Wine Tasting and Team Building

team building Bottles

Wine tasting and team building are seldom included in the same discussion.  The idea of corporate team building generally conjures images of a weekend retreat to boot camp, complete with obstacle courses, high elements, and water hazards   But, I recently had an interesting request that posed a bit of a challenge.

A client asked me to plan a wine tasting for a select group of executives from his company and partner companies.  This part would be easy – sniff, slurp, discuss.  The challenge was that  the client also requested that I incorporate an element  into my presentation that would encourage cooperation and team building within the groups.

My audience consisted of casual wine aficionados and a few gentlemen that by their own admission preferred a good Bourbon or Scotch to a glass of wine.   Based on the allotted time (about 1 hour and 15 minutes), my client and I agreed that we would taste six wines.  The presentation would culminate with a blind tasting of the same six wines.  The audience would separate into predetermined groups and work together to reach their conclusions.

Knowing my audience would have little experience with blind tasting, I purposely selected wines that would have distinct characteristics, drawing examples from important wine regions around the world.  For instructive purposes, I incorporated wines that would illustrate the differences in Old World and New World expressions of the same varietal or a similar blend.  I provided tasting notes and an outline of relevant information that I would discuss regarding each wine.

The wine selections in order of tasting were:

  1. Retour Pinot Noir 2009, Williamette Valley Oregon 90 Points
  2. Claude Dugat, Couer du Roy 2008, Gevrey Chambertin, France
  3. Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino 2006 Tuscany, Italy
  4. Domaine du Pegau 2009 Chateauneuf du Pape, France
  5. Chateau Batailley 2009 Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
  6. Roy Estate Proprietary Red 2008 Napa, California

After a brief introduction, I informed the group that they would be tasked to identify the wines they were tasting “blind” immediately after the initial presentation.  I spoke briefly on tasting techniques and sensory perception.  The goal was get the group focused on things that would assist them in the upcoming challenge.   As we tasted each wine, I discussed relevant information and interesting facts regarding the wine, producers, and place of origin.  I also illustrated characteristics of each wine that would assist in blind identification.


After the initial presentation, the guests adjourned briefly while I poured to equalize the levels in the glasses.  I switched wines #2 (Dugat Gevrey Chambertin) and #5 (Chateau Batailley),  I left the most distinct and easily identifiable wines in their original places #1 (Retour Pinot Noir – The palest in color) and #4 (Pegau CDP – A three ring circus of smoke, herbs, meat, fruitcake…etc on the nose.)

In the style of a “semi blind” tasting, I provided an “answer sheet” with the names of the wines present in the flight. Numbers 1-6 were left blank for the groups to fill in their answers.  To up the ante, I announced that each member of the winning group would get to choose a bottle from the tasting as their prize.  Smiles changed to game faces.

Discussion Cropped

Minutes into the completion, it was obvious the participants were taking the challenge very seriously.  There was spirited discussion within each group. But, all talk was whispered.  I heard mention of numbers and an occasional “this or that one”, but not a word that might tip the other groups off.  In the end, one group got all six wines correct.  There were high fives and celebration.  My client later informed me that the winning group consisted of his boss and the CEO of his company.  It couldn’t have worked out better.

During my initial presentation, I talked about spitting.  However, after tasting six wines, there wasn’t a drop in anyone’s cup – mine included.  The wines were too good to waste.  The guests kept their wines on the numbered placemats with dinner.  The conversations continued.

The host was smiling.

Mission accomplished.

My Plans to “Life Blog” with Memoto Camera while in Italy

On my upcoming trip to Italy in July, I plan to wear the Memoto Life Blogging Camera.  The Memoto Camera debuted at SXSW in Austin, Texas last month.  This is a cool concept and great for someone who will have their hands full more often than not. Read more below:

Stumble Memoto
We’re seeing a lot of visits from SU recently, and we’re so happy we decided to give a discount on pre-orders to stumblers during all of January. Enter the code SUPERSTUMBLERSAVER (after Paypal step) to get 30% off! See video below if you don’t know what Memoto is.

// With love, the Memoto team

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Free shipping worldwide for preorders! Coming 2013

    • Memoto Camera, Memoto Orange

      Memoto Orange


    • Memoto Camera, Graphite Gray

      Graphite Gray


    • Memoto Camera, Arctic White

      Arctic White


1 Year Memoto Secure Storage Included

Memoto offers safe and secure photo storage at a flat monthly fee.

