Shelton Vineyards in Yadkin Valley, North Carolina!

Once in a while, things come along that challenge conventional thinking. Today, you don’t need to wear a tie to make good money, diesel technology is clean and efficient, and that little iPhone has more computing prowess than the Space Shuttle. You see, I recently discovered something I not only want to share, but need to share. It’s like I want to be the first one that found out, but know a few others must know already. Shelton Vineyards in North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley AVA grows its own vinifera grapes and makes great wine – yes, I said great. Shout it from the highest mountain, as these folks are for real and NC is now on my wine radar to stay.

It’s a story about two brothers, Charles and Ed Shelton from Mount Airy, whose passion for life and achievement is nothing new. Their father was a barber and farming came from their mother’s side of the family. They spent summers working on a tobacco farm. Once on their own, they embraced the homebuilding and construction businesses- having started starting with a mere $2,000 which they had borrowed in 1962. After growing the business for many years, they found themselves the successful owners of Shelco. By 2005 they employed 300 folks with revenues in excess of $300 million. Now that’s taking care of your community to a whole new level!

In 1994, they bought an old dairy farm in Surry County at auction. They did not have plans for it initially. The idea of a winery came to Charlie in 1998 when he saw a program at University of California in Davis.  After doing a little research, the brothers decided to take this idea for a spin. They faced several challenges in starting a winery such as assembling a world-class team to bring the project to fruition. They brought in Miguel Sanchez and his family from Oregon to run the vineyard. Miguel had previously enjoyed a 10-year career at Benton Lane. Murphy Moore, another Oregon winery veteran, joined the team. She had been at Cloninger Cellars until it closed in 2003 and worked briefly at Dunham Cellars in Walla, Walla, Washington. Murphy has been in the wine industry since 1997.

Today, they are Shelton Vineyards. Having been in Dobson, NC since 1999, they employ twenty-five folks over a land totaling 384 acres and a world-class restaurant (headed by Culinary Institute of America Chef Paul Lange). Just off the property, the Shelton’s built a Hampton Inn in 2007.It is the only Hampton Inn in the world with a wine bar, and the hotel has been ranked in the top 3% in the chain for overall customer satisfaction for the past three years. They also hold the title of being the largest family-owned estate winery in North Carolina and have current processing capacity for 50,000 cases in their state-of-the-art 33,000 square-foot facility. Having led the effort to make Yadkin Valley an official AVA in 2003, they are now one of over 30 wineries in the Yadkin Valley. They have won over 500 awards and even earned a Gold Medal in the Los Angeles County Fair with their Yadkin Valley Riesling- which we found to be delightful. Other vinifera grapes planted in the 130 cultivated acres include including Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, Tannat, and Viognier.

Someday, Charlie and Ed hope to see younger members of the family take over Shelton Vineyards in the tradition of many great estate wineries; although, neither is thinking about retirement anytime soon.  One or the other is there every weekend, talking to people as they come in, loading wine in customer’s cars, or cleaning up after tour groups.  They are hands-on supervisors with each new project, and while they don’t do any serious farming, they both enjoy getting their hands dirty.

“We’re not ready to turn it over to the kids,” says Ed.  “We’re still having too much fun.”


If you loved the last vintage…

You may just love the next as well. As we cycle back in from our latest round at Paso Robles where we were welcomed by the wonderful Paso wineries, we’re adding yet another layer of functionality previously unheard of and we’re pretty surprised were the only ones doing it – or maybe not so surprising.

Here’s how it works. A consumer gets on our site and adds a 2011 Sauvignon Blanc to their favorites, which triggers a lot of activity. Just by doing that alone they receive winery deals, events and matches to this wine. We thought it through a little more and figured it would be really nice and considerate that if they loved a winery’s 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, we would let them know when the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc is released from that very same winery, along with any deals the winery might be offering on this wine.

Although vintages vary from year to year, many wineries work hard to have consistency on certain qualities from vintage to vintage. For instance, if I have had a 2010 Groth Sauvignon Blanc and know they use their own estate fruit, you can rest assured that it’s pretty much the same fruit simply with vintage variances. This way, the relationship between the winery and the consumer can grow and flourish. A common thing I hear at every restaurant I frequent is this “Hey, remember that wine we had last time was a Merryvale and we loved it – let’s get another Merryvale! “. So many precious memories are associated with wine and the people we care about.

When I think of my mom, I think of when she first tasted a 1997 Cakebread Three Sisters Cabernet and said in French “C’est du bon jus”, meaning “that’s some good juice!”. With my father, I think of a 1997 Georges de la Tour and with my wife, the 2004 Merryvale Profile.

