Saturday, August 15, 2009

Put a stake through the heart of 1969 and bury it...PLEASE!

If I hear one more "tribute" to Woodstock I am going to scream. The sixties are like a zombie from a horror movie who refuses to die. Wandering around the countryside, ready to show up at every fortieth anniversary of this or that. Now that the baby boomers are firmly ensconced in the upper echelons of the media, it seems we are doomed to relive their youth over and over and over. I am sure it was great, but it is over. OVER.

Frankly, it seemed like kind of a drag. Mud, no food, bad drugs and bands who didn't take the time to tune their instruments. And don't get me started about the sound system. I can't wait until December when we can relive Altamont. That'll be fun.

Why do these people think everyone shares an interest in their past. Isn't it kind of like watching someone's 10,000 vacation pictures, or home movies.

There is just so much that has happened in the intervening years that seem more interesting than a bunch of self-indulgent, privileged, white people trying to relive their ever-fading youth.

What is going on now is much more important. So let's find some silver bullets, sharpen up the stakes and lets put this beast to death.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A New York State of Wine

I have returned to Lake Canandaigua, one of the New York's Finger Lakes, for the annual family get together. Besides the beautiful surroundings, one of the great pleasures of the area is the chance to sample some of the local wine. And there is plenty of it. The Finger Lakes region is blessed with a geography and climate very similar to Germany's Rhine river region. As a result, it is very hospitable to cooler climate varietals, especially Riesling. Fortunately, word is getting out about the quality and variety of the wines from this region.

Speaking of Riesling, I had the pleasure of drinking a delicious dry riesling from Chateau Lafayette Reneau, 2008. It is the perfect summer wine. Light in color and body, this riesling has an apple-like tartness complemented by a touch of effervescence. It's fruit forward but balanced with a lively acidity that makes it wonderfully food friendly. There is also a hint of minerality and plenty of citrus notes. In a word, this wine is elegant. And at $14.99, an affordable treat.

While white wines do well here, many producers are trying their hand at reds as well. You see plenty of Pinot Noir on the shelf, but frankly, this notoriously tempermental grape still hasn't found its ideal expression in the region. More successful is the Cabernet Franc. This grape is ideal for the region and there are many fine examples to choose from.

I had an interesting bottle just last night that was a quirky blend of Cabernet Franc and Lemberger. This makes sense. The Lemberger, or Blaufrankisch as it's more commonly known, is a late-ripening variety producing wines which are typically rich in tannin and may exhibit a pronounced spicy, masculine character. Widespread in Eastern Europe, it is much less common in the United States. I have had a few examples from Washington State, so I was intrigued to see it here in the Finger Lakes.

Anyway, back to the wine: this 2006 Cabernet Franc (56%), Lemberger (44%) blend is made by Fox Run Vineyards overlookikng Seneca Lake. And it is delicious! It is medium bodied with notes of violets and raspberries yielding to plums and black pepper on the finish. It is one of those wines that was made for grilled food, be it beef, chicken or ribs. And it is proof that reds from the Finger Lakes deserve as much attention as the Rieslings.

If you ever get the chance, visit the area. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Brand identity is more than cosmetic surgery.

While brands speak to the hearts and mind, brand identity is the visual and verbal expression of a brand. But if it is treated as a cosmetic exercise only, and regarded merely as a new logo, stationery or strictly as an ad campaign, then it will have only a superficial effect at best.

Unless the external communication truly reflects the internal qualities and values of an organization, it is more likely to alienate your audience when the expectation doesn't match the experience.

Branding needs to start with a clear point of view on what an organization should be about and how it will deliver a sustainable competitive advantage. The visual and verbal elements should then symbolize that difference, and lodge it indelibly in people's minds.

It begins with a brand name and logo and builds exponentially into a matrix of tools and communications. From business cards to signage, ad campaigns to websites, brand identity increases awareness and builds business.

The need for effective brand identity cuts across public and private sectors. This includes established organizations, start-ups and notfor- profits alike. The best brand identity systems are memorable, authentic, differentiated and sustainable.

Brand identity is definitely a tool that is powerful and ubiquitous. However, it is an asset that needs to be managed, nourished and invested in. Done well, it is the consistent reminder of the meaning of the brand.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Mercy Street

I was reading Linda Sexton's op-ed piece today about the recent suicide of Nicolas Hughes, Sylvia Plath's son. Linda is the daughter of poet Anne Sexton, whose mental illness led her to take her own life in 1974. What caught my eye though was the allusion to one of Anne Sexton's works, 45 Mercy Street.

I immediately thought of Peter Gabriel's own "Mercy Street". A quick search later (I love living in the future) and sure enough; Peter Gabriel's song was about Anne Sexton. I have always loved the haunting beauty of this song, and as I read comments from other fans of the song, I realized I wasn't the only one it bought to tears.

While I never knew (until today) what the references to the song were about, they resonated with me in ways that spoke to my own interpretation. The search for the unfindable Mercy Street evokes the sad, quixotic search for one's own childhood, the crushing realization that it is gone forever. Likewise, the tender verse about "the tremble in her hips...of kissing Mary's lips" brings back the flood of emotions that surrounded our first encounters with love and intimacy and the same sadness of never being able to recapture that time again.

Two years ago, when my father died, Mercy Street was the first song I put on my playlist. I remember sitting with my brother Mark, in a darkened room, listening. The the mood that the song creates and the vague references to "her father", and the overall feeling of loss the song conveyed were the perfect accompaniment to our grief.

Naturally I looked up Sexton's unfinished poem 45 Mercy Street (her original 45 Marcy Street was a play, now long out of print). It is a perfect complement to Gabriel's Mercy Street, although I found its tone a little more desperate and resigned. It was as if her madness, and her realization of it, was just a little closer to the surface.

Anyway, read Anne Sexton's poem. Then put on Gabriel's Mercy Street. (and don't forget the box of tissues).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday, February 9, 2009

The wine of the week

This week I had the opportunity to enjoy two terrific wines, so there are actually two wines of the week. The first was a Mirabile Tannat, 2005. This Sicilian expression of the French grape was a joy to drink. Full-bodied, nice fruit with a sexy was delicious. I have been trying to find it retail but having a hard time.

The second was a wonderful Malbec from Achaval Ferrer. This 2007 beauty is big, powerful wine that tastes of blueberries and spice and is balanced by a lively acidity. Excellent stuff.

Friday, February 6, 2009

French Wine and Cheese

Wednesday evening the partner and I attended a French Wine and Cheese class at the Artisanal Premier Cheese Center. I like wine and cheese, and enjoyed the evening. granted, I didn't think I learned much new, other than sampling some new cheeses I hadn't had before. What was nice was that the evening was co-moderated by Xavier Flourent, CEO of Cognac-One. You might have seen the outdoor campaign for Ayala Champagne, the Purer Champagne. That's Cognac-One. He bought the wines we tasted that evening. They were from his new initiative. It's an interesting concept. He travels the world looking for small, quality producers, than brands them with the Xavier Flourent label creating a portfolio that currently includes producers in France, Spain and Chile, with more being added all the time. While the concept of a global brand with regional offerings isn't new, I was impressed by the wines, but also the branding itself. The distinctive X label provides a strong brand signifier that varies in color with the wine. All labels identify the local producer as well as the wine. It was a nice system.

After the class I had the chance to speak with Xavier. He is enthusiastic about the business and I wish him luck.

P.S. The Chateaunuef du Pape was wonderful, and at $35 a bottle, a great value.