A month ago a slew of news stories came online like Sonoma Seeks Wine Image and Sonoma Develops a Branding Campaign – referring to Sonoma’s “brand” and how it was being developed by a team of experts. Simultaneously Sonoma’s “brand” was being built by a little network called ABC and a “Sonoma” winemaker named Ben Flajnik.
Truth be told I watched only 10 minutes of the first episode of The Bachelor and wanted to stab myself with a pair of dull pruning shears. Hysterical chicks, sleazy Forever 21 get-ups, cat fights chronicled blow by blow, more than tearful breakups, and a guy who can’t make up his mind if his wine brand is called Evolve or Envolve or if he’s going for the rancher rustic shag or hipster mop beneath the beannie…how was he ever going to choose just one!?!
Rather than go into the disparaging details of Ben’s love life, with just the final episode to go I’d like to instead reference Middle America where the 99% now have a solid understanding of just what a “winemaker” is and a brand image in their head related to the sleepy little wine town known as Sonoma – thanks to the man Chris Harrison and his boy Flajnik.
If you’ve been keeping up with World News rather than the trash Ben’s been dating the 1% is still being crucified in the headlines. In case the team of experts Sonoma hired hadn’t considered the effect on Sonoma’s wine image when the 99% are left to their own devices on a Monday night and football season is over take a gander at the statistics TV by the Numbers reported last week:
Despite facing stiff competition throughout its 2-hour broadcast, ABC’s The Bachelor grew week to week in Adults 18-49 (+4%) to match its 2nd-highest number this season. In addition, the ABC unscripted series equaled season-high ratings with Adults 18-34 and Women 18-34. The Bachelor finished #2 in its time period with key Women (W18-34/W18-49).
Coincidentally millennials and women are two of the most influential segments fueling the growth of the US wine industry. But the Daytona 500 was on the same night Ben was hot-tubbing with who knows who, so, you know…
If the wine industry was looking to capitalize on ABC’s The Bachelor featuring a winemaker to drive sales, then perhaps these ratings may have actually put a few points on the board for the industry and a few sales through several Sonoma winery POS systems. But, if Sonoma was looking to build a reputation, I think it did exactly that. The kind your mother says you don’t want.
In the corporate communications world we would have called in the crisis communications team well before the Women Tell All Special that aired tonight. But, we all know the wine industry and Napa’s little sister Sonoma are a bit slow. Or maybe she was just busy being pretty, rather than being smart.
Flajnik was seen sporting a “Hello My Name Is: Tim” name tag at the SF Chronicle Public Tasting. He snapped photos on the tradeshow floor at Unified Wine and Grape Symposium and reportedly had a bit of a celebrity complex when asked to hold products as part of the shot. I was chastised by several girlfriends for not bringing them along to the Pinot Noir Summit in SF last weekend as Benny Boy was rumoured to have been in the house. Would only make sense, the guy lives in San Francisco, not Sonoma, but I’m part of the 1% who actually knows that.
I’m fairly qualified to judge Ben’s capability to manage racking, pump overs, additions, filtration, bottling from San Francisco because for the past two years I’ve managed three vineyard sites in Napa from San Francisco. And while I’ve managed to make it happen it’s not ideal. I spend nights at any number of vineyard locations. I shower in the vineyard office before heading out to events. I’ve nearly rolled my ankle twice the past two weeks navigating rural gravel driveways in heels to get out the door to evening wine events after de-vineyarding myself. So perhaps Ben really does “make wine” in Sonoma, but on a daily basis, I doubt it.
Nonetheless. Without going too much further let’s just leave it at that if the 99% wanted to know more about the industry and how wine is made, Ben has now done a pretty good job of putting a face to the word “winemaker” and all of you who actually hold that title should demanding a refund right about now.
Unlike Ben, before the end of the month I’ll be closing up the satellite office and making a more permanent home with a nice smelling shower, flat driveway, closet 1/2 full of vineyard clothes and 1/2 full of smart dresses, and my own bed next to a frost alarm in Carneros; where Ben has to wait for the biodynamic calendar to dictate his move to wine country, I’m sure.
Several have suggested that after Ben’s run, I be nominated as ABC’s next Bachelorette. I think not. I care about my reputation and have too many important vineyards to manage day in, day out. Besides, way more than 24 winemakers are already trying to date me AND my Chardonnay…there’s absolutely no time for Reality TV! Think I should give you a rose? Contact me.