In the wine business, as elsewhere, relationships matter
I was raised to take relationships personally, including working relationships. People have criticized me for sometimes taking things too personally, but what the heck, it’s the way I am. It’s easy to make me happy — just be nice to me — and it’s easy to make me miserable: be mean. But if you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you, and then it will be a better world.
What put me in this reflective frame of mind is that I got an email from the P.R. representative of a certain Napa Valley winery whose name I won’t mention, except to say that they were made famous when a bottle of their wine was featured in a Hollywood movie. The P.R. firm had just taken over the account and they wanted to know if I would write about the winery, which the email described as a “cult” winery no fewer than three times (just in case that fact escaped my attention).
Well, I’m certainly aware of the winery. I wrote about them in Wine Spectator when I used to work there — not a shabby place for a brand new winery to get a write-up. But you know what? When I left the Spectator to go to work for Wine Enthusiast, the winery owner never again contacted me, never returned a phone call, never invited me up to visit, never sent me a review bottle to sample. It was like I’d ceased to exist. Sure, it bothered me, to an extent, but I know how the game is played. All during the 1990s and 2000s, the winery didn’t need articles or reviews from me. Business was booming; they really had achieved cult status. Fine. I had more than enough fish to fry without losing any sleep over something like that.
Fast forward to Feb. 24, 2009, and here’s that incoming email basically begging me to show the winery a little love. But they’re gonna have to get their lovin’ someplace else, cuz it ain’t comin’ from me. (Why am I suddenly starting to talk like a blues singer?)
Is that unprofessional behavior on my part? Probably. Hey, I never said I was the most mature guy. I’m just a helluva good wine writer who’s made a modest success of things. But I’m still human, still Steve, and I feel like if you give me the finger for the better part of 20 years, then please don’t come to me for salvation just because the economy is tanking and you’re not selling those $100 bottles like you used to.
Like I said, relationships matter.