Erik Johnson

Digital, social, mobile marketer; writer, wine drinker, hockey player; fuzed to the comfy chairs in the back of Starbucks. Currently Vice President of Marketing for TripCase. National writer and speaker on the topics of social media and innovation. Opinions and thoughts expressed on this blog are my own and my own alone. Follow on twitter: @erikj

Justifying The $20 Bottle of Wine

I am sitting in one of those crowded coffee houses that seems to be on every street corner around the country. The line is long and seats are full of people who’ve dropped around $5 each for a cup of soy, no foam chai latte.  A few minutes earlier I was in the wine aisle of a local retailer and watched shopper after shopper survey a number of bottles, but most often select the bottle …

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Want to learn about wine? Get comfortable with being wrong.

My wine journey is fueled by the knowledge that no matter how much time I devote and how much I study, I’ll never learn everything there is to know about every wine on this planet. Wine is a topic that can be a life-long endeavor. Some of those learnings are pretty straightforward. Smell the unmistakable scent of fresh cut grass? It’s a pretty good bet you’ve got a Sauvignon Blanc in your glass. Most observations …

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Get Out of Your Wine Rut

I love a good hamburger, but it’s not all I eat. Imagine how humdrum life would become if my sole source of sustenance was ground beef on a bun. Yet, for so many, this is exactly the approach to wine. They have one wine of choice, be it Cabernet, Chardonny or Pinot Noir, and they rarely venture away from the one prized varietal. With more than 10,000 different wine grape varietals across the world, and …

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Tips for visiting the wine country

Three questions to consider before booking your wine country visit

I see the posts on Facebook. Someone will ask the question “We are headed to Napa, where do you recommend we visit” and a flood of Friends will respond with a winery or two that are can’t miss. The problem is, not all Napa, Sonoma or other wine country visits are created equaly. Some vistors are looking for an over-the-top adventure while others may be seeking a more laid-back experience. Some vistors might be looking …

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The Resurgence of the Local Winery

What Wine and Craft Beer Have Learned From Each Other I fondly remember the Hamm’s beer commercials from the 1970s. The silly Hamm’s beer was always up to some hi jinx while an outdoorsy spokesman declared the beer to be refreshing because it was from the land of sky blue waters. I don’t once recall the bear or being discuss the beer’s color, texture or flavor profile. It was beer.  In Wisconsin, where I lived …

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Why wine is good for your brain

Why Wine is Good for Your Brain (And Not for the Reason You Might Think)

It seems like every week there is a slew of new reports and studies on the how wine either is good or not so good for your health. Resveratrol, quercetin, and ellagic acid have all been touted as magical health properties contained within wine, while others trumpet warnings about the potential damage from alcohol. While the debate goes on regarding the health effects of the components in wine, there may be other health benefits that …

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Blue Ostrich Winery: Worth the Drive from DFW

We had just dropped our youngest off in the dorms for his Freshman year at college. Facing a 3-hour drive home as we headed into the first days of an empty nest, we discussed what might be a good stop to break up the drive and determine if we were feeling more boo-hoo or ya-hoo. Our answer was unanimous: wine. So we mapped a course to a winery we had visited a few years back …

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Why you should order wine from the winery

Why You Should Order Directly From Wineries

With hundreds of bottles staring at me every time I pass the wine aisle at our local grocery story, it’s hard to believe I get bored with the selection, but I do. The store serves as a wonderful place to pick up our old standbys on any given night, but the wine world itself is so large and diverse, even an entire aisle of wine can’t come close to breaching its diversity. That’s why I …

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Six Wineries to order wine from

Six Family Wineries to Help Ease Sheltering at Home

It’s no secret that the wine industry has not escaped the financial distress brought on by the Covid-19 virus. Wineries have had to shut their doors to visitors, which especially hurts the small, family wineries who rely heavily on exposure and sales to visitors as their lifeblood. Right now, it is more critical than ever to support these smaller independent producers who every year put the livelihoods of their families on the line to hand-craft …

