Temecula winery hosts virtual wine tasting


By: Jeff Horseman
The Press- Enterprise 

Roughly 60 people took part in a wine tasting at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa on Wednesday,
but only about half were physically there.The rest followed online as winemakers Jon McPherson and Javier Flores
described and critiqued their products. Those at home had the wines shipped to them beforehand. It's believed to be
the first time a Temecula Valley Wine Country winery has live-streamed a wine tasting over the Web.
Social media could become an important tool for local wineries seeking to stand out in California's enormous and diverse wine market.

"I think what they're doing is fabulous and I think everybody should be doing it,"
said Bill Wilson of Wilson Creek Winery, whose business is planning a similar webcast.

The live audience in South Coast's cellar included Bill Eyer, who reviews wines on his
"Cuvée Corner Wine Blog." He said while regions such as Napa regularly use social media,
he's not familiar with any in Temecula that do.

Temecula Valley Wine Country is home to more than 30 wineries drawing a
steady stream of visitors from Southern California. But compared to other wine-producing regions,
notably Napa and Sonoma, the local Wine Country is tiny, younger and less known. Also,
its wines aren't distributed as widely.

South Coast, one of the Temecula Valley's largest wineries, took home Golden State Winery of the Year honors at the California State Fair in 2008 and 2009.

Despite that, South Coast owner Jim Carter said it's a "tremendous challenge" for local wineries to gain recognition with the wine-drinking public.
 Events like Wednesday's are meant to spread the word about Temecula-area wines. "It's our quest to show this is a legitimate wine area down here in Southern California," Carter said.

During the tasting, Carter, his wife, Dawn, McPherson and Flores sat at a rectangular table in front of audience members
sharing circular tables. A web production team broadcast the event from the rear of the room in South Coast's basement.
The audience sampled four South Coast wines and graded them on a 20-point system devised at UC Davis. McPherson didn't go easy on his work, admitting that he's never fully satisfied with any of his wines. He also gave the audience pointers on wine appreciation.
"You cannot smell sweet," he told the audience. "Just because you smell fruit does not mean it's a sweet wine."

At several points, Director of Sales and Marketing Crystal Magon relayed questions and comments from the online audience, whose screen names included
"Suburban Wino" and "WineWonkette." Toward the end, the audience compared similarly priced cabernet sauvignons from South Coast and a Napa winery.
Magon tabulated the audience's scores said South Coast's wine edged out its Napa competitor. Eyer, the wine blogger, said the Napa wine "fell on its face"
while South Coast's "was slightly better" but held back too much. Getting more exposure, especially from popular wine bloggers, is key for Temecula-area wineries,
he said. "If they say a wine is good, it's going to have a lot of sway with a lot of consumers," Eyer said.

Reach Jeff Horseman at 951-375-3727 or jhorseman@PE.com