WineMatch’s first year was pinnacled by the wonderful wines of DeLille Cellars and meeting Greg Lill, Chris Upchurch and Jim Holmes (pictured with Ed), who took us up to Red Mountain and taught us about how the soil composition came to be in the Pleistocene era some 12,000 years ago. The salient point here is good people and good times often times carry associations to certain wines and can even include the vintage. So if we offer the latest vintage of something that has meaning to folks, surely that can’t be bad!

Raisin the Brick and more!

Just really hoping to get your attention, albeit a bit post-botrytis! As I’ve gotten your eye I should at least tell you a good wine story. My favorite one comes from the great book, Private Reserve, which hails of the Georges de La Tour and Andre Tschelitscheff earlier days over at Beaulieu Vineyards. It’s a fantastic book which I highly recommend with some closing comments and views from Joel Aiken. The story is a delightful one so I will get started.

In the early days of prohibition from 1920 to 1933, what we would call a distribution channel today, was none other than that of churches distributing sacramental wines. This was not a good time to lose one’s religion to be sure! A loophole allowed the production of sacramental wines if the winery could acquire a government permit. Beaulieu Vineyards founder Georges de Latour was a practicing Catholic and a friend of the archbishop of San Francisco. He used this connection to his advantage and secured a deal to sell wine to all the priests in the diocese. Other wineries set up similar deals with Jewish rabbis.

But this left the non-church going individual dry. So there were these raisin bricks or raisin cakes and a stern warning went with them that it could turn into wine and it read as follows. “Do not to let the juice sit aside in a jug for 21 days, because that would cause fermentation to occur”.

Bootlegging was common yet less-than-legal. However, it was an effective way to keep wineries open and making money. The Volstead Act allowed individuals to buy a household permit to have 200 gallons, which equates to a whopping two bottles per day for personal use. They would then bottle the new wine and switch it out with bottles in their cellars, which were locked and routinely inspected by the government to make sure bottles did not go missing. A relatively unknown fact is that grape production actually increased during prohibition and the savvy business people who figured out how to work the system became quite wealthy. In an era when the economy of the Napa Valley could have been severely crippled, it not only survived, but actually thrived.

Remember this one fact. One sure way to get someone to do something is to tell them they can’t. I truly believe that this is one of the true keys to success. We at WineMatch have reinvented ourselves to become the winery’s best friend and are teaching consumers there is a better way to select a good wine every time. We’re a winery partner that will do what you ask without flinching and will always work hard to improve – that’s our promise.

We have added so much more this past year, we don’t have the space to show it all, but can offer up this media kit link to show you it’s never been easier to connect directly and quickly with a loyal consumer base.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make me a WineMatch!

The term ‘Matchmaker’ takes me back to the days of Topol in Fiddler on the Roof. At WineMatch, we’re busy matching consumers with wineries and their wines. We firmly believe that the relationship belongs not with a distributor, but directly between the winery and the consumer. You don’t farm out the raising of your family – this is no different as these are your people! I know because feel at home when visiting some of my favorite wineries and their folks. I’m always welcomed by Chris O’Gorman at Merryvale in St. Helena, Jolee Wallace at Del Rio in Rogue Valley, Chris Upchurch at DeLille Cellars in Woodinville, Jon at Inspiration Vineyards in Santa Rosa, Dalia and Amelia at Ceja Vineyards in Carneros, and Mike Miller, his son Marcus and daughter Lori at Airfield in Prosser – all great places and great folks with stories rich in history and passion.

So what’ s all the excitement about? The excitement is found in the unique yet definitive process of matching wines, which addresses the largest obstacle wineries tell us they encounter – that is no one has heard of their winery or wines. No one else does this at our level. We took this to heart and created a number of ways to overcome this obstacle as a multi-faceted approach is what was required. The first way we place new wines in front of consumers is the ‘match’. Matching uses sixteen to twenty points and compares what we call “wine fingerprints” or “wine DNA”. You often hear the term if it looks like a duck, talks like a duck, and walks like a duck, it’s mostly likely a duck.

But unlike ducks, wine can look quite differently when the sensory and supporting data are placed alongside one another!‘Matches’ are the tightest and most definite‘apples-to-apples’ comparison we do, but at times it’s so tight, it left some blends out in the cold as we factor in varietals. We then created ‘Similar Wines’, a small notch down from a ‘match’ so that only sensory and certain chemistry factors were considered in presenting similar wines. After all, you can have different blends, but they can share sensory qualities with so many others! When a consumer adds a wine to their favorites, this wine just became a basis for matching from this point forward for any new wines we review, and we review a lot of wines!

