Quantcast
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

The Naked Sommelier

From HipTastes.com
From HipTastes.com

Courtney Cochran wants to be Sommelier to the Millennials, the voice of wine to her recently legal generation -- children of the Boomers for whom wine is isn't so much a lifestyle choice as it is what you drink with dinner. She gets that industries these days need personalities, people like Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray, luminaries to guide us along the path. She's not likely to dazzle you with her skill at tasting and scoring, à la Robert Parker, nor to amaze you with her insight and erudition, à la Jancis Robinson. It's not that she can't detect notes of tar or that she doesn't understand Italian appellations; it's that dazzling you with expertise is not what she wants. What she wants is to be your trusted friend, a fun-loving peer who's happy to help out when you've got a question about wine, always ready to suggest some new, fun thing. She doesn't want to be a critic or a teacher; she wants to be a brand.

Of course, becoming a brand does mean teaching people a thing or two, and before that, a certain amount of learning. You don't get to be the voice of wine just by holding a glass and smiling. So Cochran got a sommelier certification to go along with her MBA from UCLA, and in 2005, she headed up to San Francisco. She started Your Personal Sommelier, a wine-consulting business. She followed that with a blog, and by January '06, she was ready to start her events company, Hip Tastes.

Through Your Personal Sommelier, she runs tastings ("Getting to Know Merlot...All Over Again"), talks ("The New Power Players: Women and Wine"), and seminars ("Blind Tasting Technique"). She consults on restaurant wine lists. And she works with a chef to host wine-and-food dinners in private homes. (The site is stuffed with links, articles, ideas, recommendations -- not unlike a magazine.) Through Hip Tastes, she hosts wine-tasting parties, and for the genuinely curious, Saturday School. "It's my favorite thing in terms of wine events, because everyone who's there really wants to be there. The wine parties are parties, and the people at the corporate events are usually there for some other reason -- they had a meeting, and they added a wine tasting. But the people at Saturday School are my people; I keep it to groups of 12, and I'll do themes that are off the beaten path." ("Geek Wines," featuring Gruner Veltliner, Malagousia, et al.) "After folks come to three sessions, they get the fourth for free."

It's satisfying work, but it's hard to charm the world 12 people at a time. Slipping from winespeak to business-speak without a hiccup, she says, "I'm at a point where I would love to start to scale it in ways where all of my revenue is not based on personal experience -- time I've spent at events. Business is only so scalable when you have only one person running it. I've loved the events, because I've built a loyal customer fan base, and it's put me in touch with the consumer; but it's actually pretty tiring, especially when you're doing as many events as I did. It was important to keep the momentum by having a party every month. Now I'm looking for ways to monetize what I've created."

Exhibit A: Hip Tastes: The Fresh Guide to Wine, Cochran's entry into the world of wine books. Her social network put her in touch with an agent, and her agent "believed in Hip Tastes and thought I could create a winning book proposal around it. Essentially, the proposal was like a 50-page marketing document, and I love that stuff. What I learned in business school is that the most important thing is, you have to prove that there is a need over and over and over again. I felt that my audience could really use a guide like mine."

Tone, of course, was key: sassy without being snarky, sprinkled with plenty of personal anecdotes. And for content, a mix of information on basics (a good pronunciation guide, plus the usual Wine 101 material) and more advanced topics (corkage etiquette). Oh, and the occasional happy surprise: things like solid, practical advice on actual wine shopping. In "Sizing Up the Smarts of the Staff," Cochran suggests asking a sales clerk the difference between Premiere Cru and Grand Cru Burgundy, or what grapes go into a Super Tuscan, or the difference in style between New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Sancerre. It's not a matter of playing gotcha -- it's a question of how much faith you ought to put in a person's account of this or that wine. And it's not a question of snobbery -- Cochran includes a bit on "Buying Wine in the Supermarket" that offers good counsel, such as seeking out unoaked whites, Chianti Riserva, and wines you already know and trust (in the supermarket, consistency is king).

And of course, Cochran was selling more than just a book; she was selling a brand. "One of the things I talked about was the growing parallel trend in food in the U.S. Look at the Food Network, Ratatouille -- the media is just inundated with foodie fare. I think that hasn't transferred to wine yet, but it's coming. I said in my proposal, 'Food has the Naked Chef, so where is the Naked Sommelier?' I think that was probably pretty memorable. And they really liked the fact that I had a proven following at my events -- I had a track record and a fan base -- what they call a platform from which to market the book." Now, she says, "The book is a great example of the way I'm extending the brand. It's a product that's completed and is now for sale. From a business point of view, I love that -- because it's done."

Once the book was done, however, it was time for phase two: marketing the brand extension. "Penguin, my publisher, came up with a number of tour stops, but I organized a couple of the events myself -- the events in Sonoma and Napa. It was important to launch the book there -- it's wine country! Happily, there were venues that were thrilled to work with me, donating wine and inviting people." Her publicist at Penguin got her a mention in Domino, but still, says Cochran, "As a writer, you have to do a lot of your own publicity. I got a review in the San Francisco Chronicle that was written up by a professional acquaintance of mine who is a freelance writer. I sent the book to him, so I think the genesis of that was with me." The brand rolls on.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Terra Lawson-Remer out-raises Kristin Gaspar

San Diego State not ready for emergency
Next Article

Pepper covers Sublime for The House That Bradley Built comp

Hirie, G. Love, the Expanders, Common Kings, the Skints, Long Beach Dub Allstars, and Trevor Young also contribute
From HipTastes.com
From HipTastes.com

Courtney Cochran wants to be Sommelier to the Millennials, the voice of wine to her recently legal generation -- children of the Boomers for whom wine is isn't so much a lifestyle choice as it is what you drink with dinner. She gets that industries these days need personalities, people like Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray, luminaries to guide us along the path. She's not likely to dazzle you with her skill at tasting and scoring, à la Robert Parker, nor to amaze you with her insight and erudition, à la Jancis Robinson. It's not that she can't detect notes of tar or that she doesn't understand Italian appellations; it's that dazzling you with expertise is not what she wants. What she wants is to be your trusted friend, a fun-loving peer who's happy to help out when you've got a question about wine, always ready to suggest some new, fun thing. She doesn't want to be a critic or a teacher; she wants to be a brand.

