Technology Will Transform Tasting Rooms of the Future with Jessica Kogan



How can wineries use technology to better connect with customers online? What can you expect from the tasting rooms of the future? What matters most when you taste wine?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Jessica Kogan, a digital brand marketing executive who has successfully launched brands such as Gucci, Prada, Charles Schwab, Cameron Hughes, and now Vintage Wine Estates.

You can find the wines we discussed here.


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Three of you will win a special bottle of wine from one of the wineries in Jessica Kogan’s portfolio.


How to Win

To qualify, all you have to do is email me at [email protected] and tell me that you’d like to win a copy. I’ll choose three people randomly from those who contact me.

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  • What’s unique about the way Cameron Hughes wines are made?
  • What was the most satisfying part of launching Cameron Hughes Wine online?
  • Why does Jessica particularly love connecting directly with her customers?
  • How is wine significant to social settings and special moments?
  • How did Jessica’s experience with the president of Vintage Wine Estates empower her as a woman leader?
  • How did Jessica massively grow Vintage Wine Estates direct-to-consumer division within just three years?
  • Which technology can help to connect tasting room employees with customers online?
  • How have virtual tastings become a big part of the winery experience since COVID-19?
  • What can you expect from a virtual tasting experience?
  • What’s Jessica’s vision of the tasting room of the future?
  • What makes Cherry Pie Pinot Noir an excellent wine-tasting experience?
  • How will you taste the influence of the Sonoma coast in Cherry Pie wine?
  • Which dishes would pair well with Baillie-Grohman Gewürztraminer?
  • What is it about Winemaker’s Cut Muscat Canelli that brings renewal and hope to mind?
  • What does Jessica love about Cameron Hughes Lot 894 | 2020 Columbia Valley Merlot?
  • Which bottle of wine would Jessica love to be able to share with Ruth Bader Ginsberg?


Key Takeaways

  • Jessica is so visionary in how she sees wineries using technology to better connect with customers online rather than making the experience less personal.
  • I also enjoyed her insights into how tasting rooms of the future will change to better tailor the in-person experience for visitors.
  • And she’s absolutely right that what matters most when you taste wine is whether or not it suits your taste.


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About Jessica Kogan

Jessica Kogan is a brand marketing and digital transformation executive with a seriously successful track record of launching CPG brands and DTC businesses that scale. As the Chief Growth & Experience Officer at Vintage Wine Estates (NASDAQ: VWE) her role is to drive the VWE digital transformation roadmap, unifying DTC, eGrocery and supply chain enabling customer satisfaction and employee empowerment. Most recently as the Chief Marketing & Digital Officer, Jessica led DTC division growth from $30 million to $100 million in less than 3 years.

A respected ecommerce and marketing influencer, Jess successfully launched digital native companies Cameron Hughes Wine,, Southern Poverty Law Center and Charles Schwab to critical acclaim. She led the launch of Urban Decay cosmetics with the disruptive brand tagline “Black is Cool”and created the brand reinvention platforms for Chevron “Human Energy” and Hewlett-Packard “The Science of Printing” to re-establish their value and meaning in the global consumer marketplace.

Jess has been honoured by wine industry peers and publications including Wine Enthusiast “Innovator of The Year” and Wine Business Monthly “Wine Industry Leader.” She is a sought out writer, speaker and commentator on digital transformation, ecommerce and brand marketing strategy. Her insights have been featured in Forbes, Inc., Fox Business, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue and more.




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Jessica Kogan (00:00):
During Covid, virtual tastings became a huge part of what wineries were doing for us. We had always toyed with the idea of how do we bring our tasting room to our customer. You take your customers, their neighbours through a flight that they buy beforehand, and one of our associates walks them through the flight in their family room, in their living room, in their kitchen.

Natalie MacLean (00:29):
So this is individualized. It’s not like a big, massive tasting where everybody signs up. It’s for a particular couple or family.

Jessica Kogan (00:36):
And we will pair them with an associate and schedule it when it works for them.

Natalie MacLean (00:48):
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine? Do you love stories about wonderfully obsessive people and hauntingly beautiful places and amusingly awkward social situations? Well, that’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie MacLean, and each week I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now, pass me that bottle, please, and let’s get started.

Welcome to episode 235. How can wineries use technology to better connect with customers online? What can you expect from the tasting rooms of the future? And what matters most when you taste wine? In today’s episode, you’ll hear those stories and tips to answer those questions in Part Two of my chat with Jessica Kogan, a digital brand marketing executive who has successfully launched brands such as Gucci, Prada, Charles Schwab, Cameron Hughes, and now Vintage Wine Estates. You don’t need to have listened to Part One from last week first, but I hope you’ll go back if you missed it after you finished this one.