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Pairing wine with girls scout cookies

How to Pair Wine with Girl Scout Cookies

One of the more unique wine tastings we conducted this year at Red White and Cru was a pairing of wines with girl scout cookies. Pairing wines with sweets can be difficult and the flavor combinations in the cookies made for some additional challenges, but we took our best shot and ended up with 5 out of 6 winners as judged by the participants. The pairings we settled on were: Pure Loire Sparkling Brut Vouvray …

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How to find a value wine

How to Find a Value Wine

If you search for Cabernet Sauvignon on any reasonably stocked wine retail website, you will often find bottles ranging from $10 to more than a $1,000. While it is unlikely that a cheaper wine will taste just like the more expensive bottles, it is possible to find relative quality wines at almost any price point across the spectrum. If absolute quality isn’t the driver of price in wine, what is? Although production techniques (like use …

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ACME Fine Wines: The Art of Under the Radar Napa Wine Tasting

Tucked away on a quiet side street in St. Helena, ACME Fine Wines has built a reputation as the authority small production, new producer and under-the-radar wines in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. From their art gallery styled studio, ACME conducts wine tastings, fulfills four different wine clubs and runs an online wine retail site, all with a proclivity toward the new and small producers from the area.

This wine might help you live to 100

This Wine Just Might Help You Live to be 100

Scientists have identified a few areas of the world where a greater percentage of the population than expected live to 100 or beyond.  One of these “Blue Zones” is located on the island of Sardinia, off the Western coast of Italy. Researchers have identified a number of reasons why they believe the island has a greater share of centenarians, including their Mediterranean diet, the amount of walking they do for basic transportation, and their close-knit …

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Villa Bellezza Winery: Crafting Hybrid Wines in Wisconsin

The Great River Road is an American icon, a series of state and local roads that follow the Mississippi River through 10 states from Minnesota and Wisconsin down to Louisiana. The Northern end of the Road is shutterbug’s dream. Dotted with scenic overlooks from the top of towering bluffs, picturesque small towns with quaint restaurants and hotels and wildlife including the American Bald Eagle, the region has been a tourist destination for decades. And now, …

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Patine Cellars Wine Review

Patiné Cellars: Pinot Noir With a Scoring Touch

I started playing hockey when I was 6 and grew up watching the sport from my home in Wisconsin. There was no national hockey television presence in the 1980s, so I didn’t see very many L.A. Kings games, but certainly followed players like Marcel Dionne, Luc Robitalille, Bernie Nichols and Larry Murphy, even before Wayne Gretzky joined the franchise. Jim Fox was a consistent 30-goal scorers on those 80s Kings teams who didn’t always get …

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Why I am Wary of advice from Total Wine

Last week I was in the Zinfandel aisle at Total Wine—a megastore for wine and liquor purchases–when a man asked a store employee to recommend a bottle of Zin for him. The employee asked one question, “What are you looking to spend?” and at hearing the price range of $20 to $40, zeroed in on exactly one bottle which he highly recommended. What caught my attention wasn’t the recommended bottle, it’s the conversation that didn’t …

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What wineries can do to promote social sharing

Bottling the Winery Experience for Social Sharing

I love to visit Napa Valley. One of my greatest fascinations about wine is the intersection of complex new technology with the simplicity of centuries-old agriculture. At the Hall Wines Rutherford facility (@hallwines), I awed at the hexagonal stainless fermentation tanks with temperature controlled by smart phone apps then stepped outside to behold the perfectly coiffed rows of vines just starting veraison. As a social media enthusiast, my instinct was to try to share these …

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How social media is like making wine

How Social Media is Like Wine: Part 1

The Foundation Wine is the original social media. For centuries, wine has been used as the liquid medium for seasoning social connections in order to commune, discuss, and discover. Perhaps the roots go even deeper. It turns out that the process vintners go through to produce a quality bottle of wine also serves as an appropriate model for how a business should approach social media. I’ve broken the process down into a three-part series: The …

