Bloggerview #3: Josh Hermsmeyer

Bloggerview #3
Name: Josh Hermsmeyer
Blog: Pinot Blogger

MugMy first impression of Josh was occurred when I discovered Pinot Blogger. "What a great idea," I thought. Chronicle the birth of a winery.

My expectations were low. Frankly, there just weren’t very many wineries at the time who either understood blogging or put much effort into their blogs. Today, Josh’s winery (Cappozi Family Winery) is one of the few wineries that has jumped into the Wine 2.0/Web 2.0 arena and made the best of it. Josh is someone who I think will be around the wine industry for decades to come.

1. When did you begin blogging and why?

I started blogging in November of 2005. I figured it would be a fun way to chronicle the ups and downs of creating a winery from scratch and an excellent way to market the winery cheaply.

2 In two sentences describe the focus of your wine blog.
Blogging the birth of Capozzi Winery in the Russian River Valley. And giving away organic cotton tee shirts!

3. What sets your wine blog apart from the pack?
As far as I know we are the only winery to blog about starting up a brand and production facility in real time. Initially I think that was definitely a source of curiosity for some readers, and still is for quite a few of them. More recently I’ve been focusing on providing wine related information that folks visiting our blog will find useful whether they are interested in the building of a winery or not.

4. How would you characterize the growth in your readership since beginning your blog?
Very small and stagnant at first, then a huge spike and tremendous growth after about 9 months of blogging. Since then growth has slowed to a steady and hopefully sustainable pace. In truth I’ve been extremely pleased and humbled that so many folks actually find the blog worth their time. The whole experience has exceeded all my expectations.

5. Do you accept samples for review?
Nope, but I provide them – or at least I will in the near future.

I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to review other winemaker’s hard work. I do sometimes recommend a wine I’m particularly passionate about and won’t hesitate to recommend local Russian River producers to anyone who asks, but I don’t give proper tasting notes or scores.

6. What kind of wine rating/review system do you use and why?

N/A. See above.

7. How do you fit the maintenance of your wine blog into your daily schedule?
I make it a priority. I’ll be provocative and say that given good grapes, almost any monkey (myself included) can make good, technically sound wine these days (great wine is another topic altogether). The real trick is selling it. I spend roughly 7 hours a week either writing, researching or brainstorming posts for pinotblogger. Except for right now that is. During crush, since I refuse to make my wife a crush widow, currently it’s the blog that’s suffering.

8. Have you utilized any particular techniques to successfully market your blog?
A few, and they’ve all been extremely fun, rewarding and interactive. About a week or two into the blog I solicited suggestions for our winery name. I believe you even chimed in on that one Tom, suggesting the name "Insomnia Winery" since my posts were routinely being written in the wee hours of the night.

Later we had a vote to determine our wine label and asked for reader opinions on designing our tasting room. In both cases the feedback we got was incorporated directly into our plans. The label that won is now our official wine label and reader suggestions are going to be incorporated into the design of the tasting room. It’s been a wonderful collaborative process and this experience is main reason I’m such a cheerleader for blogging in the wine industry. Folks out there are tremendously passionate about the product we make and sell, and will gladly share their ideas freely to be a part of what we do. We just have to ask them.

9. In your view how, if at all, is blogging different than traditional wine writing for print?
Since I’m not, nor have I ever been, a print journalist I don’t feel I’m exactly qualified to answer. I will say that the most commonly noted differences between the two media mostly favor blogs. Blogs are more conversational and make writers more accessible, which in turn builds community. Some people who like to name things call this information disintermediation.  I think it’s a substantial advantage over print, and more than makes up for whatever drawbacks might accompany blogging.

The major benefit of print wiring is that it actually pays, whereas blogging is much harder to monetize. And if you are a professional writer obviously that’s a pretty big consideration.

10. Which other wine blogs do you read regularly?
Dr. Vino
Good Grape
The Wine Broad
El Bloggo Torcido
ReThink Wine blog
The Cork Board
Jamie Goode’s Wine Blog

and Fermentation of course.

I also have over 60 wine blogs in my feed reader that I keep up with on a daily basis. There’s really a great community of writers and wine enthusiasts blogging now. Folks are generous, passionate and intelligent across the board.

11. Do you believe wine blogs have made any marked impact on the wine industry or wine culture?
Honestly, not really. There have been some notable things. Gary on Conan O’Brien. Alder of Vinography presenting to "real" wine writers at a recent convention, and other similar signs of acceptance. But nothing that could really be described as a tipping point.

That could change any day though. I think it will be a slow and steady process, but eventually bloggers in food and wine will become as influential and respected as their print counterparts.

Or maybe I’m just OD-ing on the blogging kool aid.

12. Vacation: Paris or the Caribbean?
Paris reeks of culture. We’ve got plenty of that in Napa Valley already. I’ll go with the sun and fun.

13. Pet: Dog or Cat?
Dog. While I like cats as well (all cat lovers should check out, dogs and vineyards just pair well together. Like pinot and, well…everything!

14. Airplane Reading: New Yorker or People?
The New Yorker if Malcom Gladwell has an article. People magazine if there are any Jessica Alba pictures.
If my wife’s reading, I’m kidding of course (not really).

15. Car: Prius or BMW?
BMW…I’m sorry but aesthetics matter. On that count the Ultimate Driving Machine beats the pants off the Toyota "Pious". I’m still waiting for a hybrid so well designed that it’s lick-able. When it hits I’ll be the first one in line.

16. Chablis or California Chardonnay?
Somewhere in the middle, leaning slightly toward Chablis.

17. Last Meal?
Pizza and a Hefeweizen.

18. What is Heaven Like?
J.C. is the executive winemaker, Noah (the first vintner) is running the press, and all the wines score 100 points. Plus there’s the whole spending an eternity in commune with God thing, which is nice.

19. If you could invite 4 people dead or alive to your fantasy dinner party, who would they be and who would you have bring the wine?

Thomas Jefferson, Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill, and Jesus. Obviously the only way to ensure I didn’t run out of wine with this crew would be to put J.C. in charge of the vino. It’s the prudent choice I think.

20. What advice would you give to someone considering starting a wine blog?

Just do it. Especially if you have a winery. If you fail no one will notice, and it costs from nothing to 20 bucks a month to start. What do you have to lose?

Posted In: Bloggerviews


6 Responses

  1. Randy - September 17, 2007

    That was an excellent interview with Josh, it took me back to his visit with Kaz and me on the air. I did like the “lickable hybrid” mention, that was a good snicker.
    I will confirm (as a reader) that Pinotblogger has definitely hit a slow point due to harvest, but I look forward to Josh getting back in the saddle blog-wise in a couple months.

  2. Josh - September 17, 2007

    Now that is a large picture of my mug. Glad I already had my cup of coffee when I visited this morning.

  3. David Vergari - September 17, 2007

    Josh: stay irreverent buddy!! Buena suerte.

  4. Paul Mabray - September 17, 2007

    You are doing a great blog and a great service to start up and even established wineries. Keep up the great work.
    Inertia – Powering the Wine Revolution
    —Paul Mabray – CEO

  5. el jefe - September 18, 2007

    I just want some darn Capozzi wine! 🙂 Nice interview Josh!

  6. Alder - September 27, 2007

    You can only drink wines that score 100 points? Sounds more like some level of Dante’s Inferno to me !! 🙂

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