This page is dedicated to all those random thoughts, flowing through my brain, which becomes trapped in the barrel of my mind. Just waiting for the right day or time to be uncorked upon an unsuspecting wine-world. It's highly recommended that there are hours of decanting these thoughts first, before imbibing [you've been warned].
Should wine blogs change their names? Is getting respect, to attend events as the "press" difficult or hard to obtain? Do wineries respect wine blogs? Does social media engagement matter? Is the term "blog" a dirty word?
I don't find any difficulty getting media passes to anything I want to attend. But I do find it difficult though, picking and choosing [not bragging, just stating the facts] which one to attend, seeing there are so many opportunities for the eager wine blogger to choose. I don’t see wineries undervaluing wine blogs in any way and I’m frankly surprised this question is even being posed in the first place.
Two, the "mommy" [apologies in advance, no offense intended by the use of that name] bloggers have no problem with the name 'blog" and or the term blogger, they know who they're and what they collectively bring to the table [so do advertisers]. Wine Bloggers need to think of themselves in this capacity [I know I do] take what you do as a hobby serious and provide good, consistent content and the invitations will come. Or as it has been said, over and over, if you build it they will come.
My business card says wine writer, but as we all know technically, it’s a blog. Hell, I publish on blogger, how it could be anything but a blog. Even if you don’t use the blogger platform, and instead WordPress or something else is used, it’s still a blog.
Many businesses [wineries] have their own blogs and there are some damn fine examples out there, and they take many forms. In my opinion, it’s not a problem with the term; it may be more of a problem with a few bad apples who seem to spoil the whole bunch. But as we all know, the exception does not make the rule; I think the wine blogging community will be better served by focusing on those doing it right. A blog is not a dirty word, it’s a vehicle for brand building and a great tool to help spread a company’s message, vision etc. far and wide.
Taking the conversation in a different direction and refocusing it. We have all heard the notion,” that all press is good press” It’s not based on the content or subject matter, just the fact your brand was mentioned and this where I find the biggest disconnect, when wineries receive a review or article and won’t bother to respond to it or promote it on their own social media channels or even take the time to engage the author.
Some wineries have social media channels set-up, but they don’t allocate very much time for monitoring and/or engagement and that is a big problem. I wrote an article [lengthy and detailed] about an up and coming local winery, purchasing grapes from SBC and making some fantastic juice and the reaction was ‘crickets’ at best, sad to say. If a winery has gone to the trouble of setting up the “usual suspects” [social media channels] then they should follow through with the next step, engagement.
Objective Wine Writing?
While being a writer, of one sort or the other is either a hobby or if you're quite good and lucky you're hired to take up the pen to share your views. I think writers [bloggers] can sometimes lose sight of the idea about the reason they started writing in the first place.
"The only difference between reality and fiction is that fiction needs to be credible.” ~Mark Twain
I believe writers owe it to their readers to be objective, honest and forthright as they possibly can be. Of course, that is often a thin line to walk, so falling off the path for one reason or another happens to us all, and often it goes unnoticed.
“There is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.” H S Thompson
Regarding the subject of being an objective writer, HS Thompson nails it in this short quote above. But I think there's a bit of wiggle room here and there in that regard. If we are honest, there are times when we can get too close to the subject, so much so that we can lose perspective.
Thus I ask the question, who of us, signed up to solely be a copywriter or a trumpeter for a PR hack? I know I didn't and I don't believe anyone else ever intended to go down that road either, but it does happen, even to the best of us.
As for myself the world of wine; is what I'm the most passionate about and it's my hope that you see that passion come through in my writing style. I had my own wine epiphany more than a few years back and became involved in the whole wine experience [as some call it] and have never looked back.
Honestly, though, I was describing myself, I'm a storyteller first and a writer second if at all. I'm on a journey of discovery [never settling for monotony] and I look forward to seeing where that takes me.
My one man mission; is to provide my readers with current, objective [oh there's that word again] easily readable content and hopefully even entertainment about the wonderful world of wine, associated travel and food and wine pairing adventures. When I use the 'O' word, it means that I don't like or am I impressed with every wine that comes down the path; regardless of the relationship I may or may not have with the sender of the sample.