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Improving The Wine Retail Experience

In far Northern Minnesota lies Nicollet Creek. It’s similar to thousands of other creeks in the United States: the water is cool and fresh and in most places you can step or walk across it. What makes Nicollet Creek different from the others is that it is the primary inlet into Lake Itasca and the origination of the Mississippi River. The creek alone, however, couldn’t form the largest river in the United States. It takes …

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Recipes from wineries

Wonderful Recipes from Wineries

Food is to wine as a beat is to a melody. They can be great by themselves, but together they can be astounding. That’s why it makes sense for wineries to share the recipes they believe are best suited to go with the different wines they produce. Of the hundreds of online locations where recipes can be located, I’ve found the hand-selected dishes from wine producers to be among the most interesting, most diverse and …

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Why your winery needs a blog

Your Winery Doesn’t Have a Blog? Why You Need To Create One. Now!

The best wines in the world are balanced, with fruit, earth, tannins and acid all working in harmony to bring out the best of the varietal and the style. Digital marketing for your wine label is no different. A good digital strategy lifts the brand through an effective balance of presence and engagement. Presence is the ability for consumer to see you and find you, either through directly searching for your brand or a keyword …

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Is an 88 point wine good or bad

Is an 88 Point Wine Good or Bad?

It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of wine exploration and discovery, but I’m not a fan of the 100 point wine scale. I use it in limited situations when making the best comparisons I can across a similar methodology, but on whole I find the scale to be more detrimental to the industry than helpful because it give little to no guidance to the majority if wine buyers. CellarTracker is a crowdsourced …

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Why wine lists are improving

Four Reasons Why Restaurant Wine Lists Might Be Improving

Restaurant wine lists fascinate me. The good ones are a fantastic way to discover and experience new and different wines that are typically unavailable at local retail or through direct order. Unfortunately, I find the good wine lists few and far between, and that is baffling. In most restaurants I visit while traveling the county it is obvious how much time, thought and attention is put into the concept, experience and decor and the level …

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Six Coppell Wine Lists in Seven Days: Victor’s Wood Grill

I thought it would be interesting to take a week-long look at the wine offerings at each of six local restaurants in Coppell and compare them on quality, cost, markup and overall value. The first post in the series is an overview of all six restaurants. This is the final of the detailed reviews of the restaurants. You can find a list of all restaurants at the bottom of each post. Victor’s Wood Grill was …

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Six Coppell Wine Lists in Seven Days: Simmer

I thought it would be interesting to take a week-long look at the wine offerings at each of six local restaurants in Coppell and compare them on quality, cost, markup and overall value. The first post in the series is an overview of all six restaurants. This is the filth of the detailed reviews of the restaurants. Along with Local Diner, Simmer is the first of what we hope will be a variety of quality …

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Six Coppell Wine Lists in Seven Days: Sfizio

I thought it would be interesting to take a week-long look at the wine offerings at each of six local restaurants in Coppell and compare them on quality, cost, markup and overall value. The first post in the series is an overview of all six restaurants. This is the fourth of the detailed reviews of the restaurants. According to the restaurant’s website, the name Sfizio is from an Italian word meaning “something whimsical that you …

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Six Coppell Wine Lists in Seven Days: J. Macklin’s Grill

I thought it would be interesting to take a week-long look at the wine offerings at each of six local restaurants in Coppell and compare them on quality, cost, markup and overall value. The first post in the series is an overview of all six restaurants. This is the third of the detailed reviews of the restaurants. J. Macklin’s Grill provided exactly what Coppell needed when it needed it. Just after the limited-service Chili’s restaurant, …

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Six Coppell Wine Lists in Seven Days: Carmel Restaurant Lounge

I thought it would be interesting to take a week-long look at the wine offerings at each of six local restaurants in Coppell and compare them on quality, cost, markup and overall value. The first post in the series is an overview of all six restaurants. This is the second of the detailed reviews of the restaurants. Carmel Restaurant Lounge is the newest player in the Coppell restaurant scene. Occupying the space that was once …

