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I know I’ve touched on conferences before, but as I sit on a flight out to my next biggest conference – I figured I’d dust off some of my thoughts around conferences and their relative value in Corporate America. This will be the biggest conference I’ve ever been on the hook for – almost 900 participants.

My thoughts:

  • It’s really hard to get 900 people on the same page without some great materials, strategy, and energy
  • Planning for an event like this should really start 12 months out; I unfortunately probably did 80% of the pre-work within the last 90 days (partially my fault/procrastination, partially at the discretion of other team members/senior leaders)
  • Having 900 people is awesome because I got to engage a production company to support things like stage design/setup, audio/visual, and other items
  • Having 900 people sucks because organizing that sort of chaos is extremely difficult on the people logistics side (i.e. how do 900 people all get a bathroom break in 15 minutes if bathrooms around the facility only have capacity for 4-5 at a time??)
  • The biggest challenge in this sort of endeavor is making sure everyone’s voices are heard
    • This is my job every day, and it is simultaneously the single most rewarding and the single most frustrating thing about my job
    • Inevitably, many voices will not be heard, or will not be voiced
    • Even for those who are “heard” – there is still a very good chance the voice may be ignored by competing priorities or varied direction that is preferred by senior leaders
  • I love and hate conference planning and execution at the same time – I really mostly just wish I had the ability to care a little less about the details

At least this one’s in Vegas – wish me luck!!

Til Next Time,

Michael

Today I heard a buzzword I hadn’t heard in a really long time: CAUCUS. You know, in the context of getting together to discuss something “offline”? Usually – you know how I feel about buzzwords – but this one made me chuckle. I think I could get behind it because it makes “linking up”, “synching up”, or just “meeting up” sound so much more regal and political. The unfortunate part is that one gentleman used it about 5 different times in the same 30-minute meeting. At that point, it’s overkill and takes away from the splash factor. I’m totally going to stock this one away though and dust it off at some point just to see if I can get a few smiles.

Sorry for the random post – it’s clearly been a long week…

Til Next Time,

Michael

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The awesome setup at Sainsbury

Day 4 allowed us to catch a couple on the way out of town. Definitely glad we made the trip to stumble upon Saintsbury – it was DYNAMITE.

Day 4… Two Wineries on the way out of town:

  • Artessa (Southwestern Napa):
    • Pros: Interesting property with great views of Sonoma/Napa
    • Cons: “Modern” property actually feels dated, fairly un-personal tasting experience
    • Overall Score: 3/10 –  not worth the trip
  • Saintsbury (Southwestern Napa – between Downtown Napa and Downtown Sonoma):
    • Pros: Welcoming and warm staff members, smaller facility with tour included, beautiful grounds, best Pinots that we tasted over the whole trip
    • Cons: Off the beaten path, tasting requires an hour minimum (reservations recommended)
    • Fun Fact: they have a great selection of “large format” wines that I “accidentally” indulged in
    • Overall Score: 8/10 –  worth the trip
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One of my last “artsy” pics of the trip

Til Next Time,

Michael

On day three, we had to “take it easy” because we were going to a wedding that night… Well – not really, we still got some good tasting in :)

Day 3… Five Wineries in Sonoma/Kenwood:

  • Buena Vista (Between Downtown Napa / Downtown Sonoma):
    • Pros: Great selection of wines, very unique labeling and brand management, separate facility available for “bubbles” 
    • Cons: Bubble Lounge is by-appointment-only, some of the facility décor is strange (e.g. cardboard cutouts of famous people are looking at you as you walk in through the garden)
    • Overall Score: 7/10 – worth a visit and good for groups
  • Gloria Ferrer (Sonoma):
    • Pros: Good sparkling wines, elevated views of the valley, great snack options (meat trays, cheese boards, etc), reasonably priced
    • Cons: Less intimate, they try to pump as many people through as possible
    • Overall Score: 7/10 – probably worth the trip, especially if you want some sparkling options
  • Kunde (Sonoma/Kenwood):
    • Pros: Beautiful grounds, cave tours, solid wines with a few that aren’t distributed
    • Cons: Somewhat corporate, attracts large tour groups
    • Overall Score: 6/10 –  worth a trip, but may be a bit too corporate for some
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The entrance at Kunde

  • VJB (Sonoma/Kenwood):
    • Pros: Fantastic flatbreads/food, cool atmosphere
    • Cons: Didn’t try any of the wine besides the rosé, so unable to share much more
    • Fun Tip: You MUST try the avocado, mozzarella, tomato flatbread if you go!
    • Overall Score: 6/10 – good stop for food if you’re in the area
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VJB Rosé + Delicious Flatbread

  • Chateau St Jean (Sonoma/Kenwood):
    • Pros: Great chardonnays, unique grounds with several different tasting areas (outdoor/indoor)
    • Cons: Rather corporate, sort of what you’d expect for something distributed so broadly nationally
    • Overall Score: 5/10 – probably not worth the trip unless you’re really into Chardonnays

Til Next Time,

Michael

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The patio at Cast

On the second day, we went around a lot of the wineries up on Dry Creek Road – which is still most likely my favorite area in all of wine country.