Now, a quick update on my memoir Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation, and Drinking too much. So two Google alerts popped up in my inbox this week. The good kind not the kind that were in the book. So the first was from the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest city newspaper. Wine Witch on Fire made it onto their bestseller list this week, and I’m thrilled. The next alert was from The Globe and Mail, Canada’s largest and most respected national newspaper. And yep, that little Wine Witch marched her way onto that list too, making it a national bestseller. Yay. She hit spot number nine, which is great. And yes, I’m talking about the book now as though she’s a person. But here’s the thing, A bestseller list is not the main thing. It is a reflection of the main thing, which is that there are people who need this story.

Now, I took my grief and loneliness and I wrote the book I needed when I felt so alone. As Carrie Fisher said “take your broken heart and make art”. I believe if you’re lucky enough to be born with even a modicum of talent and privileged enough to have the resources to nurture it, then you have a moral responsibility to write. Because some people can’t write, either they’re not wordsmiths or they don’t believe they are, or they won’t write. They’re either fearful of telling their stories or they think their stories don’t matter. But everyone’s story matters. And when you can tell a story that captures a reader’s feelings and words, when they say I’ve been there I’ve felt that, that’s my story too. And that is when the healing can start.

If you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear from you at [email protected]. If you haven’t got your copy yet and would like to support it and this podcast, please order it from any online book retailer no matter where you live. Every little bit helps spread this message. I’ll put a link in the show notes to all the retailers worldwide at

Here’s a review from Donna Whitaker who lives in Concord, Ohio. I thought this book would be like her previous ones, but it was totally different. I was delighted with what it was, and I applaud the bravery it took to do it. Five stars.

Thank you, Donna. Okay. On with the show.

And what’s really interesting is your model. I didn’t quite understand it at first, but you’re doing this spot purchasing. So it could be from anywhere in the world. Anywhere, right?

Jessica Kogan

Different grapes

Natalie MacLean

Anywhere, not just in California. And the wines will change every year because, I think you were talking about it on another podcast, people said they love the wine, but then they could not get the same bottle next year. And I know that’s part of the beauty, but also some people want the same thing. But that’s really innovative. It’s always different. So it’s the same label, Cameron Hughes, but it could be a Viognier and maybe next year’s Viognier may come from a different part of the world.

Jessica Kogan (05:25):
And we say that, I mean, every single lot number is unique. And we actually did a cryo extraction many years ago, which is in Canada the frozen apple wine. It was so super cool. It was really, really fun.

Natalie MacLean


Jessica Kogan

But I mean, what we do is we say. We access, for example, four Cabernets. We get four cabs in the spot market purchasing, and some cabs are complete and ready to go into the bottle. And we’ll have 500 cases, we’ll have 2000, we don’t know. And then there’s some cabs that just need a little bit of, maybe they’re missing like a mid pallet, and we’ll do some blending into that cab, not extending the blend, but just kind of rebalancing it towards a pallet that we feel is reflective of our customers who we know very well because they’re all online and we talk to them all the time. And we release 50 to 60 wines a year. It’s a journey. It’s like it’s just a total wine journey. Some you’re going to like some, you’re not forced to buy any of them. You can buy whatever you want whenever you want. It’s 24 – 7.

Natalie MacLean (06:39):
A new wine every week. That’s phenomenal. Wow. That’s a lot of different labels.

Jessica Kogan (06:44):
Each label, it looks like this. It’s the lot. It’s a lot number. Not getting that out really well. This is our Black series. This is our Merlot. A gorgeous. Merlot. We release Merlot and cab during the fall and then also sometimes in the spring we will release some Black Label wines that we feel are the pinnacle of what we do. Essentially what that means is that we bought this wine from a winery and a wine maker that is out of this world, and we only have 500 cases, and they sell it for $150. We sell it for $30.

Natalie MacLean (07:25):
All right. Well, that is innovative in itself. That’s not even part of the digital landscape. And what was the most satisfying part of launching Cameron Hughes online? What did you like best about that?

Jessica Kogan (07:36):
I love talking to customers. Spent a lot of time, when Cameron’s wine was sold to Costco, standing in Costco talking to customers. And I love to talk to customers through their fear and anxiety and to normalize the moment and let them feel in control and let them understand that all that matters in this world is how they taste the wine, not how other people taste the wine. What tastes good to them, that is what matters. And you don’t have to be a cork dork. You don’t have to follow the business. You don’t have to know the terroir and the appellations and the blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You just need to know what you like. What is a good taste to you. And realistically,  to get to that place with wine, you’re just going to have to taste, kiss a few frogs. Its just the way it is.

Natalie MacLean (08:28):
Yes, absolutely. Can you remember any more interesting comments customers have said to you, whether it’s about Cameron Hughes or another wine?

