Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Rest Of Us: Wine Blogging Outside Of Wine Country

I read a lot of wine blogs and most of them are by people that are right there in the thick of things. Sonoma in particular seems to be the hub of wine blogging these days. All the time they're hanging out at this winery or this vineyard and talking to this grapegrower or this winemaker. It's awesome, awesome stuff and I love it. It's a great way for somebody such as myself, nowhere even close to anything that can be considered wine country, to see what it's like and what's going on there. These people provide invaluable entertainment and educational information that you won't find in wine books.

Wine blogging
IMAGE SOURCE: inhabitat.com
But recently I had a thought... what about the rest of us? There are plenty of wine blogs by people outside of wine country. But why do we do it? How do we do it? When we need material it's not like we can just waltz on over to that new winery in Temecula, snap a few pictures, and ask some questions. Location is against us, even if we're in the industry in some shape or form. We need a different kind of focus and inspiration behind our blogs.

So I sent out a call to action on social media! Contact me if you're a wine blogger nowhere near wine country! And the response was astounding! I'm VERY happy to feature many of my counterparts in this article, have them give their own story, and explain how they cope with being so far away from the mecca's of the subject they write about.

But first... I suppose we should start with myself, huh? Oh boy.

Here I sit on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I can't imagine living anywhere else, except if it's someplace where cold weather is banished. There's a slower pace to life here than the other side of the bridge, where everybody else seems to have anxiety issues. The locals here just take things in stride better. Don't get me wrong! We're still Massholes! So we don't always take things well... but better.

Cape Cod
IMAGE SOURCE: en.wikipedia.org
Recently I had some customers from Pennsylvania that were SHOCKED that the wineries on Cape Cod were closed in the offseason. Yes, there are three wineries here. But OF COURSE they're all closed in the winter! Why the hell are you visiting Cape Cod in March? Don't you have the internet? Don't you research first? "You'd think they'd be open for the locals!" LOL! WHAT?

You see... it's incredibly, incredibly seasonal. Many businesses go into hibernation and a very large portion of the locals are out of work in the offseason. Also, it's cold and rainy (with the occasional snow). Nobody's gonna go to a goddamn winery in the winter here! That's crazy talk! It's a different story in the three months of tourist season. That's money time. It's so populated with tourists from New York and Connecticut vomiting cash that you end up despising their license plates. And sorry but the tourist attitude is the worst. These are vacationing people, who are supposed to be relaxing, and they're probably the most impatient and angry people ever. But they drive our economy. It's because of their business in the summer that keeps me employed with a year-round job in a drastically seasonal location.

What made me decide to become a wine blogger?

It's not like my situation is all that isolated from the wine industry, though. I'm actually in the retail branch of said wine industry. I've worked for the alcohol retail chain Luke's of Cape Cod for twelve years, been in their wine sector at some capacity for eight years, and have been the Wine Manager of the Dennisport location for five years. So it's not like I'm all "Hey, I like drinking wine! I'm gonna write about it!" even though that is absolutely a viable reason to start a wine blog.

Joey Casco CSW/CSSWhen I became a Wine Manager for Luke's and we started doing monthly wine picks for their website, a few people in the company liked my style of writing and kept telling me I should start a blog. Then in April of 2013, after I earned my CSW, I had the audacity to actually do it. And I was immediately stuck. Not having the connection of being in or near wine country when you want to write about wine isn't easy. Where the hell am I gonna get material from? It's not like I can write about personal experiences other than the wine I've had!

It's a good thing I'm a history and science geek. After a few months TheWineStalker.net became a complete wine-science-history-geek-out center loaded with F-bombs, dirty thoughts and ridiculously stupid memes. Even though reviews have become the most common post on this site, that science-history-potty-mouth niche has kept me going strong for two years. Fuck yeah.

What sucks about writing a wine blog outside of wine country?

Like I said, you need to get your material in ways that doesn't involve easy access to where the friggin stuff is made. To some people this comes naturally and they never thought about it that way. There's a reason why you're writing about wine from where you are, whether you're in sales or just like drinking it.

When you go the long-read educational route it always means you'll be spending more time researching than writing. I've got books spread out all over my living room when I'm writing an article, all open to various parts on the chosen topic, and so many tabs open in my browser it's ridiculous. The Chemistry between us... and wine took one whole week to research and write. My Bubbly Biography - The Story of Sparkling Wine series took almost two months. My Bulgaria series took three weeks. I can't even remember how long the Soil and Wine series took but it controlled my life! This is why I write reviews often and articles only once a month now. What I've got available to me is information, not location, and the desire to write and learn about wine. It's damn near impossible for me to keep things short and sweet just because that's the way I am, but I would recommend that you do if you can.

