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Rodney Strong Vineyards Launches New Website

Rodney Strong Vineyards

Rodney Strong Vineyards

I’m not one to share press releases, especially verbatim. However, as a big fan of Rodney Strong Vineyards, especially the Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Pinot Noir for $15-20, I figured I can give their redesigned website some love.The site is clean, with a simple layout, great use of media, and chock full of information about this 53 year old California winery.

A mainstay in the Sonoma County wine region for over 50 years, Rodney Strong Vineyards unveiled a new website this summer that showcases an interactive storytelling experience, integrating social media as well as mobile responsive design for the whole site. The new website focuses on providing information through video and rich imagery that’s designed to be easy to use, whether shopping for wine, checking on winery events or simply learning more about the brand. Their address remains the same; www.rodneystrong.com.

“Every communication channel counts in today’s competitive marketplace and telling our story is more important than ever – it is what sets us apart” said Vice President of Marketing Dan Wildermuth. “Embracing social media on a deeper level as well as becoming mobile-friendly became top priorities in our marketing communications strategy.”

Over the last year, Rodney Strong has experienced steady 20% fan/follower growth on social media channels as well as a nearly 300% growth in website traffic originating from mobile devices. The brand’s successful communications campaign, “Place Matters,” launched on the brand’s YouTube channel and has received nearly 175,000 video views to date.

The enhanced visual design, storytelling photography and artfully woven videos all adapt to social media and a flexible layout that automatically resizes to accommodate mobile devices. With the changes, the winery anticipates continued growth in site traffic as well as increased interaction on their social media channels throughout the coming year. “We’re taking into account communication trends,” said Wildermuth, “where people engage and enjoy a digital brand experience in the palm of their hand.”

My only piece of constructive criticism is the placement of their social media contact information is a bit too clean and tucked away. It’s on the bottom right of the footer, and grey  until it’s moused over. With social media being so main stream, I’d make it a little more prominent.

Cheers!

Going Barefoot

Matthew Horbund with Jennifer Wall Winemaker from Barefoot Wines

Jennifer Wall, Winemaker from Barefoot Wines

When I “Met” Jennifer Wall, winemaker at Barefoot Wine on twitter, it was after tweeting about my dislike for Beaujolais Nouveau last November. So when the 16+ year veteran winemaker asked if I’d have time to meet her during her January 2012 trip to Florida, I was a bit nervous. I’ve always said I prefer my women barefoot, not my wine, and told Jen this. She told me that she’d love the chance to change my mind, and I eagerly accepted her invitation.

Jen is one of the original Barefooters, joining the winery in 1995 as their sole winemaker. She’s racked up over 2,500 medals and awards for the brand in that time, and she’s passionate about what she does. With a goal of making wines that accurately reflect their grape, are fruit forward, and affordable, Jen now makes six different Barefoot Bubbly and 13 Barefoot still wines.  She is extremely knowledgeable, about her own brand and wine as a whole, and was an absolute pleasure to talk to.

Barefoot Bubbly from Barefoot Wines with Matthew Horbund and Jennifer Wall

Barefoot Bubbly

What did I learn while interviewing winemaker Jennifer Wall? First, her quote “People talk dry, but drink sweet.” resonated with me. I had just finished a visit with my dad, who likes everything sweet. From breakfast to dinner, he wants to eat sweet and drink sweet. I am quite the opposite, preferring savory and tart, so when my dad’s habits mixed with Jen’s words, it really struck me. There are a lot more people out there who prefer sweet, or at least fruit focused wines than not. And Jennifer had the barefoot facts to back that up. In the past 52 weeks, Barefoot Wines has sold about 4 million cases of wine. And with about 60% of those cases being 1.5 liter bottles, that … well that’s a lot of bottles.

While I aim to “Make Wine Approachable”, and hope to help people find fine wines they’re comfortable with, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with picking an inexpensive bottle that you like from time to time. Frankly, I was impressed with more than one of the Barefoot wines I sampled with Jennifer and other Barefooters that day. They make a great option when you don’t want to spend a lot, but still get a sound bottle of wine. Which brings me to the next thing I learned from Jen. Barefoot likes to think there are a lot of Sunday-Thursday wine lovers, and Barefoot fits their budget.

