Never Eat (Or Drink Wine) Alone

Natural networkers, like natural athletes, would be hard pressed to describe what it is they do that makes them so successful. Tom Wark’s blog with tips for surviving a dinner with nine strangers at a banquet table is an excellent example of a “how to” from someone who does it naturally for someone who doesn’t.

The good news is that even folks who would rather, say… read the latest from the DMV than talk to a stranger, can learn to network by borrowing behavior from those who do it naturally .  Keith Ferrazzi’s book, Never Eat Alone is full of suggestions – starting with the title. Here’s a few networking tips to build success one relationship at a time.

Build it before you need it. You aren’t Machiavelli – the relationships you build are for real.

Don’t keep score. Quid pro quo is for losers.

Never disappear. Keep your event, conference and meeting calendar full.

Share. Look for ways to include others in whatever you are doing.

Be passionate. Passion is contagious – pursue yours.

Be interesting.  Be positive. Be someone that someone would want to sit next to on cross country flight.

Try the “Deep Bump” conference tactic. Make eye contact, hand contact, express vulnerability, interest in other person, not just business. The goal is to establish enough of a rapport to make contact later.

Follow up – why go to the trouble of meeting new people if you aren’t going to take it to the next level?

Email to follow-ups. Be specific – give them a mental reminder of who you are.

Send articles that might interest them – be careful that it doesn’t come off as “you should be doing such and such.” Better to say, “You’re probably already doing this, but I thought it was interesting.”

Send a thank you note – even if you don’t “owe” one.

And remember, there’s nothing like a little wine to make those connections click! 


The Other Coppola

“Apocalypse Now” on the Napa River?  The PT boat used in the movie was shipped here from the Philippines to rest near a grove of olive trees on Francis Ford Coppola’s Niebaum estate. He needed the boat to reshoot the scene when Capt. Willard (Martin Sheen) reads the dossier on Col. Kurz (Marlon Brando.) The shots are tight on Sheen and boat, and the Napa River is sufficiently out of focus to stand in for the Mekong. 

I'm reading Eleanor Coppola's, "Notes On A Life" and the PT boat story is one of the many movie tidbits that I found fascinating. But the book is not about movies, or for that matter, wine. It is a deeply personal story about an artist that is so understanding of the creative process and so loving a wife and mother that she often put the artistic needs of her family before her own. 

The beauty of the book is how Coppola writes about her life, a privileged life, in ways that people like me can share: the hotel room with a feverish child, blinds drawn and wet diapers in the wastebasket, the aching distance from a son who is becoming a man, and the happy rapprochement when he finds a woman he loves. The bubbling resentment that comes with the chores of managing a family, and the joy of a birthday celebrated with women friends. Her most universal experiences, at least for those of us lucky enough to live in Napa, are the scents and colors of this beautiful valley.  You don’t have to live on the Neibaum estate to enjoy the smell of bay and eucalyptus trees, the dirt of an old wagon track or the leafy green of the vineyards. 

I bought the book on what was a perfect day for me in Napa.  On a Saturday morning, with nothing to do (nothing to do is one of the luxuries of the non-celebrity), I saw on the Napa Register’s online calendar that “Ellie” (as I like to think of her) was going to be at the Cameo Cinema for a book talk and screening of her award-winning documentary, “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse.”  It was very hot and very bright that summer day and entering the dark theater was a treat in itself. I had seen a huge limo parked outside, air conditioning running. It didn’t seem like Ellie’s style.  Maybe it was Margrit Mondavi who was there to support her friend.

A Blanc de Blanc called “Sofia” was served in the tiny lobby of the 100-seat Deco theater.  It looked beautiful bubbling in the table of flutes and in the bottles wrapped in pinkish cellophane. It tasted delicious too, but I can’t pretend that I was a discriminating taster on that hot day, in a cool theater, with the lovely woman who signed my book. 

Later I looked online for a place to buy Sofia. I found it on what I think was as a defunct webpage, packaged in four-pack cans! Who knows whose decision it was to try this marketing approach – but it smacks of Francis Ford’s willingness to experiment.  Good try FFC, but I like the bottle in pink cellophane better.  For a male perspective, see what Garry V has to say.








Wine is for Fun; Martini House and Schramsberg = Yum!

Note: this is from October, it’s taken that long for me to get this new blog up and running.

Oct 5, 2008: I went to Martini House last night for a late supper and I can’t imagine a better place to enjoy and evening of friendship and wine.  Pat Kuleto’s redo of the home of 1920s-opera-singer-turned-bootlegger, Walter Martini, is full of warm colors and craftsman lighting. The patio, garlanded with of tiny lights, beckons night after night, until finally you say, hey, tonight we’re going to Martini House.
On our table was a card with a welcoming quote from Napoleon Bonapate, “In victory, you deserve Champagne; in defeat, you need it,” and a few drink suggestions.  What a way to get things started!  I took the bait and started with a glass of Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut.  Not the best pairing for the beautiful mushroom soup I ordered but that was my bad, not chef Todd Humphries’.

I’m a sucker for Schramsberg and not only for The Story.  Jack and Jamie Davies raised three boys in the rugged wilderness of Diamond Mountain while resurrecting the abandoned winery of Jacob Schram.  Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about visiting Schram’s cellar while he was honeymooning in a derelict cabin near the winery. For me, “Honeymoon” and “cabin” don’t pair any better than my Schramsberg Mirabelle and cream of mushroom soup but that’s OK, there’s more to wine and love than perfect pairing.  

The other reason Schramsberg’s sparkling wine will always tempt me is Hugh Davies, the youngest of the three boys, who was born a month after the family moved to the property and is now the winery’s CEO. I met him at Copia after reading about him in Conway’s The Far Side of Eden and he was something of a celebrity to me. But like many of the Napa vitirati he turned out to be warm, humble and a teensy bit geeky. You gotta love a guy who says he wins a lot of awards for American sparkling wine because there just aren’t that many American sparkling wines.  He did a trick of whacking a bottleneck off with a sword but what I remember most was the 20-year-old Blanc de Blanc he shared to compare with a more recent vintage.  Toasty, nutty, honey bubbles. In your nose. In your mouth. Mmm. Reminds me why people get all het up about wine.

Which brings me back to Martini House.  One of the best things about going to a restaurant is to be surrounded by other happy people who are celebrating friendship at their table just like you are at yours.  Maybe it was the latish hour but we struck out in the surrounded by happy people department. Our table was next to two parties who didn’t belong in as warm a place as Martini House. I'll call them Business Dinner Hell and Serious Wine Quartet and neither party was having any fun.  At the business dinner table, the polite trio listening to their senior partner’s monolog were so obviously wishing they could confess their sins and at least make it into purgatory that my stomach churned with empathy. But perhaps even more tragic, because these folks had more control over their dinner destiny, was the Serious Wine Quartet.   The men held their glasses carefully by the stems, sniffed and made mental tasting notes while the women looked like they would prefer to be under a quilt with paperback of chick lit.   Wine is fascinating, yes. I do get that. But let’s not forget that wine’s most powerful quality is the cozy hum that builds like a chemical reaction when you mix wine and food with friends. Cheers!

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