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Six Coppell Wine Lists in Seven Days: Black Walnut Cafe

I thought it would be interesting to take a week-long look at the wine offerings at each of six local restaurants in Coppell and compare them on quality, cost, markup and overall value. The first post in the series is an overview of all six restaurants. This is the first detailed review of one of the restaurants. With 39 wines on its list, 19 by the glass, Black Walnut Cafe offers the most options of …

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Six Coppell Wine Lists in Seven Days: The Overview

Coppell isn’t a large city by Texas standards, but it is unique in that six of the eight primary sit-down restaurants in the town are independent, non-chain establishments. I like that about our city. As a wine blogger, I thought it would be interesting to take a week-long look at the wine offerings at each of six local restaurants (excluding the Mexican restaurants) and compare them on quality, cost, markup and overall value. This first …

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The Wonderful White Wines of….Uruguay?

Every time I visit one of our local wine retailers to load up on wine, I try to pick a bottle or two that I would not normally select, something outside of my comfort zone.  I like to occasionally open an aromatic and acidic Torrontes from Argentina in place of the more common lighter whites like a Viognier, Pinot Grigio or a dry Reisling, so when I spotted a Torrontes from Uruguay, I knew that …

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Vineyard 7&8: A Winery to Appreciate

Almost like an analogy to the challenges of staring a winery in Napa Valley, it’s a steep climb up Spring Mountain Road to get to 7&8. Although the mountaintop location makes this winery a little more difficult at which to arrive, the sweeping panoramic views and quality of the ripe mountain fruit makes the road more than worthwhile. Named for a pair of lucky numbers, 7 in America and 8 in Asia, Vineyard 7&8 was …

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Marquette: The Next Big American Varietal?

If you are from anywhere other than Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin or Vermont, chances are you have not yet run across a wine made from the Marquette grape. This new varietal is a hybrid created by the University of Minnesota for cold weather climates. With parentage from Pinot Noir and Frontenac, there is a buzz beginning to emerge about Marquette, especially as wineries in more established locations, like Washington and New York, are beginning to harvest …

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When to Verify the Vintage in a Restaurant

Wine inventories move faster than menus get reprinted. So the wine that is listed on the wine list is more often than realized not the same vintage that is actually being poured by the restaurant. I am in complete agreement with the majority of wine writers who say that in most cases vintage is not important.  The fact is that 90% of wine made today is produced to be consumed within one year of release. …

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Paul Hobbs Winery: Off the Beaten Path, On the Mark

Ever since we first tasted the Paul Hobbs we ordered at Fearings Restaurant, the Hobbs wines have been among our favorites. In our last visit to Napa/Sonoma, we decided to visit the winery.  Of course, we missed the line in our confirmation email that warned not to use GPS, since the actual location of the Sebastopol property is not where technology says it should be. And they were right. Our GPS sent us to a …

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If I Only Had $10 to Spend… (it would be on wine, of course)

If the only thing I had in my pocket was a $10 bill and I was asked to buy a wine from the local market to take to a casual group gathering, here is what I would pick: Thorny Rose Red Blend Soft and well-balanced, this blend of primarily Cabernet and Merlot provides a pleasant mix of black cherry, raspberry and vanilla notes and a semi-dry tannic finish. Priced at Market Street for about $8. …

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Friday Favorites: Wine Blogs I Love

There’s a lot of wine out there. Thousands of different varietals of grapes are used to make wines across thousands of worldwide appellations. According to the Wine Institute, 120,000 new wine labels were approved by the US Tax and Trade Bureau in 2010 alone. It’s difficult to cut across all the marketing and hype and choices to find the hidden gems of the wine world. That’s why I love my fellow wine bloggers. The blogs …

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Price Vertical: Five Great Chardonnays to Fit Any Budget

