November 11, 2007

Wine Blog Weirdness

When I started this modest web log, I was a little worried that people might receive it as some sort of self promotion tool.

Which it is, I can't deny. But self promotion wasn't and isn't my goal. I simply want to share what I am learning and think I know about wine.

I'm not qualified in any way to write about wine. I simply started doing it and continue doing it, and occasionally I get a nice comment from a reader. And that's nice.

But this site seems to generate more negative attention for me than positive, or at least it seems to be that way at times. I won't go into the details, but let's just say people can be pretty insecure if you write anything non-positive about what they're doing.

That's not just negative stuff, but even neutral or dare I say honest comments that people simply can't handle. I'm not into hit-and-run blogging, but I can't fake enthusiam well. Yet that's not good enough for some people, and it's even more annoying than it is pathetic.

The latest incident is only the strangest yet. I got a call recently from someone posing as a writer for a well-known wine newsletter based out of Maryland.

The individual, whose name didn't sound familiar (to say the least), pressed me about what I'd written about the grapes from one particular local vineyard that I had seen harvested this fall. I had written honestly that the grapes, like virtually all grapes harvested locally this October, had some rot and were "ok" but not great.

The caller referenced other things I'd written as if they were also about this vineyard's produce, which they weren't. Apparently this alleged wine writer wasn't a very careful reader. I was left wondering what the heck was going on. Who was this?

Well it turns out the winery who got those grapes that I saw got a nasty call from the vineyard owner. I guess harvest is over if we're on to bullshit like this. Isn't there vineyard work to do? Something, anything? Surely we don't need to perpetuate fraud to root out the source of such controversial comments as those of this little-read site.

It all leaves me depressed. I'm not interested in being a muckraker, but I want to be honest. Yet I know I have the difficult position of wanting to make my own commercial wine, so I don't want to piss people off in the local industry. More than one person has warned me to be very careful, which makes sense but at the same time leaves me wondering why I want in so bad into this business. Are people that ridiculous? I guess so.

Which leaves me wondering how much I can write about Oregon wine, the cause of all this weirdness. Of course, it's the very thing I probably know the most about and about which I have the most interest in learning more. Can I be only positive and call this blog anything but marketing?

One person suggested I simply write more about what I'm doing, and I think that's the right way to go. At least I can be honest with what I'm involved with and not risk compromising people who are kind enough to give me access to what they're doing.

Of course add a heavy dose of non-Oregon wine content. I suppose I've done a good bit of that to this point, so there doesn't seem to be a huge change in the blog. But I'll do my best to fulfill an original goal to catalog the best (as I see it) of the wine web. Things are changing all the time, but there are some really cool things I don't see mentioned widely that I'd like to share here. We'll see if you find it useful. And don't be shy. Comment, especially if you think it's as absurd as I do that this minor site would ever be a threat to anyone.


David said...

Vincent, I'm so sorry to hear that this has been happening. I've enjoyed your blog very much, and hope you choose to continue in some form. Having grown up in (and moved far, far, away from) a gossip-ridden small town full of easily-bruised egomaniacs, I can understand the reality though.

Thad said...

Vincent, I've recently discovered your wine blog and am grateful for all that you are doing to connect your readers to the Oregon wine scene.

Your candid and honest posts are much appreciated, regardless of those few who might think otherwise.

Keep up the good work!


Craig Camp said...

Vincent - Keep the faith and keep writing what you believe in. That's a strange story! Saying a vineyard had come rot in 2007 does not seem like a controversial statement.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Thanks all for the comments. Yes, it's a strange situation for sure. I think it's all in the past though. And based on some barrels I tasted of brand new '07s at one producer, there are some interesting wines out there. And some clunkers I'm sure. Not that I'm saying anything. (whistling)

David Johnstone said...

Vincent, Don't let a couple of thin skinned ninnies get you down, and please don't stop writing.

Tim K said...

Agreed, don't let the idiots ruin something that brings you joy. Your blog amazes me every time I pop in.

Ruben Ramos said...

Honesty is a virtue Vincent. I'm in agreement with everyone on this issue; follow your passion.

Félicien Breton said...

I am glad that you come over it. Other wine bloggers regularly encounter problems with domestic producers. I do once a year.
Thor Iverson just posted an articulate post on a similar issue.

thor iverson said...

