5 Questions with Aron Ezra of MacroView Labs

MacroView LabsThere are many a wine app for iOS and (growing) on Android.  Wine+Tech wünderkinds VinTank, have done extensive research on iOS apps (iPhone) over the last few years with the most recent count at 450+, as of 04/14/2011.  Indeed, my own content is distributed on two mobile apps, Hello Vino and Wine by the Bar.  With that many apps out there for a very specific genre, you can imagine that there is a lot of noise and a lot of well, mediocre (at best) apps for wine.  So, it is a refreshingly rare circumstance when one comes across an app that kicks some serious vinous booty.  And the new app (iPhone, Android) from Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery (Twitter, WineLog) by MacroView Labs (Twitter) gets my vote for kickin’ that booty.

Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and WineryThe app, co-launched with the nearby Vintners Inn (Twitter) does so many things right for a focused topic like a single winery and inn: a great usable design that actually works with no bugs.  High-res imagery abounds, with fully integrated social channels, live location-based maps and all of the information found on the full website including in-app purchasing of wine, via a wrapped browser functionality.  MacroView Labs has created an app that is dynamic, full of complementary information such as unique wine pairings and recipes and  designed all of this with a highly intuitive and beautiful design.  The app was launched in May of 2011 and by the publish date of this article, had already reached 3,100 downloads. I was so impressed that I requested an interview with MacroView Labs CEO, Aron Ezra (Twitter) for my 5 Questions series…and included a bonus 6th question, to boot.  Enjoy!

1. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): First off, I’d just like the compliment the thoroughness of your app for Ferrari-Carano and the Vintners Inn, well played! When a new winery or wine website approaches you about a possible app, what is the single most important piece of information that you need to start the development process? Who are some of your more recent clients besides F-C and VI?

Aron Ezra, CEO - MacroView Labs Aron Ezra (Twitter): Thank you for the kind words! When we start working with a new client, the most important step for them to take is to determine their goals and objectives in entering the mobile space. Some clients are most focused on improving the guest experience, others want to generate more revenue, others want to make their staff more efficient, and so on. Once the client decides what they want their mobile apps and mobile website to accomplish, we partner with them to build a mobile strategy that suits their needs, and we then begin developing the technology.

2. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): In line with the previous question, what are some things that a prospective wine app client can do to get things rolling pretty quickly after contacting MacroView?

Aron Ezra (Twitter): Once we settle on desired functionality and sign a contact, we can get started with working with a client immediately. We can launch the first version of the apps and the mobile site a few weeks later.

3. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): After the initial meeting, how is the development process taken forward for a new app?

Aron Ezra (Twitter): After our kickoff meeting, we work with the client to create the right structure for the app, the right aesthetic, and the right functionality. We use our content management system to accomplish this — this is the same system that our clients can use to make any changes they want. We meet with our new clients regularly to show them our progress and make any changes they suggest. After a few weeks, once everyone is happy, we submit the app to the app stores, and then focus on getting the word out about the solution and continually making enhancements to allow the apps to evolve and improve.

Ferrari-Carano Mobile App4. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): Also, do you tend to work with entirely new designs each time or do you have a store of app templates that clients can chose from to get their app up and running quickly?

Aron Ezra (Twitter): We provide our clients with a variety of options for creating an app structure. We can create entirely custom apps, or we have app template structures that clients can choose from. Either way, we can work with our clients to create the right design to fit their branding.

5. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): I see on your site that you also promise to follow the client after the app is launched, including help for promoting their app across their various social channels. What sorts of activities are included in this follow-on service?

Aron Ezra (Twitter): We provide ongoing strategic mobile consulting around setting business goals and identifying how best to use mobile to achieve those goals. We improve our client’s deployed mobile software every day to make sure it is helping them achieve their business goals. We also have a powerful proprietary data analytics engine that highlight things like: how customers are using the deployed mobile software, what features are generating revenue, and how we can improve the results.

For instance, if we notice that people in one part of the country tend to delete the app after viewing a specific page or feature, we change that page/feature. If we notice that a certain offer or social media feature tends to generate more interest or revenue, we expand upon that, often within hours of noticing the pattern.

We also help with generating positive buzz for the solutions through (1) internal training, (2) external promotions, and (3) word of mouth. First, we put together an app FAQ for internal staff to ensure all employees know about and can talk about the app to customers. Then, we work with our clients to make sure marketing collateral – from on-site signage, to employee email signatures, to direct marketing catalogues – mention the app. Finally, we help implement a public relations outreach alongside a social media push. We help create tools and campaigns to inspire the app users to tell their friends about it.