Jessica Kogan (08:36):
I mean, they will say. You know what? There’s always a lot of criticism around the wine industry. I just didn’t understand wine. I didn’t get it until you started showing us. I just want red wine. Just give me red wine. Red wine. Or I’ll hear a lot of I mean the good stuff, the fun stuff, the stuff that warms my heart is the intergenerational stuff where parents buy wine for their kid’s wedding or for a big family celebration, and how the particular lot number is something that they are holding onto for the rest of their lives because it just brought for them this level of joy that they didn’t think that they could have with another wine. So the same said for any of the brands within Vintage Wine Estates portfolio, within Duckhorn’s portfolio, with anybody’s portfolio.  When a customer has an incredible experience with a wine that has elevated the social aspect of their moment, improving family relations being one, it just makes you feel so good to be part of the industry.

Natalie MacLean (09:52):
Yes, that’s true. I used to get racked with guilt that I didn’t end up being a missionary or saving lives.

Jessica Kogan (10:00):
Oh you are. But you are. I, again, I have heard from customers who talk about the wars that they have in Thanksgiving and how difficult it is. And how having some of our wines or having wine to help talk about, to talk to their family members about so that they don’t talk about the difficult topics, has literally changed the dynamic of everything.

Natalie MacLean (10:25):
Absolutely. It is the drink of conversation. It slows you down, and it can take some of the nettles out of the conversation. But the way I justify it now, Jess, is that everybody works really hard at our jobs or whatever. And I’m talking about normal people outside the industry that I think those moments of pleasure have become more and more important. And we really do want a very special, elevated, sensory pleasure. I mean, otherwise, why are we working so hard if it’s not for those moments with friends and family and something sensual. I mean, what’s the point?

Jessica Kogan (11:03):
I could not agree with you more. And I think we have to help this generation back to sensuality, back to connection, back to…

Natalie MacLean (11:15):
Slowing down.

Jessica Kogan (11:16):
Removing the fear and anxiety of being in a room with people and just slowing down.

Natalie MacLean (11:23):
Yes, that’s rrue. That’s true.

Jessica Kogan (11:25):
All right, well, let’s go start a company. Let’s do this.

Natalie MacLean (11:28):
Yes, absolutely. So Vintage Wine Estates acquired Cameron Hughes Wines in 2017, 2o18, and at first you didn’t want to stay with the company. What happened? How did you get convinced to stay on with the new company?

Jessica Kogan (11:45):
So I think a lot of your listeners will identify for those who have started companies, it’s exhausting. And startups are hard. And especially starting one with a partner that you have a family with. I just was ready for something else. I really wanted to move into something else. Wine head wasn’t where I intended to end up. It just felt like it was just part of my journey and my path. And I was ready to move into something new.

And at the time, the president of the company, who is the current president, Terry Wheatley, who is just an industry icon in our industry, said to me listen I know you want to leave and I support you, but can you just give me a month? And I said, of course, I’ll give you a month. No problem. And after the month was over, she said Jess, how are you doing?

Can we just talk about that for a moment. Jess, how are you doing. Asking me that after I had been running my own business with a lot of men. I was the only woman in the business as it was growing, and I just was just so taken aback that she asked me that. And she then said, you like it don’t you? You like working with me, don’t you? And I said, I really do. And she said, so will you take over all of direct to consumer for us? And I was like, okay, let’s talk about it.

And she’s a very inspiring person, who shares very similar values that I do, which is valuing the people that work with you, providing professional growth and paths for people who work with you and working really hard. I mean, Terry was just named in the 50 over 50 Forbes list, and she’s been named an industry innovator like the whole thing. But I think the one thing that really changed my life with her, for me the reason I am with her to this day. This is very personal, but I will share it. I had been running this business with my, who is now ex-husband, who’s also a dear friend, Cameron. And in that time that we were running the business together, whether intentionally or unintentionally, he did his best to make me feel not valued. And I don’t believe that he doesn’t value me. We have wonderful girls together and we’re great co-parents, but I think it’s just the time he was raised in.

And I was giving a presentation, and Terry was at the presentation, and Cam kept speaking over me, which he had always done. And she stopped the presentation. There were a hundred people there. She stopped the presentation and she said, Jess, Cam, can you please come with me and I’d like to talk to you very quickly. Okay. We walked out of the office and she took us into another office and she closed the door. She looked at Cam and she said if you ever speak over her again you will be immediately fired.

Natalie MacLean


Jessica Kogan

And I will tell your daughters for the rest of their lives.

Natalie MacLean (14:54):
Oh my goodness. Wow.