Critical disengagement flattens the landscape; critical double-standards blanket it with fog. Andrew Jefford
If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time you know, I don't spend all my time analyzing just one region, my focus is worldwide. So I'm continually spanning the globe, looking for and eventually landing on "the intersection of where great wines meet reasonable prices" [worth the price of admission]. I invite readers to not merely pop a few corks but to look behind the label, to take a peek behind the purple stained curtain, if you will.
I hope my writing here stands as a bit of encouragement, a sign post if you will to visit the places where wine is made, to get out of their comfort zones and really get to know the folks who have not only made wine their business, but also a lifelong passion. In regards to my review style; I say let the wine[s] speak for itself, allowing the chips to fall where they may. That said, what you will never find on this blog the kind of writing which I define as "wine cheerleading".
"Compromises are for relationships, not wine." --- Sir Robert Scott Caywood
What is that you may ask, I define it this way "insipid fawning praise" it's something I've seen more than a few other writers participating in and many do so just to secure samples, special favors, gain advertisers or just to be "liked" [sic].
That said, my apologies in advance, but if that's the kind of blog you're looking for, then you've come to the wrong place. There will be NO surrendering objectivity for increased traffic, advertising and/or visibility, not now or ever [insert massive exclamation point here]. Am I saying, that I'm the paragon of wine-writing virtue? Ha, right far from it, I simply have my standards and I don't allow them to be traded for favors of any kind.
Flattery, by contrast, gets us all nowhere; it’s meaningless for the flattered and demeans the flatterers. If you have a mind, you should speak it." - Andrew Jefford
It's so funny how many times I have been approached to do just that though I won't name, names. When I frankly explain my policy; they will take their ball and go home. You may be surprised to know, I never hear back from them again either, so much for objectivity.
I'm not a trained journalist [I know that's obvious] nor do I play one on TV, but I do enjoy writing. As I've been busy swirling, sniffing and of course slurping all in name of research [wink-wink] for this blog, I think my writing has hopefully improved. I like to think I'm constantly striving to make what I write here more concise, succinct, and have finally got the clue, that brevity truly is the soul of wit.
Here's another wild-eyed story from Mother Jones, this time they take aim at wine with an "alarming" headline [live link to the original article above] about a number of pesticides found in French Wines. But what the headline fails to tell you and where the whole article misses the point are something rational folks clearly can understand, and that is called facts.
Three keywords easily overlooked "contained trace amounts". In analytical terms, a trace amount is an amount which is detectable but not able to be quantified or in other words; barely discernible and most unlikely to cause much harm at all.
All of which leaves me with one last thought for the author of this article. So sorry that the facts don’t support your narrative sunshine, but thanks for playing, next contestant, please!
This is an apples/orange comparison Sherlock and if you want me or anyone else to think that every one of those eight hundred thousand folks who you cite in the statistic above has the same 'chops' as Parker or any other wine review for that matter, I'll just have to laugh.
It's time once more boys and girls to trudge out the weathered and beaten straw-man from the closet. Ugh, just what we needed another "wine-scores" are dead article [link to the original article above]. It must be a slow day at the office, huh? I hear this kind of thing all the time, but I don't see any evidence to support the straw-man conclusion.
I work in a wine store, one where we don't have scores posted at all. But we do keep a list of those evil scores for the folks who ask for them and to be quite honest, there are many who still do.
In fact, we don't have any shelf talkers of any kind. But folks [valued customers] still ask for my opinion and value my insights, as someone who has tasted a good many of the wines in the store.
Second, uh if you've [the writer] been to any Costco wine department recently, you would see with your very own eyes that SCORES are still in wide use and in fact, they have just added the voice of another, Stephen Tanzer. And citing boutique wines stores as evidence, really? C'mon man, please get real!
Third, you use this point to support your conclusion. You breathlessly write in the article, "And then there are social media. Facebook has eclipsed 1 billion active users; Twitter has half as many. Earlier this year, Instagram announced that it has over 100 million users." Uh okay, so really how many of those folks actually review wine?