In Price Verticals we recommend wines at escalating release prices that can be found widely at local retail in Texas and that are an exceptional value at the price. For many wine drinkers, Chardonnay is a varietal you either love or you wouldn’t be caught dead drinking. My relationship with the grape is little more complex. It was a bottle of chardonnay, Cakebread to be exact, that fueled my desire to learn more about wines …

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How Social Media is Like Wine: Part 3

The Juice In Part 1 of this three part series, we compared The Fundamentals of both winemaking and social media in setting the right foundation for success. In Part 2, we looked at the process from selecting the vines all the way to harvest and, at the same time, outlined three components that serve to form and grow the core of a social media program. In this, the third and final part in the series, …

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How Social Media is Like Wine: Part 2

The Grapes In yesterday’s post, Part 1 of this series, I suggested that if wine is the original social media, then the process vintners go through to produce a quality bottle of wine could also serve as an appropriate model for how a business should approach social media. We looked at The Foundation for producing a great wine (planning, soil and climate) and how the social media equivalents of each of these elements can set …

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No Latitude on Gratitude

“Thank You.” When put together, two of the most valuable words in the English language. A phrase so important most of us were continually reminded over-and-over by our parents, teachers and others to “Say thank you.” Yet, in social media, it is still one of the most underused phrases. Far too many brands believe that the process starts with the brand sharing an important post about the brand and ends with rabid fans blindly retweeting …

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Is Anybody Listening?

Before a recent trip to Napa Valley, I posted at least three separate tweets on three different days announcing that we would be traveling to #Napa and asking for recommendations on wineries to visit. Of the 500+ brands in the valley (plus another 400 if you count Sonoma), only ONE, @SilverOak,  took the bait and issued an invitation to visit. Because of their response, we suspended our rule of only visiting new brands in this …

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How Many Tweets Does it Really Take to be Effective?

Although I wasn’t in Portland for the recent Wine Blogger’s Conference, it was fun to follow the #WBC13 hashtag over the weekend.  During the conference, Ashley Teplin (@AshleyTeplin) reacted to a presenter’s comment by tweeting: “21 tweets per day to be effective!” wowza. I responded to the tweet with: Yep. That’s why a scheduling tool can be your best friend! My thought at the time of posting was that, using a scheduling tool to discover …

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The Social Media Gatekeeper

This morning an intriguing Twitter post by Pam Barksdale (@pam_barksdale) crossed my feed: “Perspectives on Wine Blogging: Wine Importer Bill Deutsch.” The post linked to a short interview conducted in preparation for the upcoming Wine Bloggers’ Conference. In the interview, Bill Deutsch, president and CEO of WJ Deutsch, a wine importer, discussed his perspective on wine blogs. (Read the interview is here). For most of the interview, Mr. Deutsch was right on point, talking about …

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Wine is Social. Period.

Wine is social. Yet, with wine drinkers and aficionados in both older and new generations spending more time and attention on social media channels, it is apparent that the wine industry has yet to fully embrace this natural channel for reaching its audience. Sure, there are sporadic instances of social media successes, like Gary V. and the promotion of some high profile wine events, but on whole, producers, brands, distributors and influencers are well behind …

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Wine Buyer Beware: Those Sneaky Shelf Talkers Tend to Lie

Over the past few months I visited three different Tom Thumb stores, looking to rate a recommendation from one of their store employees. No luck. All three stores were absent any live person who could provide a recommended wine. At the last of the three, though, I noticed another customer read a shelf talker, the little sign with a description of the wine and often a review score, and then put that wine in her …

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Flavors of wine

How to Taste the Flavors in Wine

It happens every time. No exception. In every wine tasting I have conducted there is always one or more participants who remark that they aren’t able the taste the flavors in a wine. I’ll say “This Albariño has lemon and grapefruit…” and someone will speak up to admit he doesn’t think he can taste what is supposed to be in the wine. And then there’s always the one who cracks, “I taste grapes.” Great. Just …

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