As 2020 comes to a close, I hear a lot of chatter about virtual meeting fatigue; “I’m Zoomed out”. We’ve all attended virtual versions of conferences this year with various degrees of success. Overall, I have to say these events are getting better. Semiconductor and EDA folks have a way of adapting and inventing, and it’s showing up in virtual events as well. The virtual party is another expression of the medium. Delivering a fun experience through the internet isn’t easy. I’m here to tell you that Analog Bits recently did exactly that. Their virtual holiday event was memorable, fun and educational. That’s quite a package to deliver. Read on to find out how Analog Bits is taking the virtual holiday party up a notch or two.
First, a bit of background is in order about the person who “produced” the event, Mahesh Tirupattur, Executive Vice President at Analog Bits. In spite of the all-consuming commitment and geekiness most of the folks in semi and EDA exhibit, many have another side. Another personality that shows up when they come home from work or walk from the computer desk to the TV couch these days. Mahesh is one of those folks. Most of us have witnessed Mahesh geek out on all kinds of analog and mixed signal design challenges. I’m here to tell you Mahesh is also a well-educated, accomplished and certified sommelier.
Some of us have seen glimpses of “the other Mahesh” from time to time. Often, he’ll show up around the holidays with a bottle of Analog Bits-branded wine as a thank you to his customers and partners. The way this wine is created is actually quite a story in itself. The whole team at Analog Bits is involved in the process, but that’s a story for another day. In case you might have one of those bottles on your shelf, I just want to point out that Mahesh is well connected in Napa Valley. That’s a good bottle of wine you’re aging. Those of us who find ourselves tearing down booths after a trade show closes also know that the Analog Bits booth will always be pouring the best wine.
Back to the virtual holiday party. Now that you know the credentials Mahesh carries, it’s no surprise the Analog Bits virtual holiday party was about wine. But that’s just the beginning. Mahesh and Analog Bits teamed up with San Francisco Wine School to produce an event that was fun and educational. Billed as a “Cloud Wine Event”, Master Sommelier David Glancy promised a guided tasting of Napa Valley wines. I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the party. After registering, I received a package in the mail a few days before the event containing four tasting-size bottles of wine labelled Wine 1 to Wine 4. There was also an envelope that was labelled “open after the event”. Clearly that was the decoder ring for Wines 1-4. I resisted the temptation to open it. There was also a very cool wine-themed face mask in the package designed by Mahesh. It was much appreciated.
On event day, I dutifully brought the four bottles from refrigerator to cellar temperature, poured them in four identical glasses and joined the Zoom meeting at the designated time. The event was kicked off by Alan Rogers, President and CTO at Analog Bits, followed by Mahesh. I have this mental image of folks with the title “Master Sommelier” being stuffy and full of themselves. That is NOT who David Glancy is. He was energetic, entertaining and most of all, didn’t take himself too seriously in spite of his significant credential. If you’re wondering what a Master Sommelier is, you can find out more here. There are only 269 such people on the planet. It turns out David is good friends with Mahesh and they’ve travelled the world discovering and rating wines together. That didn’t surprise me.
The blind tasting that followed was all about altitude. All four wines were from different parts of Napa Valley and the vineyards they came from were at distinctly different elevations. You may have heard the term “terroir”, which refers to the environmental conditions that grapes experience as they grow and mature. Soil is a big contributor to terroir. It turns out altitude is as well. David armed us with some key facts:
- For every 1,000 feet of rise in elevation, there is a 3 to 5.4-degree F drop in temperature
- Lower temps yield higher malic acid, which makes the wine crisper and more tart
- For every 1,000 feet of rise in elevation, there is a 5% increase in UV strength
- Higher UV makes the grape skins thicker, resulting in darker color and more tannins
- Higher elevations are above the fog that collects on the valley floor each morning
- This means more sun and higher temps for more concentrated flavor profiles
So, armed with our newly found skills we set about ordering the four wines from the lowest to the highest elevation. David treated us to many more interesting and fun facts about the Napa Valley, a small but very potent force in world-class wine production. At the end of the day, a very small number of us got it right, but we all had lots of fun trying. The wines were all excellent. They are from Napa Valley after all. Mahesh’s closing remarks included an important observation, “wine is analog”.
There was also an after-party where everyone got to turn on their cameras and mics and talk over each other. It was all great fun and quite memorable. This event is at the top of my list for 2020. Since there’s wine involved, no one should be surprised. I can’t help but wonder, as Analog Bits is taking the virtual holiday party up a notch or two, if this event is destined to become a virtual version of the famous Denali party. No pressure Mahesh.