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Vin65 Blog

Welcome to the Vin65 blog.  We are using this space to try and convey our little piece of insight into winery websites, POS systems, and best practices to sell more wine.

Brent Johnson
 
January 6, 2014 | Brent Johnson

4 Ways Your Buttons Can Increase Conversion

The ‘Add-To-Cart’ or ‘Buy’ button is essential if you want to sell wine on your website. Things like the colours, size, font, and location of these buttons play a very large factor subconsciously for a website visitor and will dictate whether or not they buy from you. Below are four factors that will change your conversion rates.

Colour

The aesthetics of a button, specifically the colour, can change the conversion rate. It’s a very simple change to sell more online and we often see designers talk wineries into making the wrong choice simply because a certain button colour fits the design style guide. Don’t be fooled, the colour of buttons matters; you should look for designers that get that.

Red will raise the heart rate, yellow draws the eye quickly (which is why Amazon.com uses it) but orange is ‘said’ to be one of the most successful add to cart button colours. Research shows that an orange button increases engagement by 5%. On most sites it's enough to stand out without looking out of place. It is also the closest you can get to red without the colour subconsciously screaming warning.

Look at your site’s call to action button colours and ask yourself, why am I using this colour? Is it White, Black or Gray because the designer thought it would match the website even though those colour make it the hardest for the customer to find the buttons (yes, black isn’t a colour, it’s a shade - but it depends if you define colour from light or from pigment).

After you’ve looked at your website, take a look at KISSmetrics’s psychology of button colour infograph (the graphic above is from their post).

Placement

Where the button shows on a page is even more important than the colour. The button needs to be some place visible and in a predominate place on the page. It should always be above the fold (note that the fold is no longer just for desktop computers, but for mobile devices and tablets). You won’t see an ecommerce site put a button above the product, but you’ll see them put it on the right or left hand side of products.

Below are two examples, one of Zappos and Poplar Grove with the buttons on the right; both are well designed sites selling a lot online and both have the button in a location that is easy for the consumer to find.

Text

Be mindful of the buttons text. If the placement and colour are right, but the wording is bad all the other work is for nothing. Make your button stand out on your page. You want your font to be legible, clearly standing out from the button colour and using title case, not ALL CAPS (it’s much easier and faster to read). As far as what text you use, ‘Add to Cart’ has had a better track record for conversions than ‘Buy Now’ and you’ll see that most internet retailers use 'Add-To-Cart' text within their purchase buttons.

Here are some stats on the text used within the call to action/purchase buttons on over 100 top ecommerce sites (thanks to GetElastic):

58% - Add to Cart
9.8% - Add to Bag
9.8% - Add to Shopping Bag
6.3% - Add to Basket
4.5% - Add to Shopping Cart
2.7% - Buy
1.8% - Buy Now
1.8% - Add Item(s) to Cart
0.9% - Add Item(s) to Bag
0.9% - Add to My Bag
0.9% - Add to My Brown Bag
0.9% - Add to My Shopping Cart
0.9% - Order Now

Size

Size matters.

Too big and it could become counterproductive, looking out of place, or causing people to have ‘banner blindness’ which leades consumers to glaze over the call to action. Too small and it will make it hard for consumers to buy that wine.

The dimensions of the button and how it compares to the other elements on the page is key. Below are examples of a good 'dimensional relationship' between buttons and the product page.

Conclusion

Your button design influences your conversion rate whether you like it or not and it’s easy to make changes. Try out a change for 3 months and see if your conversions increase. If your colour, text, placement and size are right you’ll notice the difference.

Time Posted: Jan 6, 2014 at 6:30 AM
Brent Johnson
 
September 19, 2013 | Brent Johnson

5 Holiday Preparation Tips For Your Website

Whether you’re ready for it or not, October, November and December (OND) is rapidly approaching. It’s a good time for wineries to start planning and executing marketing campaigns on their websites.

Both Black Friday and Cyber Monday mark the start of the holiday shopping season for millions of shoppers online. Here are 5 great ways to get your website ready for the holidays:
 

1) Create A Shipping Calendar

Statistically, I’m not the only consumer out there that puts off Christmas shopping until the last minute and with online purchases consumers need to be reminded of shipping times so the present makes it under the tree by Christmas morning.

If I buy wine from you will it make it to my house for Christmas, New Years, or later?

