Recently Steve Heimoff wrote a piece on his blog called, “Wine Blogs: An Endangered Species?” In his critique of wine blogs, good and bad, he encouraged supporting fellow wine bloggers through interlinking, or citing other bloggers work. In fact, he cited his own need to reach out in this way for the benefit of the community as a whole. If the wine blogging culture is to thrive, there should be more support amongst the individual bloggers. Steve is passionate about wine writing and wants to leave it in good hands, whenever he moves on down the road. “I want to hand it off, to whoever it may be, to people who believe in wine passionately, sincerely, with every ounce of their being. To people who are willing to live wine 24/7 — not just blog about the free sample somebody sent them yesterday,” he said.
When I started A Long Pour, the goal was not to promote my own ego or opinions, which I have too much of both. I remain a young wine drinker, new in my experience. Frankly, I don’t care to be a critic. I want to have fun learning about wine and promoting the people who live it everyday. I want to build a community, a place for winemakers and enthusiasts alike to learn about their colleagues and the people who craft the wines we love. I also want to provide an outlet for other talent, photographers, graphic artists, and bloggers.
It is in this interest that today, I start a small side series on A Long Pour. Over the next few weeks I will be profiling a few blogggers I like. Some write about wine of course, but I will also include others from topics I enjoy, like beer and food. The format will be similar to the interviews I do with winemakers, questions that let them express their passion and drive behind what they do.
We start with Joe Roberts, AKA 1WineDude. Joe has steadily built a following in the world of wine blogs as well as received commercial recognition in publications such as Wine Enthusiast. As an individual working in the industry (wine consultant), Joe offers a unique voice while managing to not take himself too seriously. Joe seemed excited to talk about his interest in wine and how he came to be involved with it. “I’m happy to help and I never get asked about my experiences with wine, so I’m totally game,” he told me in an email, apparently happy I wasn’t asking him to talk about social media, yet again.
If you haven’t read it, head over to 1winedude.com…after you read this of course!
How did you become interested in wine? Was there a particular wine experience that sparked your current passion?
“I know it would probably make great reading to hear how I sipped Domaine Romanee Conti on a gilded chariot drawn by unicorns and accompanied by cherubs whispering into my ear the secrets of truly great wine. BUT… the passion for wine, for me, was (and is) self-perpetuating and built up slowly over more than a decade.”
“I wonder how many readers you just lost after that last sentence…”
“Anyway, the “ah-ha!” moment that sticks out in my mind came with a lobster dinner that my then-girlfriend-now-wife-and-mother-of-my-child made several years ago. I specifically sought out a wine to pair with that, not knowing much about pairing wine at the time but knowing enough to try a relatively high-quality, somewhat buttery and full-bodied CA Chardonnay (I don’t recall the producer). Lucky for us, the wine had enough going on (and I guess enough acidity) to really enhance the meal. Every bite and sip felt like they were strengthening each other and about halfway through I was like, “holy ****, this is what all of those wine-pairing snobs are talking about!” Since then, I’ve had a border-line addiction to pairing different wines & foods. My wife loves to cook and she rarely makes the same thing twice, so we have had a great deal of opportunity for me to experiment – and I’d say that I still get it “wrong” (in terms of the flavors or other elements not meshing well between the wine and the meal) about 30% of the time. Not sure how my wife feels about that, but I love making mistakes because you can learn so much from them, so I enjoy sometimes creating a whacked-out pairing and experiencing why it sucked! This sometimes leads to interesting success stories, too, like pairing slow-roasted half-chicken with a young Barolo (try it – it works!).”
“This is a long way of saying that I don’t much believe in “ah-ha!” moments. I think that real wisdom is a slow process, and for me it follows the laws of karma – i.e., are you paying mindful attention and letting the moments speak to you as they come, are you incorporating what you learn into your moment-by-moment approach, and not thinking too much about the established so-called “proper” way to do something, and finally are you giving back enough to the world that is giving so much to you? I think about that stuff all of the time – but I’m probably a weirdo.”