Jessica Kogan (14:57):
Now I know it’s like, seems like so simple, but it’s like to be heard, to be seen, to be heard and seen. And that is how she operates. She truly operates from that perspective of whoever is bringing the ideas to the room, nobody talks over each other. We operate with collaboration and respect, and nobody is above anybody. We’re all equals in a flat organization. And I know that sounds like some type of utopia –  it’s not like that at all –  but just the fact that in that moment what I so desperately needed was somebody to see me outside of.  Nobody was standing up for me because I was the highest level person in the room and Cam just kept doing it. It was a revelation.

Natalie MacLean (15:50):
Wow. That’s remarkable.

Jessica Kogan (15:51):
Women suffer from this. And I didn’t know how to get him to stop.

Natalie MacLean (15:55):
That’s a great story. Jimmy Fallon the other night said behind every great woman is a man saying what she said and taking credit for it

Jessica Kogan

Oh my God. right?

Natalie MacLean

Yeah. And Karen McNeil, the author of The Wine Bible, talks a lot about this. That sexism in the workplace today is not usually as overt as it was say, whatever in the seventies, eighties, nineties. It’s the talking past, talking over, dismissing, not really subtle, and you can get lost in that conversation. Even Barack Obama had to be reminded of this by one of his staffers. It’s like listen when the women speak. And they don’t, they’re not even cognizant that they’re doing it. Some of them.

Jessica Kogan (16:35):
I mean, it’s those microaggressions. And they’re just like, wait, what? I’m so much better than my dad. I’m so much better. It’s like so that was really it. And it’s really a privilege to work with a woman at. I mean as you all know, there are very few women at the highest levels in our industry. She started at Gallo as a secretary, and there was a lot of overt sexism and many wonderful stories. And she has progressed on the wholesale side of the business to the highest level, which is just an accomplishment in itself. As we well know, the majority, 95% of those that work in wholesale are men.

Natalie MacLean (17:17):
Yeah. Wow, remarkable woman. I would love to interview her as well someday.

Jessica Kogan

Yes. Yes,. Yes.

Natalie MacLean

So you grew Vintage Wine Estate’s direct consumer division from 30 million a year to a hundred million in less than three years. How did you do it? That’s amazing.

Jessica Kogan (17:35):
Well, I can’t give myself all the credit. I mean, there was this thing called Covid that definitely was an unexpected rocket ship that helped us. We were ready. We were prepared. We had our infrastructure and system set up, and we were just able to press on the gas. The other part of it is there have been acquisitions made during the time that I have been at Vintage Wine Estates which contribute some revenue to direct to consumer. But in general, the real growth came throughout the two years of Covid where we were able to reach so many new customers. And as we are out of Covid now, maintain those relationships and bring those customers to our physical properties and expand beyond just possibly one winery. So yeah I mean, it was a combination of being prepared from a software standpoint, having implemented in our tasting rooms technologies that connect our associates to the customers, our guests who visit. All of that had been done prior to.

Natalie MacLean (18:45):
So you were ready. And a lot weren’t I’d say.

Jessica Kogan (18:47):
Without knowing, without knowing anything was going to happen.

Natalie MacLean (18:50):
Yeah. Well, that’s prescient. So how do you connect your tasting room employees with customers? What technology are you using there?

Jessica Kogan (18:58):
So we use this software that is called Podium. And initially this software was built for furniture companies. So you go to a store and you would go sit on the furniture and you would have an experience, and that experience would go nowhere because furniture stores weren’t really looking for reviews. They weren’t really looking for commentary online. What they were looking for is for people to come visit their stores and to find their stores. And so Podium built this application that connects directly into Google’s algorithm through store reviews. So the more reviews that you do from a specific store, the higher the store comes up in search. So we implemented this technology into our tasting rooms. And every associate that works with our guests, after the experience is complete, we’ll ask the guest if they would like to write a review. And typically guests say, yes, would love to write a review.

In order to write a review, the associate has to text the link for the customer to write the review. So that information goes into a main dashboard where we can see our customer’s information that is kept bolted in an archive. But what happens is the link that the customer gets is tied to a Google login. So if they have Gmail, they can just immediately write a review and it posts immediately. If they have a login to TripAdvisor, they will immediately be able to write a review on TripAdvisor. And the same thing for Facebook and the same thing, well not directly with Yelp, but Google. So Google reviews Facebook and TripAdvisor like without having to log in.

Natalie MacLean (21:02):
That is innovative. And then it helps in your SEO.

Jessica Kogan (21:05):
So once you build up those reviews, once you build that up, once you get those reviews in the ecosystem of the web of the internet, what happens is that information is picked up on. And so Natalie is driving through Napa and she’s looking for a winery to go do a taste at. And you do a search in your browser and what is likely to come up in your organic search is going to be one of our wineries, because we have so many reviews on so many different sites.