Memoto Lifelogging Camera

A tiny, automatic camera and app that gives you a searchable and shareable    photographic memory.

For the best user experience we recommend a connection of 1Mbit/s or higher when uploading.

  • Windows or Mac for sync/upload.
  • Android or iPhone for accessing the smartphone apps.

The world’s smallest wearable camera

(Sample photos are finally here!)The Memoto camera is a tiny camera and GPS that you clip on and wear.    It’s an entirely new kind of digital camera with no controls. Instead, it    automatically takes photos as you go. The Memoto app then seamlessly and    effortlessly organizes them for you.


Easy and effortless

The camera has no buttons. (That’s right, no buttons.) As long as you wear the    camera, it is constantly taking pictures. It takes two geotagged photos a minute    with recorded orientation so that the app can show them upright no matter how you are    wearing the camera. And it’s weather protected, so you don’t have to worry about it    in inclement weather.

The camera and the app work together to give you pictures of every single moment    of your life, complete with information on when you took it and where you were. This    means that you can revisit any moment of your past.

memotolifeloggingcameraThe Memoto lifelogging camera – only 36x36x9 mm

Long battery life

The camera’s batteries won’t need to be recharged until after approximately 2 days    of use. To recharge the camera’s batteries, you connect the camera to your computer;    at the same time the photos are automatically uploaded to Memoto’s servers. There are    no buttons to press. You just wear the camera, then charge it and wear it again.

Get your Memoto camera now

Technical specifications



  • Automatic photo capture every 30 seconds (Can be adjusted to a different interval)
  • Can be double-tapped to take a single shot outside the regular interval
  • 5 megapixel resolution images
  • Log of GPS positions and timestamps
  • Built-in rechargeable battery which lasts up to two days
  • LED battery life indicator
  • 2 full days of constant photographing (4000 pictures) space on memory
  • Built-in accelerometer ensures that pictures are correctly oriented regardless of how the camera is worn
  • Micro-USB port for charging and connecting to computer
  • Stainless steel clip to connect the camera to your clothes
  • 36x36x9 millimeters small


  • Automatic uploading of the photos to Memoto’s servers by connecting the camera with your computer
  • Encrypted storage for an indefinite number of photos (1 year subscription)
  • Easy access of your photos through smartphone apps and browser
  • Apps for Android and iPhone
  • Private and social layer – all pictures are in private mode only, until you choose to share them with your friends
  • All photos are stored and organized for you. None are deleted, but the best ones are more visible.
  • Browse through your memories moment by moment. Tap to relive a moment.
  • Search for events in your history. Share with the ones you trust.


Access your life through the Memoto app

With this many pictures captured and stored every day, we think it’s crucial    that you can easily browse among the best and most meaningful ones. The app we’re    building for iPhone and Android organizes the photos to work as a photographic memory    even after many years.

Relive your life like you remember it

The way this works is that the photos are organized into groups of “moments”    on a timeline. On the timeline, you’re presented with keyframes (about 30 per day)    each representing one moment. You can tap a moment to relive it in a stop-motion like    video of all the pictures in that moment.

The image analysis and organization is made out of the images’ metadata, such as    time, place and light. This enables you to not only browse your life the way you    remember it, but to search for specific events of your life: who was it that you met    at that party or what did the sunset look like in Lapland in June? (Fun fact: there    is no sunset in Lapland in June).

Read more on the blog:
– Designing storage for your memories
– Seamless lifelogging with the Memoto app
– Making sense of all your moments – Moment View

memotomomentsThe app organizes all your photos on a timeline, making        them easily accessable to search and share.

Your photos are yours and only you can share them

The app comes with features for sharing through the biggest social media services.    Additional social features are something we would like to develop more of in the future.    However, we want to stress that your Memoto pictures will always be private by default.    That is, you only share pictures when you deliberately want to share them.

Cutting your storage costs at least in half

The Memoto Camera potentially produces a huge amount of bits and bytes. 4 GB data    per day amounts to up to 1,5 terabyte per year. Instead of you storing all this on    unreliable and expensive hard drives that can get stolen or lost, Memoto offers safe    and secure infinite photo storage at a flat monthly fee, which will always be a lot    more affordable than hard drives.

