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Hit the Bottle

Hit the Bottle

By Michael Wangbickler
From exploring the beverage buyer journey to leveraging modern public relations to how marketing automation is changing the way we engage with consumers, Hit the Bottle goes above and beyond the ordinary to ask questions and get answers about beverage marketing strategy, technology, and leadership.

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Ep 27 - Wine Media in the Wine Biz
On today’s episode, Mike talks with his good friend, Jeff Siegel, otherwise known as the Wine Curmudgeon; writer, author of The Wine Curmudgeon's Guide to Cheap Wine, and excellent freelance writer. The two discuss wine media – how it’s changed from the 'good old days', and how it continues to change moving into the future.  The two also chat about how the wine biz has changed in 'modern' times, and how it's perceived by new generations. This is definitely an episode you don’t want to miss!
July 23, 2021
Ep 26 - Cheers to Vinexpo and Drinks America
Meet Beckie Kier, Event Director for Vinexpo America and Drinks America, who has led the team on the U.S.-based Vinexpo event since its launch in 2018. Learn all about how Vinexpo New York transformed to Vinexpo America, and the brand-new Drinks America that was created in response to a forecasted continuing rise in consumption of spirits and ready-to-drink beverages. This is an episode you don’t want to miss!
July 02, 2021
Ep 25 - All About WineFuture 2021
Four crises happening at once – pandemic, economic recession, climate crisis and systemic inequalities - the largest (and perhaps best) online conference we’ll probably see this year addresses all four: WineFuture 2021. On today’s episode, Mike and Emma are joined by our esteemed guests, Pancho Campo and David Furer, the ringleaders of this auspicious conference, who give us insights on the conference itself, as well as a number of the special guests participating this year. This is an episode you don’t want to miss.
February 03, 2021
Ep 24 - International Wine in the U.S.A.
For a change of pace on today's episode, Mike and Emma talk amongst themselves weighing in on what it takes for International Wines to have a presence here in the U.S. Their combined multi-years of experience is well worth a listen. Be sure to pay attention!
January 29, 2021
Ep 23 - Podcast about Podcasts
According to multiple sources, there are over 1.5  million podcasts and 34 million episodes as of October 2020. 50% of all U.S. homes are podcast fans, 49% of podcast listening is done at home, and 22% of listening is done in the car. 45 percent of monthly podcast listeners have household income over $75,000. All the major media companies like NPR, BBC, New York Times, ABC, CBS, Fox have moved some content to the podcast format and they're very popular. Podcasts are here to stay, and a potential opportunity for smart marketers. So, on today's episode, we chat with Jason Stubblefield, a veteran podcaster, Jack of all trades and a personal friend. We discuss what it's like to launch a podcast and how companies can leverage the medium. Hang on tight - this is a podcast about podcasts. How very meta.
December 18, 2020
Ep 22 - Sexual Harassment in the Wine Biz
You may have read (or heard of) the explosive report by The New York Times that reveals an ongoing culture of sexual abuse and harassment in one of the upper levels of the gourmet food world, the master sommeliers. Certified master sommeliers are an elite circle, considering that only 155 people have earned the title since the Americas chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers was founded in 1997. Of that 155, only 24 are women. That’s only 15.48% over the last 23 years. On today’s episode, Emma and Mike talk to two women experienced in these issues, Katie Ellsweig and Karen Anne Selby. They talk about some of the experiences they endured in their careers, and the need for change. This is definitely an episode you don’t want to miss.
November 20, 2020
Ep 21 - Web Savvy in the Wine Biz
2020 has taught us many things. One of the biggest lessons learned is just how important it is to be Web Savvy in the Wine Industry. To that end, today Emma and Mike speak with George Christie, founder of the Wine Industry Network and purveyor of arguably the most read newsletter in the wine business, Wine Industry Advisor. The three discuss how to best utilize WIN's tools as a producer, if the hype around wine and cannabis is here to stay, and how we see the future of trade events, lectures, and seminars moving forward. It's a great conversation. Let's get ready to hit the bottle.
