Instagram – A Reliable Echo Chamber, or #Fakewinenews?


Is Instagram a reliable echo chamber for the wine business? Is it a primary source of information to help translate the beverage market in NYC?

I am going all in: NOPE – the ‘Gram is an alternative universe. Full of #fakewinenews.

This won’t stop professionals from using Instagram as their first source of information on the NYC Beverage Market. However, the picture that Instagram paints is as accurate as the facts tweeted by the President of the United States between Midnight and 8 am.

Under the Instagram Covers

The reality is that Instagram highlights a market where no wine director posts the prosecco they sell 10cs a week, the Sancerre that won’t stop selling no matter what the price is, the private label California appellation Cab they make bank on, or the Malbec in their private dining room that customers adore.

In fairness, I love Instagram. I have fun with it and I don’t think it is a bad thing. I absolutely get it. When a wine moves me, sometimes I can’t help myself. I say pic, post, and double-tap it, baby. All. Day. Long.

The circle is smooth and frictionless – everyone is “friends” with everyone else and disagreements are exceedingly rare. The ‘Gram is a giant Dionysian love fest, and we all can get a gulp if we want.

But I must caution here: don’t be fooled by what you see. Those three pictures of Burgundy that are being ‘grammed over and over again probably don’t mean what you think they mean. What you are seeing isn’t a reliable barometer of the market. Knowing this market can’t be faked. It can’t be done from a desk or in flashy tap away stories. You have to go out and show up.

Everything is moving so quickly now that you if you only see the Krug and the Overnoy here, and the Trollat and vertical of Bartolo there, you WILL miss what is really moving the market and simultaneously be very confused. This #instagratification gives the illusion that you have a perspective on the wines that reverberate through the wines programs of the city. But what you are seeing is the fringe of the fringe: the Cherry on top and not the cake.

...stop and think about the last time you said that a wine was killing it all over the city. Was it really, or did you just see it on Instagram three times?

Ever wonder why you keep seeing the same photos of the same bottles cycled over and over again? You probably saw it posted by three people… The app is programmed so you mentally amplify the information. I have been on all sides of this, and the total connective sales of the wines (after all is said and done) is strikingly low.

Bottom line: Don’t buy the lie that you can sit back and get any substantive wine news from Instagram. The people doing the real work continue to know what works, which is most likely not what is getting double-tapped on the regular.

And before you @ me with ideas that the above is obvious, stop and think about the last time you said that a wine was killing it all over the city. Was it really, or did you just see it on Instagram three times?

THE REORDER 01/01/19

The Dark Side Part IV – Breaking the Jade

Ever find yourself hopelessly locked in jaded thoughts? Is the spark eluding you?

How do you go about breaking the jade?

Jaded thinking is a prevalent problem in the wine business – especially with salespeople. I have definitely been there.

So, I have placed a few jade-breakers on your table below.

Head up. Stay in it.

Surround yourself with better people.

If the people around you know a shitload about wine but consistently drag you down, you have to reduce the time spent with them. This may be obvious, but it is easy to forget that you are the average of who you choose to hang with.
Further, Salespeople that commiserate on how “bad” things are without bringing constructive, forward-thinking ideas to the table are a dime a dozen. It is much easier to bitch and not create. If you surround yourself with the drama, you are the drama.

Breaking the typical frame

Last year I ran into a very successful salesperson who lamented that he had become an order-processing machine. The common response to this is some bullshit question like “do you wish you didn’t get so many orders?” Or a statement like: “well, aren’t you lucky, doesn’t everyone want that problem?”

I asked: “what advice would you give yourself on how to find joy in placing orders?” followed by“Do you give yourself space to not place the orders as they come in?”
He was shocked – normally he gets the typical nonsense answer. Ultimately, I don’t know if it made a difference, but here is what I do know: if you think you are an order-processing machine, most likely you are one.

Endeavor to find joy in repetitive and challenging things or, stop doing what other people do.

Quiet the mind

Meditate often. Close your eyes. Stop repeating for a second. Circular thinking can be shifted by simply noticing and paradoxically, taking a circular breath. You are an elegant machine because you are “at choice.”
There is NO perfect form or technique in this business – remember that.

Decide your values

Running around like a chicken sales drone with no head is what many do. You don’t have to.
Sit down and write the five things that you really care about in your sales world. The pillars that you can look to daily.
They will most likely evolve, so don’t worry about the right answer.  But you must commit and start somewhere. Shape your sales world for the moment and notice what happens.

If the people you surround yourself with know a shitload about wine but consistently drag you down, you have to reduce the time spent with them.

Draw a boundary

If you want to drop bottles and follow up all day long, do it. If you want to prospect one day a week, do it. If you want to answer every email and text as it comes in, do it.
Undoubtedly, you will come to a place where you have to decide when NOT to do things. The best at this (that I know personally) have a few boundaries that they stick to.
You will earn more trust, respect, and clarity while at the same time being more present.

