I have been involved in business consulting and creating compelling content for wine and food media for more than 20 years. In 1994, I formed The Carneros Group, a publishing and new media consulting firm based in Sonoma, California, following 14 years in both editorial and business roles with Wine Spectator, the leading publisher of consumer wine content. My last seven years at Wine Spectator were as that company's president.
Click on the links below to view
portfolio samples of the work done for four recent clients:
Below are projects done by me as part of a client relationship with
The Carneros Group. They are listed in approximate descending chronological order.
Editor and Publisher
PinotReport is my own monthly newsletter and website (www.pinotreport.com).
The newsletter is the only one written exclusively on Western Pinot
Noirs and not only contains reviews of current and past wines, but
also stories on the people behind the wines, a monthly food/wine
matching menu written specifically for matching with Pinot Noir and
stories on the best places to stay and eat in Pinot country. This is
a long-term, “labor of love” business that I generally work on in my
free time and on weekends. It is also my “worst” client in that it
takes up too much of my time with little in the way of billable
Consulting Editor and General Publishing Consultant
This was a short-term consulting assignment to help a new launch
print launch spinoff of the successful WineCountry.com website. My
role as consulting editor involved long and short-term planning,
finding writers, crafting editorial voice and ideas and executing
the editorial product for each issue. My role as general publishing
consultant involved everything from strategic planning to
circulation development and ad sales strategic development.
Heroes: Complete Records of Pacific Coast League Stars From The
‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s”
Editor, Publisher and Book Project Manager
This project involved the editorial development and
publishing of a comprehensive book of player statistics from the
Pacific Coast League in minor league baseball. The book was written
long hand by a baseball historian, James Rebollini, and my role
entailed creating the finished book and then marketing and selling
it. Initial contract completed November 2004, relationship ongoing.
Country Living Magazine / Wine Country Living LLC
Consulting President and Publisher
This was a short-term consulting assignment to relaunch Wine Country
Living Magazine and its publishing company following its acquisition
by new owners in the fall of 2003. My role as a general publishing
consultant involved everything from strategic planning to day to day
publishing operations management.
Vaquero Restaurant is located in Sonoma, Calif., and specializes in
“California Ranch Cooking.” They needed a website that would explain
that concept, market it and also serve as an ongoing information
source for their customers with regard to live music schedules, menu
changes, wine list changes, special events and also some interesting
back stories about the restaurant and historic ranches in Sonoma.
Relationship is ongoing.
Circulation Relaunch Consultant
Before & After was the second largest circulation magazine aimed at
graphic designers when it ceased publishing in 1998. The editors
(and owners) had simply burned out and needed a break. That break
lasted longer than they anticipated and began a plan to relaunch the
magazine in the summer of 2002. I was retained to help them relaunch
the circulation and marketing functions with an eye to retaining and
reactivating as many of the “legacy” subscribers as possible while
at the same time identifying and prospecting a new audience.
Underground Wine Journal / Underground Publishing Inc.
General Publishing Consultant
I have been a reader of this magazine and its predecessor, The
Underground Wineletter, for most of its 20+ year history. I
have always felt it had tremendous market potential that it had not
yet realized. When it became clear after discussions with Publisher
Blair Wallace that I could help build the magazine, I signed on to
coordinate and execute an aggressive circulation-building campaign.
The magazine was seriously undercapitalized and was not able to
sustain operations long enough for the circulation campaigns to have
a chance to succeed.
Vice President, Content, Editor and Community Organizer.
My role in this launch of this unique, integrated wine ecommerce business grew out of my involvement with the Ambrosiawine.com launch. That company morphed into Winetasting.com, a cooperative of California's most sought after wineries and their online tasting rooms. The concept was to provide the technology and expertise to bring these wineries to the web, allow them to sell direct to customers just as they do in their tasting rooms and create a portal site that through merchandising, content and community would drive sales traffic to these member wineries. I was responsible for all content and community development, and was a member of company's executive team during this one-year contract. Contract completed January 2001. Click Here to see more on this project.
Appellation Wine Country Living/ Appellation LLC
Editor and Publisher.
After my initial consulting assignment with this magazine and its owner Michael Earls, it was clear that I could help transition and reposition both the magazine and the parent company and relaunch both in a new, regional publishing business model. My role as Editor and Publisher was to take over the day-to-day editorial and business management of the company. With help from the staff, we completely repositioned the editorial focus of the magazine from a diluted "international wine country" theme to an extremely tight "West Coast wine country" focus, providing compelling content on wine, food, dining, entertaining and wine country living from the wine regions from Baja California to British Columbia. The change was very well received and as we rebuilt the company over the yearlong contract, it was clear that the new focus was working and that momentum was building. Contract completed November 2000. Click Here to see more on this project.
Chalone: A Journey on the Wine
Frontier/ The Chalone Wine Foundation
Co-Author, Editor and Book Project Manager.
This project involved the conception and delivery of a comprehensive book on the first super-premium winery to become a public wine company-Chalone Vineyards. My role was that of co-creator, co-author and editor; and since the book was self-published for the foundation by
Carneros Press, the book imprint of The Carneros Group, I also coordinated the design, production and manufacturing of the book. While the book was initially intended to be available only to company shareholders, I am now helping Chalone seek a larger market for the book through more traditional book publishing and distribution channels. Initial contract completed May 2000, relationship ongoing. Click Here to see more on this project.
Ambrosiawine.com/Vintage Directions Inc.
Internet Content Development.