Natalie MacLean (21:39):
That’s brilliant. I love that concept. Do many wineries use this to your knowledge outside your organization?

Jessica Kogan (21:47):
I don’t know.

Natalie MacLean (21:49):
Okay. I’m just curious.

Jessica Kogan (21:50):
I don’t know. I believe that there are software systems that have similar setups for specific to the wine industry, but I tend to look at technology outside of the industry. Because the industry it’s not an industry built in technical sophistication. It’s built in manufacturing, production, sophistication.

Natalie MacLean (22:11):
Sure. That makes so much sense. I mean just wow. And so in terms of going back to that tasting room, how else do you incorporate digital into your tasting room experience? Are there any other ways in addition to getting the reviews?

Jessica Kogan (22:27):
Yeah, I mean for sure. We still do virtual tastings. We love virtual tastings. During Covid, of course, virtual tastings became a huge part of what wineries were doing for us. We have always desired to bring the tasting room to our customers. I mean, we love customers coming to our physical properties absolutely, all day long. We had always toyed with the idea of how do we bring our tasting room to our customer? And this is just the most beautiful way to do it. You take your customers, their neighbors, through a flight that they buy beforehand, and one of our associates walks them through the flight in their family room, in their living room, in their kitchen.

Natalie MacLean (23:13):
So this is individualized. It’s not like a big massive tasting where everybody signs up. It’s for a particular couple or family.

Jessica Kogan (23:21):
They can sign up online and we will pair them with an associate. And we will schedule it when it works for them. And I think it is one of the best ways to bring the tasting room to the customer and the spirit of the internet and customer first and Omni-channel. We believe, I believe our job is to make ourselves available and accessible and easy to get to all customers. I mean, we all want to come to Sonoma, Napa. We all want to visit it, but sometimes we just can’t. But why can’t we have the taste? Why can’t we have the feeling? Why can’t we have that moment of hospitality? We can provide it.

Natalie MacLean (24:05):
That makes so much sense. And if you were to design your tasting room of the future, I guess the physical one, I guess it’d be a hybrid, but if technology wasn’t a limitation, how would you envision the tasting room of the future?

Jessica Kogan (24:18):
So I believe that tasting rooms do not need to be big. I don’t believe that they need to be these huge palatial buildings. I would really design a tasting room that feels more like a bar, and that has these intimate spaces where individuals can connect and where associates can sit down with the group and take them through the tastings. I mean there could be, obviously from a technology standpoint, there are people who are interested in self-service. I would have a self-service component where they can just print out the flight and the flight gets delivered to them. And if they want help, there will be somebody to help them. But I just like the idea of smaller spaces more intimate and more engaged.

Natalie MacLean (25:17):
Oh, that’s great. I love that. And that doesn’t need a whole leap forward in technology to implement.

Jessica Kogan (25:23):
It really doesn’t. Because the physical matters in tasting wine. That will never change, but it’s just the need state of a customer. Some customers. It’s like kind of like CarMax. Some people just want to buy a car and not talk to a salesperson. It’s just the way it is. Why wouldn’t we offer that? Why wouldn’t we offer that?

Natalie MacLean (25:44):
Yeah, makes sense to meet them where they are, not force them into our model of tasting room or how it should go. Wow. So my goodness, the time’s flying. So we need to taste some wine.

Jessica Kogan (25:58):
Yes. Yes. Yes.

Natalie MacLean (25:59):
I would love to hear about the wines that you’ve brought and have you taste them and get your perceptions of them and Okay, I’ll do the same.

Jessica Kogan (26:07):
I brought two bottles. The first one is Cherry Pie. And I know that the label is a character and it kind of feels like not so serious, but this wine is outstanding. And this wine came through the acquisition of Jason Woodbridge’s business Layer Cake and Cherry Pie was his special project. And this particular Pinot Noir comes from Rogers Creek in the Sonoma Coast. And the wine, I love Pinot Noir from the coast because it has that Burgundian kind of like – now we’re going to cork dork it a little bit – it has that kind of lightness that I love, but also that real intense fruit that you can’t get away from with California, and it just does both so well. So on the Sonoma coast, you’re getting the wonderful ocean air blowing on the vineyards all day long and intense heat. And so you’re getting both of these moments and I just feel like the Pino Noir is outstanding. I just don’t like a big, heavy Pinot Noir, but I don’t like a really light Pinot Noir.

Natalie MacLean (27:36):
Right. Our tastes are aligned as well. Now, Cherry Pie. Have you had to overcome the image that that might be a sweet wine because of the name?

