Back from NY and glad to be in Cali
I’m sorry I’ve been so unavailable here the last few days. Our meetings at Wine Enthusiast in New York were relentless, lasting from early morning until after dinner, and I frankly just didn’t have the time or energy to get online.
Of course there were upsides. It was great to see my colleagues, and I got to drink a lot of things I usually don’t — Cahors,Chateau Climens yum yum, old Port, Burgundy, Champagne, Alsace, German TBA, although somehow, Bordeaux and Italian wines escaped my attention, although there must have been some around.
Planning for a year’s worth of article — scores of them, big and small — up to a year in advance is tricky. You can’t know what’s going to be hot or newsworthy in 2011 or, by contrast, what will be so 2010. Our primary target — he and she for whom we write — is “the consumer,” a beast as mythical as the unicorn. We want to please and inform the consumer, but who exactly is he or she? He isn’t one person, of course, but many. Our circulation is way up these days, into six figures, and we aim to double it by this time next year, so it’s hard to know precisely what all those readers will want. Will Malbec remain hot or will it be something else? Will value still be important or will consumers be willing to spend again? What kinds of food trends will there be? What cocktails and beers will everyone be talking about? Which raises the question: Are we writers leaders who tell readers what the new trends are, or do our readers lead us to new trends, wines, foods, styles?
It’s a little of both, of course, especially these days. Wine (and food) writing is now a two-way street, as the conversation moves online. Wine Enthusiast, like every other print pub, is trying to figure out exactly what this online revolution is — and if we can help lead it. And we think we can.
For me, it’s always nice to get to New York and see my old friends and colleagues, but I do miss California when I’m away. Easterners still love to bash Cali — fruits and nuts, too casual, not hip enough or fast-talking enough, not so quick with the wisecracks, too mellow and laid back — but I always detect a little jealousy behind the put-downs. I don’t have to remind anyone of California’s virtues, do I? The weather, the views, our vibrant cities, wine country, mountains, seas, forests. Some people still like to put down our wines as too this, too that, too whatever. I just smile. Consumers like them, and that’s what counts.
As for next year’s magazine, I have some unbelievably great stories planned. They’ll take me all over the state. I can’t wait to dig in and write them, and I’ll still be blogging five days a week, bringing my adventures to you.
One thing we reviewers talked about in New York was critical consistency in rating wines. Roger Voss, our chief European editor, got off a good one in that regard. We were talking about MWs and how seriously they tend to take blind tasting and replicability, and Roger, who knows many MWs, said, “First, they learn the rules of blind tasting, and then they break them.” I think I know what he meant. I’ve heard the same said of artists. Picasso, for example, first learned how to draw and paint in the classic style, and once he mastered that, he threw the classic style away and invented his own style, which became the new classic. Picasso broke every rule in the book. Is it a stretch to compare wine critics to artists? You tell me.