Joey Casco CSW/CSS
ME... REVIEWING WINE
Reviews. Ugh. It is so cool that people are willing to send you wine so you can review them but everything is coming to you over some kind of borderline. When things cross borders there's always laws that need to be obeyed, and conflicting state laws are a bitch. January 2015 was the first time in Massachusetts that it was possible to get wine directly from a winery in the mail, whether it was a free sample or you bought it. And even then it took months for wineries to get the special license to do that. Importers and marketers are a completely different story and it depends on what state it's coming from. Those issues usually aren't discovered until the company gets the package returned. I'm not even sure what's going on with stuff coming from across the pond. It's a roll of the dice, really.

Then when you get the package somebody has to sign for them and nobody is ever home when it's delivered. So you've got to jump on UPS or Fedex's website to hold it at their office so you can pick it up on your next day off. Waaaah! Still, reviews are the way to go if you're in Randomville and want to start a wine blog.

You want to know what the worst thing is about blogging without wine country relationships or big city sales industry connections? Advertising. What good is your blog, aimed at the international populace, gonna do for your local small-time wine bar? How about the distributor that's regulated to your state? Your blog may be beloved in the wine community but you can't do anything for businesses in your area so they can't do anything for you.

You better be in this for one or two of the following reasons: you love doing it or you want to make a name for yourself as an expert. It's not impossible to make money but it'll take a long time and a lot of unpaid work. Until then: just keep swimming.

Are there any bonuses to it?

Indifference. Lack of loyalty. Everybody has a style that they like or a region that they like, but I've seen much less of an inherent bias from bloggers outside of wine regions. The wine blogging community is very tight and supportive to everybody and I'm proud to be a part of it, and I'm not at all slamming anybody here. I'm just saying that it's in human nature to stick up for your crew. I can't blame a writer from the Finger Lakes who thinks every Riesling they try can't hold a candle to the winery across town. That may be true but most people that read the blog won't be able to get any wine from that winery where they are. It's staying there or in that state. Sometimes separation is a good thing. Randy Smith of The Wine Write is located in New Orleans. Chances are that his recommendations have good distribution.

Are there any wineries or vineyards near me at all? What are they?

Truro Vineyards
TRURO VINEYARDS
IMAGE SOURCE: ctgirlingermany.blogspot.com
Truro Vineyards is the best of them. They're mostly known for wine that comes in gimmicky lighthouse shaped bottles that every person aboard tour buses will kill for. However, their serious wine that comes in normal bottles is pretty good! Their Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling are their best. They grow Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay in their vineyard and buy the rest. Every year I want to volunteer for harvest and every year I forget. The winery is very family friendly, so there's much more to do than try their wine. You can go there with your kids, have some lunch, enjoy the vineyard and scenery without having a drop to drink and have a very fun time.

Nantucket Vineyards is the oldest winery here and they also do Cisco beer and Triple Eight spirits. You really have to go to the winery/brewery/distillery on Nantucket to get the good wine, such as their Port. The wine available off-island is okay but there's something about them that makes you want to move on after one glass. Their location isn't so family friendly, though. It's all about their tasting bars and boozing it up. They recently got awarded as having the best whiskey in America with their Scotch inspired whiskey, the Notch.

The newest winery is First Crush in Harwich. It's currently located in a garage and the grapes come from Napa. This is the one that has frolicking children on a bottle of alcohol. The owner is an optometrist and it seems to me that the only people that like it are his patients. Everybody else says it's awful. I've never had it because we can't get bottle credit and I refuse to pay for it at that price if it's as disappointing as people say it is. I plan on going there at some point to try the wine and check out the operation, but it's tough when I'm with the kid every day I have off. I'm not bringing her to a garage to taste booze and look at barrels.

What is my travel availability to actually go to wine regions or blogger conferences?

IMAGE SOURCE: qrcodepress.com
Maybe do some travel? Take a little vino vaca? I've got a five year old, my wife's a hospice nurse, I have to take my vacations in the winter. We work a lot to have a home and no money. Ya know, your average Americans. The chances of me travelling to wine country or a blogger conference anytime in the near future is zero point zero. I was out in Napa once, though... when I was ten. I think I saw Sutter Home briefly.

If I could live in any wine region in the world, which one would I pick?

It may not be very well known for its wine but I think I could totally live out the rest of my days in Italy's Emilia-Romagna and be completely happy. Small and quiet villages, cured meats, aged cheeses and local Lambrusco. Sounds like heaven.

So now that my incoherent meanderings are over, it's time to turn the attention to some guests! I'd like to thank all of these guys for getting back to me and taking the time to answer my questions! They're all super-cool so please check out their blogs!

