This will be double posted in the Tour thread and the Appreciation thread.
I was asked by several of the first-timers how this whole tour thing got started.
Like most early wine.wooters, I came to wine.woot from the main woot board. Just like other stuff on the site, I started to read about and purchase offers based on the comments of those more knowledgeable on the threads. I did not know much about wine, or varietals, or vintages and so I tended to get what was inexpensive at my local store, as I wasn’t going to pay $30.00 a bottle on 750ml of wine that I may or may not enjoy any more than a $9.00 bottle of wine. I started purchasing regularly on wine.woot at the recommendation of folks who had knowledge, and for the regular participation of wine makers such as Peter Wellington, Scott Harvey, Ed at Pedroncelli, Cathy Corison, Ty Caton and really most of the other wine makers active on their deals. There was a community of folks who had some knowledge, and there were winemakers who were willing to answer questions about the offerings. And when I received the wines and tasted them, they really did appear to be a great value – so I kept purchasing.
I have a personal interest in history, and am fascinated by how industries develop in different places and I was always intrigued by RPM’s historical vignettes on the different areas of California wine country. So, on February 14, 2008 I posted this to the main thread for the deal that week.
“Though this is the likely the wrong forum, I propose that the WW folks (as in, us) sponsor a RPM hosted historical tour of CA wine country. We could mix in tastings, with visiting the towns that have been part of its history, with evening sessions on the history of where we would be visiting the next day. Perhaps 3 days. We, of course, would pay all of RPM's expenses for the trip. Perhaps we could also convince Peter and WD to join us. Maybe this fall?”
The response was quite positive and enthusiastic. I felt that if I was the one proposing it, I should be willing to make it happen. After all, I was really doing it for my own education.
Without ever having met any of the other wine.wooters, nor RPM or WD39, we started conversations about such a tour over the phone and email. Someone suggested we stay at the BW in Santa Rosa, so we got a block of rooms there. We started talking with various winemakers to see who would have an interest in hosting us. I wanted it to be as historical as possible and hopefully to begin to complete a picture of how the industry evolved. We had a focus on Zinfandel as it is really the grape of Sonoma and also of Napa.
For the first tours and subsequent tours we had a de facto division of responsibilities. RPM, having grown up in a wine making family, was the keeper of the historical flame with regard to wine making regions and AVA’s and wine makers that had some history to them. WD39 had most all of the connections to the wine makers and he had nurtured the relationships so that some number of them would see value in having a bunch of avowed discount shoppers visit them and expect the wine makers to spend 1 to 2 hours doing a deep dive through their operations and history, as well as their philosophy of wine making. I was responsible for nailing down the details, doing what I could to trim expenses, make sure we could get everywhere in a timely manner, getting us fed and ensuring all the facilities could accommodate our purposes. I also focus on the non-tasting side of things such as doing blending sessions, and field tours, the mechanics of wine making, and just the opportunity for folks to hang out and get to know each other. A prime focus is to make sure that we have the time at each venue to experience, absorb, and contemplate our visit without being rushed to our next venue. It never works perfectly, but I always want to respect the time and investment that the wine makers are making by being as close to on-time as is within reason.
Oh, and the weather – that is my responsibility too (unless it is not good).
Over the years, the tours have evolved, and I have put them together more for the community than myself – but since I am going, I like to make it interesting for me too.
The tour comes together much like a puzzle – you start with some pieces – not necessarily the corners – and you see what fits. Some pieces fit better in a different puzzle and you discard them. Most of the time you have a bunch of unconnected pieces and you need others to fit them into a cohesive whole. And, yes, there are times when you might push really hard to get some of them to fit.
It is the tour-ists that make the tour possible. Without the interest from the group, there would not be the opportunity for everyone to share the experience. We have always had great groups and even though many have never met before, we really have a fun time together.
Who else makes the tour possible? WineDavid39. It is a bunch of time and effort on his part in addition to his normal scramble to get us all the wine deals. He not only is relentless personally, but he corrals WineFarm, his brother and sister-in-law, his mother and stepfather, others at wine.woot, and who knows who else. Everything that happens at the reception events and the lab-ratting, and the wine makers BBQ are driven and orchestrated by WD39. WineFarm took on the BBQ and ran with it – about 80 people including many wine makers. George and Jan once again made sure we had great receptions with gourmet appetizers and plenty of wine. All that wine that was purchased has to be transported, re-packed, labeled and shipped to over 40 addresses – an incredible gift to the community and to the wineries from wine.woot. Drew, Neil, and the logistics folks are all on deck to make this a magical experience for the tour-ists.
A big shout-out to RPM for his interest, dedication, knowledge and especially for his continued friendship over these years of tours. I have learned much over the years, and continue to hone my palate based on the tools he provides. Many, many, thanks!