Hardy Wallace — a Midtown Atlanta resident who writes the excellent, nationally recognized blog Dirty South Wine — has been named one of 10 finalists among 2,000 applicants for a dream job in California wine country.
Murphy-Goode Winery in Sonoma announced in April it was looking for a “Wine Country Lifestyle Correspondent” to spend six months at the winery and relate the experience through social media — Twitter, Facebook, blogs and online videos.
The remuneration? A cool $10,000 a month plus free housing in a Victorian mansion just off the main square in Healdsburg, the charming town in the heart of Sonoma County’s most important wine-growing region. The winery dubbed this opportunity “A Really Goode Job.”
Much like the Queensland, Australia, tourism board’s “dream job” search for a caretaker for an island in the Great Barrier Reef, the search itself served as a massive promotion. When Murphy-Goode claimed it would give a 24-hour head start to any contenders willing to queue up at an address in San Francisco, Wallace cashed in miles for an immediate flight and was first in line.
The timing couldn’t been better for Wallace, who was laid off from a lucrative job in sales and marketing for Kodak in January. “I was bound and determined that I wouldn’t go back into tech. I wanted to find something in wine and social media, so this was the job I was waiting for,” he says.
He was among 300 hopefuls who lined up in San Francisco, and then among the more than 2,000 who filled out an application and submitted a short video. (His featured an oversized wine goblet that would give Georg Riedel the vapors, a horned helmet and much “Hagar the Horrible” imagery.) Murphy-Goode featured 900-some videos on its website and asked viewers to vote for their favorites.
Wallace not only worked all his contacts relentlessly, asking them to cast votes for his video, he sought endorsements from wine bloggers and retail outlets with strong internet presences. He also started a Facebook fan page and a Twitter feed (distinct from Dirty South Wine) to bring eyeballs to his application. He also inaugurated a second blog, Goode to Be First, to promote his efforts.
In Atlanta, Wallace is a well known figure at the nexus of gastronomy and social media and is close to many of the other local Tweeterati, including the photographer Broderick Smylie and the publicist Melissa Libby.
“I went forward with a strategy that I was capable of doing the job,” he says. Wallace estimates that his quest has, though all its venues, a monthly unique viewership of 2.5 million.
Murphy-Goode announced the 50 semifinalists in late June, and while it wasn’t a surprise that Wallace was among them, it was a huge surprise to many that top vote getter Martin Sargent, an internet celebrity, didn’t make the cut. This oversight/PR nightmare was big enough news in the wine world that the San Francisco Chronicle’s wine editor, Jon Bonné, ran a lengthy feature on it.
Last Tuesday, Murphy-Goode informed Wallace that he had made the penultimate cut, and would be one of 10 finalists — a sundry group that includes food bloggers, a former host of a cable television show, a former Microsoft employee and a recent college grad. On Friday, he will fly out to the winery and meet the other finalists for four days of interviews, team exercises and education.
“We’ll be doing things like breaking into two groups and cooking for each other. I feel like I’m getting ready for ‘The Real World’ or ‘Survivor,’” Wallace laughs.
It won’t all be games. “We’re supposed to be capturing it as we go along through blogs, Tweets and whatever else,” Wallace says. The winery will monitor the impact and quality of their efforts.
Win or lose, Wallace feels he has found a new career path. “I love the idea of talking to wineries and wine businesses about social media,” he says. “I want to figure out a way to do this for some of the small labels I really love, too. Right now, I’m so happy.”