Release your inner winemaker

Huffington Post

Would you like to use the word “brix” at a diner party and actually know what it means? No need to travel to vineyards or enroll in classes, just log onto facebook, and “like” the Silversmith Vineyards page.

A small family owned winery in northern California, Silversmith invited their fans on facebook to contribute to their typically solitary world of winemaking. Named the Crowd-Made Wine Project, Matt and Tom Johnson wanted to put the creation of their 2011 vintage Cabernet in the hands (or keyboards) of their followers; every step from which strain of yeast to use to how far apart the rollers should be on the grape crusher.

Hesitant at first, the father-son winemaking duo posted the first decision online—which variety of wine to make. Votes poured in from seven countries on four different continents ultimately choosing the Cabernet and validating the process’s appeal.

It was obvious from comments that their followers ranged from winemaking aficionados to first timers who enjoy the drink, so Matt and Tom posted short videos on the facebook page explaining the choices involved in each step of the winemaking process.

“This process forces us to re-examine all of our winemaking decisions. Since we are explaining each step of the process through social media, it’s like a refresher course in winemaking for us,” Tom commented.

By using facebook as a platform to connect with their followers, the Crowd-Made Wine Project increased their visibility and marketability among the competitive Redwood County. Originally, Silversmith Vineyards had 150 fans on facebook; they currently have about 850 and growing. Previous to this experiment they didn’t even have a Twitter account, they now have 442 followers.

While the harvest, yeast strain, and tannins have all been selected, this is only the beginning of the process. The decision making will continue on through 2012, where fans will choose the label design, what kind of cork to use and how long the wine should age before it’s released. And of course you’d want to taste your creation right? At the end of the process, they will offer a pre-sale to all their facebook participants. Matt and Tom are interested to see if the bottle is sold out before it’s released to the public.

And by the way brix is a measurement of the sugar level in grapes as well as an indicator of ripeness (the definition expertly explained in one of their videos).

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