“Marketing Manager” is sort of a blanket term for my role at JAQK Cellars. From processing direct orders and communicating with distributors, to managing social media and off-site events, to overseeing the wine club and our tasting room, you might say I wear a lot of hats. But that’s what comes with working for a small winery.
One of my favorite responsibilities is managing our tasting room at the office in Jackson Square. We hold private seated tastings for groups of 6-12, or “semi-private” tastings for groups of 2-4 to be seated with other small groups. For the semi-private tastings we serve 5 wines paired with a plate of gourmet cheese, meats, fruit, bread, chocolate and nuts. The private tastings get to try all 8 of our wines, paired with the same foods on two large platters.
Of course, the best thing about planning the tasting events is picking out all the food! Every plate gets a little bit of fruit, blackberries and strawberries. I almost always select imported prosciutto and sopressata, usually from a nice deli or a specialty shop. The cheese sometimes varies depending on the groups allergies and dietary restrictions (we can also leave meat off some plates). For example, if there is a guest that is allergic to cow’s milk – like Lactard – I purchase a selection of goat cheeses. My favorite goat cheeses are from Cypress Groves, a creamery up north in Mendocino. We serve the Purple Haze, a soft goat cheese with lavender and fennel, at every tasting – unless I can’t find any (though, it’s sold at most grocery stores and specialty shops in San Francisco). It goes perfectly with the Soldiers of Fortune Syrah, and it’s just a delicious cheese. My other favorite cheese from Cypress Grove is Midnight Moon. It’s a hard goat gouda with a nutty, smooth carmel flavor – perfect for pairing with wine. Even if there aren’t any lactards in the group, I still tend to serve these cheeses because they are so damn good. Though, it is fun to go to the shop and taste all the different cow’s milk cheeses.
It takes about an hour to set up the tasting, longer if I have to do the individual plating. Once the guests arrive, they take their seats and I tell them a little about the history of the company. Then of course, they have some wine. We start with a white selection, the Her Majesty Chardonnay or the Pearl Handle Chardonnay (we have limited quantities of the Charmed and thus do not sample it at tastings), then move through four of the red wines, ending with the flagship High Roller Cabernet. While telling the guest about the wine, I guide them in which foods to pair with which wines. But I also encourage them to try different pairings on their own to see what goes best. It’s incredible how much a bite of dark chocolate can change the taste of the Bone Dance Merlot, while at the same time making the Syrah taste bitter and over-peppery (warning: do not each chocolate with Syrah).
At the end of the tastings the guests have an opportunity to venture up to our roof deck for a view of the Transamerica building. I take this opportunity to clean up the plates, put out some order sheets, and have a glass of whatever red wine is left in the bottle. Not a bad night job, if you ask me.