      Legality and safety

Memoto’s products and services are all about integrity. Everything you create    with Memoto is yours – only yours. If you want to share your content with someone    else we think you should. But only you decide when to do that. And even when you    have shared your content you are still the owner of it.

All pictures you transfer to Memoto’s cloud service are stored    encrypted. The pictures are only visible to you: only you can see them and    only you can change them. If you want to share a picture or a moment with someone    you trust you have to make an active choice. The software contains no automatic    share features, no hidden buttons, no “share-by-default”. You only share your    content when you want to.

Legally, you may photograph what you want, as long as you don’t obviously    infringe someone else’s integrity or violate an official photo ban. If someone    asks you not to use your Memoto camera – then please don’t. If someone doesn’t    explicitly ask you, but you have reason to believe that the place or the context is    inappropriate for photographing – then please don’t.

Memoto’s products and services are made for those of us who like to    collect memories and stories about ourselves




What Do Chickens and Italy Have in Common?

Fat Amy

Fat Amy, so far, the most prolific egg-layer and friendliest of our new additions

Over the weekend, my family I took the plunge into urban ranching.  This may seem a bit grandiose on the surface, but really all we did was add 3 egg-laying hens to our collection of four cats and a mini Dutch bunny.  Its official, we have a farm!

So far, my daughter has named her favorite, which is also the most friendly.  “Fat Amy”  (from the movie Pitch Perfect, which she has watched at least fifteen times) is the largest of the hens.  So far, she has been the most consistent with her daily “gift” of a single fresh, medium-sized brown egg.  While chickens are not known to be particularly affectionate creatures, Fat Amy always comes up to greet you and doesn’t seem to mind being held.  As for the other two hens, we are still waiting for their personalities to emerge to determine their names.

Compare large white egg to fresh egg

Compare large white grocery store egg to our urban farm-fresh egg

I had my first taste of these eggs yesterday morning.  Of course, I did a side-by-side comparison with the store-bought white eggs.  In the last year, after eating a burger with a fried egg on it at Second in Austin, I have developed a fetish for runny eggs on just about any dish.  With this in mind, I cooked the eggs over easy with a little cracked black pepper.  In comparison, the fresh egg had more flavor and a divine creamy texture that the store-bought white eggs lacked.  Unfortunately, I will have to continue supplementing my egg habit with grocery store eggs until the weather warms up a bit more and brings on more regular egg production.

Some have questioned the legality of raising chickens in the Houston city limits.  Currently, the city ordinance requires that hens roost 100 feet from a neighbors property.  Roosters a noisy and are not allowed. The hens make very little noise, save for a few cackles to announce they have laid an egg.  Either way, a neighbor probably would not complain if you “bribe” them with a few tasty fresh eggs.

Fun Map of Italy

Several weeks back, I entered a contest for a 10-day trip to Italy sponsored by the Guild of Sommeliers and Banfi.  The essay question was, “What do you expect to gain from the experience of this trip to Italy?”   To paraphrase my answer, I discussed the idea that in the Old World, food, wine and culture are intrinsically connected and have developed together over centuries.  Travel to a wine region instills a deeper understanding of this connection.  There is no substitute for first-hand experience.  I also noted that walking the vineyards, meeting the winemakers, and growers gives the wine a face.  Most wines have a story and a personality that reflects the passion and personalities of the people involved in making it.  Visiting with these people where “the magic happens” is the only way to truly understand the wine.

I received the great news yesterday, I was selected for the trip!!!  As an added bonus, Ben Roberts, sommelier at Masraffs, who is a great friend and study mate was also selected.  I have no doubt, that the experience will be amazing.  Banfi has one of the top educational programs in Italy.  I may not learn to speak Italian on the trip, but I will certainly learn a lot about Italian wine.  The trip will cover wineries in Piedmont, Veneto, Reggio, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Lazio, and Abruzzo.  It will include visits to a cooperage (where barrels are made), a cheese dairy, and numerous artisans.  I have not been to Italy since I was nine years old when I visited Rome, Florence, and Venice.  I am excited to return with an adult perspective.