Forward-thinking Napa vintners Susan and Duane Hoff have searched for ways to bring the experience of making wine at their bucolic Spring Mountain property closer to consumers since they founded Fantesca Winery (fantesca.com) in 2004. An industrious pair, the Hoffs ran through the typical canon of winery marketing shtick: they built a web site, hosted lavish harvest events for club members, and even created a MySpace page.
But it wasn't until they launched the Adopt-A-Grape foundation (adoptagrape.org) last year that they found a truly groundbreaking way to connect with their fans. Participants in the free, interactive web-based program are invited to "adopt" a grape from one of the Hoff's six hillside vineyard blocks, and are sent weekly updates in the form of pictures and videos documenting the grape's progress throughout the year. The videos - which include some of the best "behind the scenes" winery footage I've seen - chronicle key events in the grape's lifecycle, including bud break, flowering, harvest and fermentation. Add to the mix new footage narrated by Fantesca's standout winemaker, "first lady of wine" Heidi Peterson Barrett, and it all adds up to a stellar step towards bringing winemaking closer to those who aren't lucky enough - sigh - to live near Napa.