Offer a clear/simple shipping calendar throughout your website to make it easy for consumers (like me) to know if we’re going to make the deadline. There are some key areas on your site to place the calendar such as the header in the product list page and detail pages, as well as the cart and the checkout screens.

The example above from American Eagle quickly shows key dates to order before to get that gift under the tree by the 24th.

I’ve been both the giver and recipient of gifts that have arrived late and neither are fun. Work with your shipper to make a calendar that's simple so your consumers know the cut off dates.
 

2) Curate & Make a Gift Guide

It’s all about giving gifts during the holiday season and you want to make it as easy as possible for consumers to pick out something from your store. Your purchasers might be buying for their parents, a co-worker, or a friend, and might not know their taste in wine, so it’s your job to make it easy for them.

Use tools like product badges/callouts (like the one below), highlighting consumer ratings and reviews, or create pre-made packages to remove the guessing from the purchase.

 

Amazon does this really well, shown in the image below, by suggesting different categories or gift ideas for each type of person you’ll be buying for.


 

3) Black Friday / Cyber Monday Promotions

During the holidays consumers expect to see some type of sale and this is especially true on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. If you don’t offer a sale it is like telling your customers to go buy somewhere else.

Some examples of successful promotions are shipping discounts, or volume incentives. At this point, consumers expect free shipping for orders over $100 (technically ‘shipping included’ in the wine industry).

Start emailing your consumers early to let them know when the promotions will be running and give them something to anticipate on your site. We see some bigger ecommerce sites sending holiday emails for promotions but not letting the consumer know that the actual promo will not be in effect until a specific day. This gives them something to look forward to and a reason to visit the website rather than reading and discarding the email.
 

4) Plan Ahead - Schedule Your Emails

Create your emails and offers ahead of time and schedule to send them at specific times. Think about the key days your winery should be ready for (don’t leave it to the day before Black Friday). Below is a breakdown of the months leading up to the holidays with key dates and great ideas for email blasts:

October

  • Key Dates:
    • 14th - Plan your Halloween marketing.
    • 31st - Halloween. Start to ramp up holiday messaging.
  • Common Email Themes:
    • Shop pre-holiday items
    • Pre-order holiday’s hottest items
    • Preview the holiday collections
    • Sign up for holiday savings

November

  • Key Dates:
    • 1st - Plan your Thanksgiving/Black Friday deals and marketing.
    • 29th - Black Friday
  • Common Email Themes:
    • Pre-Black Friday deals
    • Specialized gift guides
    • Free/Included shipping
    • Holiday gift tips

December

  • Key Dates:
    • 2nd - Cyber Monday
    • 6th - Start a ‘12 Days of Christmas’ campaign
    • 23rd - eGift cards only
    • 26th - After Christmas sale
  • Common Email Themes:
    • Last minute gifts
    • Order-by deadlines
    • Season’s greetings
    • After Christmas promotions

January

  • Key Dates:
    • 1st - Happy New Year messaging.
    • 6th - Take down any holiday images
  • Common Email Themes:
    • Redeem your gift cards
    • Self gifts (get what you really wanted)
       

5) Have Some Fun!

Don’t take yourself, or your website, so seriously. Have fun with the holiday on your website and emails. Throw in a Santa hat, elf, reindeer, etc. somewhere on your site or add in a snowflake or two. This shows that your company has personality and that your website actually gets updated (so it’s not the same website all year round).

Both Target and Amazon add holiday imagery to their sites and logos every year. Below is an example of Bath & Body Works' website during the Christmas season which shows holiday imagery throughout the site.

If you've tried any other holiday tricks or campaigns, or if you've seen a great example let us know how they've worked.

Time Posted: Sep 19, 2013 at 6:30 AM
Brent Johnson
 
June 4, 2013 | Brent Johnson

Does Mobile POS Really Work?

We aren't really retail guys, we are software guys and truthfully you know a lot more about retail than we do, but here is what we did.

On May 25th, the Vin65 team set out to eating our own dog food (aka Dogfooding) and drove four hours to the heart of wine country in Canada to see the iPad POS in action, learn from our customers/end consumer, and drink some wine.

The Back Story

The iPad POS was built to give wineries the ability to take payments anywhere. It was meant to get the staff out from behind the tasting bar and the stationary computer and connecting with the consumer.