Randy Smith - New Orleans, Louisiana

RANDY SMITH WITH EPOCH WINEMAKER JORDAN FIORENTINI
RANDY SMITH WITH EPOCH
WINEMAKER JORDAN FIORENTINI
How did you discover your love of wine?
My wife coaxed me into taking a wine appreciation course at a local college years ago, and I basically became obsessed from there!

What made you decide to become a wine blogger?
Again, I have to credit my spouse for giving me a push. I like to write and I love wine, so it was sort of natural to combine the two activities. I also need to credit my niece Molly, who helped explain blogging to me. She had her own humor blog back in the day. That helped making the plunge easier.

What kind of things do you find yourself writing about the most?
I'm pretty eclectic, but I've done a number of interviews with winemakers, winegrowers, and others in the wine business that I've enjoyed putting together.  I've also done wine related book and movie reviews and stories about random things that pop into my head.

Are there any wineries or vineyards near you at all? What are they?
Pontchartrain Vineyards is about 20 miles from here. We took a tour there during the wine appreciation class discussed earlier. They try hard. I'll leave it at that. They received some "acclaim" from Gary Vaynerchuk in this Wine Library TV episode: http://tv.winelibrary.com/2009/01/14/double-blind-other-46-tasting-episode-607/

What sucks about writing a wine blog outside of wine country?
Not being able to interview some of my subjects face to face, sharing a glass or two.

Are there any bonuses to it?
The one that comes to mind is keeping my day job. If I were too close, temptation would likely get the better of me.

How is your travel availability to actually go to wine regions or blogger conferences?
I can generally carve out time.  We usually take at least 2 wine trips a year.  We just returned from Paso Robles a week ago.  I'm thinking of a WA/OR trip in the summer to escape the New Orleans heat and humidity.

If you could live in any wine region in the world, which one would you pick? Or would you stay where you are?
I like it here in New Orleans and as a relatively new grandparent, can't imagine pulling up stakes...but we love the Central Coast of California. That would be my choice if I had to make one.

Elizabeth Gabay MW - The French Alps

Elizabeth Gabay MW
ELIZABETH GABAY MW
How did you discover your love of wine?
So long ago I cannot really remember. My first books on wine were given to me when I was 16 (judging from the date I wrote on the flyleaf) – so I guess I was young.

What made you decide to become a wine blogger?
Shortly after becoming a master of wine (1998) my husband and I decided to move with our young family to rural France. I kept up with wine by writing articles but was beginning to find that print magazines were rarely interested in anything I was interested in – so 3 years ago started writing up my ideas which I then thought I would put on my own small website www.elizabethgabay.com – thinking it would be nothing more than my own private musings.

What kind of things do you find yourself writing about the most?
My main passion is wine and history, the way local history, traditions and culture form the way wine is today. But living in Provence I inevitably end up writing a lot on rose wine. My two big specialist regions are Provence and Hungary which actually have quite a few things in common. So I write about the wines of these two countries most – with bits on other regions, history, unusual grape varieties and rose from all sorts of places.

Are there any wineries or vineyards near you at all? What are they?
I live at 1000m altitude in the foothills of the southern Alps, an hour and a half from Nice. The nearest vineyards to me are in the Nice appellation of Bellet – for which I created a small independent site called www.belletwine.com This appellation only has 50-60ha and 10 domaines – 3 big and 7 tiny. So very limited writing there. Otherwise I am 2 hours from the vineyards of Liguria, 3 from Piedmont going east and 2 hours from the vineyards of central Provence, 3-4 hours to the southern Rhone. I like the variety of being half way between these two regions.

What sucks about writing a wine blog outside of wine country?
It means that keeping up to date involves a lot of driving and the expense of staying somewhere overnight. As the site has become more successful it has meant more travelling and more work. Sometimes I find the travel a burden – never a simple morning outing!

Are there any bonuses to it?
I enjoy the buzz of being connected and feel less remote. Before I started writing on my site, my visits to vineyards seemed lacking in purpose. Now everytime I visit somewhere I have ideas brimming over on how I can write something, how I can connect people. It has restored a sense of purpose which I had lost when just working from home.

How is your travel availability to actually go to wine regions or blogger conferences?
I have 18 months left of being tied to the school timetable, but my daughter boards Monday to Friday – so I often drop her off at school Sunday evening and then go on into the wine regions. My husband is also self-employed so we are adapting our working life so that he can come with me. Sometimes he stays in a vineyard office or internet café to do his work, but can also enjoy the travel with me. It has now meant he is becoming more involved in the wine work too. July and August is quieter just because of the number of tourists around.