Matches and Similar Wines get even more powerful as when a wineries load deals for winery-to-consumer direct commerce, everyone wins! The winery wins as it gets to keep all the revenue from the sale and has a new relationship, with potential for upselling and wine club enrollment. The consumer wins as the winery often times can offer a better deal as there is no 3rd party distribution cost. This is why we have wineries load deals of 3-packs or more as it just makes smart business sense. Candidly speaking, there is no win for either the winery or the consumer in selling a single bottle and having to ship it. There are many other ways we present and promote wines that are in line with what consumers tells us they like.

If you’re a winery, sign up today at and get started! The first wine submitted is FREE. You can also load all the events and deals you want, print shelf talkers and look at your WineMatch Statistics interlaced with our Google Analytics – all for FREE! If you’re a consumer, sign up here for your FREE account using WineMatch, or you use your Facebook, twitter or Google+ credentials as well. Login, add some wines to your favorites, and we’ll do the rest!

Taste Washington and WineMatch’s New Site!

We attend a lot of trade shows every year, but this year we were wowed like never before! Taste Washington is THE event for trade and consumers alike.  All things being equal, there are a lot of great wines at winery events – it’s the presentation that varies. Easily approachable and extremely cordial, Katie Sadler made all of us in the trade feel welcomed – kudos to her! There were two distinct things that clearly separate the Taste Washington event from most of the events we attend and in a good way.

After a brief half-mile walk in the typical Seattle drizzle from the Marriott Courtyard which was relaxing and let you take in the city ambience, we arrived at the beautiful Century Link complex where the event was being held.  The first item of distinction was the food – and we’re not talking the typical bread and cheese plates in the aisles, folks. With two hundred wineries represented, about every fifth booth or so it seemed, was food. Not something picked up and placed on a plate – food cooked fresh by chefs with hats! The smells filled the air and I found myself as excited about the food as I was the wine.

Crab cakes, Kobe Beef, Sushi, Meatballs that melt in your mouth, Caramel and Sea Salt Ice Cream, Cupcakes, and so much more. We were simply blown away. We came for the wine, but stayed longer than planned for the food. The restaurants cooked the food and served it hot! This is hard enough to get at home, nonetheless a huge outing.

The second thing was the incredible well thought out ample walking space and perfect weather proof environment. With so many folks attending, things can become really tight. Not once did we feel crowded. Another really classy touch was the Coat Check so we could walk around freely and have more things in our hands, like wine glasses and food! We did also locate the most original and fun winery outfits, the winner being the Purple Star Winery and from the left it’s Amy, Kyle and Brittni!  To say that this was a fun event would be a gross understatement.  Though three of us were there from WineMatch to share what was new with us and how we can help wineries sell directly to consumers, more than once we wanted to just go into party mode as the whole event was just fun!


To honor Taste Washington and its fine wineries, we also chose this time to also re- launch our web site to do them justice. We took all that great functionality and made it cleaner, faster and friendlier. Have a look – we’re certain you will be pleased!  It’s easier to use, more socially integrated, and the amount of information we now give back to wineries regarding their performance is included in our WineMatch Statistics, which gives wineries a first ever dashboard as to not only how they are doing, but what they need to do to maximize their exposure and selling opportunities WineMatch, accomplished by simply combining WineMatch and Google Analytics data.

A great big THANK YOU to all the Washington wineries and eateries. A real class act  – we’ll be back!

WineMatch and Google Analytics – Another Match!

Measurable Results. It’s what we’re all about. It gives us tools to see where we are doing well and also helps us identify areas for improvements. After all, life,technology and everything else is pretty much all about continuous improvement. So when it comes to wine, how is that different? It’s not.

Understanding Google Analytics is a key point. What does it tell you? Just about everything and is likely the most useful tool in your arsenal, but you need to understand it and know how to use it. Here is just a small partial list of what it tells you.

It tells you how many visitors visited how many pages and which pages they frequent. More importantly, it also tells you which ones they are not visiting. It also tells you if folks found you by use of a search engine, direct traffic (by typing in your web site URL), or if they found you by being referred to by another site, which makes them your ally and we can never have enough allies. You see, every piece of data tells you something and sometimes it may not be something you wish to hear, but it may be something you need to hear. With Google Analytics, you have to check your ego at the door as the truth can be a but tough to swallow, but armed with the truth, it helps you provide a roadmap to future improvement and prosperity.