“I do think it’s important for people to feel that they should NOT be looking for some “ah-ha!” moment or to worry too much about a “proper” way to learn about wine. Just be patient, persistent, and attentive, and the rest will come naturally.”
Are their any particular trends in wine blogging that concern you or on the opposite end encourage you? In other words, where would you like to see it go?
“Blogging in general is really exciting because it’s shifting power, building community, and invigorating voices in the field at various levels of expertise, all at a lightning-quick pace. That’s true for wine as well – things are getting shaken up, and we don’t yet know where the pieces will land, but there’s a sense that we are in a period of significant change in the industry in terms of how wine consumers and enthusiasts get their information, and that’s exciting if you like change (I love change so I’m really excited, probably to the point where it pisses people off!).”
“I think there’s a lot of room left for improvement, of course. Personally, I’m a big fan of letting anybody blog for any reason, but it means that consumers don’t have any clear way of navigating the field of 1,000+ wine blogs to find the content and voice(s) most relevant to them. Ensuring that we have a sense of community, where we can help to improve each other’s work and also continually improve the things that can help highlight the best (awards, etc.), is important I think.”
“I also agree with Tom Johnson, who in a recent Palate Press article (I edited it) argued that wine bloggers aren’t reaching enough of the potential wine consumers and enthusiasts out there. We need to do a better job of that as well, which means not only strengthening our own community, but looking at what’s working in other blogging communities and borrowing from their successful methods where we can.”
“Far and away the biggest thing that concerns me with wine blogs is that sense of community, and whether or not we can all get over ourselves enough that we don’t become voices in silos. We already have, I think, some bloggers who consider themselves gatekeepers into wine blogging, and we must realize that NO gatekeepers exist in blogging, period. That mentality is simply not compatible with the future of blogging in my view.”
Do you have a favorite wine memory?
“I’ve been blessed in that there are so many potential candidates in my mind for the answer to this question…”
“I’m gonna wimp out a bit and say that I have three favorite things about wine right now:
1) Drinking wine with people that I like – and I get to do this a lot now which is amazing to me,
2) Visiting wine estates, specifically visiting vineyard managers and winemakers because in almost every case those people are passionate, down-to-earth and gracious, and are full of incredible knowledge about what they’re doing, and
3) Having 1WineDude.com be a place where Intermediate wine lovers and established wine personalities / experts interact over interesting topics. This has really been the thing that keeps me going and excites me about writing every article on the blog. I hope that never changes!”
Who excites you in California wine?
“It’s producers like Matthiasson that, for me, are the most exciting thing going in California winemaking – well, I should say in Napa, really – because they represent a sort of back-to-basics approach among younger winemakers. Their take on wine and what grapes should be grown in the valley is so fresh and interesting, and linked to basic principles of farming and making your living from the land, and generally getting pleasure out of people enjoying the finished product (whether it be their wine or their peaches!). And their white wine is just fantastic, which helps…”
“In general there seems to be a lot of new blood coming in with fresh ideas, and that’s really exciting for the industry. There’s a winemaker in Napa that I met recently who was trying to fix some stuck fermentation, and he ended up getting it restarted by passing the wine over some other juice that was fermenting, and the result is like the Valpolicella ripasso of Napa and it tastes great – I mean, you just have to love that kind of s***!
If you could offer one piece of advice about wine to a newly interested person, what would it be?
“Read wine blogs.”
“Also, drop ego / pretense / etc. and put yourself squarely in learning mode for as long as you can, so that you can really concentrate on what you love or loathe about particular wines (and why). That will give you a basis for a lifetime of wine enjoyment, and if you’re inclined you can explore the breadth and depth from there.”
“That goes for any subject really; if you come to anything as a “student” then the universe will offer up as much about that topic to you as you want – it has no other choice!”
Joe writes weekly for his blog, 1winedude.com
Facebook: Joe Roberts