Jessica Kogan (27:45):
Yeah, definitely. But I will tell you that this particular wine, and it’s a little expensive, so the questions asked before purchased we can be very specific and say, this isn’t sweet; this is a pretty serious pinot noir; and it’s going to knock your socks off. I’ve yet to meet somebody who says this wine was not. Everybody was like where do you buy this wine? Where do you get this? It’s just not

Natalie MacLean (28:22):
Just talking about the wine that is more interesting than to me at least, than saying smooth tannins and whatever. All the cork dork stuff.

Jessica Kogan (28:33):
Diam Cork and all of that.

Natalie MacLean (28:35):
What is a Diam Cork? What does that mean?

Jessica Kogan (28:37):
Yeah. A Diam Cork, it means it’s made with part cork, some recycled wood. And it’s actually, as I understand it from winemakers, what they love about it is the failure rate is much lower than pure cork. And second, the transference of oxygen to the wine is very good. Oh, this is great. It says, “Congratulations you’ve made the correct decision to open this. Commence having fun”.

Natalie MacLean (29:11):
I like that. I like that a lot. So we’ll hear from you in terms of what it tastes like.

Jessica Kogan (29:18):
This is the color.

Natalie MacLean (29:21):
Lovely. Nice big glass there.

Jessica Kogan (29:24):
Yeah. So it’s a darker red than a usual Pinot. Well, California compared to California Pinots lighter. It’s like strawberry [sound of explosion].

Natalie MacLean (29:40):
Yes. Yeah. Good tasting note.

Jessica Kogan (29:41):
You just smelled, even if you don’t know what word to use or fruit to assign to it. Like the nose, even if you are like that nose, I don’t understand. You smell something.

Natalie MacLean (29:53):
Yeah. There’s an emotional response of yes, I like this or I want to try it.

Jessica Kogan (29:57):
I had my kids smell it because I’m like am I the only one smelling it? They’re like, no, I smelled jam.

Natalie MacLean (30:03):
There you go.

Jessica Kogan (30:04):
So they were on.

Natalie MacLean (30:06):
Early learners. And while you’re tasting, I’ll just show the camera. I’ve got Gewürztraminer from British Columbia. Baillie-Grohman. And we’ll put links in the show notes to all of the wines that we’re tasting. So for those listening or watching can find the wines. All right. So how is it on the palette?

Jessica Kogan

[audible sign of joy]

More technical tasting notes.

Jessica Kogan (30:31):
It’s divine. I mean, it’s just a divine Pinot Noir. It really is. It’s everything that I look for. It’s just round and smooth and has a lot of mouth feel. And the finish is just delicious. It really is. I hate to say it, but I can drink a whole bottle on my own, which I rarely do because there’s never really a wine that gets me that excited. But this wine.

Natalie MacLean (31:07):
I love the feeling, though.

Jessica Kogan (31:08):
The way they make it is just. And the Sonoma coast, I mean, Fort Ross makes some beautiful Pinot Noirs on the Sonoma coast. And it’s just that growing area just is the perfect Old World –  New World meeting of styles. Because the new world is you just can’t help it. The sun, the hang time, the grapes have more sugar, and yet because of the weather, you get better acidity. And that’s really the hallmark of Old World. And so you get both of those together and it’s just oh. Your listeners have to try it. It’s fabulous.

Natalie MacLean (31:51):
Absolutely. And just to report back on the Baillie Grohman, a Gewürztraimer from B.C.. It’s very floral, it’s lovely, but it’s not over the top floral. But I would pair this with a light seafood dish. But I’m also, just while you’re getting yours open there your second one, I’ve also got the Winemakers Cut, a Muscat Canelli from B.C.

Jessica Kogan (32:14):

Natalie MacLean (32:16):
Yeah, just these just came in recently. So I thought I’d open them.

Jessica Kogan (32:22):
Muscat Canelli? So I am curious to know what that tastes like.

Natalie MacLean (32:26):
Oh yeah. I mean, it’s very Muscaty in that it’s kind of, again not to get too dorky, but kind of on a walking down one of the first beautiful days in spring, and you’re smelling all the whether it’s cherry blossoms or apple blossoms or whatever, and it just feels like renewal and hope. And the sun is warm on your shoulders. That’s Muscat Canelli right here.

Jessica Kogan (32:51):
I love that renewal and hope. So does it have nice acidity in there?

Natalie MacLean (32:58):
It does. So spritzy and light.

Jessica Kogan (33:04):
Oh I love that.

Natalie MacLean (33:05):
The alcohol would be very low on this.

Jessica Kogan (33:09):
I love spritzy and light. But is it have kind of a sweeter profile?

Natalie MacLean (33:14):
It does. It’s not cloying at all. It’s more like biting into a fresh peach, it not all the way ripe. So light, sweetness, light, fresh sweetness that it’s not gone to preserves or jamming us at all. It’s just that fresh bite.

Jessica Kogan (33:33):
Okay. And so you mostly white wines?

