Saturday, February 24, 2007

Chaper Six: Two Forks Up or How Radio Killed the Video Star

Interwoven among all this was a series of food, wine, beer radio shows. The first one was called, Two Forks Up on AM 1340. A weekly show featuring reviews of restaurants and wine and beer. Listeners told me that they often had to pull off the road because they were laughing too hard. It was kind of a “Wayne’s World,” approach.

The second show was on KVEC AM 920 and was called Dinning and Doing, because it was sponsored by a magazine of the same name (it was beautiful glossy mag much like the current Central Coast Magazine) and that’s when I began the format of interviewing winemakers, chefs, local food makers and wine/food event organizers or spokespeople.

The third version was also on KVEC and was called, I Heard it Through the Grapevine, which two years after it’s last broadcast, has been resurrected as Grapevine Radio, and is, imho, the best, most professional version of the show.

Chapter Five: Beer, Boomerangs, and Bourbon Street

I went on to found a video post production facility, got involved in documentary film
making projects, a music radio show, built an audio production studio and hired a graphic designer for my burgeoning marketing company, Boomerang Business Communications.

Then it was off to devise a promotional program for the Festival of Beers which expanded attendance so dramatically it had to move to it’s current Avila Beach location (it was originally in the parking lot of the Graduate).

Next I conceived of and negotiated the permit maze to create the first daytime Mardi Gras event (turning Garden Street into Bourbon Street) which grew quickly and after two years had to be moved to Mission Plaza.

By this time I was also deep into promoting the SLO Brewing Co. and helped launch their national bottled beer program.

Chapter Four: This Could Be the Start of Something Big

At one of our wine marketing group’s monthly meetings I commented that with an industry with this many members they should consider forming a trade association.

Vic Dunlop (Victor Hugo Winery) who was then the winemaker for Creston Winery, spoke up, “You know there’s a draft document for a vintners and growers association that’s been sitting in a filing cabinet for three years.” I shot back, “Well, Vic let’s dust that sucker off and bring it to the next meeting!”

Right about that time July Ackerman had just moved to Paso from Hawaii and had been hired as the Paso Chamber’s wine industry liaison. The first meeting of our group that she attended happened to be the one that Vic brought in the dusty document that outlined what soon became, The Paso Robles Vintners & Growers Association (now known as the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance).

Chapter Three: What to do When Someone Whines, “I Don’t Wanna Go Wine Tasting.”

By the late 80’s there were about 35 wineries throughout the county and this is when I decided we needed a touring and tasting map of the area. Oh, there was a wine tasting may put out by the Paso Chamber but it only showed wineries. My reasoning was that if you had a group of four people planning a trip to somewhere and just one of them didn’t care for wine, they would veto the adventure if you were trying to entice them with a map that made it seem as if the only attractions in the area were wineries.

Hence, the Touring & Tasting Map of SLO County. Show the wineries, the good restaurants, golf courses, scenic wonders, the beach, art galleries .... something for everybody in your tour group.

The Map was a modest success and the contacts I had made in the wine industry led to me being invited to put together a marketing program for six wineries that were on the west side of US 101 in Paso Robles. They were tired of dribbling money away on advertising for which they could never gauge an impact. So they pooled their resources, we established a quarterly budget and I devised an annual plan of attack that involved rack cards and a TV campaign aimed at locals.

Evidently we got noticed, because all the other Paso wineries began knocking at our door wanting to join in on the fun.

Chapter Two: Pucker Up and Fly the Concord to the African Basil Beer Fest

Right around this time I started making my own wine from 40-50 year old Concord grapes that were on our property in rural Arroyo Grande.
As I began making wine I also began making the popular series of radio ads for Boo Boo Records (“Wherever you go, there’s a Boo Boo near you you.”). Hmmm, I wonder if there’s a connection?

Anyway I decided to attempt a dry, sparkling version of Concord. The first vintage, 1977, was a lot like that practical joke “pucker gum.” One sip and you looked like you were ready for a kiss.
I tamed it down for the following year and then began making a whole series of dry sparkling fruit wines: Plumpagne, Rhububble (rhubarb), Razzamafizz (raspberry), and some interesting beer.

Several of my beer recipes used to be brewed by SLO Brew as seasonal ales. Holidaze Ale (Yule ale style made with Hawaiian ginger root), Cherry Bomb Ale (4th of July made with cherries) and the famous Basil Ale for the Sycamore Farms Basil Festival (dry hopped with African Blue basil). By year three people were telling me they wouldn’t miss the Basil Festival every year because, “That’s the only time I can get Basil Ale!”

A side note: They laughed when I, along with Sycamore’s owner and mastermind, Bruce Schomler, first proposed an annual Basil Festival.

Friday, February 23, 2007

My Long and Sideways Road

Chapter One: Cliff's historical retrospective

Mama Rotta, Dressed in Black. Hope You Brought Your Wine Jug Back.

Paso Robles Wine Country? People used to laugh at the mere mention.
Of course, back then you had a choice of Psenti or Rotta. And if you went to Rotta you didn’t need to have ID but you do you need to bring your own jug for Mama Rotta to fill with her fine Zinfandel.

Yes, friends, that was a wine tour afternoon in San Luis Obispo County back in the day (somewhere in the mid-70’s). Then the Hoffman family came to town and built Hoffman Mountain Ranch Winery back in the Paso hills and a young Mike Hoffman (the youngest winemaker in the state at the time) began making what turned out to be award winning (internationally) wines.

People within the industry were still talking about their legendary “1976 Doctor’s
Reserve Cabernet,” when I first attended wine events back in ‘87 with Mike Hoffman, who had, with his wife Becky, just opened the SLO Brewing Co.