Ferrari-Carano App6. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): You’ve made a large number of original, user-friendly and engaging apps over the life of the company. What’s next for MacroView Labs and how do you intend to continue to innovate?

Aron Ezra (Twitter): Our clients depend on us to keep them up-to-date and keep them profitable in the mobile world. Mobile moves incredibly fast, so we’ll be working hard to keep innovating on the countless new hardware and software releases on the horizon. In short, our focus will remain on delivering outstanding service and outstanding new features that generate bottom-line results.

Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery (Twitter, WineLog)

[winelist query=”Ferrari-Carano” num=”100″]

Jordan Winery: A 2010 Harvest Estate Stay

DSC06300Two weekends back, the Lady and I had the very fortunate experience of a tour, a tasting and an overnight stay at the breath-snatching estate of Jordan Vineyard & Winery (Twitter, WineLog) in Alexander Valley.  Blessed with a perfect harvest weekend of weather, we we able to visit courtesy of Communications Director (and photographer/videographer extraordinaire) Lisa Mattson.  After dropping off the Pug with the parents in Napa, we headed across the valleys in the brilliant morning sunshine.  The weather really was tremendous that weekend, sunny, a few puffy clouds and about 80 degrees at its peak.  I really had no idea what to expect for the next couple of days however, since the Jordan site didn’t really have a whole lot of information about the four suites or homes that were available for overnight visits.

Jordan Vineyard & WineryJordan Winery is a storied name in Alexander Valley, one of the best known areas for Cab in Sonoma County. Mr. Tom Jordan, a petroleum geologist, happened to make a significant amount of money in the 60’s and found the means to pursue another of his passions namely, fine French wines such as Bordeaux.  He spent a few years searching the whole of NorCal to find the perfect conditions for his own new world chateau.  in 1972 he found his ideal in the sleepy Alexander Valley, founding Jordan Vineyard on 275 acres with his wife Sally.  This founders’ day was rather auspicious as their son John Jordan was born the same day, who’s now the CEO! Two years later the winery was founded on a new plot of 1300 acres, nearby.  Not one to skimp on the details, Mr. Jordan hired the legend known as André Tchelistcheff as a consulting winemaker.  He quickly recommended a young scrub fresh out of UC Davis, my alma mater, to begin as the head winemaker for the young winery.  Then twenty-two year old Rob Davis has been the winemaker ever since, allowing Jordan the unusual luxury of all 34 years of their vintages to be contained within a single, jovial brain.

Jordan Estate SuiteJordan Estate SuiteWhile the Lady and I stayed as trade guests, the winery is actually a rather secluded estate with some unusually cool parts to their wine club.  One can only visit the winery by appointment, limited to a small number per day, up to a maximum of 12 guests per appointment.  The wine club is very innovative and works by a points system, almost like a credit card.  Jordan Estate Rewards (reward point levels are currently being re-evaluated and lowerd) points are granted with every purchase and once you save enough points, you can stay overnight at the estate, just like a trade guest. The rooms (and house!) are simply stunning…so much so that when Beth and I entered our suite, I let out an accidental “holy crap!”  It was easily 600+ sq ft, with the most amazing bronze bathtub, for which I will be ever tortured to find and buy for the Lady.  We were happy guests.

Taking in the Dilworth Cab - Jordan WineryClaire Holloway was our host and tour guide for the day and we met her along with two other trade guests from Benny’s Chop House in Chicago.  R Dilworth Vineyard delivery (by Dick, himself) - Jordan WineryWe got a great history lesson about the vineyard and winery underneath the slightly swaying trees, then headed off to the winery, all of which is contained within the original 5800 sq ft winery, built over 9 months back in 1976. Indeed, our rooms were attached to the side of that same building, which we could look up and see when we entered the barrel room.  Rob Davis, Jordan Winery harvest 2010Harvest was in full swing, with Rob and assistant winemakers Ronald Du Preez and Maggie Kruse taking in the last of the Cabernet Sauvignon for the day from grower (and delivery man, apparently) Dick Dillworth.  Dick had a great compliment for Rob, saying “one thing I like about Rob: he’s hands-on. That shows a good winemaker.”  We saw just as much ourselves, especially during a very interesting and long chat with Rob while we relaxed on the expansive patio in the evening sunshine after the tour.  He had all of the vineyard maps still in his pocket from his early morning visits, many hours previous.  Despite this hands-on approach, all of the staff were more than happy to stop their activities and talk with us about their work and answer my copious questions.  It was a very unique experience…we’re usually kept far away from the working winery during the craziness of harvest.

