When the pandemic hit within the spring of 2020, founders and organizers of wine festivals needed to pivot – onerous. Some cancelled, hoping for higher luck in 2021, whereas others powered via changing 100% stay occasions to 100% digital occasions by fall. One girl pulled off this tough feat for her weeklong celebration of France’s most well-known bubbles in New York.
Blaine Ashley often known as “Champagne Blaine,” based the primary New York Champagne Week in November 2013. The week’s ethos had been to advertise the champagne class via a wide range of artistic occasions, pairing experiences, model launches, new launch reveals, interactive tastings, seminars and extra. Final 12 months, Ashley needed to switch the vitality of a stay expertise into nationwide digital occasions whereas navigating a brand new set of logistics and artistic methods.
Because the pandemic eases, Ashley is bringing the festivities again this 12 months via a hybrid mannequin which incorporates seven digital occasions and three ticketed in-person occasions in Manhattan. Ashley took time to talk with Forbes in regards to the challenges and insights of holding an occasion going via a world disaster whereas highlighting what occasions to look ahead to this 12 months.
That is your eighth 12 months! How has the occasion developed from the start?
I spent the big a part of summer time 2013 touring all through France. Whereas there, I used to be writing a month-to-month column for Locations Journey aptly dubbed ‘Jet Set Sip’. As a part of my prolonged journey, I used to be invited to attend VinExpo, one of many world’s largest wine festivals that takes place in Bordeaux each different 12 months and Hong Kong on the off years.
Whereas within the resort foyer ready to be transported to the expo, I met a sommelier from an Opera Home in Sweden and he requested if I needed to stroll the present with him underneath one situation: we should solely style champagnes, as he was opening a champagne bar within the Opera Home. Sure!
Whereas tasting all of the Champagne and assembly a ton of unbelievable producers I’d by no means heard of, I had an entrepreneurial ‘aha’ second — I’m going to create a New York Champagne Week. This was in June 2013. I got here again in early July and started working, launching the first-ever New York Champagne Week in November 2013.
The foremost distinction between then and now’s that I initially arrange a clearing home to showcase new producers that weren’t even accessible within the US on the time however have been hoping to search out distribution.
My target market have been distributors, consumers, and press to hopefully discover these unknown champagne homes a literal dwelling state-side.
We’re now an occasion that’s slowly however absolutely expanded to a champagne-loving client and that has the help of many well-known manufacturers which is essential to the advertising and marketing capabilities to efficiently promote the champagne class as a complete.
How did you navigate internet hosting a week-long celebration nearly final 12 months?
Again in March 2020, I saved listening to Zoom, Zoom, Zoom… and I used to be like “what?!” Quickly afterward, I began to attend wine-focused Zoom occasions and located most of them to be mundane.
Afterwards, I started to dabble with Zoom occasions via my sister platform The FIZZ is Female, which celebrates female-made, -owned and -heavily led (suppose CEO) glowing wines from all over the world.
I began bi-weekly Wednesday ‘Girls in Bubbly Wine’ highlight occasions in late April and from there tried and examined working with ecommerce companions that might ship wine packs to attendees of those occasions.
From this, I not solely developed and grew a nationwide client base, I additionally had the arrogance to develop an incredible digital occasion calendar for the seventh Annual VERY Digital New York Champagne Week that was not solely tremendous interactive and champagne packed but additionally actually enjoyable.
We held occasions similar to The Champagne Pol Roger Kick-Off celebration led by a sommelier from NYC’s well-known Per Se restaurant. He’s additionally a skilled opera skilled and carried out an aria as a part of the occasion.
We additionally teamed up with Goldbelly to host ‘The Fried Hen and Champagne Bash’ that includes La Caravelle Champagne and celeb chef Marcus Samuelsson’s well-known Streetbird fried rooster. Our e-commerce associate can ship to 40 states and Goldbelly ships to all 50 states, so all attendees right here received the prospect to satisfy this well-known chef and style his unbelievable meals.
Lastly, we wrapped the week’s festivities with ‘The Champagne Billecart-Salmon Masks-erade’ Ball, the place folks traded of their medically secure masks for Victorian period appears and we hosted a dressing up contest, gifting the winner a magnum of Champagne.
This 12 months you have created a hybrid mannequin. What are the challenges and advantages of this method? And is it right here to remain?
If it’s right here to remain, I’m going to want a clone. Initially, I felt like “I’ve received this!” as following final 12 months’s New York Champagne Week, I’ve coordinated and hosted at the very least 70 digital occasions. And, the occasion was in-person earlier than. Nevertheless it’s a very completely different mannequin as I’ve a nation-wide client base now. Thus, this 12 months, we’re providing seven digital occasions (in comparison with 10 final 12 months) to unfold the bubbly love throughout the nation and three ticketed in-person occasions plus a number of promotions. It’s primarily as if we’re producing two fully separate occasions in a single week. And, who actually is aware of what the buyer desires or what they could desire a month from now not to mention every week from now on this unsure local weather. Issues can change on a dime. Final 12 months there was one possibility: digital or bust.
You will have a contemporary tackle Champagne — no stuffy suited sommeliers in affected eye and neck put on. Your purpose is to make it enjoyable, inclusive, and reasonably priced (when attainable.) Has that method labored?
First off, I used to be raised in Hawaii and stay by the Aloha spirit which at its core means spreading pleasure, optimistic communication, giving greater than you obtain and being prepared to indicate others kindness via motion.
Once I first launched New York Champagne Week I used to be an ‘outsider’. In some ways, I nonetheless am. I really like Champagne. It’s extremely meals pleasant, decrease in alcohol and popping a bottle immediately lifts spirits. I at all times believed it needs to be marketed this fashion versus totally specializing in that Champagne is just for particular events. If we’ve realized something from this international pandemic — each day we’ve got on this earth needs to be celebrated and toasted to!
Moreover, it’s an reasonably priced luxurious. Most of the bottles we promote are reasonably priced between $40 – $100.
What are some occasions developing in November readers ought to look out for?
I’m happy to report that our digital occasion calendar is robust in ideas and alluring to all champagne lovers be they novice or specialists.
We’re bringing again our ultra-popular Champagne Laurent Perrier Ladies Night being hosted by the Maison’s US President, Michelle DeFeo.
We’re additionally again at it with Goldbelly on Friday evening for Grill & Chill: Date Night in with Gramercy Tavern and La Caravelle Champagne. Attendees will meet Chef Mike Anthony whereas indulging in a backstage move to the legendary NYC restaurant whereas noshing on their famed GT Burger and sipping all of the champagne. A portion of proceeds for this occasion profit God’s We Ship, a charitable service that cooks and home-delivers nutritious, medically tailor-made meals for folks too sick to buy or cook dinner for themselves.
Lastly, our official closing celebration this 12 months is Robes & Rosé offered by Charles Heidsieck, which might be a blast. Co-hosted by this 12 months’s Wine Fanatic 40-under-40 Tastemaker cowl star Philippe André and Champagne Charles Heidsieck Puerto Rico Ambassador Lola Morales-Aponte, this duo will little question deliver ALL the celebration vibes with their simple type and swagger.
Finest dressed wins a magnum of…you guessed it, Charles Heidsieck Brut Rosé.
Minimize off to order all digital occasion packages is Monday, October twenty fifth.
New York Champagne Week runs November 8-13, 2021