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Quit WINEing {the interview}

February 22, 2012 The Press 10 Comments

It takes a lot of energy and patience to find those special wines in a sea of mediocrity and the same can be said for the “wine blog.” If you are anything like me (which isn’t likely because you are reading this, and I don’t know how to read), you have little time to keep up with everything you would like to. When I can make time to catch up on some online reading, I spend my time with those who have fresh ideas, a fresh voice, or a fresh approach.

So I was thrilled the day I stumbled on Quit WINEing. Author Courtney Rich knows few boundaries in expressing her zeal for wine. Her style and attention to the visual details is unmatched, but she has more than creative zeal. A certified Sommelier, Courtney backs up her flare for the bizarre with classic wine knowledge. She isn’t just scooping something off a shelf and giving it a badge, or smiley face, or whatever, these are thoughtful (but fun) musings on wine from a serious wine advocate, with a not so serious self-image.

Courtney is a breath of fresh air in an online community so eager to be the “next big thing,” except, she actually might be.

Although our plans to meet in person have fallen through thus far, I was honored to have Courtney share why she does what she does via email.

ALP: So you say you had some kind of “teary-eyed revelation” with wine, what happened next? How did you go from that moment to what you do now?

CR: “I decided to enroll in classes.  I wanted to know more about how to taste and feel comfortable choosing wine when I was out and about.  I thought it would be a fun way to learn more about it.  When the teacher started talking about soil, I thought, ‘what have I gotten myself into?!’  I didn’t even know what a Sommelier was in those days; I just knew I liked wine.

When people in class would spout out a whole vocabulary of tasting terms, I would sink down in my seat. I barely knew the difference between Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc!  Many of the people in class were in the industry or were well traveled and knew much more about the subject than I did.  I was over-whelmed and intimidated all at the same time.  The only thing I knew was that I enjoyed it more than anything else I had ever come across in my life.  For a person like me who has jumped from one thing to another depending on how the wind blows, I knew wine was my calling when I couldn’t get enough of it.

After I passed the prerequisite classes, I decided to enroll in additional classes to become a certified Sommelier.”

ALP:  Why start Quit WINEing? It’s a pretty ambitious project, so what is your motivation behind it?

CR: “After I completed wine school I asked my teacher what my job options were with my certification.  She mentioned a list of options and the one that stuck out the most was starting a wine tasting company.  I thought it would be a lot of fun and asked another student in my class to go into business with me.  I was full of excitement and ideas and I put a lot of money into the venture.  Unfortunately, it never really took off.  I went through the loss of two partners and a host of legal issues before I finally broke down and called it quits.  It was a devastating blow. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore.  It was so bad I went to talk to someone about my problems…yes, a shrink!  I was at an all-time low.  I had spent all our money on this business and couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

It was during this time I had the idea for Quit WINEing.  I went to the shrink and discussed my fear about embarking on a new project.  I was scared I would fail again.  He asked if I would ‘enjoy doing it’ and I said ‘yes.’  He asked if I would ‘learn something by doing it’ and I again said ‘yes.’  And finally he said, ‘than what do you have to be scared of?’  He was right.

I let my creativity guide me right from the start.  I started thinking about pairing wine with desserts and came up with the Alice in Wonderland idea of using a cupcake and a wine bottle to say, “Eat Me” and “Drink Me”.  Then I started thinking about how I wasn’t eating just steak and fish with wine, I was enjoying my favorite foods of all time, like french fries and a host of other things people would never expect to pair with wine.  I wanted people to know that wine could be enjoyed with just about any food on the planet.  And more than anything I wanted to open them up to the idea of food and wine in a whole new light.

I knew from the beginning I wanted to use photography to illustrate the pairings and after talking with friends and family the whole thing started taking shape.”

ALP: In terms of presentation, I don’t think any other wine blog comes close to the visual amazingness that you consistently present. What gives? How do you pull this trickery off?

CR: “I work with an amazing photographer, Jared McMillen from Studio ATG. He and his wife are incredible photographers and have shot everyone from Mike Tyson to Danica Patrick.   After seeing some of their work they did for a friend, I held on to their contact info hoping I too would one day have a reason to call them.