If you could live in any wine region in the world, which one would you pick? Or would you stay where you are?
Difficult to say. I do enjoy where I am, being quite central – driving over to the Bardolino vineyards on Lake Como next month – only 4 hours away, and I love that. Language is always a problem – not being a linguist. I can chat to winemakers in French – but Italian, Hungarian, Greek…. I need to rely on a translator or the winemakers ability to speak English. Learning Italian is definitely on my list of things to do.

Frankie Cook - Dublin, Ireland

Frankie Cook of FrankStero.com
FRANKIE COOK
How did you discover your love of wine?
I was exposed to wine at quite a young age, as we had several family holidays over in France and my parents tended to buy and drink wine over there.  However, I didn't really get a taste for it until I tried some better stuff in my late teens.  Then in 93/94 I had a year in Rennes - the capital of Brittany - as part of my degree course.  As it was so much cheaper to drink wine with friends in someone's flat compared to bars, I started trying lots of different wines.  When I returned to England I started trying as many different wines as I could, and the seed was set.

What made you decide to become a wine blogger?
I had been organising and presenting tastings for friends and colleagues for years, but never thought about writing - I had never considered myself a writer.  Then I found myself with a bit more spare time and decided I needed an outlet for my passion on wine - and a blog seemed the best way to do it.

What kind of things do you find yourself writing about the most?
Mainly the wines I have tasted from organised tastings - importer / distributor portfolio tastings and country / region tastings.  Plus, if a thought pops into my mind I sometimes just jot in down into a blog piece.

Are there any wineries or vineyards near you at all? What are they?
There is just a single vineyard that I am aware of in Ireland, just up the coast from Dublin in a small town called Lusk.
The wines (called Lusca) are pleasant but more of a novelty than a serious wine.

What sucks about writing a wine blog outside of wine country?
Not being able to talk to winemakers easily, although they do visit Dublin frequently.

Are there any bonuses to it?
The choice of wines available here in Ireland is pretty good, with wines available from over 30 countries (at a guess).  As Ireland is a small country, the wine trade and press are a small community and people tend to help each other out.  In early Spring and then Autumn there are tasting nearly every day for a few months!

How is your travel availability to actually go to wine regions or blogger conferences?
Very limited due to you having young babies.  I've been offered a few trips to overseas wine regions but I've been unable to take them up.
When it becomes more practical I'd like to take the family back to Champagne and Alsace, and perhaps some English wineries.

If you could live in any wine region in the world, which one would you pick? Or would you stay where you are?
In Europe, probably Alsace, which is the prettiest wine region I've been to, with so many great producers.  It's also close to Champagne and Germany is just the other side of the Rhine.  Outside Europe it would be either Marlborough or Central Otago in New Zealand.

Sarita Cheaves - Washington D.C.

Sarita Cheaves of Vine Me Up
SARITA CHEAVES
How did you discover your love of wine?
I discovered my love for wine during my 1st trip to Sacremento for a wedding. I got a rental car & drove to Napa. As I stood at the top of a hill at Artessa winery, I gazed over rolling hills, with a glass of Chardonnay, & I knew I was hooked.

What made you decide to become a wine blogger?
I became enamored with discovering new wines. On Friday, afternoons, I would map out free tastings at local wine shops & bounce around DC. I was already "micro-blogging" about my experiences & where I was tasting. My official blog, VineMeUp, was inevitable.

What kind of things do you find yourself writing about the most?
My posts are mainly about where folks can find great wine in the city. Wine shops, wine bars & stores like MOM (My Organic Market) and Trader Joes. I'm also big into wine pairing with everyday snacks. Triscuits, Lean Pockets, & Popcorners pair so well with wine.

Are there any wineries or vineyards near you at all? What are they?
The closest wineries are in Northern Virginia, about an hour away from DC. There are quite a few wineries in Maryland as well, about an hour and a half from DC. I worked part time at Black Ankle Vineyards in Mt Airy, MD for 5 years. The commute and constant traffic eventually wore me out.

What sucks about writing a wine blog outside of wine country?
What sucks is, I have to carve out a whole weekend and plan hotel stays to bond with more than one winery at a time. New wineries pop up all the time and it takes me some to get to there because of distance.  I'm hesitant to join wine clubs because I'm too far to take advantage of the benefits. I'm always too far to make special events because of insane traffic.

Are there any bonuses to it?
Ha! I guess I appreciate wineries more because I no longer work at one and I know it will be months before I visit again. Its really something I look forward to and cherish.

How is your travel availability to actually go to wine regions or blogger conferences?
I visit wine regions maybe 4 times a year. I only make 1 or 2 conferences because of availability, distance & costs. I work full time in the government so i'm only available on weekends. I have to plan wine region visits and conferences in advance.