Andrew, Karson, and I called Tinhorn Creek and asked if we could simply shadow their staff using the iPad POS to learn from how they used it and see way it could improve. Instead, they wanted us on the front line and put us to work at their event selling shirts, cork screws, bags, and wine tastings armed with the two iPads with swipers and a cash box.

The Event

The event was called the Half Corked Marathon – picture a ½ marathon, drinking wine at over 15 wineries, and ridiculous costumes. Seeing the POS in action (at an outside event on a 3G connection) was perfect. We had lots of feedback from consumers and our client.

The 'Dogfooding' Results

Mobility

A huge part of what the POS was designed for was to be mobile. This means getting out from behind the tasting bar and walking around with customers. At this event the two iPads were on a fairly stable 3G data connection but we also tested it on a personal hotspot from our phones. Testing this was important because wineries should be able to take orders at a farmer’s market, a club party, concerts, etc. which likely don't have wifi.

  • We found the 3G connection quite snappy so anything better, like 4G or LTE, would work well.
  • If you're not able to get a data plan, try a personal wifi hotspot from your smart phone.

Speed

When you’re taking orders with the person standing in front of you, you need the system to be quick. We found that the overall experience was good but saw several key areas to make this even better:

  • Changing how it’s currently load balanced.
  • Number of clicks for certain tasks.

The speed varies depending on your wifi/data connection, so it’s good to test the POS at the location so you have a good connection. We were at a park on 3G with 3 to 4 bars.

Consumer Adoption

We were surprised at the reaction from consumers when (a)we could take credit cards in the middle of a park, and (b)when they we happy to give up email addresses to get a receipt emailed to them.

  • People seem to love iPads and were pretty impressed that a winery was using an iPad POS.
  • People were more than willing to tell us their email address (this is great so you can get more consumer data and market to these contacts later).
  • Keep training your staff on the importance of capturing that email to build your contact database.

Sales

Just imagine Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory trying to sell shirts – needless to say it was entertaining. It might have been all the wine everyone else was drinking, but after a while we seemed to get the hang of it and upsold a few clients on some cork screws. These are perfect consumers to have in your database. You know they like wine and they went out of their way to run a ½ marathon for it, so:

  • Send a follow up email with suggested wines they might like
  • Increase engagement by emailing them to rate and review the wines they tried at the event.

Time Posted: Jun 4, 2013 at 7:30 AM
Brent Johnson
 
May 21, 2013 | Brent Johnson

Three Tips in Google Analytics

Google Analytics are awesome.

They're free, easy to set up, and tell you everything you need to know about how your website is performing.

But, they also encompass a confusing array of data, can be time-consuming to set up, and involve a dictionary of Google-speak.  (What is a visit versus a pageview anyway?)

Don't worry if you don't have hours to dive into this.  Here are three key stats to look at to see if your site is on track at the highest level.


Mobile %

The percentage of website traffic coming from mobile devices jumped from 17.5% in Q3 2012 to 23.1% in Q4 2012, according to a new report from Walker Sands.  On the Vin65 platform, our clients average about 17%.  To find out what yours is:

  1. Select Audience
  2. Select Mobile
  3. Select Overview
  4. Choose your viewing option.  We chose the pie chart.

Implication? This example shows a smaller viewership - only 4.4% are on mobile.  But if you are one of the wineries where 1 out of every 5 of your customers are on a mobile device, you better make sure that your mobile site and cart are optimized or you could be losing valuable sales.

To take this a step further, drill down to remove iPads.  Why?  Because iPads are "mobile" in the Google Analytics world but tend to use computer monitor resolution.  So if you're trying to see if you need to redesign your site for the small screen, this is important.

To do this:

  1. Select Devices
  2. Select advanced search
  3. Select Exclude, then choose Mobile Device Info
  4. Type in iPad

Home Page Traffic Flow

Did you know that things like static home pages and flash movies can stop up to 95% of your traffic on your home page?  One of the cooler visual stats in Google Analytics is the Visitors Flow view.   To access this area:

  1. Select Audience
  2. Select Visitors Flow
  3. Look at starting page drop off by clicking on the red area visualizing the drop offs

Implication? This example isn't too bad - but 20% of all traffic that started on this home page left.  What are your numbers?  You could be working hard to drive traffic to your site, and then traffic leaves after the first page.  So, either your visitors are finding what they want right away...or or you've lost them.