The busy and downtrodden rep is a stereotype for a reason – it is because it has been fulfilled over and over again. Leave that neighborhood of thinking to those who choose to be there.

Step away – the nuclear option

Shut it down completely. Then call a loved one, look at something beautiful for more than 20 seconds or do something that doesn’t compute. Challenge yourself to learn something new. All of these help to break jaded thinking. Attempting this halfway is not an option – You have to completely forget about sales to do it.

THE REORDER 12/24/18

The Sales Drones – A One Scene Play

The sales drones of today – A one scene play.

[Salesperson at Bar, Buyer arrives]

Pleased to meet you, have you heard of our portfolio? We have the best [insert category here].

Our portfolio of wines are never [insert technical fact here] or [insert another tech fact].

Cool cool, I love the space.

Ooooh, I love that champagne, I had it with [insert name of known buyer instagram friend].

Didn’t we meet at Compagnie? I was so [you know].

Oh, yeah – I think we did meet at that thing…best [insert sexy event] in the city.

Sorry, it is locked up for [insert hot shit resto here] – she took it all. Damn.

Faceless drones talking sweet sending that pretty sheet...

I do have this, [insert trendy-licious spot] used to pour it. I could maybe get you a few cases.

Let me send you a sevenfifty sheet with some other stuff.

You around next week?


Salespeople roaming the streets – all saying the same thing over and over again like cogs in the machine.

Simply notice the difference.

How would you do this if there was no meaningless dialogue dance?

What if you could only ask two questions?

THE REORDER 12/17/18


Sales rep type-casting is self-inflicted.

Are you a sales rep that feels you are part of a type-casting scheme to box you into certain accounts or style of buyer? Well, look in the mirror and examine what you say and do – chances are high the problem is you.

Messaging Matters

I have heard sales reps talking about their own “brand” recently and I was reminded again of one of my favorite quotes from Seth Godin: “You aren’t a brand, you are a person.”

The stories you tell within the company you work with and the stories you tell in a marketplace are your choice. No one I know of has a concrete script. And if you do, I hope you are asking how much you can play with the script because locking into the same ol’ same ol’ is a recipe for disaster.

The stories you tell within the company you work with and the stories you tell in a marketplace are your choice.

If you feel you are being boxed in, I ask you this: have you done everything you can to open new doors, or are you hoping someone does it for you?

This could be a courageous moment. Make a change.

Don’t be the angry, “typecast” rep in the corner wondering why they never get the “right” accounts. Be the wavemaker.

For the record (again): high-level accounts are never the gimme they seem to be. Today, one can still build an account run that will make heads spin and wine roll without one account that appears on the Heatmap.


“Secrets” of a Successful Sales Rep

I was recently asked to participate in an article on what it takes to be a successful sales rep.

Naturally, it was edited down to the nub. Wine Journalism today is an open field that is primarily “pitch” first, shape article second. It’s all good, I completely understand.

Below is what I submitted, save the questions and answers regarding the company I work for.

  • Q: Tell me a bit about your background prior to getting into wine sales – where did you work? Have you ever worked in a field other than wine?

A: I am a classically trained Opera singer, and I sang a little bit around. When I moved to NYC, I worked at the pasta palace in Times Square called Carmines for 6 years. I also owned a boutique opera agency representing Opera Singers and Conductors before I shifted into wine sales in late 2007.

  • Q: Have you carried over any skills learned in previous careers/jobs to this position? Tell me a bit about them.

Multi-section A:

Calm in chaos

Working in a raucous, high volume theater district restaurant was integral to building a skill set that I draw on today as a sales rep. I had to make rapid decisions in a chaotic environment, hone my intuition about the customers to a where it was lightning fast (I often had 10 seconds or less to get a feel for what would serve them best), work through errors quickly…and all on deadline.
Basically, I use all of these skills daily as a rep.


Voice study helped me tune into nuance.
The energy, core, and overtones of a sound inform the perception of the sound as a whole – but one has to learn to be aware of them. It takes some simple/complicated noticing.
When I am tasting and attempting to understand a wine today, this skill is what I am calling upon. I try to never get tied up in the brushstrokes and miss the painting.


Being an opera agent introduced me to high stakes negotiations. In most cases, I was representing my friends.
Today, no matter how high the stakes in the wine biz, I know I have been there before in a much more difficult dynamic.

  • Q: What are a few skills that you feel are important in order to succeed in wine sales? Why are they important?

Multi-section A:

Empathy + Connection = Dialogue

Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and connect is a key skill. A great rep is able to think like a buyer and make decisions like a buyer. If you do that well, you will anticipate needs/wants. Empathy opens up the possibility of a trusting connection and dialogue normally follows. Here’s the gold:  showing wine doesn’t sell wine, dialogue sells wine.


