the direct bequest of consumers that have driven many wineries to seek out the best closures that reduce the odds of TCA spoilage. Many of the attendees asked insightful questions that prompted the panelists to highlight the zero waste of cork in the creation of multiple products. (I.E. flooring, furniture, etc.) It was not the most exciting session but I walked away with the knowledge that cork and closures have a profound impact on the product I consume and sell.
After taking a couple of FREE portraits provided by SommCon for my personal use and getting a sweet photo with my new friend Christie, we wandered up to the networking lunch on the patio of the Marriott. It was gorgeous up there! It had a beautiful view of the marina and bay. They had created mini food stations with a heavy influence of Mexican food. Naturally I ate delicious tacos because we don’t have excellent tacos like that in Atlanta. They also featured a Mexican winery among the few pouring. I made a huge bee line over. It was love! I found an amazing Gamay rose. I went back for at least 2 tastes after my first pour…. On the plus side is I can order and have it shipped to Atlanta. While we filled up on delicious food I also got to know a couple of the other YLS recipients. It was awesome hearing their stories and walking away with their cards knowing I got some great connections for the future! I think we were all sad to have to head back inside as it was a gorgeous day.
Session 3: Gamay: Connecting Oregon and Beaujolais
Lead by: Stacey Gibson
It was a perfect way to end my SommCon sessions. It was connecting Oregon Pinot Noir/ Gamay Noir to Beaujolais Gamay. Cue Electric Light Orchestra music because those wines make me want to groove and shake. Mrs. Gibson was so enthusiastic and passionate. It bled through the whole session as she took us through a bit of technical information on the Beaujolais region. We were able to sample 6 different wines that highlighted different producers, styles and regions. I really enjoyed her commentary and stories behind each wine. The tasting only endeared me more to Beaujolais and its unique expression with an eye on the even closer region of Oregon. Sometimes you just need to sit amongst fellow nerds who share your passion.
Following the end of SommCon was a trade show that housed wineries and distributers. It was a bit overwhelming for me as it was only my fourth ever “trade show” in the industry. I especially get a little weird about walking up to tables and talking to strangers. Especially since most wineries were on the local side and I do not hold decision making abilities on my wine list. However sometimes you just got to take a lap and then jump in two feet first. While fighting palate fatigue I was able to find some exquisite gems. One table in particular featured all wines from Greece. It was a moment of great oral pleasure as I was able to try a bunch of fun, funky and interesting wines I haven’t seen around Atlanta. I did my best to “be social” and “get out there.” After harassing a local winery, Negociánt, did I allow myself to succumb to my palate fatigue and slink off and away in the search of dinner.
It was an honor to receive the opportunity as a Young Leader Summit Recipient. I would not have been able to afford the chance otherwise and it was exactly the recalibration I needed to refocus me on my personal journey and career. If you ever get the chance to hob nob with wine geeks and professionals outside of your bubble do so! While I can be a bit of a shy person, getting outside of my bubble and seeing and meeting somms from all over was very rewarding. It reminds you that there are many, many paths in our field.
My suggestions for picking sessions would be to choose ones you know nothing about. Seriously! The sessions are an hour to an hour and a half so you can’t get into as much detail as you might want. So, choose sessions that push your boundaries. You will not be sorry because the presenters ooze passion and enthusiasm. I walked away from every session having learned something.
SommCon 2018 will be hosting an east coast conference in Washington D.C. July 22-24 and a west coast conference in San Diego November 14-16. Apply for the Young Leaders Summit if you are under 30, sign-up and go get inspired! (And hit me up for any suggestions for San Diego. I have some suggestions!)