Gary Vaynerchuk was one of the keynote speakers at yesterdays WITS (Wine Industry Technology Symposium) here in Napa. He also participated in a “Wine 2.0” panel at the symposium later in the day. It was hard not to notice him. I had the chance to speak with him for a minute or two. I was going to share my perspective on Gary but after doing some research I realized that there are many people who have done just that. Three of those are linked below, from Time Magazine, New York magazine and the New York Times.
I was especially intrigued by the following, from the New York magazine interview (for those of you who either didn’t click the link or didn’t scroll down the article):
Some wine stores post point scores. Are those worth following?
Many of your readers, they’re just walking into stores and if it says “90 points Wine Spectator,” they’re buying. That’s just the reality of the marketplace, and that’s desperately what I’m trying to change with the show. For people to realize, screw the Spectator, screw [Robert] Parker … and screw me! Try for yourself and develop your own palate.
How has the wine establishment reacted to your proselytizing?
It’s amazing how intimidating wine is; all the wine geeks want to keep everybody out. I get these real wine-snob dickheads who think I’m dumbing wine down. And now wineries are starting to get mad at me. I used to be their darling—because I’m a buyer—but some of them don’t want to sell to me anymore because I panned their wine on the show. That’s been really difficult. I get a ton of positive feedback, but I also get a little zing-zing.
Of extreme interest is that the total yearly sales volume for the Winelibrary store is quoted at $50 million and that 40% of that is through ecommerce. Anyone who believes content doesn’t drive sales just needs to think about that number ($20 million online) while watching one of Gary’s video reviews!
Listening to Gary was somewhat disconcerting. As a transplanted New Yorker I first suspected that the empathy I felt toward just about everything he was saying had something to do with his accent. No, I finally realized, that couldn’t be, he is a Jets fan and I’m a Giants fan—and “never the twain shall meet”. No, it had something to do with the irreverent and downright “downright” way he was describing the wine business, wine people, and the wines themselves.
If you met me today you would see no connection between me and Gary Vaynerchuk. Even if I told you that at one time I was managed a NY retail shop—and a big one, like Gary’s New Jersey shop. Even if I told you I was that young once. Maybe if I told you that at one time, working in an oversold restaurant with one of the five best wine lists in the country as the sommelier, I had people take a five question “basic wine test” in order to be seated. If they failed, I sent them away hungry…and they failed more often than not.
In today’s twitter-myspace-facebook-youtube world Gary’s irreverence is refreshing, even if his ratings seem old school and all too similar to the Wine Spectator and Parker/Tanzer.
For those of you who haven’t seen it Gary’s work can be found at http://tv.winelibrary.com/