In the business of selling wine, there are virtually no constants, so having the grit to hang in there and move forward when challenges come up is integral. Your ducks will never be in a row. I have been saying for years that being a sales rep is like playing Jazz  – don’t get tied up about the wrong notes, just keep playing. You don’t give up.


The best salespeople are expert listeners. Endeavor to become a better listener and ask better questions. Don’t just run around with wine in a bag pouring juice in glasses and “over-detailing” buyers – listen more, and explain less. Listening well can connect you to a customer in a way a wine never can.


The importance of knowing how your portfolio and the producers within fit into the broader landscape of the market cannot be overstated. More specifically, I mean you need to have an informed perspective of the market competition in addition to your own portfolio. And it isn’t enough to “Good Will Hunting” the competition like you memorized it in a book and you can quote pages or throw out names. You need to have a feel for them that goes beyond the facts. Having a more textured viewpoint gives you opportunities to see where wines from your portfolio belong and how they measure up.


You have to decide what your core beliefs are as a rep. What are you doing this for? The answer may evolve with experience. And if the answer is Commission, I can assure you that you will get smoked in some way or another. It has to be deeper than that.
The reason core beliefs are so important is that they inform every step of what you do. From the dialogue you seek, to the service you give. This is the one constant you can hang your hat on in a volatile and constantly changing market.

Moving on

Letting go of accounts is a skill that has to be practiced. Sales reps sometimes hoard accounts or stake claims on accounts that they are working with (or working on) without considering that their energy would be better used elsewhere. They forget that they have options. One of the absolute best ways to open your sales world is to shed accounts. Sometimes you have to let the account go, even when the “numbers” or some account dynamic may be telling you to stay.

Many reps (and companies!) are paying much more attention to the wine equivalent of asteroids and not planets.

  • Q: Is there any one thing that came in unexpectedly handy when you started working as a sales rep?

A: I started paying attention to the super top reps very early on. I studied what they were doing and then put their practices (if they fit for me) through the prism of my style, portfolio, and my customers.

Also, my intuition came in handy. I really followed my gut on a lot of early decisions, even when I was walking in the opposite direction of the crowd.

  • Q:  Do you have anything else to add?

A: Many reps (and companies!) are paying much more attention to the wine equivalent of asteroids and not planets. Instagram is especially filled with this sort of thing. It is good to be aware of both, but ultimately the wines that actually move the NYC market are rarely the same as the ones as that are ‘grammed over and over again. It is vital to know the difference and be able to translate that into your work if you want long-term success.

THE REORDER 11/15/18

Play the Course

Play the course.

I was recently asked who my competition is. They assumed I would say a particular Rep or a certain company.


My answer: I compete with myself first and the full spectrum of the market second.

Reps that compete narrowly with a few companies or a few reps in this scene are not really doing what they think they are doing.

The Competition

I compete with a tough, never give up SOB: Myself.

I have a clear understanding of what I am doing, how I am failing, the issues, the constraints, challenges, shortcomings, and what I am working on. I take full responsibility and I am extremely competitive with myself. The moment I start thinking about someone else’s numbers, the wine that I don’t have to sell, or the coveting of another portfolio, I am lost.

I compete with the full market landscape second.

Every day I commit to trying to understand what is going on with the market below the surface. Not through Instagram or some social media facade (which is not real), but by being out and noticing. I compete with the market like I play a golf course – understanding that I may get stuck behind a tree, or that the wind may come up and there is nothing I can do but just play the shot and move on.

You must decide to study this beverage market to gain intuition.

One cornerstone here: You have to study the market to have a feel, to know what moves what.
I knew that this wouldn’t be an easy year for Rosé…how is that possible? Am I some prescient genius? Nope, far from it. I just study the market, and I have a good feel on how it goes. You can have a feel, too.

Start noticing today.


Graceful Distribution – a definition

Graceful distribution* will define the wine business in the next decade.

Look across the landscape of all these Importers and Distributors – those who can execute with grace will be left standing and the others with either blow up soon or slowly wither away to nothing.

The Concept

Graceful Distribution honors the producer, the importer/distributor, the beverage director/restaurant/retailer, and the end consumer. It is a circular chain that is exceedingly difficult and innately imperfect. But whoever can get their heads around this concept in these competitive times is not only going to win but win huge.

The importer/distributor that can gracefully support their growers, the customers they sell to and the people that work for them is the real juggernaut.

Graceful distribution will be the difference maker, the lifeline of it all.

The importer/distributor that can gracefully support the producers they represent, the customers they sell to and the people that work for them is the real juggernaut.


This is the defining time and I believe there to be a gargantuan amount of opportunity. This is a moment where an importer/distributor can really separate itself. If you can execute on Graceful distribution, you will win…

This is a moment where an importer/distributor can really separate itself. If you can execute on Graceful distribution, you will win.

Graceful Distribution – the act of distribution in the pursuit of serving in every direction. Towards producer, towards employees, customers, and consumers. Each individually, and all at once.