Day 2… Five Wineries in Kenwood/Dry Creek Rd/Sonoma:

  • Deerfield Ranch (Kenwood):
    • Pros: Convenient stop if you are planning to “head North” and get up into RRV or Dry Creek Rd, best “old vine” Zinfandel I’ve ever tasted, a real hidden gem with great staff
    • Cons: More of a “cellar”/cave feel – so you lose a bit in terms of views
    • Fun Fact: The Old Vine Zin is sourced from the grapes right out in front of the property
    • Overall Score: 8/10 – definitely worth a stop
  • Ferrari Carano (Dry Creek Rd):
    • Pros: Still one of my favorite wineries due to the notoriety and ability to source locally, absolutely stunning grounds, very nice cellar/barrel area as well as a great “VIP” tasting room
    • Cons: Most of the wines are already distributed nationally, tours require advance reservation, the winery as a whole is a bit more commercial with lots of non-wine products in their gift shop (which takes away a bit from the ambience)
    • Overall Score: 8/10 – definitely worth a stop
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The grounds at Ferrari-Carano

  • Cast (Dry Creek Rd):
    • Pros: Definitely the “biggest surprise” as it totally exceeded expectations based on a local’s otherwise typical recommendation, fantastic wines, unique blends you don’t find everywhere, a magical patio atmosphere that has a tremendous view, good snacks accompany the tasting
    • Cons: Unless someone else tells you about it, you’d never have heard of it or even know it was there
    • Fun Fact: The Petite Syrah comes from the grapes right out in front of the patio
    • Overall Score: 9/10 – this place is awesome and I can’t wait to go back
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…that point in the trip where I get real artsy…

  • Dutcher Crossing (Dry Creek Rd):
    • Pros: Very nice grounds, awesome design aesthetics/logo and integration of the big bicycle
    • Cons: Gift shop/tasting area is a bit commercial, similar to Ferrari-Carano
    • Overall Score: 8/10 – definitely worth a stop
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The entry to Dutcher Crossing

  • Sbragia (Dry Creek Rd):
    • Pros: Elevated property yields nice views of Dry Creek Valley, good crackers available during tasting
    • Cons: Nothing terribly memorable about the wines, the shop, the staff
    • Overall Score: 6/10 – not overly memorable; I’d say “skip it”

Til Next Time,

Michael

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I figured I would start off my review of vineyards from the trip in sequential order, starting with the first afternoon we spent in wine country – over on the Napa/Silverado Trail side of the valley. I’ll try to give as much relevant information as possible while not being too grossly overwhelming. I feel like any time people start trying to nitpick the wine itself, something is lost. I’m just trying to share information I would want to know prior to going (in other words – “is Vineyard XYZ worth the trip”… which is much more than just “is the wine delicious/economical/etc” as far as I’m concerned).

Day 1… Four Wineries in Napa/Silverado Trail:

  • Frog’s Leap (Mid-Napa):
    • Pros: Beautiful grounds, comfortable atmosphere, snacks provided with tastings, and extra stuff to see and do around the property (e.g. The Barn, garden area, etc)
    • Cons: Requires appointment, only selected wines are not distributed (i.e. you can get majority of their wines across the country in retail environments)
    • Fun Fact: their corks say “Ribbit” (a nod to the other frog design and brand aesthetics)
    • Overall Score: 7/10 –  worth the trip
  • Round Pond (Mid-Napa):
    • Pros: Great rooftop patio, scenic views of the whole Napa Valley
    • Cons: Requires appointment, very limited tasting capacity (i.e. They often will not even allow all of their tables to be filled if they are at all short on servers/employees)
    • Overall Score: 6/10 –  worth the trip, but not a “must”
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The “Ribbit” corks at Frog’s Leap

  • Robert Sinksey (Silverado Trail):
    • Pros: Recently completed patio construction and other related property updates, good lesser-known varietals and blends of wine
    • Cons: Not a ton of “wow” factor, tastings are fairly expensive, a bit dark/void of light on the inside if that is where you do your tasting
    • Overall Score: 5/10 – I’d go back but not unless I was already over in that part of the Silverado Trail
  • Regusci (Silverado Trail):
    • Pros: Dog-friendly property, laid back atmosphere, very helpful and friendly staff
    • Cons: Not loaded with memorable wines, a bit of a hike out of the way unless you are deliberate about wanting to get over to the South end of the Silverado Trail
    • Overall Score: 5/10 – same story as Sinskey

Til Next Time,

Michael

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