Fourth, the article stated:"Today, about 800,000 people visit the site each month, and more than 2,200 wines are reviewed on the site each day. This means CellarTracker users review more wines in just six days than Robert Parker reviews in an entire year."
Bottom line: is the face of wine criticism changing? Possibly, but most certainly it's only doing so at glacial speeds. Perhaps a better argument to make would have been the 'evolution of wine-scores', but you're the professional writer I'll leave that to you. Okay, folks, I feel another rant coming on, and for that, you have my apologies in advance. But I think letting it out here is a bit cathartic for me, and so much better than unleashing it upon an unsuspecting twitter and or FB world.
So here is the issue I ran across while just breezing through my generic twitter stream; a woman representing a PR agency asking someone in the "know" if he has any "recommendations" about wineries, etc. See the tweet below.
"I have a writer in Napa right now. Any recco's for wineries or dining? Looking for a few stories"
Don't you think that this so-called writer should already have an idea of where they[d like to go for a story? I know a half dozen folks who WRITE a wine blog, who don't need any [so-called] inspiration for a story. They already know, the scoop, and know the direction of where they could take a "few stories".
But oh no, they couldn't possibly hire a blogger. Far too many, so-called publications have a virtual army of wine neophytes writing for them. Why? Oh because they went to "right" school or they are a friend of a friend, with similar political leanings [blech].
I have a solution for the young lady posing the question above. How about offering the opportunity to wine-blogger [god-forbid]? One who is already familiar with the wine-scene at large, and get a much better, more accurate story with real depth and substance. [The response, oh no thanks we like fluff, something that only poses as content].
Many, far too many online publications have herds of unqualified so-called "writers" offering up what amounts to nothing more than mere pap. They're often attached to a sensationalized headline and legions of kool-aide drinkers tweet and RT it like the story actually had some substance and keen insights.
This is the kind of stuff which makes my head hurt. I've seen it over and over again. The tweet above is just the tip of the iceberg and, sadly I see more of the bilge-water is in the proverbial pipeline.
I guess I'm just out-of-step with what passes as substance today. Which is why I write as a hobby and the reason the writing on blogs, in general, is not taken seriously. Why should anyone have to know about the topic, they're writing about? Now, where is that story some fill-in-the-blank celebrity drinking champagne, while wearing fuzzy pink bunny-slippers?
"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance...it is the illusion of knowledge" ~Stephen Hawkins
It's time for another installment of "fermented-thoughts", the part of my blog I reserve for little "rants" about this or that. Now some folks have gotten the mistaken notion that I ONLY review wines which are considered cheap or inexpensive. But that is no surprise; we live in an era where symbolism vastly outweighs substance.
So if that is you, stop and take moment please, perhaps you've just looked at my tagline which states the following; "The intersection of where great wine meets reasonable prices" and as we all know, one man's reasonable is another man's ridiculous.
Does not mean I've never tasted wines which cost more than $100? Uh, no I've tasted plenty over that price point. It does, however, mean I don't review those wines, because for me honestly, what is the point? And secondly, just because you can pay more, it does not mean you will get more. I'm not a unicorn wine hunter, the point of this blog is NOT braggadocio.
I can say that easily and as a matter of fact because I have tasted more than my share of the high caliber wines and frankly they don't impress me enough to pay any more than a Benjamin per bottle. But if someone felt they would like to prove me wrong, by sending me Über expensive bottles of wine, please feel free, they won't be turned away, but I won't be holding my breath either.
"Is it all your head? Does all wine taste the same?"
In today's story, I came across an article from Katie Kelly Bell who earlier in the summer posted and attempted to answer the question, "Is There Really A Taste Difference Between Cheap and Expensive Wines?" [You can see the entire article here].