Social Media Traffic

Many of us spend large amounts of time worrying about Social Media.  But is it doing anything for your business?  Here is one of the simplist ways to answer that question.

  1. Select Traffic Sources
  2. Select Social
  3. Select Overview
  4. Look at what social media channels are driving visits to your site

Implication? You can see if the work that you're spending on various Social Media channels is driving traffic to your site, and then adjust accordingly.  This is the tip of the iceberg in the Social Arena, to be sure. In this example there are also conversion goals attached to the shopping cart, and you can put specific Social urls in here as well.  But at a high level, this will tell you if you're making an impact.

So, don't be afraid, dive in to these, and more Google Analytics, and keep your site on track working hard toward your goals.

Brent Johnson
 
April 30, 2013 | Brent Johnson

Five Automatic Emails and Why We Like Them

1. The Tasting Room Visit Receipt

Driven by sustainability and customer service, large retailers like Macy's, Wells Fargo, Citibank, Nordstrom, Best Buy, Whole Foods, Kmart, Sears and Gap all now offer consumers the option to have their receipts emailed to them.  In fact, a third (35%) of retailers offer digital receipts, and half of them do so at all their stores, according to a survey of 3,900 retailers released in 2012 by marketing firm Epsilon.  Is your tasting room taking a cue from this growing "green" trend?  This might be a great time to implement a reciept, or follow-up for a tasting room visit before the busy summer season.  Say "thank you for visiting" and watch them come back!

2. Website Abandoned Cart

If you think follow-ups are creepy, get over it.  There may be many reasons a customer would start to purchase something in your eCommerce cart and then stop.  The phone could ring, maybe they didn't have the credit card handy, or they got sidetracked.  A polite quick email touching base with this lost customer can be appreciated.  Numerous studies have now showed the effectiveness of this practice when done thoughtfully, quickly and helpfully.  Chief Marketer reported about a test that Movies Unlimited performed which including the title of the movie left in the shopping cart and an offer.  Their test resulted in a 13% conversion rate on the follow-ups, and these sales contributed 10% of all future sales.  That kind of a lift in sales is not bad at all for an automated email!

3. New Club Membership

Every customer wants to feel appreciated.  After all, the ultimate gift a customer can give you is approval to charge their credit card periodically and send them wine.  So, don't you think a "Thank You" is in order?  Whether they sign up in the tasting room, on the phone, or online, you can acknowledge the fact that they put their trust in your and gave you a standing order for wine.  Combine this welcome email with an offer or introductory combination of wine or merchandise and you can make them feel appreciated, and reap the sales benefits as well.  Then follow up with a thoughtful recontact strategy in email and you've got a customer for life.

4. Happy Birthday/Anniversary

One thing technology allows us to do is keep track of data.  This includes key dates, like birthdays and club sign-up anniversaries.  These are great opportunities to let your customers know you appreciate them, and provide them with a special offer to say "Thank You."  You can get creative with this as well.  How about reminding them of the last time they visited, or the fact that they purchased their holiday wine at this time last year.  If you think about it, there could be lots of milestones you could use to encourage repeat purchases.  It is automated, easy to set up in the system, and if done correctly can be very thoughtful and appreciated by your customers as well.

5. Credit Card Expiring

This is always a hot button before club processing time.  While phone calls are usually necessary for the stragglers, why not initially start with setting up an automatic email alerting customers 60, 30 or 10 days out that their card is about ready to expire.  You won't get everyone, but if you can decrease the phone call load, isn't it worth it?

These are just some instances where a little set-up can save you some time, show your customers you care, and maybe increase your sales.

For more information on setting up Action Emails, see our documentation site.

Time Posted: Apr 30, 2013 at 10:50 AM
Brent Johnson
 
March 26, 2013 | Brent Johnson

Your Website as a Tool to Grow Your Mailing List

Typically, marketing is responsible for two things:

  1. Getting sales from the existing customer database, and
  2. Growing the potential customer database.

Are you using your website to the best of it's ability to capture and grow your database?  If you monitor Google Analytics, you'll see the % of new visitors to your site - that is a large group of potential new customers to add to your mailing list.

Furthermore, these new visitors that come to your site via search or SEO are high-quality potential customer.  Search-engine optimization (SEO - bringing people to your site who are searching in search engines like Google) is the digital marketing channel with the biggest impact on lead generation for both B2B and B2C companies, according to the August 2012 survey results from Webmarketing123.

