It is said that desperate times call for desperate measures. But the current economic crisis has spurred one Washington wine lover to get creative. In fact, if you have a bottle of wine, he'll drink it for you - for a price.
Dan McCool is a photographer by trade. He owns Cool Breeze Photography in Richland, a city in the heart of Washington wine country. His business is mostly family and high school portraits, and business is a bit slow at times.
"Generally speaking, I have a lot of free time," said the 57-year-old, who moved to the Yakima Valley town of Prosser in 1994 before moving farther down the valley a decade later.
One day recently, he was cruising the Internet and came across a guy who wears T-shirts for a living. He blogs about the shirt (and the company advertising on his chest), shoots video and cruises around town. McCool thought that was innovative and decided to try it with his own wine country twist: He will drink your wine and tell everyone on the Internet about it. And you'll pay him to do it.
That's right, and you'll also buy the wine.
So McCool came up with a Web site, IDrinkYourWine.com, and he's launching the business April 1. Here's how it works: Whoever signs up for April 1 will get their wine featured that day for $1. April 2 will cost $2 and so on. Dec. 31 will cost $275.
If McCool sells every day in 2009 - something he fully expects to do - he'll bring in more than $40,000. If he sells every day in 2010, he'll make a McCool $68,000.
And he's guaranteed of drinking a bottle of wine every day - without having to pay for it.
He realizes he will have expenses associated with it, and he's willing to lose a bit in the beginning. He'll travel within a 50-mile radius of the Tri-Cities before adding a gas surcharge. And he already has some summer wine touring trips planned, so he might just be in your area already.
So, if you sign up for it, what do you get? McCool will put together a video in which he will talk about the wine, talk about your company and have some fun. He'll encourage someone from the company to sit in on the video, though that's not required. The video will run around three to five minutes and will appear on his site, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and a few other social networking systems. He'll optimize everything with tags to make sure that video can be found easily through search engines, meaning the value of your video will last well beyond your "day."
"We're going to have fun with this," McCool said. "We'll try some off-the-wall stuff. If someone wants me to spoof Gary Vaynerchuk (Wine Library TV) and be over the top, I'll do it. It's going to depend on the client."
McCool also will take photos and post them on Flickr, then stream them onto his site.
McCool figures most of his clients will be wineries, though he isn't ruling out other companies or individuals who might want to participate. He realizes this idea is a bit of a double-edged sword. The early adopters get in cheap but won't have a large audience. Those who come in later will have to pay more but will get more eyeballs. One way he plans to reward the early adopters is to give them first crack at whatever day they want in 2010, when the audience presumably will be much bigger.
He already has inquiries from a few wineries, thanks in part to his contacts from working behind the tasting bar at Hogue Cellars in the '90s.
"This is probably the most outlandish thing I've done," McCool said. "And I'm pretty adventurous. Everybody is pressed for marketing dollars these days, so this is a way to get the message out there in the social marketing network. Actually, it's a pretty good deal for everybody concerned."
It sounded like it to me, and I have a reputation for being an early adopter. I also figured this was way cheaper than that Apple Newton I paid $1,000 for back in the early '90s. I told McCool I'd be his first customer, even though I'm not a winery, and I thought about which day to choose. I didn't want to look like a complete cheapskate by choosing April 1, nor did I want to shell out big bucks for Labor Day. In a moment of inspiration, I went with April 15, Tax Day. I figured we could have fun with that as a theme, and it would cost me just $15 - about what people are willing to pay for a bottle of wine these days. I'm not sure what wine or wines I'll bring on the show, but McCool said I need to bring something.
He's in it for the wine.
ANDY PERDUE is editor-in-chief of Wine Press Northwest and author of The Northwest Wine Guide: A Buyer's Handbook.