Thursday, August 28, 2008


I wanted to come up with something profound and celebratory for the 100th post on this site, but I still feel like an infant in the blogosphere so I will wait to start throwing confetti on myself. Instead, I would like to take some time to address a sentiment conveyed by Thomas Matthews, the editor-in-chief over at Wine Speculator. It seems that after the recent firestorm set off by the “sting” pulled off on Spectator concerning their Restaurant Awards really got to Mr. Matthews. In response to the overwhelming siege of negativity within the online community, Mr. Matthews retorted by saying that wine bloggers were “lazy,” insinuating that any hackneyed yahoo with a laptop can pop off half-cocked about wine or anything else for that matter, portraying wine bloggers as being too reactionary and not investigative enough to make any contributions to the conversation.

How very elitist of you Mr. Matthews? My thoughts are that 1) I have never really considered wine bloggers “journalists” anyway. The online community is really all about being connected to something tangible in this global rat race, where everyone seems to have to be somewhere all the time, and they don’t have the time to talk to each other – gotta get to work, get the kids to school, soccer practice, dance recitals, PTA, church groups, etc., etc. Blogging is a way to carry on conversations about mutually enjoyed subject matter, like wine. It’s not all Woodward and Burnstein, it’s more like hanging out at the general store, drinking coffee and swapping stories. 2) Shouldn’t we as an industry be bringing more people into the party instead of keeping it for ourselves? What is going to happen when the older readers of Spectator (those 50+ folks) start dying off in a decade or so? What then? What about the younger generation of wine drinkers out there? What about them? They have a different approach to everything, why not wine? Look at Gary Vaynerchuk, Jaime Goode, Eric Asimov (of the New York Times), Tom Wark (of Fermentation) and Alder Yarrow (of Vinography) – these guys and so many others, have taken wine to a whole new generation of wine drinkers. Sommeliers like Andrea Immer, Richard Betts and Rajat Parr have brought excitement to restaurant wine lists. I feel like the torch is being passed without these guys at Wine Spectator being aware of it. Why in the heck are they themselves blogging if they have such a low opinion of it? Granted, there are a lot of folks blogging that don’t necessarily have anything new to say, but hey, what harm are they doing voicing their opinions? 3) Lazy??!! Are you kidding? I’d like the S.O.B.s at Spectator to try and do my job for just ONE DAY. I move enough wine around in a day to fill a semi-truck trailer, and I do it every day, on top of calculating costs for various deals, scouring distributor books for clearance items, updating my web site, handling customer correspondence and special orders, managing and training a wine staff (only ten folks), generating a weekly newsletter, coordinating wine tastings at both stores, dealing with sales reps, updating pricing in our POS system, etc., etc. And what I do is no different than any other buyer in my position whether it’s wine, shoes or auto parts.

Which brings me to 4) Why couldn’t Spectator have just said that they dropped the ball, and should have been more thorough in their selection process? What is so wrong with owning up to your mistakes? Hell, if I screw up, I stand up and say, “Hey! I screwed up. Sorry.” Is that so hard? Apparently so. But when I screw up, it doesn’t cost my customers over a million dollars. I assume that Spectator feels that they do not have to defend their credibility – they obviously believe that they are above the general populous of the wine community – you and I – but I get the impression from the blog-o-verse that a lot of damage to their credibility has been done. Possibly irreparable. Time will tell on that front. The thing I do know is Mr. Matthews and Co. took a body blow to the ego, and I am sure that it still stings a bit.

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