The basic premise of her article, where she takes great lengths to hammer home the point; is that the difference between expensive wine and a cheap wine is all in your head. In other words, all of us "cretins" [implied] are just "putting on airs". She would have you believe, that there's absolutely no difference between a bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild Grand Cru and a simple bottle of Bordeaux Superior, that the whole thing just boils down to perception [I'm calling BS on this one].
She goes on to say and I quote "Much of what we taste is just in our heads and not in the wine." I must take exception with this so-called line of thought, her premise is chock-full of faulty reasoning.
Yes, oh my it's all in your head! She would have you believe that a 1979 Ford Pinto, which is being held together with duck tape and rubber bands is the same thing as driving a Mercedes AMG C-Coupé. If for example you blindfolded me and put me in the seat of Mercedes Benz, turned over the engine and then had me seated back in the 1979 Ford Pinto and likewise turned over the engine, she would have you think there would be no perceived difference.
You know the answer to the question and you also know if you're honest with yourselves there is a far cry of difference between mass produced jug-wine and a single vineyard, small production wine from a First Growth Chateau in Bordeaux. To have her say, that the only perceived difference is just in our heads, is an insult to reasonable minded vino-sapiens, as it's completely absurd. I'm not buying any of the supposed anecdotal evidence which she attempts to bring to the table in support her ideas either.
I've been to many tastings where even knowing the price [which were more than $100 a bottle] on some wines or having heard of the producer's reputation, I still didn't appreciate the approach or the style of the wine represented and I wouldn't be recommending them. I can't even tell you how many times I've been to high-end producers and I was not thrilled, I was not impressed and I left wondering; "geez, what is all the fuss about?"
So when I read articles like this, which are trotted out each year, to pooh–pooh the idea that some wines are superior over others, I get more than a little irritated. Too me this is just lazy journalism, here they are, bringing out the straw-man, they set him up and then knock him over with great fanfare. They're basically saying, "oh look over here at this shiny object" the quality of one wine over another is all in your head and our anecdotal evidence proves it.
What I'm not saying is this; if you want to drink inferior muddled wines, which taste like they were filtered through some old coffee grounds, please stop because it's plonk and your choice god-awful. Instead what I'm saying is this; you have the right to your own choice, don't let me or anyone else tell you otherwise. Please drink that or any other style of wine you like to your heart's content, god love ya. Just don't try to tell me that choice is the same as mine, because it is emphatically not, nor will it ever be.
While you may love the 1979 Ford Pinto in this example and it's a car that you'd be proud to have in your driveway, please don't attempt to rationalize it to the point where you believe it's every bit as good as a car as the Mercedes AMG C-Coupé sitting in my driveway [I wish], because it's not, no matter how you slice it! Sometimes you just have to deal with facts and give your emotions a break, not every wine produced under the sun is just as good or the same as one sitting inside that box occupying a space on the bottom shelf of your local drugstore. Nice try, but no contest!
"Are Wine-Blogs Dead?"
I know, I know if you believe some folks the "sample" well had dried up and has gone away. While still others say hey "wine blogs are DOA", but are they really?. Funny, I didn't get the memo, my traffic is way up, I'm picking and choosing samples and my opportunities for the portfolio tasting circuit are better than ever.
I don't mention any of this for my own vanity, simply as public service announcement of sorts for the self-appointed leaders of wine-blogger-dom. Who are running around grumbling, and making dire hand-wringing pronouncements about the current status of wine-blogging, to them I say please stop talking.
Perhaps some of these folks are just tired of maintaining an active blog, tired of writing notes, tired of the whole concept, I mean after-all it's a bit of work to stay current, relevant and producing new weekly content. It can be a downright chore to folks who may have lost their passion for this platform [Twitter is far simpler]. For most bloggers, this medium of expression is not a paying gig. For far too many wanna-be bloggers, once the shine has worn off the fancy, glitzy website, reality settles in and the content monster comes a-calling [ouch] so it's time to put on those big boy pants, it's go-time.