November 06, 2020
Ep 20 - Crisis Communications in the Wine Biz
Crisis communications is something that we rarely think about until we actually need it. If 2020 has proven anything, it's that a crisis can and will happen any time: Covid, fires, an injury in the winery, a tank spill, or something along those lines. How you react can be a make or break situation, so it's better to be prepared and think of solutions now rather than think of a solution later when you have to engage panic mode. On today's show, Mike chats with Doug Levy, who is a personal friend and an expert in this field. He's written a book on the topic. He and Mike discuss what you should do before, during, and after a crisis, and really think about what we should do as an industry to prepare. Without further ado, on with the show.
October 23, 2020
Ep 19 - Marketing Automation in the Wine Biz
Marketing automation refers to software platforms and services that are created for marketing professionals to communicate on multiple channels online more effectively and automate repetitive tasks. Things such as setting up email workflows, integrating your CRM with your email marketing system, automating social media online. This is something that the wine business has been slow to adopt, but those that have, have shown some real return on it. Today Mike talks with Morgan Bell, who is one of the principals at SharpSpring, which is one of the leaders in the marketing automation space. While this was recorded late last year, it's evergreen, so it's appropriate today as it was back then. And with the advent of Covid and the need for more direct to consumer sales, those that adopt a marketing automation platform will be in much better shape. On with the show.
October 16, 2020
Ep 18 - Leadership in the Wine Biz
Late last year, I had a conversation with Christine Moll from O'Neill Vintner's about leadership. And she actually defines it as three things - good leadership has the great ability to inspire, motivate, and mobilize. That it really kind of takes into consideration the individual rather than the role. So, it's like people over tasks. There's no black and white, there's no formulas, it's very contextual, and as we look towards the next generation of leaders, it's important for us to realize that there are certain things that the upcoming generations value more than previous generations did, and by recognizing that, we're able to lead. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy this episode with Christine Moll - on with the show.
October 09, 2020
Ep 17 - Simplifying DTC in the Wine Biz
Are you frustrated with the slowness of adoption of marketing technologies in the wine biz? It still lags behind many other industries, and the feeling is that we're falling behind. That is, until Covid happened, and it's forced many wineries to move out of their comfort zone and embrace more marketing, automation, integrating email marketing, and really focus on DTC. On this episode, your host Mike Wangbickler talks with Chris Towt, the co-founder of VineSpring, a subscription focused commerce platform. It's one of the leading platforms in the business. They discussed late last year these different subjects - he's a really smart guy with a lot of insights. We've had the pleasure of working with him at Balzac on past projects, so we’re excited to share this episode with you. Without further ado, on with the show.
October 01, 2020
Ep 16 - Beverage Industry Compliance Tips and Tricks
One of the many challenges facing beverage marketers is working within a highly regulated industry. Selling Wine and Spirits can be complicated for the uninitiated. From knowing the difference between a front label and a brand label, to the strict limits on samples to retailers, to Tied House laws and social media. Remaining compliant with the laws of the land is kind of a requirement. In today's episode we chat with Liz Holtzclaw, one of the nation's foremost authorities on beverage industry compliance. Recorded late last year, she gives us some very practical advice on some of the most common compliance issues including label authorization, advertising rules, social media restrictions, and age gating. Hang on folks, there may be a few you hadn't thought of. Let's get to it.
September 10, 2020
Ep 15 - Blogging and Digital Communication in the Wine Biz
Welcome, Hit the Bottle listeners, I'm your host, Michael Wangbickler. When you have an opportunity to spend an hour with one of your respected peers, it's a refreshing experience. It makes you remember why you do what you do, and that there are others out there that have similar experiences and thoughts. That was the case when Tom Wark, founder of Wark Communications, joined me on the podcast late last year. It is one of our longer interviews, but there were so many valuable insights that we felt guilty about cutting it down, so we didn't. The conversation took us in many different directions, but some of the key points discussed were the evolution of blogging; the importance of third party endorsement; how you gauge whether an independent blogger is worth your time; why all beverage producers should be publishing their own content on a frequent basis; how the wine industry needs a better communication strategy when communicating digitally; and how wineries should take their experiences on the road. You may need to listen to this one more than once, honestly, but I guarantee you will learn something new. So, let's get on with it.