Sorry to hear this. I suppose you're in a much different situation than me, because as you say, you're going to be producing in this sphere, and you probably need to be on everyone's good side. Still, it's frustrating, and it's something that just happens over and over again with domestic winerys and related folk. Not so much with international wineries. I'm not sure why, though I have some wild-ass guesses, but that's the point of the essay that Félicien linked.

Well, good luck anyway. For what it's worth, I enjoy the blog in whatever form you choose to mold it.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Thanks again for the nice comments everyone. I appreciate the support. Thinking more about all this, I don't really mind pissing people off. It's just not the reason I started this blog. And in this case, I hated that the good person who let me work harvest this year got the nasty phone call, not me. But it's funny hearing the stories people are telling my about their weird experiences. I'm definitely not alone.

And interesting to see Thor's post on the subject. He writes about how domestic producers don't seem to take any criticism well, but that it's different internationally. I imagine if we were Frenchmen writing about French producers, we'd be seen and read more, and there'd be more complaints. And the Americans wouldn't know what we were saying. I don't think paranoia ends at the national frontier.

thor iverson said...

Vincent, I'd agree with you that one reason non-domestic producers don't complain about English reviews is that they can't read them (though obviously, this isn't true for New Zealanders, Australians, Canadians and South Africans...none of whom complain like our domestic brethren do), except that you'd think we'd hear from the wholesalers and importers, many of whom are quick to jump on the critic-bashing bandwagon when one of their pet domestic products gets trashed. And maybe others do in fact hear from them in all situations. My experience is that, with maybe one exception, all the criticism I've received from the middle tiers of the wine industry has been over domestic wine, not foreign wine. So again, I'm at a loss to explain it.

That said, I know a few French bloggers have had a miserable time with one the most sensitive of their domestic producers (Closel), but I also know that the complaints were considered so unusual that it actually became a bigger story than it might otherwise have become. Make of that what you will.

Vincent Fritzsche said...

Maybe the distributors and importers deal with too many wines to get hung up on a bad review of one. Not that I didn't run into issues when being critical at the importer/retailer I once worked for. They were sensitive.

Very interesting to hear about French writers having issues as well. I shouldn't be surprised. So Closel is touchy? I wonder who the others are.

thor iverson said...

Maybe the distributors and importers deal with too many wines to get hung up on a bad review of one.

Mostly true. It used to be the smaller ones -- that worked with small/cultish West Coast producers -- that were the most touchy. We have almost none of those anymore (at least here in Massachusetts), so it's less applicable now. But I've heard from a few of the bigger ones anyway, and -- again, with one exception (see below), always on domestic rather than foreign wines.

So Closel is touchy? I wonder who the others are.

Well, um, Weinbach for one. I either heard from or was cut off at the knees by: three retailers, the distributor, the importer, and the winemaker after some notes that were, on balance, pretty positive. And there, I think it was the same issue...they got a little too used to hearing nothing but gushing. One of the Fallers was even trash-talking me to other New England wine lovers who'd come to visit. How screwed up is that?

It's a shame. I like the wines a lot, even if they're sometimes a little sweet for my tastes, and I liked Laurence a great deal (doesn't everyone?), but it's become profoundly uncomfortable for me to visit these days. I'm going to have to at some point, because of the book, and that should be loads of fun. :-P

Vincent Fritzsche said...

I remember a Weinbach report of yours a few years back where you were received cooly. Of course you're wrong about not liking their wines so much, but you can't be perfect!

Seriously, your critique was more about the sweetness of the wines. What's wrong with preferring drier styled producers like Trimbach? I don't suppose there's any rivalry between Weinbach and Trimbach...

thor iverson said...

To clarify: I like Weinbach a lot. I think Laurence is the best producer of gewurztraminer on the planet. Some of the other wines, especially the rieslings, are occasionally sweeter than is better for my opinion, at least. Boxler handles the residual sugar better than Weinbach. At the ultra-sweet end (which, from Weinbach, I can't afford anymore), Weinbach's rieslings are terrific.

I can't speak to any Trimbach/Weinbach rivalries. I know Jean thinks highly of Laurence (he also thinks highly of Olivier Humbrecht). I've never asked Pierre or the rest of the family. I have no idea how the Fallers feel about Trimbach.

Todd Hamina said...

Water off a duck's back, I wouldn't worry about it. I've read your blog for awhile now as you are a local guy. I appreciate the view, continue to call them as you see them.