If you could live in any wine region in the world, which one would you pick? Or would you stay where you are?
I'm going to go with Oregon.  The wine trails in & outside of Portland are outstanding. The urban trails include unique co-ops, garage wineries & boutique wineries. The rural trails give the quintessential winery experience with beautiful views, crisp air & tasting rooms any way you like them. I'm a city girl who appreciates the nature of wine.  I think living in Oregon give me the best of both worlds.

Jim Lockard - Wandering Nomad
Jim Lockard on Wine: http://www.jimlockardonwine.com/

Jim Lockard of JimLockardOnWine.com
JIM LOCKARD
How did you discover your love of wine?
A friend in Baltimore, a wine broker, introduced me to Italian varietals - mainly Dolcetto and Barbara - in the mid '90's. That was my first experience of decent wines. Then in Florida, I met a number of wine lovers. Finally, in 2005, I moved to California and got into a serious wine culture.

What made you decide to become a wine blogger?
After moving to CA in 2005, the wine culture was so pervasive and so enjoyable, that I combined my love of wine and writing. in a short lived blog in 2007 and '08, then in my current blog two years ago. I love meeting people in the wine industry - they are always great people; and the blog motivates me to get out and try new things.

What kind of things do you find yourself writing about the most?
We travel pretty much full time, so I am writing a lot about visiting wineries, eating in wine-related restaurants, and discovering local wine shops. I like to write about making wine more accessible - removing the sense of intimidation that many feel.

Are there any wineries or vineyards near you at all? What are they?
Home base is Ventura County, CA, so we have the Malibu AVAs near by and Santa Barbara County wine regions - Santa Rita Hills AVA, Santa Ynez AVA, etc., about 90 minutes away.

What sucks about writing a wine blog outside of wine country?
I spent a month in Cleveland recently. One decent wine shop, plus the Whole Foods. One. Really a beer town, so we decided "when in Rome . . ." and drank mostly beer. We did have a few good experiences, and blogging about them was fun. The same during a in Oaxaca, Mexico - not a wine region, but a local supermarket had enough of a selection from South America, Europe (Spain) and Mexico to keep me interested.

Are there any bonuses to it?
When you find a really nice wine or have a great wine experience in a wine backwater, you appreciate it more.

How is your travel availability to actually go to wine regions or blogger conferences?
Again, my wife and I travel nearly full time, 1/2 in the US and 1/2 in Europe. I lead wine tours in France (http://deluxewinetours.com/), so I get to meet a lot of French winemakers. We also spend a lot of time in Spain. This year we will also travel in the Ukraine and Poland, so I am looking forward to seeing what's happening there.

If you could live in any wine region in the world, which one would you pick? Or would you stay where you are? 
As of this moment, my first choice would be the southern Rhone Valley - along the river near Avignon. Several major wine regions meet there and you have Châteauneuf du Pape, Tavel, Lirac, and Gigondas within about 30 minutes..

Li Lane - Long Island, New York

Li Lane of The Wining Hour
LI LANE
How did you discover your love of wine?
Growing up, wine was always in my house and at my table. My love for wine has continued to develop over the years through travel, socializing and writing about wine.

What made you decide to become a wine blogger?
I converse regularly about all things wine with The Wining Hour's customers, at events and while traveling. I also enjoy sharing information and learning new things about wine, so it only made sense to further this interchange through writing.

What kind of things do you find yourself writing about the most?
I love to travel, so I enjoy writing about different destinations, especially ones with wine regions. In fact, I mostly write about Italy and Italian wine regions!

Are there any wineries or vineyards near you at all? What are they?
I am very close to Long Island Wine Country and visit them regularly.  Sparkling Pointe, Lieb, Shinn and WineMaker Studio are among my favorites.

What sucks about writing a wine blog outside of wine country?
Not having it in my backyard and being able to visit every day as I do with the beach.

Are there any bonuses to it?
Travel. It's always a pleasure when I have the opportunity to travel to wine country. It deepens my appreciation.

How is your travel availability to actually go to wine regions or blogger conferences?
My schedule is pretty conducive for traveling and attending events.

If you could live in any wine region in the world, which one would you pick? Or would you stay where you are?
I would move to Italy tomorrow, where I would have access to all of the country's delicious wine and wine regions-from the top of the boot to the bottom!