Jordan Winery barrel roomFollowing a barrel room tour (hello up there, room!), we headed back into the inner part of the winery for sit down tasting and amuse-bouche pairing, courtesy of estate Executive Chef, Todd Knoll.  After examining the many finds in the sitting room, we headed through a secret door (seriously!) into the wine cellar to taste the vino.  Jordan makes only a Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon each year, preferring the perfect the fruit and resulting wines continuously each year, rather than branch out with a number of different wines.  We tasted the latest releases, the ’08 Russian River Valley Chardonnay and the ’06 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  In addition, we were able to try a back vintage just now coming into its own, the ’03 Alexander Valley Cab.

All of the wines displayed a very distinct house style of elegance, balance and restrained power.  These were not huge California wines, but had more of an Old World beauty to them, yet still contained ample fruit to counter the fine tannin and juicy acidity and minerality that I tasted.  The ’08 Chardonnay was particularly good, forcing me to slap a AwesomeWK badge on it and proclaim amazing.  It was filled with great citrus fruit and acidity, slight cream and a very cool salty finish; I loved this wine.  To my relief and excitement, these wines are also very reasonably priced for their quality: $29 for the Chard and $52 for the Cab, upon release.

The rest of the evening and night was filled with relaxation, good wine courtesy of our new friends from Chicago in the Jordan guest house and an outstanding meal in downtown Healdsburg at Barndiva (recommended by Jordan security wiz, Rob).  The locavore menu there features a number of tasty and innovative dishes alongside some outstanding service.  They’re wine list is very reasonable with pricing and featured quite a few tasty selections that I wish I’d had more time to explore.  We enjoyed a very interesting sparkler from German house Solter (called a Sekt) and a not so memorable bottle of bubbly from Iron Horse Vineyard. Check out a video of our delicious peacefulness that evening, below!

[flickrvideo]http://www.flickr.com/photos/drxeno/5112999705/in/set-72157625111232415/[/flickrvideo]

A very big thank you must go out to Lisa, Claire, Rob, Todd and all of the wonderful staff at Jordan.  Their hospitality was very generous and the tour was one of the best and most educational experiences that I’ve yet had a winery.  All of the pictures and videos from our visit are found on my Flickr.  The wines from that weekend have been tagged with “JordanEstate2010” so that you can list them in your own WineLog.  Some of these wines even grabbed a vaunted WKBadge.  Cheers!

Jordan Vineyard & Winery:

#WKBadges - AwesomeWKJordan Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2008

Color: Medium gold, very clear

Nose: Great lemon zest, with an underlay of slightest brioche, slight salt and a more minor citrus to add complexity.

Palate: Zesty and yet very silky mouthfeel. A wonderful lasting finish, with some great minerality and more of that light salt. Extremely good.

#WKBadges - OldWorldWKJordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

Color: medium garnet, garnet edges

Nose: Juicy black cherry, fresh anise, cardamon, earth, wet, savory herbs. Wonderful complexity, along with slight new leather on the rim.

Palate: Medium full, with wonderful power-silk tannins, great acidity. Black and Bing cherry, alongside darkest chocolate. Anise here but more dried, raspberry and chocolate, dried blackberry, good long and smooth finish.

Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Barndiva:

#WKBadges - QPRWKSolter Rheingeau Spätburgunder Sekt Brut Rosé NV

Color: Golden, with a very fine bead and robust mousse

Nose: Very raisined, with some slight brighter citrus trying to poke through, but the fruit tastes like it was picked way too late.

Palate: Very overripe, with middling acidity and dried lemon and white raisins.  Unsure if this was actually a bad bottle, just tastes like very overripe fruit.

Iron Horse Green Valley Estate Bottled Wedding Cuvee 2004

5 Questions with Jake Lorenzo

Cold Surveillance by Jake LorenzoI solved a wine mystery recently, one that had been bothering me for years.  Around the time that The Lady and I bought our home in the Bay Area, I was allowed able to buy a decent wine fridge, my Danby 75/100 bottle.  Just as I was headed out the door from Wine Hardware with my affordable new wine storage, I spotted an interesting book on their shelves entitled, Cold Surveillance.  It was interesting not that it was a set of wine memoir columns (right up my alley), but that it was written by a Wine Country private eye…¿que?  I turned back to the counter and added the book to day’s purchases!

Further Suveillance by Jake LorenzoAfter safely storing my wine, I dived right into the book.  It was fantastic.  Great, seedy storytelling about the dark side of wine country folk, along with some crazy adventures with now-infamous sidekicks and good wine knowledge to mortar in the plotlines.  I finished the book pretty rapidly and then promptly lent it out to a good vinopanion of mine…and then he lost it and I lost the name of both the author and the book!!