59% of B2B marketers said SEO has the biggest impact on their lead generation goals, with social media (21%) and pay-per-click (PPC – 20%) trailing distantly. Their B2C counterparts also ranked SEO (49%) first for impact on lead generation, followed by PPC (26%) and social media (25%). 

So, are you doing everything you can to capture them?  Here are some ideas:

Use the Homepage

Gone are the brochure-website days of the 1990's where a home page was a static picture of your logo, winery, or product.  Such "billboards" require someone to click a top navigation to get to any information.  Assuming a large percentage of visitors are new to you, why not have your sign-up right on your home page?  Or, on a universal side-bar?

Offer Redundant Options

A 2012 study by Adsense indicated we all process information differently.  47% of web surfers polled indicated they always clicked on text, 18% said they always clicked on graphics, and 35% of us click on either/both depending on the page layout and information. 

The implication?  Have a linking graphic picture asking for newsletter sign up, then have a text link next to it. (And, you can have it in your navigation as well.)

 

Strike When the Iron is Hot

The shopping cart is an ideal place to continue to the dialog with customers.  Providing them opportunities to sign up to different mailing lists not only gives you segmentation opportunities to improve your communication, but shows you care about their interests.

Don't interrupt them when they are completing the transaction, but after the transaction, ask they their preference.  In the Vin65 system, this is an option, that when turned on, will provide customers the option during confirmation after check-out to sign up for your mailling lists.

There are many other ways to capture visitors to your site to add to your mailing list.  What are your favorites?

Time Posted: Mar 26, 2013 at 11:24 AM
Brent Johnson
 
January 10, 2013 | Brent Johnson

Top Five Reasons Your Winery Should Offer Mobile POS

POS stands for Point of Sale – and Mobile POS is not having your customers or staff tied to a cash register. Apple has offered this convenience for its customers for a while, but now that mainstream retailers like Starbucks, Walmart, Target and Best Buy are in the mix, customers will stop seeing this as an oddity and expect it.

If that’s not enough of a reason to consider adding mobile POS to your bag of tricks for 2013, here are five more benefits:

1. Increased Sales

The goal of any mobile POS is to make the purchasing process as easy and as "automatic" as possible for the consumer. A new study by Deloitte shows that by 2016, retail mobile shopping could account for up to 21% of that retailer's in-store sales.  As technology is advancing, our patience is shrinking. Don't lose sales by forcing your consumers to wait in-line or at events.

 

2. Employees Are More Productive

Employees can do more with mobile tools, which makes them happy and lowers your labor costs. A tasting room employee, for example, can save considerable legwork with fewer trips behind the bar or cash register. In general, mobile POS systems are increasingly decentralizing the actual point at which sales take place, minimizing wasted time and eliminating unnecessary paperwork. According to a recent RIS Survey, “The Mobile POS Effect”, 21.4 percent of retailers plan to remove five or more traditional fixed station POS units per store and replace them with mobile POS and 55.2 percent of retailers have plans to deploy one or two mobile POS devices per store immediately.

3. Increase Accuracy and Customer Service

Standards vary by industry, but it is estimated that between .5 - 3% of all customer data entered is inaccurate.  That's costing you sales.  But, with mobile POS you eliminate the need for written shipping or event orders. So, accuracy is increased and customers enjoy faster and error-free detailed receipts on the spot. Furthermore, when using a single customer database, you avoid duplicate records, and provide your staff a full view of the customer profile (such as life-time value, favorite products and club memberships) to assist in customer service.

4. Easier Reporting and Security

Look for an integrated mobile POS system that delivers one product/order/customer database between POS, website, Facebook app, mobile site, and iPad tasting room app.  In this way you can sell wine out of one inventory and pick it up from another, reducing the need for hand-written inventory transfers. It is also important to ensure the database is secure and PCI compliant, so with one swipe, a credit card number is encrypted and stored.  With an integrated and secure database, sales reporting (including sales by date, state, customer, category, SKU, sales detail reporting and sales graphs) are all in one database and easy to access. 

5. Customer Engagement


But what does all this really mean for your customers? It means more time to spend with them, discussing your wine, showing them your winery, or meeting their friends. When the administrative and sales tasks are automated for your employees – more sales and happier customers will result.