September 04, 2020
Ep 14 - Leadership and Mentorship in the Wine Biz
Welcome back Hit the Bottle with your host, Michael Wangbickler. They say, “You should never meet your heroes.” The people that you admire may disappoint you by not living up to your expectations when you encounter them in real life. The internet is full of horror stories about people meeting their celebrity idols and being crushed by the experience. Leadership comes at a price. While Mike has had the opportunity to meet his heroes (most of which are in the wine biz, naturally), it’s always been a dream come true. That was the case when he had the opportunity to sit down with Michael Mondavi late last year and chat about leadership in the beverage business. It’s an experience he won’t soon forget. The Mondavi name is synonymous with wine in the Napa Valley. The family has been truly instrumental in the ascendance of California wine over the past 100 years. For his part, Michael has been a leader and mentor to at least three generations of wine professionals. He’s been an idol of Mike’s for at least 20 years. So, you can imagine how geeked he was when Michael Mondavi agreed to be on the show. Leadership is one of those nebulous ideas that can be hard for some to grasp. The expression “born leader” is frequently bandied about, but we are of the opinion that leaders are made, not born. So, chatting with a true leader and hearing their perspective, is truly something special. This episode is precious to Mike, and we hope you find it equally valuable. Let’s get on with the show.
August 27, 2020
Ep 13 - PR vs. Marketing
Welcome back to Hit the Bottle. Your host, Michael Wangbickler, has been managing public relations programs for more than 25 years. During that time, the means of communication may have evolved, but the basic principles remain the same. PR is necessary to communicating your message and story to media, trade, partners, employees, and stakeholders. Each public has different needs, and it’s up to the PR professional to effectively engage with each. In today’s episode, Mike chats with Michelle Kaufmann, Communications Director for Stoller Wine Group in Oregon. They’ve had many discussions off air about this very subject, so today’s episode is extra special. The two discuss PR versus Marketing, the importance of third-party endorsement, and the PESO model. This episode was recorded at the end of last year, so some references are made regarding the holidays - we’ve almost come full circle. The rest of the information, however, is evergreen, and should prove useful to you, our listeners. Enjoy the show!
August 20, 2020
Ep 12 - Building Positive Emotional Experiences
As mentioned in our last episode, we have about ten episodes we recorded late last year that we are rolling out over the next two months. The following show is one of those. Angelica Mabray is a rock star in the Napa Sonoma wine scene, currently the CEO of the Donum Estate, she leads the team there in creating world-class customer experiences. With many wine producers being forced to Pivot as of late, customer experience and loyalty are more important than ever. The oft ignored digital experience is now mission critical to all businesses, especially in the beverage space. Angelica believes that wine producers focus too much on transactional interactions when they should be building positive emotional experiences. The revenue will naturally follow. Think about this while listening - it takes five times more effort to attract a new customer than to retain a current one. So, this is kind of important. Now, on with the show.
August 13, 2020
Ep 11 - Breaking Down Barriers in the Wine Biz
Hit the Bottle is back! It’s been several months since we last published any episodes, and in that time the world changed. Fires in Australia, a global pandemic, and the tragic killing of George Floyd, leading to a large part of the population questioning police practices and racial bias in the US and abroad. The following interview with Elaine Chukan Brown was recorded in December last year, when there were far fewer conversations of this sort happening. She is someone highly qualified in speaking on diversity inclusivity and equity, but you will see that even she is hesitant sometimes to offer a perspective. The most recent Black Lives Matter protests have demonstrated that the issues we discussed are as relevant now as they were six months ago. There may be some uncomfortable truths discussed here, but also many valuable insights. Sometimes looking in the mirror is hard, but if we're honest with each other and we want to move forward as an industry, we need to have these conversations. So, I offer this episode with love, and a genuine wish that it may do some good.
August 06, 2020
Ep 10 - Wonderful Websites
If eyes are the window to the soul, a website is the window to your business. It tells your story, communicates your vision, and sells your products. It is often the first contact that you have with your customers, so getting it right is critical. On today’s show, we chat with Peter Andres at Wine Works on what makes for good winery website design and development. Emma and I have a discussion with Taylor Eason of Cork and Fork Digital Media and Julianna Kuetemeyer of Conspire about website metrics and how to measure the effectiveness of digital programs, and our tip of the week is about tech tools you can use to gather customer data and make your website work for you. Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button and leave us a rating and/or review on Apple Podcasts.