Brian Boulden - Nashville, Tennessee
Tasting Notes Radio: http://www.tastingnotesradio.com/


Brian Boulden of Tasting Notes Radio
BRIAN BOULDEN
How did you discover your love of wine?
I started to realize there was a MAJOR difference when I got a mixed case of wine from Kenwood Vineyards. Not knowing anything my wife and I opened a bottle of the Artist Series. Absolutely loved it. In the case was also a bottle of the Kenwood Jack London Series which the label was etched into the bottle. Well, if the Artist is that good the Jack London must be 10 times better.  That weekend we drove to Kenwood and found out the Jack London was about 20% the cost of the Artist Series.  Thats when I learned to not judge a bottle by its cover.  FYI I still have the bottle of Jack London, nearly 30 years old, to remind me.

What made you decide to become a wine blogger?
I have always hated the fact that people just dont know a lot about wine. They pick one bottle and stick with it, or they try a very tannic Cabernet and they are turned off by red wines. I wanted to help open their eyes. There is so much good wine out there that there is no reason to drink bad wine or be turned off by it. Experiment, find what you like and grow with it. Additionally it helped me keep up to date with changes in the industry.

What kind of things do you find yourself writing about the most?
Wine 101 information. How to pick out a good retail store? How to drink a glass of wine. Its like baseball, you have to teach the basics.

Are there any wineries or vineyards near you at all? What are they?
There are a number of wineries in the area. Most are small and often deal in fruit wines. However Arrington Vineyards (Partly Owned by Kik Brooks) does a very nice job of Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon. However much of their grapes are shipped in from Californiaa

What sucks about writing a wine blog outside of wine country?
Not being able to visit wineries and keeping up with great organizations like the Napa Valley Wine Library Association Tastings.

Are there any bonuses to it?
Not being flooded with ones from just one area. If you live in Sonoma or Napa you get 90% of your wines from there. However in Tennessee we get those wines, as well as a great selection of French, Italian, South American that you don't see much of in those areas.

How is your travel availability to actually go to wine regions or blogger conferences?
Sadly limited because of other obligations

If you could live in any wine region in the world, which one would you pick?
Tuscany. Great wine. Wineries are spread out. Fantastic views and food. Its what every wine area is trying to be like. Well maybe not the French.

Sasha Johns - Birmingham, Alabama

Sasha Johns of TrueVineGifts.com
SASHA JOHNS
How did you discover your love of wine?
I was not raised around wine at. all.  I experimented a little in my twenties, but it wasn't until my late twenties, when I joined a gardening society in Atlanta, that I was first shown an amazing wine and food pairing by one of the ladies in the society. After that I was hooked! 

What made you decide to become a wine blogger? 
I'm a stay at home mom who needed an outlet! I create and repurpose with wine corks and make jellies from wine. I began blogging about wine as a way to learn more about it and to bring some more exposure to my art too. In the last year I've learned many lessons, not just about wine, but wine history too. It's been a great way to grow in midlife. 

What kind of things do you find yourself writing about the most?
I started doing a weekly piece about wine vocabulary that ended up being a weekly history lesson about wine. I find wine history fascinating. I love doing the research. Most of it amounts to trivia, but it's fun to seek out the stories behind the words. 

I also do a bit of writing about cooking with wine. As a stay at home mom of three, it's a great way to feel a little more polished after managing laundry and activities all day.

Are there any wineries or vineyards near you at all? What are they?
Alabama does have a few wineries and vineyards. Five all together to be exact. The closest one to me is the most unique. Here in the south we have a native grape called a muscadine. Every little kid in Alabama has had the joy of popping open the thick leathery skin of a wild muscadine grape and sucking out the super sweet fruit inside at some point. Morgan Creek Vineyard specializes in making sweet muscadine wine. It's amazing! We also have Hidden Meadows, Ozan, Vizzini, and Bryant Vineyards. Several of these are also muscadine vineyards. 

What sucks about writing a wine blog outside of wine country?
That there just really is no culture for wine growing here. All of the vineyards here are newer and geared toward our own native grapes.(That is not to say anything against our grapes, More on that in the next question.) Alabama is a very rural, and poorer state than most. We are also in the buckle of the Bible belt. Drinking in general is frowned upon by a large part of the population and even becomes a problem legally in some cases. We only very recently won a vote to buy alcohol on Sundays in my own county for instance. Things are slowly changing and especially in the cities, oenophiles are starting to rise up and strike out into new business in the state and it's very exciting. 

Are there any bonuses to it?
In more recent year, we have had the opportunity to offer up a new product to the world. Muscadine wine is a fantastic product that will be unique to the south, much like Moscato is to a specific area of Italy. When I was a kid, muscadine wine was made in homes and on farms. It wasn't sold commercially. Even my own grandparents made it for my grandmother prize winning fruit cakes...and of course for medicinal purposes. We do love it in all of it's sweet regional glory. 

