Advancing the nexus of viticulture and technology.

Wine social networking site

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

We want to send a shout out to the folk at the newly released Wine & Spirits Industry Forum, where "for a short introductory period" you can get a 3-month Premium Membership for free (your other options are $199/quarter or lurker).

Though we foresee some future changes to their business model, we are happy to see initiatives that bring more folk in our industry into the new millennium.

Good luck guys!


Released | House of Mondavi Book

"The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty" was released today (see Amazon listing). Described as "an epic, scandal-plagued story that built—and then spectacularly lost—a global wine empire." Should be an interesting tale of family politics and wine industry's consolidation.

Read an excerpt in the Wall Street Journal. Also, the folks on The Cork Board posted a great interview with author Julia Flynn Siler.


Delivery of Software as a service

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Webware now threatens traditional software according to The McKinsey Quarterly article entitled: Delivering software as a service. Based on some solid research, the article points out how the SaaS model is increasingly a growing priority for many CIOs an VCs.

This is, of course, great news for those of us who have embraced the principles oftentimes encompassed in the term "Web 2.0"; and, conversely, a challenge for software developers who refuse to modernize.

But the authors also point out that it's not a stroll in the park for the SaaS providers:
The next frontier —we might call it software as a service 2.0— will include new classes of applications which are actually better suited for online delivery and seamlessly integrate with on-premise applications.
Based on this news and on our tireless efforts to bring viticulture into a new era, we've decided to build a list of SaaS providers who cater to the wine industry. If you (or someone you know) offers webware useful to vineyard and winery operations, please send us a quick e-mail referring us to your web site - we'll make sure to include you in our list. Stay tuned for the publication of this list...

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On sustainability

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

We got some very interesting feedback on the green/biodynamic posts (1 and 2). They ranged from skepticism, through cautious optimism to nonchalant dismissal of the controversy. Thanks to Matt, Paul W, Jared, Debby Z, Paul M, and some anonymous respondents.

For several years I’ve been involved in the field (as in: “the trenches”) of sustainable use of natural resources – from aquaculture to silviculture (and just about everything in between). In this time, I’ve seen first-hand some of the impacts of these practices on the environment, but, more importantly, on business results.

Based on my experience, the adoption of environmentally-friendly processes improves operational efficiency and financial sustainability. My big question is whether or not my experience applies to vineyard operations.

Here’s a classic example: in forestry, many loggers still clear cut the Amazon jungle to arrive at the species of tree they want to fell, leaving the resulting “waste” to rot or burn (sometimes usefully as compost or fuel, but oftentimes, just detritus). This requires the use of multiple teams of chain saw operators, spotter, skidders, trucks, etc. – when you factor in diesel and salaries, it becomes a huge tab. On the other hand, once an operation has geo-tagged species, mapped the trees, and planned their harvest, one crew has the same productivity in logs per day of the first example, without the environmental cost, AND has reduced direct costs by close to 90%. Of course, switching costs from one to the other aren’t trivial: GPS hardware, species census, precision mapping, planning, GIS and all the required training has an upfront cost, which is why we still see a lot of clear cutting in the Amazon basin, but, based on my interviews with folk in the field, this cost is recovered in the first year!

I can quote similar examples in other fields (shrimp farms, coffee, quinoa, babasú, etc), but won’t bore you with the details.

Bringing the meandering discussion back to general terms, I think that the crux of the matter is that up to 60% of the world’s ecosystems have been degraded or are being used unsustainably on one hand, while on the other, there appears to be little financial incentive in the short to mid-term to correct this trend (see post 2).

For those of us that agree with Jared Diamond’s theories (neatly and convincingly explained in his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed), it is easy to see the source of the controversy: according to the “uninitiated” masses of decision-makers, the cost of sustainable practices is not easily transferred to the market, making it financially unviable for the practitioner to adopt sustainability.

Furthermore, the very use of the term “sustainable business” (in my mind, simply: the impact of current practices and the subsequent future required remediation) is controversial. The scientific community has no clear answers, as the reported research results are couched in terms that can be discounted / misinterpreted on their conservative / probabilistic or alarmist / extremist terms. Admittedly, the scientific community has a tall order – how do you explain to the masses in clear understandable terms the behavior of a complex system without oversimplifying (which opens you up to criticism as an activist or sellout) or confusing the audience (which opens you up to misinterpretation or obscurity).

I think that, in the end analysis, as is the case with many decisions in the field of strategy, you need to find a position that sits well with the “who” and the “why” of the operation (sometimes seen in mission and vision statements), and then make it happen. I just wish more organizations were true to their “who” and “why” (so much Corporate Social Responsibility blah, blah out there), and less concerned with justifying the “how”. I guess that I just concluded that the customer doesn’t matter. Hmm…

Auction Napa Valley

Monday, June 11, 2007

Last weekend marked the 27th Auction Napa Valley, raising more than $9.8 million during the annual four-day event. Proceeds fund non-profit initiatives in healthcare, youth services, and affordable housing...

My wife and I had the pleasure of attending a couple events, including friday's Taste Napa Valley, featuring some of the region's best restaurants and vintners. Hats off to Thomas Keller (French Laundry) who was quite amused (and a wonderful sport) when my wife refused to sample his food; and Mike Grgich (Grgich Hills) who commended my wife for her wonderful taste in wine... ...and then looked at me as if to say that her choice in men could be improved...

Saturday's live auction was impressive. The highlight was Lot 24 "Return to the Roots---The Best of Napa and Italy" from Staglin Family Vineyards - comprised of wine, a six-day driving trip in Italy with the Staglins, and a Maserati. Congratulations to the anonymous couple from Woodside, CA who placed the winning bid!



Monday, June 04, 2007

We’ve been users for the better part of a year now and are very happy with how it helps us with our CRM. Lately, however, we’ve become even more intimate with SFDC while working with their AppExchange platform. The “On-Demand Business Applications” not only provide some great webware for running any company (with the characteristically low TCO of the SaaS model, PLUS the ability to do some pretty creative mash-ups), the application builder is very straight forward – with a little process knowledge, anyone could easily put together some great applications. It’s like Google for companies.


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