November 25, 2019
Ep 09 - Brand Building
Branding is one of the most important aspects of any business, large or small, B2C or B2B. A compelling brand strategy gives you a major edge in increasingly competitive markets. A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies your product or company as distinct from others. Brands are used in business, marketing, and advertising. On today’s episode, we chat with a leader in CPG food and beverage brands with a deep heritage in the wine business. Emma and I have an intimate discussion with another branding expert who has worked on some impressive projects… and our tip of the week is branding on a budget. This is going to be a good one folks, so make sure to listen to the end. Show Notes: Jon Sebastiani - Sonoma Brands - Julianna Kuetemeyer - Conspire - Balzac Communications -
November 13, 2019
Ep 08 - Shipping, DTC, and 3-Tier
Forty years ago, only four states allowed for legal wine shipments to consumers. Today, 45 states allow shipments, with restrictions, from out of state wineries; but only 13 states and DC allow direct shipments from retailers. Shipping spirits is even more restrictive. On today’s episode, we chat with a gentleman whose company is making it easier for small-to-mid size producers to direct ship. Our discussion is about the challenges and opportunities wineries have shipping direct and through 3-tier distribution, and our tip of the week concerns the best method to ship free samples to media contacts. Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button, and make sure you give us a rating and review. Show Notes Steven Harrison - Cheryl Durzy - Balzac Communications – https://balzac.comor @balzacomm Hit the Bottle Links: · Facebook · Instagram · Twitter · Website
October 28, 2019
Ep 07 - Event Know-How
According to Bizzabo, an event software company, 41% of marketers believe that events are the single-most effective marketing channel over digital advertising, email marketing and content marketing. There is no denying that events can be value marketing program, if done correctly. In today’s episode, we chat with a colleague who runs every size of event, and has seen most of the challenges and opportunities first-hand. Emma and I lead a discussion on how to run an effective marketing event. And our tip of the week addresses considerations in wine shipping and delivery for events. If you like this podcast, please consider following up on social. We’re htbpodcast on Facebook and Instagram, and realHTBPodcast on Twitter. You can also subscribe to our email list at Consider leaving a review on Apple podcasts, or other platforms. And finally, please consider becoming a patron at Show Notes Allison Levine - Twitter/Instagram: @plsthepalate Jayme Hitchcok - Adrienne Stillman - @WineDirectHQ       (Twitter, IG & FB) @alstillman       (personal Twitter) Balzac Communications -
October 20, 2019
Ep 06 - Finding Balance
A note about today’s episode… every mistake is a learning opportunity. Boy, did we learn a lot this episode. I may host this podcast, but I’m no audio engineer. Imagine my surprise when I went to edit the final and most of MY audio was garbled. I screwed up a setting with the recording software. Oops. So this episode took an extra day to edit, and even then, I did the best I could. You’ll notice some funkiness with certain sections. All I can say is that the content is amazing, and well worth looking past some audio ticks.  According to a 2018 survey report by Annum Health (now defunct), drinking and the workplace is an issue. The report highlights risky behavior, impacts on employee performance, and how there is a lack of knowledge of what to do about it. As members of the wine trade, it’s often hard to maintain healthy habits while being surrounded by such abundance. Our culture can lead directly to over consumption of alcohol, overindulgence of rich foods, and lack of sleep. These can all effect physical and mental health. In today’s episode, we discuss maintaining wellness and balance in the beverage biz with the co-founder of a Balanced Glass, and online community focused on these subjects. Emma and I chat with an individual who has chosen and maintained a healthy lifestyle for three years which led to an impressive transformation. And our tip of the week gives us pointers on healthy habits we can enact today. Show Notes: Contact information for @abalancedglass: Web: A Balanced Glass Instagram: @abalancedglass FaceBook Group: A Balanced Glass Twitter: A Balanced Glass The cost of alcohol in society: Center for Disease Control: Excessive Drinking is Draining the US Economy Physiological effects of booze on the body: NIAAA: Alcohol's Effects on the Body Contact information for Elizabeth Smith: Email: Business Website: Facebook Business Page: Twitter: @travelwinechick