How is your travel availability to actually go to wine regions and blogger conferences?
I'd love to travel to both one day. My dream is to visit Napa Valley with my best friend someday, and perhaps we will when our kids are a little older. Availability is less of an issue than travel funds. I'd love to have the opportunity to learn more about wine in an honest to God wine culture. 

If you could live in any wine region in the world, which one would you pick? Or would you stay where you are?
Easy. Champagne. I've read so much about it and would love to just be immersed in the land and culture there for awhile. There is so much history about the industry. I could live there easily.

Tyler "T Mo" Morris - Coppell, Texas
52 Weeks of Wine: http://52weeksofwine.tv

Tyler Morris of 52 Weeks of Wine
TYLER MORRIS
How did you discover your love of wine?
In college, a few fraternity brothers and I started a brewery. Let me be clear, this was just us making beer in a basement. It wasn’t an actual business and we never sold the beer, but we made a lot of it and really enjoyed to process. Around the same time I had to write some papers for my entrepreneurship classes. On a whim, I decide to revolve them around wine because I want to compare the process to beer. I wrote about the industry and concepts for opening wine bar and wineries in Nashville, TN. I started learning about the winemaking process, met with winery owners, and tried varieties of wine I had never heard of. Needless to say, I was hooked, Every sip had a story and I wanted to learn these stories.

What made you decide to become a wine blogger?
Ever since writing that first concept paper on running a wine business, I have dreamed of starting a winery. The problem I had was that I couldn’t focus on wine the way I wanted to. I needed to make money and my life focused around work (marketing). After sitting down and deciding what I really wanted in life, I decided I needed a very public challenge to immerse myself in this world.

Over the next 52 weeks I will open and try at least 4 wines every week. Each week will be themed with a region or variety. This way, over a year, I will expand my palette and start learn why I like the wine I like. Beyond drinking wine, I will be taking classes (like the WSET), learning about the winemaking process (I just finished my first homemade wine), research questions that arise, and, hopefully, interview professionals that want to teach novices like me a thing or two about the world of wine. The next year is dedicated to building a base knowledge for myself. The blog is to invitation to others to join me and open their mind to new and exciting wines. Thus, 52WeeksofWine.TV was born.

What kind of things do you find yourself writing about the most?
Right now, the only additional writing I have done has been about the history, tastes and pairing for the wine I drank in the weekly video before. I will start writing beyond that soon. I just signed up for the WSET Level 1 course. and I have a feeling that some “how to find the flavor” or “how to examine your wine” posts might be next. I want to write about my journey and what I learn along that way. There is no script and the plan changes based on what I learn and find interesting.

Are there any wineries or vineyards near you at all? What are they?
The Hill Country (near Austin) in Texas is a big wine area. Its several hours away and just not easy to visit often. There are also a few wineries in Grapevine, TX, which is fairly close to me. I’m not in wine country. You can find good wines in the area, but not to the abundance you would in CA or Washington.

What sucks about writing a wine blog outside of wine country?
It’s a long drive or expensive weekend to visit several wineries. I like hearing the stories of the wines for the owners and staff. When you go into a local wine story, I never know if there recommendations on new wines are based on their actual love of the bottle or their sales goals for the week. Wine is about the story and it is harder to find that story outside of wine country.

Are there any bonuses to it?
Yes, because I am not stuck in one region. My mind doesn’t automatically go to where I live for the wines I should drink. I don’t get stuck in a routine. I am always trying new wines and taking recommendations constantly. I also like the idea of when I am in the wine country, I only have to focus on that for the few days I am there. There is no work, family, or responsibilities to pull you away from your purpose; to learn the story and experience the taste of a new wine.

How is your travel availability to actually go to wine regions or blogger conferences?
Right now, it stinks. I am not getting to travel a lot, but I am planning out trips in the future. I am doing this on my own dime and unless the events are with 4 hours of the DFW area, I won’t be attending them until after the summer ends.

If you could live in any wine region in the world, which one would you pick? Or would you stay where you are?
That’s a hard battle between Mendoza, Argentina and Bordeaux. I have never visited either location, but I would love to go soon. I love the culture of Argentina, but it would be amazing to live and breath the history and tradition that is Bordeaux.