This project involved working to re-brand a very successful catalogue-based wine merchant, the Ambrosia Catalogue of Fine Wines, and launch its product offerings into the world of Internet e-commerce. Working with President and CEO Lesley Berglund and her internal team as well as the company's site developer and branding and design consultants, my role was to create all of the content for the site. I was also involved with site architecture, home page design and back-office database issues. Contract completed September 1999. Click Here to see more on this project.
Appellation Wine Country Living/Earls Communications, Inc.
General Publishing Consulting.
This project involved working with staff and management of Earls Communications, Inc., at the time owner of Appellation Wine Country Living magazine, to "tune up" the publishing business across the board. Initial stages of the project focused on circulation development, new business generation, direct to retail sales, advertising sales, and new media development. Subsequent stages of this one-year contract involved high-level corporate management and governance consulting as well as transition planning when the magazine was purchased out of the company by owner Michael Earls. Contract completed October 1999.
Virtual Vineyards (Now Wine.com)
Business Development Consulting.
This project involved the development of possible joint venture and marketing partners for this pioneer Internet wine retailer. Contract completed November 1998.
Custom Publishing Services.
This project involved the creation of a special "advertorial" section for Forbes on California Wine Country. My involvement began with development of the initial concept, editorial planning, writing or contracting for all editorial matter, identifying group of potential advertisers, selling the advertising and then working with Forbes staff to execute the final product. Contract completed July 1998.
Wine Business Monthly/ New World Wine Communications, Inc.
Editorial Design and Content Refinements.
This was an editorial and design repositioning of Wine Business Monthly, a monthly magazine serving the wine trade. The magazine had strayed from its original mission as a news and analysis publication for the wine industry. My first step, working with the editors and production manager, was to "go back to basics" to a newsy, simpler approach that met with immediate positive response from readers and advertisers. Contract completed April 1998.
New World Wine Communications, Inc.
President, Transition Planning.
This project involved the transition planning following the sale of SmartWired, Inc. to its new owner, New World Wine Communications, Inc. I had the opportunity to work on both sides of this transaction. As President of the seller, I conducted the search and finally selected a buyer to enter into negotiations. I was then hired as President of the buyer where I continued to transition the old company into the new one. Contract completed April 1998.
Smart Wine Magazine/ SmartWired, Inc.
President, Editor and Publisher; Launch and Ongoing Operations.
This was the launch of a totally new concept in consumer wine magazines. Smart Wine magazine was all about wines that people could afford to drink every day-those priced under $15. I created the editorial product with the help of a talented designer (Barney LaHaye, LaHaye Designs, Sonoma, Calif.). Unfortunately, the lack of ongoing funding forced us to suspend publication after four issues. Despite this, we knew that we had hit on a solid concept. Contract completed December 1997.
Smart Wine Online/ SmartWired, Inc.
President, Editor and Publisher; Launch and Ongoing Operations.
This was the launch of Smart Wine Online-a network of web sites aimed at the wine consumer and trade. We worked on a shoestring budget and quickly built it into a commanding presence on the web, attracting a respectable following and winning more than 20 awards for its content and design. Contract completed December 1997.
Smart Wine Online/ SmartWired, Inc.
Business Startup and Editorial Operations Planning.
This was the business and startup planning to launch Smart Wine. My role was that of consulting editor and publisher, creating the online editorial content, designing its appearance and tailoring its style to fit the online user's needs. In addition to these editorial duties, I was responsible for each step of the startup planning and marketing plan development.
California Wine by James Laube/ Wine Spectator
Editor and Book Project Manager.
This project involved the conception, development, editing and project management of a complex book project on a very tight deadline schedule (700+ pages, 8" x 10", hardcover, published by Wine Spectator Press, December 1995). I was responsible for working with the author on all initial concept and editorial planning, database development, wine tasting, writing, concept editing and as coordinator with Wine Spectator's art and production departments through the final stages of publication.
California Wine Pioneers/ Wine Spectator
Editor and Book Project Manager.
This small book project (50+ pages 8" x 11", softcover, published by Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation) involved updating and redesigning a bi-annual special tribute containing profiles on the pioneers of the California wine industry. I was responsible for all editorial work including coordination between Wine Spectator and the Bancroft Library.
This is relevant job experience that preceded the formation of The Carneros Group.
Wine Spectator / M. Shanken/West
M. Shanken Communications, Inc. is a New York-based publishing company specializing in magazines and newsletters covering the beverage and lifestyles industries, targeting both consumer and trade audiences. The company's titles include Wine Spectator and Cigar Aficionado (aimed at the consumer market), Food Arts, Market Watch and Impact (aimed at the food and beverage trade). M. Shanken-West, a subsidiary, was formed in 1979 to manage the newly acquired Wine Spectator and other consumer publishing projects. In my 14 years with the company, I rose from Editorial Assistant to Staff Writer to Associate Editor, Senior Editor, Executive Vice President, and in 1988 was named President of Wine Spectator and the West Coast subsidiary. My role with the company included reporting, news and feature writing, copy editing, issue scheduling, overall editorial management, advertising sales, circulation management, distribution, marketing, special projects, new ventures, information systems design and implementation, manufacturing management, general business management and strategic planning.
In addition to day-to-day management of Wine Spectator magazine, I was responsible for the launch of the following publications (listed alphabetically):
- "The Wine Spectator's Ultimate Guide To Buying Wine."
- "California's Great Chardonnays," by James Laube.
- "Vintage Port," by James Suckling.
- "California's Great Cabernets," by James Laube.
- "The Wine Spectator's Great Restaurant Wine Lists Dining Guide."
- "The Wine Spectator's Wine Country Guide To California."
I am a graduate of San Diego State University where I earned a bachelor of arts degree in Journalism and continued my graduate studies in the field of political science.