In this Podcast Episode
Rob McNealy interviews Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV about the wine business, and the success of his fantastically popular webcast, The Thunder Show.
Gary Vaynerchuk’s Bio
Gary Vaynerchuk (VAY NER CHUK) is a 32 year old self-trained wine expert who is revolutionizing the wine industry. His webcast, “The Thunder Show”, on www.winelibrarytv.com, attracts over 80,000 viewers each day and his email queue typically holds 1,000 messages from obsessed fans, self-named “Vayniacs”. Gary’s cult-like following is the result of his unconventional, often irreverent commentary on wine. 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 he sells at his 3-story New Jersey store, Wine Library). He even interrupts his webcasts with rants about his beloved New York Jets. This is not your typical wine expert.
His 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 The Wine Spectator and books about wine 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 four year time period, Wine Library grew from a $4 million dollar business to a $40 million business.
The Thunder Show has taken on a life of its own, attracting fans from 12 to 90 years old and reaching the maximum limit of 4,999 Facebook friends. Gary’s key goals (after owning the New York Jets) 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.” Comical expressions used on the show, such as “Sniffy sniff” and “The Oakmonster” add to Gary’s identity as “the wine guy for the Average Joe.” 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 — is another feature in Gary’s webcasts.
As the youngest winner of Marketwatch’s Business Award, Market Watch Leader at 27 and his recently launched first book, 101 Wines Guaranteed to Inspire, Delight, and Bring Thunder to Your World, Gary Vaynerchuk is an icon in his industry. In addition to stellar “street cred” among his fans, Gary is also highly respected in the wine industry and the corporate world. “Wine is a dynamic category that offers a new set of flavors and standards each year. There is so much to learn and appreciate regardless of price.” Gary’s unique identity as both a wine expert and a “real person” has reinvented the concept of wine tasting for a new generation.