With Google Analytics, you also know when they visit, from where they are visiting and how long they stay, including a key component called bounce rate. If a consumer goes to your web site and their very next move is not to another page on your website but instead they go elsewhere, that is considered a ‘bounce’. A bounce rate of over 20% means they get to you, but may not stay long enough to be engaged or purchase product.

Here comes the fun and beneficial twist. Combining Google Analytics with other data sources can not only tell you a lot about cause and effect, but can help you figure out what your next logical move might be to get more folks to your website and engaged. There is truth in sheer numbers to your site and you need to start there, but once there, there has to be enough engagement, also known as stickiness, there to keep the potential customer interested. This means you peak their curiosity to the point where they are willing to try something including making purchases.

All wineries on WineMatch now get free Google Analytics view paired with WineMatch data to let them know exactly what they need to do to increase their ability to leverage WineMatch’s technology engine. This helps wineries reach more consumers more frequently with truly targeted data. At WineMatch, it’s about combining Deals and Events with Wine Profiles to maximize your outreach. We only target consumers with information that tell us what they like.. Look, I don’t like bogus marketing e-mails any more than the next person, but if you listen to what I tell you I like, then show me something like something I like, I’m all ears. Okay, I have a few more parts than ears, but you get the drift.

So if you’re a winery and want to know more about that you need to do, just look at our WineMatch Statistics under the Overview tab. To see a larger example of a Beaulieu Vineyards report in more detail, click here. We also give you intuitive red, yellow and green dots (like a stoplight) indicating what is dialed in and what could use a little more help to take you to the next level of exposure and success on WineMatch. Just highlight over the red and yellow dots and we’ll tell you exactly what you need to do to maximize you ROI on WineMatch!

If you want to see your WineMatch Analytics, just log into your winery account . We’re always here to help you better connect with your consumer!

Dutcher Crossing – Unique, Whimsical and a Cruise!

At times we are taken back by the views from certain wineries, like those with sprawled out rolling acres of vines that stretch out as far as one’s imagination. Other times, the wines take us back to some amazing selections with depth and breadth. The gem is in finding both at the same winery, where the experience matches the wine – and I found both to be exceptional. There is a unique breezeway that I liken to a gateway to the other side. You know, where stress melts away and you begin to breathe anew. On the grounds you’ll see a vintage high-wheel bicycle, a gift from Proprietor Debra Mathy’s father that is treasured and representative of his imagination and the journey here and foreword. The winery is truly something to experience in beautiful rural Healdsburg in the Dry Creek Valley.

Their wines contain a well-balanced variety of both whites and reds. Their current offerings include three single vineyard Chardonnays and a Sauvignon Blanc. Among them are a 2009 Stuhlmuller Vineyard Chardonnay which is well-complemented by a 2009 Costello Vineyard Chardonnay. We were pretty impressed by the great fruit and acidity of their 2010 Sauvignon Blanc from Dry Creek Valley. Winemaker Kerry Damskey uses the proven small-lot, select vineyard approach to have wines consistent in character and definition. I see a lot of thought and pride going into the end product.

Moving on to the reds, we were also privileged to have received two each Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon wines and a lone Syrah. I say privileged because what we had was both diverse and delightful. The 2009 Maple Vineyard Zinfandel was robust and firm, but the 2009 Bernier Sibary Vineyard Zinfandel is about as smooth and supple a fruit-laden Zinfandel as I have laid tongue on. The 2008 Cooney Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon had great fruit, and was reasonably complex with a nice finish. It contrasted well with the 2008 Proprietor’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon that sent it over the top in the fruit category – yum! The 2008 Proprietor’s Syrah sports Dry Creek Valley fruit and has great composition. They also produce Merlot, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Port that is sure to please.

The winery is Debra’s passion and a labor of love as she manages day-to-day activities at the winery, welcoming guests along with Dutchess, the winery Golden Labrador. Debra continues to draw from her father’s inspiration in completing the vision. She also has a great blog entitled “Rooted in Dry Creek Valley” that keeps us in the loop as to the happenings at the winery and beyond.

If you love sailing the Mediterranean, Dutcher Crossing Winery sets sail on their inaugural cruise on May 26, 2012 for 10 days aboard the Oceana Riviera travelling from Athens to Barcelona. Here are the cruise details.

Also, if you like deals, then you should seriously consider joining their wine club. Also when you place your first order with Dutcher Crossing, there is complementary shipping with this deal. With a selection as great as this, you probably need not look further!