The “Alice in Wonderland” or what I like to call “Courtney in WINEland” photo was the first shoot we did together.  I came to them with the idea and they loved it.  They built the set from scratch and have been able to make all my ideas a reality since day one.

In the beginning I didn’t want to be in the photos.  I thought we should just showcase the food and the wine.  But when I finally showed up in one, the feedback was undeniable.  I slowly started making appearances in photos.  I thought to myself, ‘aren’t people going to get tired of looking at me?!’  But I’ve learned that people like seeing what you’re going to do next and since I’ve also started opening up about my life, I think they like seeing more of this person they are getting to know….or so I hope.”

ALP: You seem to have a good balance between respect of wine while having fun with it. Why is wine important to you and why should it be to other people?

CR: “Grape growers and winemakers alike spend their lives perfecting their craft, all for our enjoyment.  I believe you truly have to love wine to make it, because at the end of the day you’re dealing with agriculture.  One bad Summer or Winter can ruin your entire crop.  How much or how little a winemaker does in the winery has a huge effect on the resulting wine.  I respect the hard work that goes into this labor of love.

Wine is my life.  Everything I do revolves around it.  It’s been there to comfort me when I’m down and to celebrate my successes.  I think wine should be important to others for two reasons.  First, because it is there to commemorate all the special moments in our lives.  From an intimate dinner amongst good friends to the birth of a child or celebration of a new home, wine begs to be invited to the party.   And second, because wine is unlike any other beverage in the world. The possibilities of what each bottle can present you when you stick your nose in that glass are endless.”

ALP: What’s in your glass on a weeknight at home?

CR: “It truly depends on the time of year and my mood.  One minute I’m craving Champagne and potato chips, the next Nero d’Avola and a meatball sub.  In Summer, I prefer wines that will help cool me down (especially living in Vegas) and in winter, I like big reds to accompany chili or heartier dishes.  This week alone I’ve had a Spumante with homemade cupcakes and trail mix, a Sangiovese rose with “Molten Hot Wings,” and Rioja with Ruffles and pizza.

At heart, I’m a bubbly girl.  If I were on a deserted island, I’d want French fries and Champagne.”

{Quit WINEing}

Currently there are "10 comments" on this Article:

  1. Quit WINEing says:

    You can imagine my amazement when my favorite wine writer who has interviewed some of the country’s most talented winemakers asked if he could interview little ol’ me. I thought, really? I’m just a girl who loves wine that dresses up in silly costumes and you’re an actual talented writer with klout! People are going to think you’ve lost your mind. This being the exact guy that has me captivated by his stories and lost in his words…has asked me to grace the same blog that has featured the likes of Justin Smith and Matt Trevisan. But it was true. Your kind words make me feel like Wonder Woman…like I’m capable of anything and even though I know I’m just another person who loves wine, another wine blogger if you will, I’m grateful to see myself through your eyes…if even just for a moment.

    Thank you for your time, thank you for your support, but more importantly, thank you for your friendship. I truly value it!



  2. Wayne says:

    Well Courtney, all of that money you sent me had something to do with it! I jest!

    The truth is, too many aspiring wine writers or wine personalities are trying to do the same thing. Winemakers look at themselves as people first, not a group of statistics and scores. It’s all rather insulting the way we treat them. I know from first hand experience, they love people who are genuine and the reward that by opening up. You Courtney are genuine in what you do. I see no reason why you shouldn’t be the next big thing!

    Thanks for your support as well, it means a lot!


  3. 1winedude says:

    Thoroughly awesome!

  4. Wayne says:

    Thanks Joe. I know you have been a big support to Courtney recently. She really looks up to you and for good reason!

  5. Quit WINEing says:

    Joe, I agree! As you can see, I paid him well;)

    Both of you mean the world to me!


  6. Teak says:

    Great article…great pics, what more can you ask for! When does the book come out?!?!?

  7. Wayne says:

    Ha! Working on that idea!

  8. Van says:

    Awesome interview and amazing photographs!

  9. Beau says:

    Just saw this..what the hell! Great interview, great subject. I love seeing people follow their passion 🙂

  10. Wayne says:

    Thanks Beau! Courtney is the best!

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