Still Dreaming About IPNC

I was thrilled to be asked to serve on the media committee for this year's International Pinot Noir Celebration.  This is such a beautifully run event and it attracts top producers from around the world to McMinnville, Oregon for a weekend of incredible wine, food, hospitality and friendship.  It was my first time attending the full weekend and I vowed never to miss it again!

Below are some highlights from that glorious weekend:

Burgundy Seminar with Allen Meadows
This was an amazing experience and timely since my husband and I were there this past spring.  Burgundy is a place that requires much study and understanding given 1600+ climats, or specific delimited terroirs.  In this seminar, we sampled wines from Domaine Lecheneaut, Maison Louis Jadot, Domaine Henri Gouges and Maison Ambroise.  The wines that gave me most pause are as follows:

2006 Jadot Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru "Clos St. Jacques" - red brick color lead to aromas of stewed strawberry, slight smoke, pure rhubarb jam (is there such a thing?) with an outdoorsy quality of fresh rain and chalky soil.  There were notes of soft worn leather and earth, and so many additional subtle flavors... The tannins were dusty and the mouthfeel was downright beautiful.  The finish lingered -- it would have done so throughout the day if there weren't so many more wines to taste!

2008 Domaine Lecheneaut Chambolle-Musigny - deep red cherry color with bright aromas of fresh raspberry, clove, black cherry, moss, mocha and a hint of apricot juice.  Wow, this wine had such a pretty minerality in the mouth with bright fruit, an interesting soft chalky texture and a long, pure finish.

2008 Maison Ambroise Echezeaux Grand Cru - a wine full of flavor and complexity including smoke, pepper, oregano, wood spice, earth, fresh meadow, pepperoni and tons of fresh raspberry.  Extraordinary finish. 

The Fine Dining/Meals/Cuisine
A detailed description would take 1000s of words...  The main point here is that the culinary delights are a major highlight of this event.  From the breakfasts with fresh fruit (the biggest berries I've ever seen) to the al fresco lunches and dinners catered by top chefs and served by professional sommeliers, the cuisine is not overshadowed by the very fine wine.  Every morsel was more delicious than the next.  This is an incredible accomplishment when you consider that there are nearly 1000 attendees to serve -- all with high expectations.  The entire chorus of chefs, servers and winemakers puts on a fun grand finale for the Sunday brunch where this year's sommeliers dressed in Greek fashion -- some taking the toga party theme to a fantastic level.

Connecting with Friends Old and New
IPNC was the first major event I attended when we moved to the Portland area in 2008.  I volunteered during the lunches and was thus introduced to what has become a wonderful tradition.  In the last five years, I've had the pleasure of meeting many talented colleagues in the industry, and taking time to relax and enjoy each other's company is always a treat.

Supporting Two Great Clients
Bill Stoller, Owner of Stoller Vineyards, served as Chairman of IPNC during this event, and he did a terrific job encouraging the crowd and representing the industry.  I've had the pleasure of working with his team for the last three years.  Stoller is the largest contiguous property in the Dundee Hills AVA with nearly 200 acres under vine on its 373-acres.  The winery is a leader in pioneering environmental sustainability, and is this month celebrating a new name (Stoller Family Estate), new tasting room and winemaker, Melissa Burr's 10th vintage.

A newer client, Ghost Hill Cellars, debuted at this year's event.   Mike and Drenda Bayliss, co-owners, presented their wines alongside winemaker, Rebecca Pittock-Shouldis.  It was a thrill to see them recognized for a top accomplishment in a relatively short period of time.  Ghost Hill Cellars is located on Savannah Ridge in Yamhill-Carlton's AVA.  The property has been in the Bayliss family for over 100 years.


Role of Strategy: "Adapt or Die"

"You can't discuss changing strategy unless you are ready to discuss what makes people resist change and what part people could potentially play in creating more adaptability in an organization." 

This morning while reading the weekly HBS Digest, I paused on the above quote by Harvard Business School Professor, John Wells, who was interviewed for "Strategic Intelligence: Adapt or Die" about his book, Strategic IQ: Creating Smarter Corporations.  While he cites case studies of larger businesses, much of what he presents is relevant to small businesses, too.

Wells defines "strategic intelligence" primarily by the ability for an organization to adapt to ever changing circumstances.  He gives an excellent example of how Circuit City grew 20+% over a period of years in the 1980's to the detriment of then little known Best Buy.  When Best Buy adapted by changing its strategy to lead in pricing by reducing inventory, storage and labor costs, Circuit City ignored this competitive landscape change for a decade and ultimately filed for bankruptcy.  (I just bought a projector at Best Buy, not Circuit City, and there's a reason for that.)

Change is tough.  And when sales and profits are growing, it is perhaps easier to ignore the need to continually hone a competitive strategy.  This may be the most dangerous point, though, as it leads to the complacency that allows the competition to move in. 

Resistance to change is something we look for at Trellis Wine Consulting starting with the first phone call with a potential client.  In our primary meetings and before there is even an agreement to write a proposal, we probe for change resistance because we know that this will create an impasse.  There is a tremendous difference to being concerned about change -- yet open to it, and being resistant.  When we find the latter, we know it will not be a fit since our process is all about creating an effective and efficient path to enhanced sales and profitability. Which almost always means change.

This doesn't mean we are dictating strategy -- far from it.  Developing it is a process within our engagement.  It is worth noting that Wells recommends that consultants be involved in the strategy development process, but that companies take care not to delegate this function.  We couldn't agree more; in fact, it is critical that our clients are involved because it is their vision that leads the process.  We are in a position of asking probing questions, providing recommendations based on past experience, and challenging status quo.

Strategic intelligence is a skill that must be ever present in a company; it is a mindset.  When we work with clients, we are in a position of helping them think differently about their businesses.   We translate the common complaint, "I don't have time for planning" as "I don't value it (or understand its potential value to my business) so do not make the time" to strategize.  

The how is as important as the what.  A chosen path is not an accident; it can and often does lead to a specific outcome.  One of the most interesting things about strategy you don't have to have one to operate.  There are profitable companies without them.  The right question to ask though, is what might you be leaving on the table without one -- is there an opportunity cost to ignoring strategy?  The problem with not having one or engaging in the process is that you'll never know.