Goodbye yellow brick Parkerchuk
I’ve said for years that Gary Vaynerchuk wouldn’t do wine videos forever–only as long as it took to launch him to something else that presumably pays more money. I always suspected he wanted to be Ryan Seacrest and make $30 million a year as an impresario. Now he’s taking a leap that could get him there.
So what does a post-Gary Vee world mean for wine? To begin with, Gary’s lost a lot of juice lately. It was a good time for him to get out. Like the old saying goes, Leave while you’re still having fun. Such was Gary’s dominance of the wine-social media nexus that it sometimes seemed no other blogger could really get any traction because Gary sucked up all the oxygen.
Yet he’s been deflating over the past year, as his act wore thin. I don’t doubt that hundreds of thousands of his loyal fans will miss him, but there was always something of a one-trick pony aspect to Gary. He reminded me of those rock bands that gets a hit or two, and then you never hear from them again.
I give Gary credit for proving that the Internet can be a viable home for a wine writer/blogger/videographer. I personally never thought much of his oversized personality. I thought he brought a bloated ego to wine media. I mean, it was always more about Gary than the wine, or whoever his guest was. Maybe that’s what it takes to succeed. Years ago, I ran into Adam Sandler, the actor-comedian, in the green room of a San Francisco comedy club. This was way before he was famous. I didn’t much like him. He was very conceited and full of himself, yet he also projected a confidence that made me think he was destined for stardom (and likewise made me realize I wasn’t!). As indeed he was. Adam is said to make $27 million a year, which is probably more than Gary makes–so far.
I analogize Gary’s retirement to Parker’s leaving California. Same kind of forces involved. Parker too was so dominant, he distorted the space around him, like a massive gravitational object that bends light to warp speed. I think Robert Parker was a nice man, but his impact on the world of wine was unhealthy. It’s not good for one person to have such power over one piece of reality, unless it’s Steve Jobs (who also retired yesterday as CEO of Apple). Parker’s influence on wine style is well known and need not be reiterated here. It has been sad for me, in my job, to travel up and down California and witness the veneration bordering on fear with which so many winemakers saw him. People said I was jealous, but that wasn’t it. It’s just pathetic to see winemakers so in thrall of a single critic that they practically wet their pants just thinking about him, male and female alike–a neurosis particularly noticeable in Napa Valley. So with Parker’s departure, I am hopeful that, after a period of adjustment, California winemaking circles can get back to normal and begin to make wine the way their winemakers actually want to, instead of the way they’re ordered to by one isolated critic with a palate to protect.
So goodbye to Gary and goodbye to Parker. Both these individuals have writ their signatures large on the history of wine. They will be long remembered, and honored in the pantheon. With their hegemony now gone, this is a good moment for pause for a moment, and then to move forward, without them, into brighter uplands.