Of course, becoming a brand does mean teaching people a thing or two, and before that, a certain amount of learning. You don't get to be the voice of wine just by holding a glass and smiling. So Cochran got a sommelier certification to go along with her MBA from UCLA, and in 2005, she headed up to San Francisco. She started Your Personal Sommelier, a wine-consulting business. She followed that with a blog, and by January '06, she was ready to start her events company, Hip Tastes.

Through Your Personal Sommelier, she runs tastings ("Getting to Know Merlot...All Over Again"), talks ("The New Power Players: Women and Wine"), and seminars ("Blind Tasting Technique"). She consults on restaurant wine lists. And she works with a chef to host wine-and-food dinners in private homes. (The site is stuffed with links, articles, ideas, recommendations -- not unlike a magazine.) Through Hip Tastes, she hosts wine-tasting parties, and for the genuinely curious, Saturday School. "It's my favorite thing in terms of wine events, because everyone who's there really wants to be there. The wine parties are parties, and the people at the corporate events are usually there for some other reason -- they had a meeting, and they added a wine tasting. But the people at Saturday School are my people; I keep it to groups of 12, and I'll do themes that are off the beaten path." ("Geek Wines," featuring Gruner Veltliner, Malagousia, et al.) "After folks come to three sessions, they get the fourth for free."

It's satisfying work, but it's hard to charm the world 12 people at a time. Slipping from winespeak to business-speak without a hiccup, she says, "I'm at a point where I would love to start to scale it in ways where all of my revenue is not based on personal experience -- time I've spent at events. Business is only so scalable when you have only one person running it. I've loved the events, because I've built a loyal customer fan base, and it's put me in touch with the consumer; but it's actually pretty tiring, especially when you're doing as many events as I did. It was important to keep the momentum by having a party every month. Now I'm looking for ways to monetize what I've created."

Exhibit A: Hip Tastes: The Fresh Guide to Wine, Cochran's entry into the world of wine books. Her social network put her in touch with an agent, and her agent "believed in Hip Tastes and thought I could create a winning book proposal around it. Essentially, the proposal was like a 50-page marketing document, and I love that stuff. What I learned in business school is that the most important thing is, you have to prove that there is a need over and over and over again. I felt that my audience could really use a guide like mine."

Tone, of course, was key: sassy without being snarky, sprinkled with plenty of personal anecdotes. And for content, a mix of information on basics (a good pronunciation guide, plus the usual Wine 101 material) and more advanced topics (corkage etiquette). Oh, and the occasional happy surprise: things like solid, practical advice on actual wine shopping. In "Sizing Up the Smarts of the Staff," Cochran suggests asking a sales clerk the difference between Premiere Cru and Grand Cru Burgundy, or what grapes go into a Super Tuscan, or the difference in style between New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Sancerre. It's not a matter of playing gotcha -- it's a question of how much faith you ought to put in a person's account of this or that wine. And it's not a question of snobbery -- Cochran includes a bit on "Buying Wine in the Supermarket" that offers good counsel, such as seeking out unoaked whites, Chianti Riserva, and wines you already know and trust (in the supermarket, consistency is king).

And of course, Cochran was selling more than just a book; she was selling a brand. "One of the things I talked about was the growing parallel trend in food in the U.S. Look at the Food Network, Ratatouille -- the media is just inundated with foodie fare. I think that hasn't transferred to wine yet, but it's coming. I said in my proposal, 'Food has the Naked Chef, so where is the Naked Sommelier?' I think that was probably pretty memorable. And they really liked the fact that I had a proven following at my events -- I had a track record and a fan base -- what they call a platform from which to market the book." Now, she says, "The book is a great example of the way I'm extending the brand. It's a product that's completed and is now for sale. From a business point of view, I love that -- because it's done."

Once the book was done, however, it was time for phase two: marketing the brand extension. "Penguin, my publisher, came up with a number of tour stops, but I organized a couple of the events myself -- the events in Sonoma and Napa. It was important to launch the book there -- it's wine country! Happily, there were venues that were thrilled to work with me, donating wine and inviting people." Her publicist at Penguin got her a mention in Domino, but still, says Cochran, "As a writer, you have to do a lot of your own publicity. I got a review in the San Francisco Chronicle that was written up by a professional acquaintance of mine who is a freelance writer. I sent the book to him, so I think the genesis of that was with me." The brand rolls on.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Pepper covers Sublime for The House That Bradley Built comp

Hirie, G. Love, the Expanders, Common Kings, the Skints, Long Beach Dub Allstars, and Trevor Young also contribute
Next Article

Don't forget Escondido

We're still spaying cats in San Diego
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer News — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Set 'em Up Joe — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close