Columnist, Food

Guy Drew received an e-mail on April 21 from a woman he’d never met, who told him she had bought his wine in a Colorado Springs store because her husband, a graphics designer, liked the label. She had presented the wine to a visiting wine reviewer, she wrote, and she included a link.

Almost before Drew could finish watching the reviewer’s video, more e-mails started filling his inbox from people around the country eager to buy his wines.

That “reviewer” was none other than Gary Vaynerchuk (pronounced vay-ner-CHUCK), the hyper-energetic Jersey-boy wine retailer who transformed himself into an Internet sensation with a video podcast called WineLibraryTV. “Gary Vee’s” fans relish his no-holds-barred, no-nonsense love of wine, his aspirated consonants, his willingness to slam wines he dislikes, and the way his moods track the fortunes of his beloved New York Jets.

Vaynerchuk, 35, had been in Denver promoting his new book, “The Thank You Economy” (HarperBusiness), about how social media are transforming the way businesses connect with their customers. The day after his book signing, he sat in his hotel room and filmed Episode 26 of his new program, “The Daily Grape,” which is shorter than WineLibraryTV sessions and marketed for the iPhone. He opened the bottle of Guy Drew Vineyards 2007 Metate — a $20 blend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah produced at high elevation along the west side of the Rockies near Cortez, in Colorado’s southwest corner — and stuck his nose in the glass. (Vaynerchuk doesn’t “smell” a wine. He gives it “a sniffy-sniff.”)

As he swished the wine in his mouth, Vaynerchuk’s eyebrows danced a tarantella of surprise across his forehead. “Wow!” he said. Then again, “Wow.”

Gary Vaynerchuk is the creater of the video podcast WineLibraryTV. See his video at (Photo courtesy of Niki Turkington Senior Account Director The Brooks Group)

In a spontaneous review that would have winemakers in any state east of the West Coast cheering, Vaynerchuk extolled the Guy Drew Metate as an example of high-quality wine from what he calls “The Other 46”: other than California, Oregon, Washington and New York. (He almost promoted Virginia, saying, “Maybe we should make it ‘The Other 45.’ ”)

“This is surprisingly good, and that’s going in with preconceived notions and prejudices, because we don’t really think of Colorado as a real serious producer of wine,” Vaynerchuk said. “There is no way you’re having this wine blind and underestimating it or thinking it doesn’t come from a place that makes really good wine . . . . This really clowns a lot of $20 cabs from California.”

Then for good measure, staring at the bottle, Vaynerchuk said: “Kudos, Guy Drew. Kudos, kudos, kudos. Wow, wow, wow.” He ended by asking his viewers to name their favorite home-state wines; within days, the post had more than 900 comments.

“I sat at my computer for a few days working through orders,” Drew told me. “I had to respond to people in states we couldn’t ship to, and the knuckleheads who wanted one bottle when we only ship by threes. But many people didn’t just buy the Metate; they bought other wines, too. I’m still getting orders that I can trace to that post, including repeat customers.” Restaurateurs and retailers who wouldn’t give Drew the time of day in early April were suddenly clamoring for his wine.

Drew says Vaynerchuk’s review had an impact on more than just his bottom line. “That posting helped me, sure, but it really helped the Colorado wine industry,” he said. “There were so many people that had no idea that we grow wine here.

“We are serious here. The only thing we need is more time and money to develop it. This area has such huge potential, and the wines are phenomenal.”

That’s a sentiment expressed in many other of The Other 46 as well.