October 15, 2019
Ep 05 - Data Redux
Beverage producers have access to oodles of data. From DTC customers to key accounts to media contacts, data is the oil that makes the machine run, to coin a phrase from our friend Paul Mabray. In today’s episode, Mike Wangbickler interviews a visionary in the space, who is looking at how wineries and wine regions can leverage BIG DATA to make better business decisions. Emma and Mike lead a discussion on using data and technology for better public relations; and our tip of the week is gaining customer data while maintaining trust. If you like this podcast, please consider supporting us with a small commitment by visiting Subscribers will receive member-only content which includes some additional marketing advice from yours truly, and well as a few more extras. You can also visit to help us out. Show Notes Cathy Huyghe - Tara Goode - Thea Dwelle - Balzac Communications -
September 29, 2019
Ep 04 - Digital Marketing Basics
We’re living in the digital age. We have powerful computers in our pockets, and zettabytes of traffic move through the internet. We now have more access to information than ever before, but beverage producers still struggle to make it work for them. On this week’s episode I chat with a colleague about Facebook, Google, Mailchimp and lookalike audiences. Plus what’s new and next. I also lead a discussion on setting a digital marketing strategy, making the investment, and a few simple tactics anyone can start today. And out tip of the week is about Instagram advertising. Show Notes Guests: Simon Solis Cohen - Vanessa Hadick - Shana Bull - Cristian Ventura - Balzac Communications - Links: Instagram Advertising - INSIDE A SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETERS SCHEDULE -
September 22, 2019
Ep 03 - DTC and other TLAs
According to the 2019 Direct-to-Consumer Wine Shipping Report by Sovos and Wines Vines Analytics, the value of the DTC shipping channel reached $3 billion in 2018, up from $2.69 billion in 2017. Volume was up by 9% to 6.3 million cases, and the average price per bottle increased to $39.70. All this means is that DTC sales and marketing is big business and continues to grow. On today’s episode, we interview an expert in the field of DTC wine marketing, whose agency works with wineries in the U.S., Canada, and Australia; Emma and I lead a discussion on how the DTC and PR departments can work more closely together; and our tip of the week is one suggestion on using CRM to capture and nurture DTC leads. Notes from the show: Direct to Consumer Wine Shipping Report - Sandra Hess - Sarah Horner – Susan DeMatei – Balzac Communicatons –
September 15, 2019
Ep 02 - eCommerce is Commerce
In 2018, Amazon’s share of the US eCommerce market hit 49%. That’s 5% of all retail sales across the country. They did this by giving people want they want… a convenient way to shop, personalized service, and fast delivery. What can the wine industry learn from this, what are the common mistakes, and what tools are available? On this week's episode, we interview a gentleman whose experience in winery e-commerce spans 15 years, with unparalleled insights; Emma and I discuss common winery pitfalls with some eCommerce experts; and our tip of the week is how to improve SEO for your website and increase traffic.  Notes from the show: "Top 5 Lessons Learned with CellarPass" - Andrew Kamphuis - James Marshall Berry - Jeff Stai - Sarah Horner - Balzac Communications -
September 08, 2019
Ep 01 - Oh Data My Data
The sheer quantity of big data available to us marketers can feel overwhelming. The term drinking from a firehouse comes to mind. But without solid data points on which to make business decisions, we’re stumbling around in the dark. In this, our first episode of Hit the Bottle, we chat with a friend and visionary leader who is revolutionizing the way we look at data in the beverage business; Hosts Michael Wangbickler and Emma Criswell lead a discussion on how interpreting market intelligence and customer data can help us build better marketing programs; and our tip of the week is how to implement data-driven marketing.  Notes from the Show: Paul Mabray - Thea Dwelle - Susan DeMatei - Taylor Eason - Balzac Communicatons -
September 01, 2019
Episode 0
Wondering what Hit the Bottle is all about? Here's a little teaser intro to whet your appetite. Episode 1 drops on September 1, 2019.
August 06, 2019