If you were going to launch a new wine brand in a foreign country, what would you do? Would you hop on a plane, travel the area, and meet with as many retailers and restaurateurs as you could? Or perhaps you’d establish contact with a local distributor/ wholesaler to do that for you. Maybe it’s in the budget to run some print, radio, or T.V. ads. Now scrap that and think outside of the box for a second. With the Internet, there is a growing network of blogs, forums, and websites that cater to people interested in wine. How about sending the people behind these sites free wine, and have them throw a simple dinner party, then write about the experience online? Gutsy, yes, but this is exactly what the folks at Stormhoek, a South African Winery, have done with their 100 Geek Dinners program.
A website wiki was used to promote the event, with the aim of getting 100 events in 100 days in the United States, beginning on May 1st, 2006. The criterion is simple: get people together, and Stormhoek will send the wine, free. A simple brochure explaining the winery and limited edition signed prints are sent for every person attending. Snap a couple pictures, enjoy the wine and conversation, and write about it later. I signed up.
Initially, I planned on having about 20 people attend, but when only 2 bottles of Pinot Grigio, and 2 Bottles of Pinotage arrived, I decided to cut the guest list in half so that each attendee could enjoy at least 1 glass of each wine. Katie and I made the rounds to Trader Joe’s, Cost Plus, and Wally World to collect the necessary party supplies, cheeses, and a couple stand by wines in case the Stormhoek was undrinkable. Thankfully, we didn’t have to open those up.
First, a little about the Pinot Grigio. This is a crisp wine with good citrus and fruit flavor, a nice finish and a great overall mouthfeel. The bottle is closed with a screwcap and has a drink by date to ensure freshness. This wine is refreshing and very food friendly. I believe it will be priced around $10 USD upon release, but don’t quote me on that.
I was worried about the Pinotage. I opened a bottle from a different producer a few nights before and was greeted with an overwhelming aroma of ash, and a flavor that rendered the wine undrinkable. I did some research and realized that most people don’t like Pinotage, except for South Africans. Pinotage is an actual varietal, not a blend, that is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. I feared the Stormhoek Pinotage would mimic the first bottle I had, but I was pleasantly surprised when it didn’t. The wine had a nice blackberry flavor, with a smoky finish that wasn’t overwhelming at all. This was a great bottle that stood up to some of the more pungent cheeses that we had that night. I was impressed with some of the subtle flavors and would definitely pick up this wine once released.
The night turned out great and everyone had a blast. Our guests brought there favorite appetizers and the wine complemented the food and the relaxed feel of the evening. Thanks to Hugh MacLeod, Samantha Brown, and Jason Korman for the art, wine, and great idea. The wines were great and the evening was special. We all hope the best for your U.S. launch of the wine. These wines speak for themselves, and I encourage everyone to pick up a bottle or two!