Wine Business Monthly, 08/15/08Fast-forward 5+ years later and I’m lying in bed on a Sunday, reading through one of the only wine print mags that I enjoy, Wine Business Monthly.  Appropriately for this time of year, I had picked the issue up after registering at the inaugural Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Santa Rosa (WBC09 drops next week, woot!!).  The last page featured a column that read with that same jaded, cynical view of a man who could only be a P.I. in the breadbasket of wine in Sonoma…yep, it was Jake Lorenzo!  As it turns out, Jake has been writing a column for WBM for the last few years and I was thrilled to finally rediscover one of my favorite wine writers.  I went online and purchased his first two books and re-read all of my favorite adventures of his, including “Freeway Painting” and the now infamous NVWT highjacking with Richard Branson aboard!

And with that, let’s move on to 5 Questions with the great Jake Lorenzo, head of Wine Patrol and defender of good, unpretentious Sonoma wine, burritos and creative mischief.  If you would like to purchase any of Jake’s books or videos, visit the Wine Patrol Press store and stock up!

Jake Lorenzo1. Ward/WineLog (Twitter): You’ve been fighting bad wine and greedy vermin for a number of years now.  What keeps a veteran private eye and wine writer going after a long, tough career?

Jake Lorenzo: Wine at lunch and dinner and late night tequila does wonders for my disposition.

2. Ward/WineLog (Twitter): When was the first time that it hit you..that wine was something important and should be a major (and better) part of your life rather than just chasing down scum?

Jake Lorenzo: It wasn’t so much discovering that wine was something important, it was more that wine was just part of my life. I no longer make a big deal about it. It’s just something that is always around like salt and pepper, except that wine gets you high. Given the stress and information overload of today’s daily grind, I find a little wine each day is good for my soul.

Wine Patrol3. Ward/WineLog (Twitter): You’ve had a number of crazy adventures in and around Sonoma over the years, alongside Chuy, Paraquat and various other wine compadres.  My favorite happens to be the “Freeway Painting.”  What are some your favorite escapades?

Jake Lorenzo: Hijacking the Napa Wine Train is the most famous thing we’ve done. We kidnapped Richard Branson and two busloads of European writers and took them to a Sonoma winery to cleanse their souls after they had been poisoned by spending a whole day in Napa. Anytime I’m in New Orleans is cause for celebration, and our most recent invention/sport is window diving. We run into the street in front of the Swiss Hotel Bar and dive in through open passenger side windows and introduce ourselves. Window diving requires at least 3 hours of heavy drinking before the first leap.

Become a Wine Pal Deputy!4. Ward/WineLog (Twitter): You’re a fervent supporter of the smaller producer, the family producer and Sonoma producers, in general.  Do you have any producers out of state that taste great after a long night stalking some unsavory character?

Jake Lorenzo: There is great wine to be had from all over the world. Argentina has Altocedro Malbec and Tempus Alba Preludio Malbec. I’m really enjoying the 2007 Côtes du Rhône. Washington and Oregon have great wines. I’ve had decent Riesling from Michigan and passable red wine from New York. The key, given my current financial situation is that the wine be less than $15 per bottle.

5. Ward/WineLog (Twitter): You currently write a column for one of the few wine print mags that I actually enjoy, Wine Business Monthly.  Do you have any other books, writings or private eye gigs in the works?

Jake Lorenzo: My biggest success has been The Tequila Lover’s Guide to Mexico and Mezcal. After more than two years of being out of print I hope to have more copies available by August 1. Jake Lorenzo has Cold Surveillance and Further Surveillance available now. I hope to have a new collection called Continued Surveillance out by October.

Be Goode, but Vote Dirty!

A Really Goode Job - Murphy-GoodeMaking perhaps, one of the biggest viral marketing coups in the nascent wine social mediasphere, Murphy-Goode Winery in Healdsburg has blown up the interwebs with its A Really Goode Job search and marketing campaign.  The basics are these:

– Live near the property in northern Sonoma Valley, right off the square in Healdsburg in a furnished private home.

– Work by using all means of social media to promote Murphy-Goode and its wine and the whole of Sonoma County with the provided camera video camera, handheld device and/or smartphone.  You’ll “need” to taste hundreds of wines for free and eat all over the Valley, as well…shucks.

– Get paid 10K/month for a 6 month contract.

– Flexible working hours (though I imagine you’d WANT to be “always on”).

