The Kenwood Press
Business Beat: 02/15/2019

Business Beat for Feb. 15, 2019



WineCountry Media takes risks to engage new visitors

WineCountry Media
Bottom to top: Michael Cann, CEO, with Megan Hill, Laura Bunting, and Davon Cox, part of the WineCountry Media team.

Visitors to wine country - all seven million of them, according to last year's official numbers - are looking to experience wine country in new and unique ways that go beyond a simple wine tasting or bed and breakfast stay. That's according to Michael Cann, CEO of WineCountry Media, which opened its headquarters in Jack London Village in Glen Ellen in December.

“A new discovery platform for visitors to wine country,” WineCountry Media owns three web domains, napavalley.com, sonomavalley.com and winecountry.com, which also happen to be three of the top search engine results for people googling wine country and its surrounds. Cann bought the business in 2014, and along with his team, some of whom have been with the company for decades, revamped the sites' design and offerings, looking beyond the linear winery-to-user link or hotel-to-booking link, to give visitors a complete immersion in wine country lifestyle.

“WineCountry Media hopes to be the place people who are looking to visit wine country land to research before they get here, and use as a guide while they visit here,” he said.

While Napa and Sonoma (naturally) get their own domains, Winecountry.com also covers Southern California wine country, Washington, Oregon and burgeoning wine countries in Texas and Virginia. WineCountry Media's specialty is experiences, emphasized Cann. Sip Chardonnay and play croquet at Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards in Windsor, take a winemaker cruise on the Napa Valley Wine Yacht on the Napa River, or a 4-wheel-drive ATV excursion and wine pairing lunch at Hess in Napa.

Cann and his team have found that what resonates most with the three million unique visitors his sites get each year isn't just good wine. “The trend can't be all about the wine,” said Cann. “It has to be about the wine as it's integrated into an experience. That's what travelers connect with.” The bulk of WineCountry Media's users are in the millennial age range, 25-34, and local, coming from California. Seventy-nine percent of its users have an annual household income of more than $100,000.

Cann isn't alone in trying to become a tourist's go-to place to dream, plan, and book their next trip, but he said WineCountry Media is unique in its originality and willingness to take risks.

Their newest experiment is a foray into “Wine Country Entertainment.” Partnering with a production studio in Southern California, WineCountry Media is developing of a short-form video series called The Winemaker, much in the vein of Netflix's original documentary series Chef's Table, which profiles a single world-renowned chef in each episode. Filming for The Winemaker's pilot episode, about Greg Brewer, winemaker for Brewer-Clifton in Lompoc, just wrapped a few months ago. The eight-minute film can be seen at WineCountry.com and will be available for download on Amazon, GooglePlay and iTunes.

Cann believes short-form video content is the future, a new form of marketing pf which the wine industry can really take advantage. But it doesn't have to be limited wineries; WineCountry Media works with tourist-serving businesses that run the gamut from breweries to spas to shopping to tours.

WineCountry Media's platform is also commission-based, which makes it accessible for big and small businesses and all sizes of budgets.

“Things are changing really fast, so we don't just want to do one thing really well. We want to do five things really well and find out what is the best vehicle to place your brand in front of users,” said Cann.

You can find WineCountry Media at winecountry.com or 14301 Arnold Dr. in Glen Ellen.

Heads and tails on the trails

julie anderson

Julie Anderson opened Sonoma Petcare last year, after two decades in a corporate software industry job, to pursue a more meaningful purpose. “I didn't have to dive too deep to realize that purpose. My best memories are of the times spent with my dogs over the years, hiking everywhere from the mountains of Tahoe to the beaches of Marin and the many road trips we took to just get out and explore new places. Seeing their eyes light up as we hit the trails made me realize how important trail hiking was to their well-being and living a fulfilled life. It was a natural progression to merge these two passions and provide a service to those that might need a little help getting their dogs out,” she said recently.

Sonoma Petcare, based out of Sonoma where Anderson lives, offers dog trail hikes, customized to accommodate all fitness levels, from seniors and smaller breeds to those who require a faster pace. Anderson offers excursions all over the county, from Spring Lake Regional Park to Doran Beach. Single or multi-hour solo hikes are available, as well as pack hikes with dogs of similar energy levels. “Daily exercise provides many benefits, such as improved physical and mental health, and reduces unwanted behaviors caused by boredom,” said Anderson. In addition, these trail hikes allow your dog a chance to see a wider world and cover fresh ground, giving them a chance to investigate new smells and the opportunity to utilize their amazing noses which contain about 300 million smell receptors (humans only have about five million). “When I bring them home, they're physically tired as well as mentally satiated, and that equals canine happiness.” Hiking adventures run $40 per hour, with the longest hike being three hours ($120).

In addition to outings, Anderson offers dog walking, pet sitting and pet massage by Keri Halasz, CMT, RMT.

You can find photos of her treks at sonomapetcare.com and also on Facebook. She can be reached at 721-1328.

Sonoma County Restaurant Week returns

Sit down to the North Bay's finest annual culinary experience during Sonoma County Restaurant Week, March 1-10, featuring Pastry Perk specials, two-course lunches for $10 and $15, and three-course dinners for $19, $29, and $39.