Natalie MacLean (33:36):
I’m just opening samples that arrived.

Jessica Kogan (33:38):

Natalie MacLean (33:39):
They arrived the other day, so I thought I need to open them and give them a try.

Jessica Kogan (33:44):
Do you mostly taste Canadian wines or…

Natalie MacLean (33:46):
Wines from all over the world. For lots of California.

Jessica Kogan


Natalie MacLean

I’ve recommended lots from your portfolio. like Kunde and Clos Pegas, whatever’s available here, and whatever agents are sending us in the media. I’m very Catholic, small C with regards to tasting.

Jessica Kogan (34:03):
Love it, So the wine that I’m tasting is Lot 894 Merlot from Columbia Valley. And I know I actually noticed in some of your notes how could a movie just destroy a varietal? And it did.

Jessica Kogan (34:26):
The movie shall rename name nameless. Sideways. But I love Merlot. And because Merlot has fallen out of favour, you’re getting the most amazing Merlots today. And this particular Merlot from Columbia Valley, I mix it up with Cabernet because it has the richness of a Cabernet, but it has the velvetyness of Merlot. If you really rich but balanced tannins, this is your wine.

Natalie MacLean (35:05):
Sounds great. And of course, the reason Merlot fell out of favour –  other than getting pushed out a little bit by the movie –  is that it was a backlash because it was so popular. And there’s a reason why it was so popular in the first place. It is a smooth, rich, pleasurable wine.

Jessica Kogan (35:23):
There you go. Its just like, if you like that feeling in your mouth of a little residual leftover is the way I would describe it  – I know that’s not an elegant way of saying it – but it’s like just having a little bit left of the wine in your mouth, even after you sip it to me that Merlot. And like high end Merlot like this is, it just feels like a little carpet. Like a soft carpet.

Natalie MacLean (35:50):
Yeah. Velvety soft carpet that keeps coming back and back. And of course, cork dork would say long finish. But I like your way of describing it. That it’s still there. It’s still with you.

Jessica Kogan (36:01):
I can’t like. Writing those wine notes. I feel so much for consumers who have to read it because it’s like they’re trying to describe something that is, give it a more of a technical feel when I’m just like, how did it taste? What did it do in your mouth? What happened? But I also understand it’s just like you kind of have to have some language that is consistent.

Natalie MacLean (36:27):
It is hard to trap a subjective experience into words, let alone numbers when it comes to the scoring. But that’s a whole other rabbit hole.

Jessica Kogan (36:34):
So true.

Natalie MacLean (36:38):
So this Merlot you got, if you were to describe it in terms of fruit, would it be sort of dark fruit? Plums?

Jessica Kogan (36:44):
It’s definitely dark. It’s definitely rich. As I mentioned, it has a Cabernet imprint on it. So thick, rich. But because it’s from Columbia Valley, you’re getting a lot of those really cool nights. So it’s got some really lovely acidity that just gives the tannins this beautiful roundness in your mouth. It really is a big sip of wine, but after you finish it just lays down like call it the magic carpet ride. It’s like a magic carpet ride.

Natalie MacLean (37:26):
Absolutely. We all want to go on a magic carpet ride with our wine. Why wouldn’t we?

Jessica Kogan (37:31):
And this is the wine. Like Cherry Pie is just delicious. This Merlot is, it’s a meditation.

Natalie MacLean (37:43):
Make you think about what you’re drinking? Where you are?

Jessica Kogan (37:46):

Natalie MacLean (37:49):
Oh, wow. I cannot believe the time. Those are wonderful wines. We will get them linked in the show notes. Jess.  Probably I should let you have the rest of your day, perhaps what’s left of it. But I’m just wondering if there’s anyone you could share a bottle with wine living or dead outside the wine industry, who would that be? Why and what bottle? What might you open?

Jessica Kogan (38:11):
Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Natalie MacLean (38:13):

Jessica Kogan (38:14):
Because I just think she is an amazing human being. And it would likely be a bottle of Champagne, though. I know we don’t have much to celebrate at the moment, but I just think what she did for women was just life changing. And it was the brilliance of her mind and her work ethic that just been inspired by her. And I wish I could have met her while she was alive, but she’s somebody I would love to talk to and learn from.

Natalie MacLean (38:48):
Absolutely. So inspiring. Well, Jess, is there anything that we haven’t covered that you’d like to mention before we wrap up? And I will ask you where we can find your wines online of course. But anything else?

Jessica Kogan (39:03):
No. And this has been so much fun, Natalie. I feel like we could talk for way too long.

Natalie MacLean (39:10):
This just went like that, honestly. Anyway. Yes.

