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Gay men’s wine tasting group gains traction

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Back in the ‘90s they called them DINKs: double income, no kids. They were primarily gay men, and they were perhaps the most highly sought-after demographic, because they had a lot of cash to spend — including on wine.

They’re still dependable spenders. And now, one of the biggest and most formidable amateur wine groups in California, Magnum Men’s Wine Tasting Group, is comprised primarily of gay men. It has about 400 members, and is run out of the Healdsburg home of retired tech exec Bill Carney and his partner, Scott Monroe, who does hospitality at Gary Farrell winery.

The group meets once a month from Spring until Winter, at gay-friendly wineries. “We’ll pick a varietal, and then people bring along [bottles of] what’s designated,” Carney says. The group tastes the wines blind; attendees fill out scoring sheets, and a winner is declared at the end of the evening. There’s usually a potluck dinner. “It’s really a fun thing,” Carney notes, adding, “and it’s also an opportunity for the host winery to showcase their wine to a community that in many cases has discretionary income. They can talk about their wine, put one in the mix, do sales, club sign-ups, and so on.”

Recent or upcoming wineries that have hosted Magnum events include Passalaqua, Sbragia, Seghesio, Gary Farrell, Clos du Bois, Raymond Burr, Wilson, Mazzocco and Ridge.

The group began informally about 5 years ago when some gay men in the wine industry decided to get together as a social thing. “Then it started to snowball,” Carney recalls. “People heard about it and wanted to know when the next one was. So Scott and I decided to turn it into a network and institutionalize it.”

Carney says he posted results of the tastings on the e-Parker blog and also on Wine Spectator’s, but ran into some not-so-subtle homophobia on the latter. “Unfortunately, on Wine Spectator, it turned into a hate blog. ‘Who wants to join a bunch of fags?’ People were really rude. It turned into a really ugly situation. I stopped posting because it got so unpleasant.” Carney is quick to point out that the Wine Spectator moderator did not quash his posts. “Privately, he emailed me saying he thought we were great. But some of the people were idiots and bigots, and I just got tired of responding.” At e-Parker, Carney says, “nothing like that happened. People were very civil.”

But the story had a happy ending. “It’s turned into a great thing,” Carney says. “There’s a lot of gay people who take pride in what we do in the wine industry.”

I emailed Wine Spectator’s editor, Tom Matthews, asking for comment. Tom, who has previously posted on this blog and with whom I used to work, did not immediately reply. If he does, I will report it here.

I asked Carney why California needs a gay men’s wine tasting group. “People raised that question on the Wine Spectator blog,” he replied. “It’s a matter of comfort. People like to be around the same type. At Wine Spectator’s blog, they have Jewish singles! So people self-select who they want to be around. It’s a social opportunity.”

Magnum isn’t just for gay men, it’s for anyone who likes seriously tasting wine in a nice atmosphere. Members are primarily from Sonoma County, with a smattering from Napa Valley and San Francisco. If you’re interested, go to eventbrite.com and search for Magnum Men’s Wine Events. The next event is a Pinot Noir tasting at Gary Farrell.

Tom Matthews responds: [I got his email after posting]

Steve,

I appreciate your reaching out to me before commenting on this matter. However, I find your email ambiguous, and am not sure if you are implying that Wine Spectator supported the “homophobic readers” by cancelling posts by Magnum, or supported Magnum by cancelling posts that attacked the group. Let me say first that we would never discriminate against a poster because of their orientation (whether sexual, political or vinous), nor do we tolerate hateful or defamatory comments in our Forums.
(Read our Terms of Service here: http://forums.winespectator.com/eve/tos)

It’s true that Magnum posted a few times on Wine Spectator’s Forums, that there was some vigorous back and forth, and that Magnum has not posted for a while. Your characterization that they were “attacked by homophobic readers” seems provocative to me, but that is a matter of judgment. None of Magnum’s posts were “cancelled,” though some of the less-civil comments by other posters were deleted from one thread.

Here is some background:

On September 6, 2006, a Forums member using the handle “ZinGasm” started a
thread entitled “Monthly Gay Men’s Winetasting Events – Healdsburg Area” on
the WS “Off-Line Events” board.  The thread drew a certain amount of
negative feedback from some other users (egregious examples of which were
deleted), but it remained active until March 30, 2007.

You can see the first post in the thread here:

http://forums.winespectator.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/2566058161/m/302108683/p/

1

Once we determined the thread had run its course, it was closed by our moderator, Robert Taylor. However, his post closing the thread invited ZinGasm to continue to post:

http://forums.winespectator.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/2566058161/m/302108683/p/

7

ZinGasm launched another thread on March 28, 2007, but it again drew some
negative feedback, and ZinGasm seems to have abandoned it after April 4,
2007.  You can see that thread here:

http://forums.winespectator.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/2566058161/m/614105524?r=

371108624#371108624

In addition, Taylor had some private email correspondence with Zingasm. While I don’t think it would be appropriate to share that with you, I can say that Zingasm stated he was satisfied with our response.

As you must know from your own experience, posts and comments from anonymous users can sometimes be boorish, insensitive, hostile and inflammatory. We try to maintain a balance between allowing free expression and maintaining a respectful community. We did our best with this thread. I don’t know who is trying to dig up old dirt now, but judging from the phrasing of your email, it may be someone with an axe to grind against Wine Spectator. I hope you’ll read through this material thoroughly, and carefully consider anything you decide to say on the matter.

Let me know if you have further questions,

Sincerely,

Tom

  1. Wow…thanks for posting that. The WS thread was like a 100 car train wreck. I’m suprised the Spec didn’t clip that one after the first 6 or 7 responses.

  2. vinorojo says:

    A few thoughts here Steve…

    It sounds like the Spectator did everything they should have, moderating a forum is not easy and especially tricky when posters can hide behind a curtain. Hell, just look at all the hate speech on the “rants and Raves” section of craigslist. Let me say as a straight male that I do not have any problem whatsoever with a gay men’s tasting club. I think people have a natural tendency to want to associate with others who have the same persuasions, be they politcal, religious or sexual. It’s a little bit silly because sexual orientation does not have anything to do with wine, but that’s not as silly as trying to condemn it. Any bigotry in response to the existence of such a club is ridiculous, what are people afraid of? that you’re gonna taste the latest zinfandel release one minute and the next it’s some wild, village people free for all? Come on people, it’s the 21st century… Yes, some people are gay, some people drink wine, some gay people drink wine, what’s the problem?

  3. I would argue that the Spectator did not do nearly enough. Hate speech is uncivil and has no place in a discussion forum that is talking about wine tasting.

    The Spectator should have expunged every bit of the commentary that did not relate to wine. It really is a no-brainer and the Spectator blew it.

  4. The WS forums are, for lack of a better term, a joke.

    In my opinion (I run / moderate a social network myself, so it’s not without some experience-led education that I write this) they do not sufficiently moderate their forum discussions. Just search for any discussion there with the username 1winedude and you’ll quickly see what I mean.

    I’d advise anyone looking for remotely civil discourse to avoid the WS forums completely.

  5. Dear HHR: Instinct.

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