So make 2013 the year of Mobile POS for your winery. Click here to find out more about the Vin65 iPad Point-of-Sale System.

 

Time Posted: Jan 10, 2013 at 8:00 AM
Brent Johnson
 
March 15, 2011 | Brent Johnson

Video proven to increase e-commerce sales.

In your tasting room consumers can stroll up to the tasting bar, speak to enthusiastic staff and then sniff, swirl and sip your wine. It’s not that easy to excite consumers on your wine e-commerce website. You need to find ways to engage and convert consumers with content, images, tasting notes, consumer and professional reviews.

It’s been proven that videos can help e-commerce. Over the past few years, Zappos.com has said their videos have impacted sales on their products anywhere from 6 to 30 percent.

While Zappos.com is an e-commerce giant, Ceja Vineyards is a perfect example of a midsized winery producing well-executed product video at a minimal cost.

You may not need to make a video for the branded clothing you’re selling online, or the tickets to a concert but videos are a perfect medium for your tasting staff or wine maker to convey their passion for each wine that consumers are sampling in your tasting room.

“Video might be overkill for some pitches and products, and become more of a distraction than an incentive to convert,” said Stefan Tornquist, research director for MarketingSherpa. “For something complex, visceral, or new, video can be a great fit. Selling fly fishing in the Arctic? Video is going to do a better job of putting the prospect in a buying frame of mind than all the copy you can muster.”

Ceja Vineyards uses YouTube but there are many solutions for hosting your videos with different benefits, Facebook for example would be a great fit if you’re using Facebook fan pages and help cross promote by linking to your fan page and website. Vimeo provides a sleek interface and HTML5 embed code so they are viewable on iPads and iPhones.

Vimeo does not allow for commercial videos, instead you could use Viddler’s ‘b2b’ hosting.

If you’re looking for a more professional video solution that feautures product overlay, enabling the consumer to purchase right form the video, you could look at a company like Overlay.tv. Your winemaker could lead a tasting of your wine portfolio and consumers can purchase wines featured by clicking on a hotspot in the video, converting them while they're excited and ready to buy (See an Armani Exchange example).

Here’s another example from Inman Family Wine, as Kathleen explains her wine in a way words on a webpage simply can’t:

If you haven't tried videos, I recommend talking to a few wineries that have such as Ceja or Inman. Start small, a simple Flip camera is only around $150 then use YouTube, Facebook or Vimeo to place the video on your e-commerce site and measure your results.

Time Posted: Mar 15, 2011 at 8:00 AM
Brent Johnson
 
March 20, 2009 | Brent Johnson

Reviews and Ratings Sell More Wine Online

77% of online shoppers use reviews and ratings and 63% are more likely to purchase from a site if it has wine reviews and ratings.

It seems that wineries are hesitant to use reviews and ratings on their websites because they fear the bad or negative reviews that their wine might get. Research from BazaarVoice, a leading ratings and review marketing specialist, indicates that negative reviews can increase the product conversion rate. People realize products are not perfect and that everyone has a different pallet.

User Reviews vs. Critic Reviews

Who would you trust more when buying wine, a wine critic’s review or user generated reviews? The results from marketing surveys done by Market Sherpa are totally one-sided. 86.9% of respondents said they would trust a friends’ recommendation over a review by a critic, and 83.8% said they would trust a user review over a critics review.

So here is what to think about when you’re putting your review section up on your site:

  • Placement (above the fold)
  • Size
  • Stars or other graphics
  • Ease of reading
  • Sorting
  • Rate Distribution
  • Use across the site
  • Rate wine attributes or individual wines.

Rating and reviews are a great way to increase your visitor’s activity on your site and you can offer incentives for them to come back and write reviews and rate your wine. Send out an email 10 days after their purchase asking them if they liked it. You could offer free shipping on their next purchase once they write a review.

Time Posted: Mar 20, 2009 at 7:00 AM
Brent Johnson
 
October 17, 2008 | Brent Johnson

Okanagan Wine Festival - Wine Medal Winners Fall 2008

I attended the fall Okanagan Fall Wine Festival Medal Winner Tastings in Penticton, BC held at the Penticton Trade & Convention Center.

The tasting was in a small meeting room with approximately 25 tasters who were either lovers or industry members. Wine glasses were waiting for us with corresponding numbers on a paper underneath the glasses to remember which wine was which (it came in handy after you've tasted all 10 wines).