Participating Sonoma Valley Restaurants include Café Citti at 9049 Sonoma Hwy. in Kenwood, Salt & Stone at 9900 Sonoma Hwy. in Kenwood, and fig café & winebar at 13690 Arnold Dr. in Glen Ellen.

Café Citti's $29 pre-fixe dinner is a choice of house green salad or Caesar salad, ravioli alla Citti, and choice of anise and almond biscotti or chocolate covered anise and almond biscotti for dessert. Find out more at www.cafecitti.com.

For $29, fig café & wine bar is offering a pre-fixe dinner menu of roasted beet salad, followed by roasted pork loin, farro, Brussels sprouts, bacon vinaigrette and a dessert of chocolate Budino with vanilla chantilly, cinnamon pecans. Find out more at www.thefigcafe.com.

Salt & Stone is offering a $39 pre-fixe dinner consisting of first-course soup and salad choice, a main course choice of salmon, braised lamb shank or local free-range chicken, and a dessert course; and also offering a $15 pre-fixe lunch menu. Find out more at www.saltstonekenwood.com.

Find more participating restaurants at www.sonomacounty.com/restaurant-week.

Augmented reality wine label is here

At its 28th annual Dollars & $ense Seminar and Trade Show, Karissa Kruse, president of the Sonoma County Winegrowers, announced, “This coming year, we are focused on achieving break-through marketing to not only elevate the Sonoma County wine region but leverage our sustainability commitment among wine lovers throughout the United States with a regional first: augmented reality.”

Kruse said augmented reality is exploding in popularity throughout the country, especially among the coveted millennial demographic. Using a smart phone, consumers download an augmented reality app. From there, they simply place their phone over an augmented reality wine label, and the label comes to life immediately, engaging the consumer with stories, video and information on Sonoma County's quest to become the first 100 percent sustainable wine region.

This marketing effort will be further supported with the establishment of a recording studio at the Sonoma County Winegrowers new office on Guerneville Road. The studio will enable the group to produce a bi-weekly show on farming, wine and the Sonoma County region, in addition to conducting interviews with visiting sommeliers, media and industry experts. The studio can also be used to film quick updates on harvest as well as news and happenings around the county.

With 2019 just starting, Kruse shared the latest numbers of the group's five-year effort to become certified sustainable. The newest figures show that more than 97 percent of Sonoma County's nearly 60,000 vineyard acres are participating in the sustainability program. Even better news, more than 89 percent of those acres have completed or are in the process of completing a third-party audit to obtain sustainable certification.

For more information on Sonoma County Winegrowers, go to www.sonomawinegrape.org.

Eighth St. Wineries host open house

Eighth St. Wineries in Sonoma invite you to their 2019 Annual Open House on Saturday, Feb. 23, noon-4 p.m.

Stroll through the cellars of some of Sonoma County's premier wineries - Enkidu, Obsidian Wine Co., MacLaren, Stone Edge Farm, Talisman, Tin Barn, Ty Caton, and William Knuttel. Experience unique wine offerings as you savor various pairings by local chefs. It's likely you'll meet the winemakers themselves in this intimate setting - a rare opportunity, as many of these 'special gem' wineries are typically closed to the public. Get a behind-the-scenes look at production facilities while enjoying the small-batch wines produced on site. This is a special occasion for any wine lover. Tickets, $10-$45, can be found at eventbrite.com.

Census Bureau has job openings in Sonoma County

The Sonoma County Census Bureau is now recruiting hundreds of workers for temporary jobs in Sonoma County, in advance of the 2020 Census.

Supervisors positions pay $22 an hour, non-supervisors $20 an hour. Applicants can apply online by going to www.2020census.gov/jobs.

Laser cataract surgery now in Sonoma Valley

Ophthalmologist Michael Saidel, MD, is now offering Sonoma Valley patients laser cataract surgery in association with Sonoma Valley Hospital.

Laser surgery is an option for many people experiencing cataracts - a condition that involves a clouding of the lens of the eye over time, affecting vision clarity. Surgery is recommended when vision is compromised to the point where the cataract affects everyday activities. With cataract surgery, the ophthalmologist removes the clouded lens and replaces it with a clear, artificial lens.

Traditional cataract surgery involves using ultrasound and a small manual incision in the cornea to remove and replace the clouded lens. Laser cataract surgery is a newer procedure that involves using computer-directed laser technology to precisely map the eye and cataract, and remove and replace the lens without the use of a surgical blade.

Both types of surgery are performed on an outpatient basis in less than an hour and are considered safe and highly effective procedures for the most common source of vision loss for those over age 40. The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports cataracts affect more than 24 million Americans age 40 and older, and by age 75, approximately half of all Americans have cataracts.

Dr. Saidel is a comprehensive ophthalmologist who specializes in diseases of the cornea, external disease, refractive surgery, and uveitis. He earned his medical degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago, with additional training at Tucson Medical Center, Tulane University, and the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Saidel has privileges at Sonoma Valley Hospital and sees patients at the North Bay Eye Associates office located at 181 Andrieux St., Suites 100 & 101, in Sonoma. The phone number is 996-1052.