Some Barefoot Wine Matthew Horbund taste with winemaker Jennifer Wall

Barefoot Wine Lineup

While I try to bring to the table as many wines under $15 that rock your socks as possible, Barefoot does it time and time again. As a matter of fact, I believe all of their wines, bubbly included, are under $15. Which makes it budget friendly for just about anyone, even starving college students (over 21, of course!). You may not find the next Robert Parker 99 point rated wine in their collection, but you’ll find something that works for almost every palate.

Another conversation I had during my winemaker interview with Jen was about cork versus screwcap. While I am a fan of screwcap enclosures, especially for inexpensive wine you expect to drink in the next few months after purchase, you won’t find Barefoot wines with screwcap closures anytime soon. This falls under the “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” category for Barefoot, and they just don’t have people asking for them. I can understand that, though I did tell Jen that I was toe-tally not a fan of the synthetic cork. We agreed to disagree. I then asked about boxed wines. Jen feels that there would be a little something lost if they went from bottles to box, and doesn’t see it in the cards soon. I can understand, though I’m always looking for box wines that don’t suck and will continue to do so.

I enjoyed sipping some Barefoot bubbly with Jen and her team, and she really did change my view on her wines. I brought a bottle of Barefoot Chardonnay home this Saturday, and Robin and I enjoyed it while cooking outside in the Florida heat. It was very tropical fruit forward, a touch of oak, and refreshing on an 85 degree February day. Jen and I built a rapport to where when she came back a month after our first meeting, I drove down to Miami to chat with her again. In the next week, I’ll cover that meeting on my sister site Pour Me Another, and talk about some Barefoot Signature Cocktails.

So, tell me, when was the last time you went Barefoot?

What is Viognier

Viognier Grapes

Viognier Grapes

Have you ever wondered “What is that?” when a lunch date ordered a glass of viognier with their meal? Have you scanned a wine list, seeing a number of French wines, or California wines, made with viognier and wonder what it taste like? All too often we stay in the safe zone with our wine choices, rarely venturing outside our box. After reading this, you’ll not only know what to expect in that glass of wine, but you’l be able to pair it with foods, and talk about it, if you want.

Viognier is a French grape,  not very widely planted there any longer, with less than 300 acres planted in it’s Northern Rhone home. Pronounced VEE-ohn-yay, it’s the main white grape of the French appellations of Condrieu and Chateau-Grillet, and often blended with Syrah to add an exotic bouquet to the red wine. Viognier wines exploded in popularity in the United States in the 1990s, and there are more than a thousand acres of the white grape there today. You can find viognier wines from Virginia and France’s Languedoc-Roussilon regions in addition to California and the Rhone. Don’t be surprised if you see it from South America as well.

Typical markers, or notes, of viognier include white floral such as honey-suckle or jasmine, as well as orange blossom. Along with a honey or honey-suckle notes, you’ll also find stone fruit flavors, peach, apricot, nectarine, as well as a nice spice component that can be described as baking spices.  On the palate, you will find it to be typically fuller bodied, often with an oily or “lanolin” feel in your mouth.

Food and wine pairings with viognier include chicken and fish dishes, from grilled to broiled, to poached. Those meats, or others such as veal, with butter or cream sauces will also work well with viognier . The white wine will enhance fruit flavors, making it s great pairing with fruit dishes as appetizers, or as a topping with those chicken or fish dishes. Viognier will pair nicely with lobster, crab, shrimp or other seafoods.  This is clearly food friendly, but also very nice white wine to sip on it’s own.  I’ve reviewed a Sobon Estate Viognier before, as well as a Lange Twins Viognier. Additional viognier reviews are coming, including a new one from Trattore Wines in Dry Creek Valley, CA.

Enjoy some viogner today, and let me know what you think!