For me, this is just a fun hobby, one which I really enjoy. I have the privilege of tasting far more wines than I ever imagined I would have. I've been lucky enough to mingle with great producers and winemakers who I admire greatly from many corners of the world. I’ve even been taken on more than a few wine-finding pilgrimages. A fact for which I'm extremely grateful. My blog has just turned four years old; to be honest, folks I'm really just getting started. My brand is growing and many folks [I think I have like ten readers] are starting to see the value of what I do here as a hobby.
I don't write about the industry [I'm not an insider] nor do I write for other, self-inflated, virtue signaling wine bloggers, just so I can be seen as one of the cool kids. I write as a consumer advocate without the 'hoity-toity' arrogance I see on a few blogs. It's that same attitude which I often see in the glossy publications and on their corporate blogs, where pontificating has become an art-form.
Honestly, if these so-called prophets would spend more time writing about wine and less time belly-aching about this or that, they may actually see more samples, get more traffic and have far less to wine about. So I'd say blogs are far from dead; think of it as mere thinning of the herd of the noisy gongs and clanging symbols going by the wayside, it's just the natural order of the universe [some people call that evolution].
I say this because like each and every vino-sapien out there, I too love to find great wines at reasonable prices. I like sharing a bottle of vino with Mrs. Cuvee, in the evening after work, a bottle that I don't have to think about whether I’ll bust my wine budget for the month. Those are the types of wine you'll find reviewed on this site.
Well, that's all I've got to say on the subject for now. See I didn't have to cuss once to make my point. But believe me, I'm no "saint" [hey quit shaking your head in the affirmative].
That said for the most part, this is a family show and I save the profanity for the right situation and the proper context. Until next time folks, remember it’s just wine, it’s nothing to wine about, but in the proper context it will enhance the "experiences" in this life, so sit back, relax and always remember to sip long and prosper cheers!
When it comes to new-world Chardonnay: I want to speak with those folks in the audience who may find themselves in a Chardonnay Conundrum. More precisely I should say to anyone who subscribes to the notion that New World Chardonnay is nothing more than over-oaked plonk. While it may be true that the popular style leans toward high ripeness, loads of new-oak and over-the-top barrel fermentation. On the other hand, you can't throw the baby out with the bathwater and paint all new world Chardonnay producers with one broad brush.
For many, this market dominant style of Chardonnay has become nothing more than a garden-variety lounge drink and there is a grain of truth to that premise. However, I don't think labeling every American Chardonnay as inherently flawed is a fair evaluation of all Chardonnay made here in the states, specifically California.
I think far too many vino-sapiens who think of themselves as having an "educated" [if you can hear the word snob here, then you're listening] palate will tell you that no-oak and very little malolactic, is ONLY the way to go. They are members of what I now call the anti-flavor league.
I know just writing about this subject will not win me any fans, but I don't care. I think it needs to be said; which is why I'm attempting to hammer home the point home. What is that point? That not all American made Chardonnay is made in the Chateau Two by Four styles, nor will you feel like you're drinking a pool of warm butter from the movie theater waiting to be drizzled over stale popcorn either.
In fact, for many wine-snobs [they know who they’re] it's trendy and rather fashionable to "dislike" new world Chardonnay and dismiss it out of hand. If you happen to find yourself speaking with someone with this mindset, during a conversation about vino, that you happen to like or adore a certain California Chardonnay, you may get the old “eye-roll” of disdain. While they may not say it to your face, but honestly they're thinking, "oh-my what a pedestrian palate you have" or even worse they may be thinking you have just arrived from the school of the uninitiated, affectionately known as the wine short-bus. These are the folks who long for wines which rarely go through secondary malolactic fermentation or that are rarely exposed to any oak.
On the other hand, if you want to be one of the cool kids hanging around the wine-cooler; then just tell everyone that you love tepid "un-oaked" mineral driven styles of Chardonnay. Perhaps you could explain that you are a fan of some little village in Chablis; where they produce picture-perfect Chardonnay, which tastes like wet river stones, recently impacted by a near ripe granny smith apple. Tip number two; if you make it a point to gush about this style of Chardonnay, well then my friend you're in like flint [with a wink and a nod]. Maybe you'll even be given a gold star, one you can tattoo to your forehead; especially if you happen to prattle on endlessly about the virtues of the formerly groovy Grüner Veltliner as well.