– Learn all that you can from the winemaker David Ready Jr. and the rest of the staff at Murphy-Goode about their winemaking and vineyard practices.

Hardy Wallace - Goode to be First– Work with David to create a special wine to commemorate your time there!

Holy crap, *I’d* love this job, but I’m afraid that I am unable to apply.  What’s the next best thing, however?  It’s voting for my personal favorite and one that you should vote for too!

I met Hardy Wallace (Twitter) of Dirty South Wine and now Goode to be First on Twitter last year and then had a blast hanging out with him and learning from him at last year’s WBC.  He’s extremely knowledgeable about wine, can deliver in a very accessible manner to both millennials as well as older peeps and is just plain fun to be with as well as quite charismatic.  Evidence of his social media skills are present all over the web, in tons of blogs and all over Twitter and Facebook, and even Blip.fm! He’s currently in a solid second in the public voting at the website!

With all that said, I sayVOTE FOR DIRTY!!


Help Your Favorite Wine Blogger!

Wine Bloggers' Conference Scholarship BadgeThe reach and influence of wine bloggers and wine social media mavens have exploded over the last couple of years, particularly in the last 12 months.  Major wine critics have have noticed and responded, wineries and all three tiers of the wine business oligarchy have also taken notice and begun to capitalize on that influence (or are already playing catchup).  The recent exhaustive and outstanding industry whitepaper by VinTank, Wine & Social Media is the first to encapsulate and quantify this influence and serves as a very important reference for these interactions between wine business, their consumers and the key social media mediators (human and software/websites) of these connections.  It is a groundbreaking accomplishment and a signpost of the rapid, continuing maturity of the wine social media sphere.

VinTankSome of those (human) key social mediators are your favorite wine bloggers that tirelessly catalog their personal wine explorations for all of you, their readers, in a straightforward, accessible (and free!) style. Virtually all them (99.9%) do all of this on the side and as a result of their own unstoppable passion for artisanal products that result from the equally unstoppable passion of the winemakers and winegrowers working in the wine regions of the world.

WBCLast October, an earlier signpost in on the path of wine social media maturity was constructed with the highly successful and influential inaugural Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC) in both Europe and the US.  The support for the conference from both the local (Sonoma) and foreign (eg. New Zealand) wine industry was immense and delightfully surprising in its fervor…they “get it!”  While the expenses for the conference were kept almost unreasonably low compared to the activities that were offered, they remain quite significant for people who do not get paid for their efforts and need to take time out of work in order to attend.  These costs rise dramatically if you are not local to NorCal, the location of both the last WBC and this year’s WBC09, scheduled for the end of July.

WineBlogger.infoKeeping these costs in mind, a group of wine bloggers who are already registered and have paid for their conference stay (my own has be partially subsidized by WineLog) have joined together to drive a Wine Bloggers Conference Scholarship Fund, led by the inimitable Luscious Lush and Vinquire ambassador, Thea Dwelle (Twitter, Twitter2).  Anyone and any business may donate and all funds go into a pool that are then distributed to those needy wine bloggers who have applied for scholarship consideration.  Any blogger may also apply for consideration, including those whom may be your own favorite wine bloggers!

Wine Bloggers' Conference Scholarship BadgeWe have already received kind donations from a number of individuals and wine businesses from across the industry spectrum and the globe.  These donors include: VinTank, Cruvee, Vin65, HelloVino, Travessia, Caveman Wines, Wine Lovers Journal and Come For the Wine.  The resort and conference center that is again the site of this year’s WBC09, The Flamingo in Santa Rosa, has also generously allocated a highly discounted block of rooms for our future scholarship grantees.  Those who donate will undoubtedly receive considerable mentions and thank yous on a number of wine blogs and social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Open Wine Consortium, WineTwo, Cruvee, Must Love Wine, TasteLive, etc) and have the comforting thought that they will have helped to exponentially increase the wine knowledge and sphere of influence for a needy wine blogger, as we saw with the great success of last year’s conference.  Further details and specifics can be found at our blog and website, Wine Bloggers’ Conference Scholarship.

So please, consider donating a little or a lot or whatever you can spare to our fund and become a part of the wine blogosphere!  All of us will appreciate your kind act:

Thea Dwelle: @winebratsfwine blogger and social media champion

Megan Riley Kenney: @sonadorawine blogger

Liza Swift: @brixchick_lizawine blogger

Joel Vincent: @joelvincentwine industry professional and Wine Blogger Conference Organizer

Catie McIntyre Walker: @catiewine retailer and wine blogger

Ward Kadel: @drxenowine blogger, West Coast Ambassador: WineLog.net