Sam Gills - Sydney, Australia

How did you discover your love of wine?
This is actually the first post I blogged about - I was 21 and went to visit the Hunter Valley with a boyfriend, fell in love with the scenery first and then listening to how passionately people spoke of wine, I needed to know more

What made you decide to become a wine blogger?
It was actually just a conversation I had with some friends, they suggested doing it so I could keep track of the wines I liked

What kind of things do you find yourself writing about the most?
The premise of my blog is about creating the moment - every wine has its place where it can be enjoyed the most... think warm summers eve down by the beach, eating seafood and drinking a dry minerally Riesling

Are there any wineries or vineyards near you at all? What are they?
The closest to Sydney is the Southern Highland wine region, which is approx 1.5 hours away, but the closest world renowned region, the Hunter Valley is approx. 2.5hrs away,

What sucks about writing a wine blog outside of wine country?
There's not many places to go to try new wines. The Sydney bar scene is pretty drab and the wine selection in those places is mostly commercial quality. We have a couple of wine events annually where the wineries will all come together in a park and showcase there vintage, but it's full and far between.

Are there any bonuses to it?
From a wine perspective there's none that I can think of

How is your travel availability to actually go to wine regions or blogger conferences?
You have to drive everywhere as the wineries are rather spread out - takes the fun out of the experience a little

If you could live in any wine region in the world, which one would you pick?
Having been to almost all in Australia and New Zealand, along with Sonoma, Finger Lakes, Bordeaux, Loire Valley, Burgundy, Languedoc-Rousillon... I'd probably pick Burgundy - you just can't beat a good Chablis.

Richard Magnier - Ireland

Richard Magnier of The Motley Cru
RICHARD MAGNIER
How did you discover your love of wine?
Quite by accident actually. I went looking for a typical administrative job straight after university and got a place doing office work in one of Ireland’s largest wine importers. It was meant to be a temporary position until I found something more suitable - that was 2008 and I’m still in the trade today.

What made you decide to become a wine blogger?
Through my work in the wine importer I had the chance to taste lots of really good wine and go to some great events - it got to the point where I needed an outlet to write about my experiences and so I started up the blog. It also gave me the excuse to attend other importers’ tastings too, where I could expand my knowledge of what was out there and meet some of the great people involved in the trade here in Ireland.

What kind of things do you find yourself writing about the most?
Anything that takes my fancy really, but it tends to be bottle reviews and producer profiles.

Are there any wineries or vineyards near you at all? What are they?
No, apart from one exception: Lusca Irish Wine which is produced just outside of Dublin by a (very committed and talented) enthusiast called David Llewellyn. He makes red wines using mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Dunkelfelder, and Rondo. http://www.llewellynsorchard.ie/

What sucks about writing a wine blog outside of wine country?
The price of getting wine here. Ireland is essentially a rock on the edge of Europe, an isolated island, so everything has to be shipped in by boat. This increases costs and, with no domestic wine market to fall back on for simple everyday table wines, then buying even a very basic bottle is an expense. This is especially true due to our draconian wine duty: Ireland has the highest duty in Europe with an incredible €3.19 duty levied on every bottle, plus an additional 23% sales tax on top of that.
If you buy a €9 bottle of wine here a frustrating 54% of that is pure tax, with the remaining €4.13 going to the winery, distribution, shipping, importer’s margins, retailer’s margins, etc. As you can imagine, then, for a €9 wine you’re buying only about €0.50 of actual wine - a depressing situation however you look at it.

Are there any bonuses to it?
I suppose the fact we’re a small country with a small wine trade makes us one big family, which is always good fun.

How is your travel availability to actually go to wine regions or blogger conferences?
Again being an island means we have to fly or get a boat in order to get anywhere near a wine region, but then again we are on the doorstep of Europe so some of the finest wine regions in the world are only an hour or two flight away.

If you could live in any wine region in the world, which one would you pick? Or would you stay where you are?
I’d probably stay put actually. As mentioned we’re one big family here which is always nice in any trade. The only thorn in our side here is those punitive taxes on alcohol - otherwise we’d have a nice little setup for ourselves.

Thank you so much again to all of the wine bloggers that participated in this article! You guys are awesome and keep up the great work!

- Joey Casco CSW/CSS
   TheWineStalker.net

9 comments:

  1. Thanks for including lil 'ol Alabamy in this list! What an honor!

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  2. Great post! Being a Washington D.C. based blogger, I can certainly relate.

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  3. Happy to note your coverage of a blogger from the WashingtonDC/Potomac area. Your interview with Sarita Cheaves points out the challenges of navigating traffic into areas with wineries. Here's a toast to bloggers and traffic! Hopefully, their time behind the wheel justifies the rewards they get visiting their favorite spots.

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  4. Fantastic post! It was great hearing all their stories! And some people I haven't heard of before, I can now follow their blogs!

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  5. Nice setup with really a classy look. Some time ago I was looking for such an event too, which will be in my budget and the one that is appreciated by all. During my search I found these venues in Los Angeles and got fully satisfied and I am very much impressed by their settings and helping environment.

    ReplyDelete

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