It’s precisely these attitudes about New World Chardonnay, which I've alluded to above that can be found on many other wine review [not this one] websites or places where oenophiles [
] about the purity of Chablis or un-oaked Chardonnay and other styles of wine that have never seen evil oak.
Though I appreciate [assume] these are not their exact words, still, it's that premise on which they operate under which has caused me to pen this article. I question this supposed "universal truth" that the New Generation of American Chardonnay should only begin and end without the presence of any oak influence or secondary malolactic fermentation.
Honestly, there is nothing wrong with Chablis and other styles of wine, which seek to emulate it. For me sometimes depending on what I may be eating; I will prefer that style of Chardonnay myself, but on the other hand, you won't find me running around bashing Chablis as being vulgar or assigning other harsh 'language' to folks who enjoy it. Despite the fact, this style of wine tends to be generally austere, boasting a high acid profile, especially highlighted when it's consumed on its own without the right food pairing.
This type of Chardonnay is NOT going to be your cocktail style of wine, nor one you’ll want to open unwind at the end of hard day, when you just want to sit-back, relax and sip some wine, while forgetting about the world for a moment. So, if you were looking to fill that empty glass covered container, which says "break in the case of an emergency” feel free to grab a glass of Chardonnay that may have touched an oak barrel or two, it won’t bite. Until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!
Just say "No" to Wine Cheerleaders
If you've been reading this blog for even a very short time, then you'll understand I am the antithesis of the corporate shill, because I just plop out the truth and let the chips fall where they may. I don't gush, fawn or jump for joy over every wine and or every winemaker that comes along my path. No sir-ee bob, I want the wine to make me say, "WOW"!
I review a lot of wines, received as samples on a regular basis. But I don't publish, a review of every wine that comes across my desk as a sample [because simply they don't all merit a review]. I also review wines that I purchase for myself, but again not every wine is reviewed. The majority of wines which I review are typically the same wines that the garden variety vino-sapien will uncork and slurp down in their own homes. I don’t often review what some call trophy-wines. These are typically wines, which sit in restaurant cellars or other fat-cats with disposable incomes the size of a small country, who really never plan to drink that wine in the first place. Oh no, that's not what you'll find here.
That said, as you may know, if I don't particularly "get" the style of a particular wine, then I won't bang on the keyboard here and throw the wine under the bus either. I let you do the math, if the score I give is low and I say this wine is not my style, it’s most likely a wine to stay away from. If however you want the kind of wine-blog which trashes the wines I don't like; by video-taping myself pouring it in the toilet or down the sink, well off with you then because there are plenty of those “types” out there in the blogosphere and as the Stones sing, “you won't get no satisfaction" from this blog.
On the other hand, if you want to get the “skinny” on how to get your hands on some mind altering juice that won't break the bank then stay tuned. Because I've come across more winetastic [yes, a made up word] deals that will wow your palate and still allow you buy a loaf or bread or two. But again you won't see me donning a small skirt or waving pom-poms about to cheer-lead for wines that are plonk, just to fill my pages with content. I also won’t put up pictures, as a wordless Wednesday post, just to have the appearance of staying active. When I have something to say, you’re going to get serious well thought out content, worth a two-minute read.
Does this seem like a contradiction, perhaps it's and I freely admit that, because yes I only point out the wines I like and the wines I don't like just don't get published; a fact for which I am marginalized by my peers. Sometimes I do write about the wine that I kind-of like, but I'm not overly impressed with, of course, these wines don't get a good score [I know those dreaded scores] but they have achieved a score high enough for me to write about them. I like to think that when I've come across a great [meaning with mass appeal] bottle of wine, it's something I immediately recognize and want to tell the whole world about it. It’s the reason why I write this blog in first place.
I hope this bit of transparency has given you some perspective on where I'm coming from and where you can expect this blog to go in the future. So there you have it, in a nut-shell the method to my wine reviewing madness [absent the pom-poms]. Continue to sip long and prosper cheers!