Jessica Kogan (39:14):
And I feel like we share a lot of both interests and concerns about the industry and just a very deep love for what it is that we do. And I just thank your listeners, it is such a privilege to be in the wine industry, to be giving joy, providing joy. I always say to my team when they’re having a bad day, I’m like we’re not solving world peace but we’re trying to bring joy to the dining room table.

Natalie MacLean (39:40):
Yeah, that’s great. I love that it keeps it in perspective and it’s small yet important, and I think that’s all we can hope to do. Yeah. Really any of us. Make a small but important difference. Wow. Okay. So where can we find you online, perhaps both you and your wines?

Jessica Kogan (39:58):
Sure. So Cameron Hughe Wine you can find at And the wine we had today was Lot 894 Merlot from Columbia Valley. For Cherry Pie, you go to And the 2019 Rogers Creek Pinot Noir and to learn more about Vintage Wine Estates, which is the parent company that owns both Cherry Pie and Cameron Hughes Wine and Kunde and Clos Pegas, go to and click on any of the brands, which will take you to one of our many estate websites. And yeah, I mean, there’s so much to explore, so much to discover. And wine is the endless journey, and I’m so grateful, Natalie, that we have people like you sharing the message out there about how amazing that journey and the industry is.

Natalie MacLean (40:55):
Well, thank you. It’s been my pleasure. And I don’t know if you are on social media or if you want to share any of those details.

Jessica Kogan (41:03):
Yes, yes. So I personally don’t do a lot of social media. But for CHWine, it’s at CHWine on Instagram. And the same for Vintage Wine Estates. It’s at Vintage Wine Estates on Instagram. And then on LinkedIn, we are CHwines on LinkedIn. I am personally Jessica Kogan on LinkedIn, and you can absolutely get in touch with me if you have any questions. I do check my LinkedIn email box often. And as I mentioned, Vintage is also on LinkedIn and then we have Twitter handles, but I would say mostly Instagram and Facebook. The handles are the exact same as where you can find us.

Natalie MacLean (41:45):
Sure. And we’ll put those links in the show notes as well. Great. Well, Jessica, thank you so much. I appreciate this. Just again, it was very easy to get off track with you. Which is a compliment to you. It was really interesting. I just loved your stories and insights. So we should continue this conversation, whether it’s on another podcast or maybe even in person sometime. What a concept.

Jessica Kogan (42:07):
That would be amazing.

Natalie MacLean (42:09):
All right, so I’ll say cheers and bye for now, Jess, but look forward to continuing this in the future.

Jessica Kogan (42:15):
Cheers to you. Thank you.

Natalie MacLean (42:16):
All right, bye.

Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoy my chat with Jessica. Here are my takeaways. Jessica is so visionary in how she sees wineries using technology to better connect with customers online rather than making the experience less personal. I also enjoyed her insights into how tasting rooms of the future will change to better tailor the in-person experience for visitors. And she’s absolutely right that what matters most when you taste wine is whether or not it suits your taste.

In the show notes, you’ll find the full transcript of my conversation with Jessica, links to her website, the video versions of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube live, and where you can order my memoir online no matter where you live. That’s all in the show note at Email me if you have a sip, tip, question or would like to be part of the books launch team at [email protected].

If you missed episode 80, go back and take a listen. I chat about the allure of wines from prove, especially Rosé – it is Rosé season now – with writer Jill Barth. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

Jill Barth (43:39):
There is a preference for a pale rose. I think that that’s the consumer’s idea that it embodies freshness and lightness. There also seems to be misconception that it’s going to be sweeter if it’s darker, and that’s not true at all. I’ve heard people I’m sharing wine with and they’ll see a dark rose and they’ll think, oh, I don’t like sweet wines. But it’s to do with the varieties of the grape and how long that juice has any amount of skin contact.

Natalie MacLean (44:06):
That makes total sense.

Jill Barth (44:07):
People do seem to like the light ones these days for I think reasons of aesthetics not necessarily that it influences the flavour as much as you might think.

Natalie MacLean (44:15):
Sure. And is there anything to the fact that if it’s a darker rose, it’s going to be more full body? Did it get more skin contact therefore more flavor, or is that too a generalization that doesn’t always play out?

Jill Barth (44:28):
It probably doesn’t always play out, but it would hold true that darker skinned grapes that experience more skin contact during the winemaking are going to impart more of that color.

Natalie MacLean (44:43):
If you like this episode, please email or tell one friend about it this week, especially someone who’d be interested in the wines tips and stories we shared. You won’t want to miss next week when I talk with Dr. Mark Gudgel about his new book, The Rise of Napa Valley Wineries: How the Judgment of Paris Put California Wine on the Map.  He focuses on the wine industry and the issues that surround it.

Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a spring fresh Rosé. You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full bodied bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at Meet me here next week. Cheers.