First to speak was Sales and Marketing Manager Anetha Homan, who has been at Steenberg Vineyards for almost five years, and at Constantia Uitsig for eight years before that. Graham de Vries was recently appointed to manage Social Media for Steenberg Vineyards, and the ‘Totally Stoned’ Blog focuses on the wine side of the estate, but does incorporate information about Bistro Sixteen82 and Catharina restaurants. Social Media was first introduced at Steenberg in 2007, and Tweeting and Blogging is done corporately. Initially Anetha was so enthusiastic about Social Media, that she wanted her GM and the winemaker to blog too. In 2009 Steenberg Vineyards did its first Twitter Tasting, and it was a creative way for the wine estate to attract attention. This was repeated on a larger scale a few months ago. Research findings on Twitter trends in 2010 of South Africans (most Tweeters live in Cape Town, most Tweeting is done on Tuesdays, and from 7 – 8 pm) has been implemented in the Social Media strategy of Steenberg Vineyards. Twitter, Facebook, and Blogging has given Steenberg Vineyards a consumer communication channel, to pass on communication in a fun and informal manner, but even more importantly, to receive it back from their consumers. The GM, winemaker and restaurant receive welcome messages of support. New friends have been made via Social Media dialogue, and these have become Followers and, even better, Brand Ambassadors. Anetha cited the example of Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club member Andre Pentz, who met Graham at the previous meeting, and has since interacted regularly with Steenberg Vineyards. The immediacy of sharing information is a major advantage. Anetha shared with bloggers her rules of Social Media engagement:
1. No one is interested in how you feel
2. Dare to be controversial, but do not insult. Tweeters prefer to read feel-good Tweets. It is a shame that wine writers are tearing other writers apart, she said.
3. Respond when written to. Tweeters want dialogue.
4. Show personality and passion, and don’t be too ‘sterile’ or ‘corporate’ in writing. Customers want to be talked to as individuals.
5. Don’t hard-sell. Provide information
6. Don’t do ambush marketing
7. Add value in sending out information
8. Re-Tweets are an important means of distributing information, and for adding Followers.
9. Visuals have become more important, and less copy is read.
The ‘Totally Stoned’ website name was chosen as a tongue in cheek reference to the ‘stone mountain’ of Steenberg, from which the wine estate takes its name. Graham did a fun blogpost about Planking, showing various Steenberg staff ‘planked’ on the wine estate. It was a fun colourful communication which created visual impact for the estate, and doubled traffic to the blog. It also demonstrated the human side of the business, showing the company as a team of human beings.
Bloggers were offered a glass of Steenberg Brut 1682 MCC Chardonnay 2010 (R120) on arrival, first made by Steenberg Vineyards in 2000. Initially it contained Pinot Noir as well, but is now 100% made from Chardonnay, with 12 – 18 months on the lees. In 2007 the first Steenberg Brut 1682 Pinot Noir MCC was made, and was launched earlier this month, having spent three years on the lees. It costs R275. The Sauvignon Blanc Reserve is what put Steenberg Vineyards on the map, and vintages sell out very quickly. Semillon is one of the oldest grape varieties in South Africa, haviung been planted 200 years ago, and used to make up 96% of planting. It has reduced down to only 2%, and is often used in making Sauvignon Blanc to give it more body. It is an excellent pairing with food. The Steenberg Semillon 2010 comes from a 16 year block, and now spends a longer time in new French oak. It has a buchu and fynbos character, from the plants growing around it. Steenberg Nebellio refers to the mist they often experience on the wine estate, and the first plantings were brought in from Italy by the previous GM of Steenberg Vineyards. It has a very earthy character, and also is an excellent wine paired with foods. Catharina Red is named after the characterful first owner of the wine estate, who had five husbands, and five grape varities have gone into the making of this blend, a more complex wine with a strong mint character coming from the Cabernet Sauvignon.
Brad Ball has been the chef at Bistro Sixteen82 for two years, having opened it at Steenberg Vineyards. They have appointed Linda Harding as the Social Media consultant for the restaurants and hotel on the estate. Thoughts and experiences of customers are shared, and they look for interaction with guests. They like the flexibility of being able to promote a particular dish immediately, and not wait for three months or more until they receive coverage in a magazine. ‘Our blog is our press’, Brad said, referring to it as a cost-effective communication medium. Chef Brad has recently opened his own personal Twitter account (@BradBallBrand), to allow him to Tweet more personally, but he does realise that he still has limitations as to what he says, as he is linked to Steenberg and the Bistro. He advised that consistency in content is important for the reader of blogs. He says that one ‘eats with one eyes’, and that is why they post photographs of their dishes on the blog as well as on Twitter, Tweets being carefully scheduled. The power of Social Media was demonstrated to the Bistro after they re-opened after a three week break at the beginning of the month, to a fully booked first day, and it has been full every day thereafter. A year ago it took ten days for business to pick up again after their break. The Bistro did not stop Tweeting while they were closed, and competitions were run, with a count-down to opening day. The Social Media program for Bistro Sixteen82 positions it as fun, vibey and enticing restaurant to eat at. Linda did a one-week internship with Chef Brad, and that has helped her with her understanding of the business. Chef Brad welcomes kitchen help, to share with interested persons how a restaurant kitchen works. Bistro Sixteen82 has four seasonal menu changes, and Chef Brad sources local produce. The pork belly and beef tataki are absolute favourites, and cannot be taken off the menu. Produce is sourced from the hotel’s herb and vegetable garden. Worm composting is used for the large amount of vegetable waste the restaurants generate. Chef Brad talked about the collegiality that exists between chefs and that they meet regularly. He would interact with dialogue about other chefs and their restaurants on Twitter, he said. It is a reciprocal endorsement, and gives credibility. We commend Chef Brad for being the only restaurant chef to have attended meetings of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club, demonstrating his dedication to and understanding of the benefits of Social Media.
To close the meeting, Matt Allison, one of the speakers at our August meeting, shared his experience of being the only South African to attend the Mad Food Camp organised by the world’s top restaurant, Noma in Copenhagen, organised by its owner Rene Redzepi last month. It was a huge honour for Matt to have been selected as one of 250 urban gardeners and chefs from around the world. The Food Camp was the largest Northern European food festival, and alongside it ran the workshop, focusing on the relationship between restaurants and purveyors of fruit and vegetables. Chefs are encouraged to grow their own produce, if feasible. He was wowed by what he saw and heard, for example Amazonian ants preserved in gelatine by the chef of South American restaurant Dom. Matt is passionate about honouring the value of food. He has become such an authority on urban farming, working with local Cape Town restaurants and farming his own vegetables and herbs, which he sells on Wednesdays at Starlings Café, that he was featured in the Sunday Times yesterday, and an article in the New York Times is to appear too.
Future Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings have been organised as follows:
* 19 October: Roger and Dawn Jorgensen of Jorgensen’s Distillery, and Anthony Gird and Michael de Klerk of Honest Chocolate, with a chocolate and potstill brandy tasting, at Haas Coffee on Rose Street.
* 12 November: Visit to new Leopard’s Leap tasting room and cookery school in Franschhoek
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage