Gary Vaynerchuk has captured attention with his pioneering, multi-faceted approach to personal branding and business. After primarily utilizing traditional advertising techniques to build his family’s local wine business into a national industry leader, Gary rapidly leveraged social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook to promote Wine Library TV, his video blog about wine. As his viewership swelled to over 80,000 a day, doors opened to a book deal, several national TV appearances, and a flurry of speaking engagements around the world. Gary’s dual identity as both business guru and wine guy has made him the “Social Media Sommelier.”
In addition to the Web 2.0 keynote above, Gary’s remarks on personal branding, social media, and business at FOWA, Strategic Profits, and South By Southwest occasioned praise from established web denizens including Kathy Sierra and earned the admiration of countless bloggers and aspiring entrepreneurs.
Gary’s landmark seven-figure book deal with Harper Studio was featured in The Wall Street Journal.
What motivates this revolution, you ask? Our movement seeks to break down the barriers, stereotypes, and misperceptions that otherwise prevent people from exploring and enjoying the exciting and rewarding world of wine. Gary Vaynerchuk (VAY NER CHUK), the star of Wine Library TV, is Director of Operations at Wine Library in Springfield, NJ. With his unconventional, often irreverent commentary on wine, Gary has attracted a cult-like following of more than 80,000 viewers a day. In the name of “expanding one’s palate”, Gary convinced Conan O’Brien to lick salted rocks and shared samples of dirt and grass with Ellen Degeneres. He routinely pans popular wines (even ones sold by Wine Library). He interrupts his webcasts with rants about his beloved New York Jets. This is not your typical wine expert.
Gary’s roots in wine tasting come honestly – his Russian immigrant parents owned a liquor store when he was growing up. Bored at the cash register, Gary began reading Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate and realized collecting wine offered an allure similar to his previous hobby of collecting baseball cards. As a teenager, tasting wine was legally impossible, so Gary set out to train his palate “backwards”. To study various flavors associated with wine, Gary tasted obscure fruits and vegetables, along with earthly influences, including grass, dirt, rocks, tobacco and wood. “I probably consumed more New Jersey grass in my teens than any lawn mower.” By familiarizing himself with the numerous tastes that contributed to a specific wine, Gary was able to detect subtleties that an ordinary palate wouldn’t recognize.
With a wealth of knowledge and an entrepreneurial spirit, Gary spent every weekend of his college years at his parents’ store, rebranding the family business as Wine Library and establishing himself as a respected expert. As the store’s only wine buyer, he sampled every wine that entered the store. Customers depended on Gary for his advice and within a five year time period, Wine Library grew from a $4 million dollar business to a $45 million business.
But Gary’s career took a new turn with the advent of Wine Library TV. Gary’s key goals are twofold: “First, I want people to try different wines. How can you have a favorite if you only know a few? Second, I tell people to trust their palates. If a wine appeals to your palate, then it’s a good choice. Don’t feel pressured to like popular brands or what experts recommend. Buy what ‘brings the thunder’ for you.”
It always troubled Gary to observe the stuffiness of the industry–conceited sommeliers, snobby shopkeepers unwilling (or unable) to educate their consumers, and seemingly mystical conventions all combine to make wine seem intimidating to the uninitiated. Wine Library TV has reinvented the concept of wine tasting for a new generation. In addition to encouraging straightforward wine tasting, Gary educates viewers about the effects of regional factors (soil, sun, wind) on wine flavors, and how to buy wine. Debunking myths (red vs. white, big name brands vs. independent growers, the pitfalls of wine ratings, etc.) is another ongoing theme of the show. Specific episode topics have included decanting, how to train your palate, the impact oak aging
and barrel fermenting have on wine (Beware of the Oak Monster!), and comparisons of wines made from the same grapes grown in different regions.
WLTV has blossomed into a full-fledged community. The viewers (self-named “Vayniacs”) convene on an extremely active forum, and have organized numerous off-line gatherings. Gary and the viewers have teamed up with Crushpad in the past year to create the first ever community wine, Vayniac Cabernet.
Gary Vaynerchuk has been featured by a variety of national media outlets, including: