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Dear RP and JL: report to the dance floor


One of my regular readers (Randy) commented here yesterday:

Having read for a while thoughts from Charlie, Steve, 1winedude and Tom, how do you guys get RP, JL and the other players to actually engage you guys on these blogs? Do they actually think they’re like, untouchable or are they so embarrassed by their official words that they can’t back them up in a free moving (on record) conversation?

What a great question. I replied, “Here’s my take: RP, JL and a few others have nothing to gain and a lot to lose by engaging with us po’ folk. They do tend to think they’re untouchable. It’s sad, but true. I would welcome their participation on this blog, but I’m not holding my breath.”

I think this topic is worth investigating a little bit more. When U.S. Presidents choose to isolate themselves away from a curious press corps (as sitting Presidents often do during re-election campaigns), they conduct what’s called a “Rose Garden strategy.” That’s when they appear only at carefully choreographed functions during which they take no questions but appear in all their glory surrounded by the majesty of their office. Their supporters claim that the President is “above the fray” but really, everybody understands that what’s really happening is the President (whoever he is, of whatever party) is actually afraid to engage in a bare-knuckled mano a mano with a bunch of reporters who are (usually) on top of the facts.

That’s how I see RP and JL. Why won’t they engage with me, or any of the other bloggers such as Alder or Eric? If they did, I can speak for the group of us: We would be respectful and keep the dialog on a high level, as we do anyway. It’s true that Tom Matthews, the top editor at Wine Spectator, frequently comments on blogs, but as far as I can tell, it’s not really to engage so much as to respond to criticism, i.e. damage control. It’s not a conversation when all you’re doing is reciting your magazine’s editorial policies.

Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate have taken a thrashing on the blogosphere in part because of their perceived arrogance. I wonder why they’ve held out for this long from engaging in the back-and-forth. It’s certainly not too late; they would be received here with open arms. As for JL, he seems to be more isolated than ever. One never sees him anywhere in California, whether it be at a bloggers conference, a writers conference, a Premier Napa Valley event, or anywhere up and down the state. As far and widely as I travel, I haven’t seen hide nor hair of Jim in years. I wonder why. It seems so, well, twentieth century to play the “I vant to be alone” game. Bob, Jim, come on down! The weather’s fine. You might even find a little romance out here on the dance floor.

Event Alert

My friend Bo Simons, who runs the wonderful Sonoma County Wine Library, asked if I could publicize their upcoming (Feb. 26, 6:30 p.m.) event, which will honor Arturo Robledo. Mr. Robledo worked his way from laborer to supervisor, to vineyard manager and is now a successful business owner. A bevy of wine industry stars will appear at the event, which is at Paradise Ridge Winery, in Santa Rosa. If you’re interested, you can call Bo at 707-433-3772, ext. 5.

  1. David Cole says:

    WOW! Go big or go home Steve! Love it! Calling them out! I just stopped following RP on twitter because as you can tell has had ZERO conversation with others! And I have yet to see him post on a blog or website other than his own. It’s a one-way street with him, so good buy RP!

    JL hasn’t shown up in sometime, but I was always a fan of his writing. I have enjoyed many columns from him and hope he’ll come out to play soon on blogs or twitter.

    Great stuff Steve!

  2. RP comments on his own blog and website. You simply have to pay for the privilege of engaging him. And as some have found out, if you engage too hard, you get tossed off the island.

    JL is a very private person. He rarely joins in the normal winewriter fare because he gets special treatment–as do RP, JR, HJ and others. Folks like Steve and I get the larger ceremonial tastings–except for the day that Jess Jackson let Steve ride Rachel Alexander in exchange for introducing Hardy Wallace.

    Randy, you just need to hang around here with us kids. We may have to disagree with you once in a while–like when you tell us that there is only one way to make wine. But, we don’t bite, and we are a lot more fun than those guys and gal.

  3. Dick Stapleton says:

    In the early nineties RP was the moderator for a wine bulletin board on Prodigy. an AOL precursor that Sears owned. In those days if you traveled it was almost impossible to get internet access on the road. but if you went to a local Sears they would let you log on and post on Prodigy.

    It started well and he was an active contributor, but as time went by, the tone shifted to RP bashing and his activity slowed to a trickle. It got to the point that the conversation was no longer about wine but entirely about the pros and cons of RP.

    I’m not sure when he threw in the towel on hosting the wine board but it must have made him cautious about future internet projects.

  4. Steve,

    A point of confirmation as well as slight disagreement on a specific comment in your well laid out perspective regarding disengagement from established and traditional wine media writers.

    Regarding Tom Matthews defense of WS policy, he has left a few comments on my blog defending WS’ reviewers and policies that simply furthers or defends the WS agenda. We all see evidence of this posture, as you correctly mention, throughout the wine blogosphere. I am not sure that does a whole lot of good for WS since the engagement’s purpose is openly transparent to anyone who gives it some thought.

    But, in addition, Tom also makes a point of adding to conversations in a useful way that is totally benign in regard to WS agenda posturing. Most recently, he left an example of this useful engagement in with a comment that you can see on this wrap up post summarizing a blind Mencia tasting I recently hosted.

    I guess its fair to say that just about anybody, like Tom an hundreds of others, with a stake in the wine or related media industry is advancing their cause by blogging or commenting, since it raises visibility for their personal and business brand, which is useful to their core activities that generate cash. But, I give Tom Matthews credit for at least paying attention, especially when it is directed deep into the blogosphere beyond excellent top bloggers like you, Alder and others, which is a blind spot and missing component in RP’s and other traditional writers’ contribution to the conversation that is taking place in the new wine media space.


  5. I second the Bo endorsement. Go to the event and support Bo Simons and the Wine Library. He’s a dedicated fellow, and it’s a great resource.

  6. Adam, I give Tom credit too. But where’s Jim?

  7. Perhaps RP is overly cautious, but that does not help his reputation for honesty and candor.

  8. Charlie, It would be possible for me to retreat into a cocoon a la JL. Granted I don’t have his acclaim. But I have some of my own, and I defer to no one when it comes to shyness and discomfort in the glare of public life. But it is part of my job to get out there and circulate. I see the wine writer as part of a community, and one does not shun the community one is part of. One embraces it, however he can. I know Jim, or used to; after all, I worked with him for 4 years. He’s a very sweet, likeable guy. I really don’t know why he doesn’t circulate more.

  9. David, I would be a hypocrite if I blamed RP for not twittering because I find it very difficult to tweet. I used to; I might again someday; but for now, well, it doesn’t fit into my life. But I’m not talking about RP not tweeting, I’m talking about him having a fair, friendly and open engagement on the top blogs.

  10. Thomas Matthews says:

    Jim Laube blogs several times each week on, and frequently responds to comments and questions by members. As do James Suckling, Harvey Steiman, Bruce Sanderson and James Molesworth. Wine Spectator editors are in no way “hiding” from wine lovers, but choose to allocate scarce resources of time and effort to a focused and committed community, rather than scattering their remarks across the entire internet.

    Thomas Matthews
    Executive editor
    Wine Spectator

  11. Tom, with all due respect, your words — “allocate scarce resources of time” “scattering their remarks across the entire internet” — do not inspire warm and comradely feelings. We’re all busy, not just WS editors. We all have lives. But the careful, judicious participation in peer blogs is not intrusive to most of us, and I still don’t know why Jim keeps such a private profile here in beautiful California.

  12. Steve

    I see no reason why these people have to engage others in public arenas, as you have pointed out in your first paragraph. They do not have much to gain. Nevertheless, you can attempt to engage them on their “home turfs.” If they ignore you there, well that is a whole other story, as has been seen with Robert Parker. Presumably, these guys are busy and have to pick and choose their battles. When someone makes fun of you, or WE, on wine bulletin boards, do you post to defend yourself? Are you registered at, or WS, or WB or WLDG?

    Nevertheless, Parker on Twitter is useless. I have not followed him. He answers no ones tweets, apparently, and follows his crew only.

    He will understand social media…someday.

  13. Curious Steve, do you post on Laube’s blog or Parker’s website?

  14. Bill, no I do not post on Laube’s or Parker’s sites. I certainly would, if they didn’t cost money. My blog is free and so are the other major wine blogs in America.

  15. Daniel, I obviously can’t follow every comment about Wine Enthusiast throughout the Internet. But when I come across something that I feel needs to be responded to, I do.

  16. Your rules of engagement seem rather specific. One could argue that you are not stepping up to bat as well. BTW, posting on the Parker board is free, so engage away.

  17. steve, RE WS blogs, i can give you our password and you can sneak in to find that, compared to freebie blogs such as yours and Asimov’s and Kramer (who doesn’t blog on WS, but has an online column there that you can reply to, and, get this, he responds to virtually every comment), you’re really not missing much. your call.

  18. Stephanie, it’s probably not a good idea for me to use your password to get into WS. Thanks for the offer!

  19. There is something about this entire line of discussion that does not sit quite comfortably with me. It boils down to the “one size fits all” mentality that there is a right way and a wrong way to engage in the wine community.

    I like this blog and a handful of others and post on them. I don’t particularly like ERP, which I find full of pretension and so I don’t go there much.

    I used to post on WLDG and on WCWN. They are not as much fun as posting on SH or TW or HMW or V (AY) or SMD. Have I left out any initials? Do these places actually have names?

    I absolutely get why Jim Laube, who is a very nice guy as Steve has said, does not wander around the Internet. He is not Charlie Olken, who loves to get engaged in all kinds of discussions from the most serious to the most amusing. He is Jim–and that is not his shtick.

    As for Mr. P, well, if he tweets, then he ought to answer tweets. But, I am guessing that he tweets for the same reason I tweet. Someone told me I had to, so I do even though I find it silly most of the time and am pretty much in agreement with Steve H. about the usefulness of that exercise.

    Still, the bottom line for me on all this is one ought to be free to engage or not engage. And while I appreciate SH’s comments about being a part of the wine community, Laube does have a blog and he apparently (I don’t subscribe to WS online) responds to folks there.

  20. Twitter is a conversation at a cocktail party, not a stump speech from a podium. Why does @garyvee follow 10K folks? Can he? Probably not. However, yesterday when I tweeted this:

    “@JancisRobinson @RobertMParkerJr @winespeconline see how @garyvee leads by following? following 10k-not 4,7,42- more in the Tweet Spirit 3:25 PM Feb 22nd via web ”
    within a little more than an hour, I had a response from Gary Vaynerchuck, this:


    @italianwineguy 😉 4:39 PM Feb 22nd via TweetDeck


    Hey we’re all busy. It seems Gary is more involved in this kind of interaction. The other folks either dont have the time or the interest.

    So be it.

  21. “I obviously can’t follow every comment about Wine Enthusiast throughout the Internet.”

    Set up a google alert Steve, you can tell at a glance if it’s something you should address.


  22. EVO I do have a Google alert but it still doesn’t grab everything.

  23. I’m sorry that due to a prior engagement I will not be able to make it to the event at the Wine Library. I would love to go. I got to know Arturo Robledo back in the day when he worked at Sonoma-Cutrer. He is a great guy and at the time I looked on him as something of a mentor. Cheers, Arturo!

  24. I’ve been following the WS bloggers, including JL, for 6 months. My overall perception is that JL does not reply much to people commenting on his blog, but he does post comments to his colleagues’ (JS, HS, etc.) blogs. And it’s always in the same vein as TM; they’re all chummy and supportive of one another, like a club, and they stick to the company line.

  25. Steve,

    My reaction is, be careful what you wish for. You really want to turn your blog into a place where Laube and Parker hang out? I actually fail to see how that would enhance your blog, in particular, and the blogosphere in general. You wouldn’t just get Laube and Parker, you’d probably get Parker’s parade of sycophants as well and you’d quickly be refereeing plenty of impolite and gratuitous comments.

    Speaking for myself, I have zero interest in engaging with Laube, Parker, or most of the others of that ilk. Their comments could never be candid or, even, unpredictable. Who needs them? Parker hasn’t said anything interesting in five years, and Laube hasn’t said anything original in ten.

    And, frankly, I’m tired of deleting their comments over on my blog. Sheesh, I hope they do move over here.

  26. re: John’s comment: Arturo has many friends out there.

  27. I have been having second thoughts about my comments. I am going to start my own blog, and instead of continuing to bribe Steve Heimoff to let me post, I am going to bribe Laube and Parker to abandon Ron Washam’s blog (Hosemaster of Wine) and come over to mine, which will be known as Puff Daddy Of Wine.

  28. There is no question in my mind that Steve, Doug Wilder and Gary V (controversial as he may be) are the future of what we as consumers are going to demand in wine writing and critique.

    There is an openess, accessibility and willingness to engage that the web 2.0 crowd craves. If you are not on that edge yet and are not willing to get in with the masses your career is over.

    The open platform is permeating all forms of media and print material. One critical advanatage in content delivery is the personal touch. You need this to win the game.

  29. Okay since every circus needs a clown and Ron Washam, (HoseMaster of Wine ) took the somewhat serious high road…

    Your title slayed me and while I am sure there is plenty of important stuff in this post I simply cannot get past seeing Robert Parker on the dance floor. I say leave those guys where they are, if the boards are any indicator…the people that drink their kool aid are less than open to any discussion that may involve questioning their prophet.

  30. So I go over to the Hosemaster of Wine blog in search of Jim Laube and EBob so I can bribe them come over to my new blog, which I will create just as soon as I learn how to monetize it, and what do I find there?

    I find Steve Heimoff schmoozing up the old Hosemaster and trying to steal Ebob and Laube right out from under my nose. It is a sad day for us all when you stoop to posting on the Hosemaster’s blog. And then you go and start getting witty and make that site even funnier than it has been. Have you forgotten the $20 I gave you at the Winewriter’s Symposium? Did the Hosemaster offer to pay you more? Are you auditioning for a job as a stand-up comedian in your spare time?

    Brilliant bit of writing, by the way.

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