One of the judges from the festival led the tasting and explained why wines received gold, silver and bronze and the differences between the different medal levels.

The event started 15 minutes late because the organizers left the white wine outside to keep it chilled but someone walked away with it, all of the white wine was stolen! The delay was to quickly replace the missing wine.

Whites

The first wine that we tasted was the silver medal winning Dirty Laundry Vineyard Unoaked Chardonnay 2007. This wine was very balanced, smooth from start to finish and a great toasting taste emerged on the finish, one of the best Chards I've had.

The second wine was the gold medal winning Lang Vineyards Riesling Farm Reserve 2007. This was by far my favourite wine of the tasting. Of the two typical Riesling types, this is more of the German style. It has a mineral and wet stone hints but is very fruit forward with a burst of sweetness that is perfected with a long finish that ends citrusy. The citrus finish creates the perfect balance that's not overly sweet because the acidity dries out the sweetness. This is a very versatile wine and can be paired with many dishes or enjoyed by itself. I went to the winery afterwards to buy several bottles but it wasn't released yet! I'm picking up a few of these the next time I'm in the area.

Next was a silver medal Cedar Creek Estate Winery Gewurztraminer 2007. This is where my pallet disagreed with the silver medal rankings. I say this because Gewurztraminer is typically my go-to wine and I wasn't overly impressed with Cedar Creeks offering. It did have a long finish that left you wanting anther sip, but I've had better.

We had a surprise gold medal entry (because of the stolen wines) of Road 13 Vineyard Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2007. There aren't too many wineries in the Okanagan experimenting with Chenin Blanc grapes because consumers haven't yet gravitated to this grape in the Okanagan, but Road 13 uses them admirably. This wine had a nice aroma and a consistent taste from start to finish and would be good for aging for 2 to 5 years.

Reds

The first red wine we tasted was the gold medal winning Church and State Estate Winery Merlot Coyote Bowl Vineyard 2006. Church and State is actually located on Vancouver Island, but they have vineyards in the Okanagan and right on their label they'll post where the wine came from (in this case it came from Coyote Bowl, located on Black Sage Bench, Oliver BC). The Merlot was the highest entered grape in the competition (and also received the fewest number of awards). This was a smooth Merlot with good tannins and I think it would age well for 4 to 5 years.

The second Red we tried was the gold medal Sandhill Wines Small Lots Syrah Phantom Creek Vineyard 2006. This Syrah was rated the best red wine from 6 out of the 8 judges. Hands down this was a suburb Syrah, good spice and smoky taste. If you like Syrah, definitely try this one. The bottle we tried in this tasting was corked but I tried another bottle afterwards was amazing.

We tried the Inniskillin Okanagan Malbec Discovery Series 2006. The Malbec is one of the 6 wines used in the making of the red Bordeaux wine blend. It had hints of coffee and chocolate as well as leather and mushroom. This wine is good for drinking right now with its clarity and consistency of fruit. The Malbec is another grape not typically used by itself in the Okanagan.

Gold medal winning Road 13 Vineyards 5th Element 2006 was the next wine we tired. 5 different grapes are used in this blend (hence the name 5th Element), 38% Merlot, 28% Cab Franc, 22% Cab Sauv, 6% Malbec and 6% Petit Verdot. I would describe this wine as raw and aggressive, well crafted with lots of pepper. I seemed to pick up a hint of something new each time it tried it that made me want more.

Sparkling Wine

The gold medal winning Summerhill Pyramid Winery Cipes Gabriel Blanc de Blanc NV (no vintage means different years were used in this wine) was the only sparkling wine that we tried. This wine was dry and a great quote was "this wine has a suck the air out of you sort of dryness". It had a good length, very consistent, small bubbles (generally for bubbles, the smaller the better). Blanc de Blanc means that only Chardonnay was used in this sparkling wine. Summerhill sets the benchmark for sparkling wines from the Okanagan.

Icewine

Jackson-Triggs Winery Proprietors' Grand Reserve Riesling Icewine 2007 won a gold medal. This wine had a great honey taste with just the right sweetness that wasn't overpowering. It has a silky finish with aromas of fresh fruit; I noticed apple and some tropical fruits.

Time Posted: Oct 17, 2008 at 10:43 AM
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