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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.

  1. Gary Vaynerchuk > Critics

    It’s easy to criticize those who do something … and hard to attack those who don’t do anything.

  2. This string is shattering my image of #TwitterNice and #WineNice you know, like in the board game of RISK when the time comes and you have to attack someone in order to win. Throw the dice. Come with more armies and hope the gods be with you.

    I have no dog, cat or MOG in this fight.

    I am betting on Steve Heimoff here and it’s a simple thing. He practices journalistic technique prior to offering his opinions. In the end, you have to ask why anybody gives a flip around buzz and glam and the Kardashianism of wine. When I see people sucking up worshipfully to Twitter gods, SM geniuses and other self-appointedness, I get ill.

    The TwitterShpere, BlogesSphere and SEO Sphere could use a little more science in the art-science spectrum.

  3. Gary Vaynerchuk has been an important and positive force on the wine scene, though his videos could have used an editor. Neveretheless, he will be missed. It’s a dark day for wine commentary, what with Michael Steinberger’s incisive column at Slate also being terminated. Hang in there, Steve.

  4. Steve,
    Read you regularly, love the stuff you are pouring, keep it up. I think of GV more as One Tricky Pony…I’m sure he’s got other things fermenting, and even if this was it, and he had to start over, it has alreday been great for the next generation of wine consumers.
    His work made it OK for us to be a wine geeks, and US wine culture needs that kind of boost. CA is so fortunate to be stewing in its own juices. For the rest of us in the “Other 46” the guidance, and more importantly, the confidence to find our own way as consumers, is a really big deal.
    I do hope that you guys get to share a bottle of some cheap and excellent wine someday.

  5. OMG what a bunch of pretentious ass4es! Especially Ron Lavette. Jeez you would thing GV was the next coming, reading all the comments from his sycophants. Hey, great posts bros! And for all of you here’s your anthem:

  6. Glenn Levine says:

    There is an event called “Wine Stars”, LMFAO? Therein lies the rub.

  7. John Valenti says:

    Just from reading all these comments, it’s clear Gary V made quite an impression on the wine world. I have no doubt that his high energy, in-our-face approach cost him as many friends as it made him. That beingsaid, I’ll relate my own personal anecdote about Gary.

    In 2007, I made my first trip to Napa with my wife. We had been “serious” about wine for a few years, and with the kid old enough to endureu absence, wanted to go to one of the wine world epicenters. It was in preparation for that trip that I stumbled upon WineLibrary TV, and more importantly, their forums.

    While there, we were tasting at one of my favorite vineyards, when the the tasting room guy poured a little known but fantastic blend. He cautioned us, with a bit of awein his voice, that if we liked it, we’d better buy it, because this “big retailer from out east” was negotiating to buy all they had. It was then that I realized this little guy on the computer screen had some traction with real players in the wine world.

    The next year, while visiting Disney World during Epcot Food and Wine Festival, I noticed Gary V was doing a wine seminar to promote his just released first book. Te wife and I stopped b, and the crowd was clearly a little sparse, likely due to the fact he was a late add, and had little publicity surrounding his visit. He put on a great show, and took the time to talk with each and every one of the people who showed up to see him. I found him disarmingly sincere, and excited not just about wine, but about turning people on to wine.

    That same night, I happened to be dining at a great little African restaurant downi there, and notice Gary, his wife and some friends dining a few tables away. Not wanting to interrupt their meal, I had the sommelier send him a glass of a great South African blend we were drinking, with a joking request as to whether he thought it was a buy or pass. He saw who sent it, took the time to come say hello, and on his way out, sent a great dessert wine over with his thanks for the support.

    Bottom line, whatever you think about Gary V and his relation to the wine world, in person he seems to be a humble, engaging guy with a real passion for wine, and an even greater passion for engaging people. Love him or hate him, he “grew the pie”; and that’s good for everyone in wine. In a world that is ever more casual, he made wine accessible to a younger more “new media” population – and that’s great. I trust Gary will move onto his next venture with equal passion, and I, for one, wish him well.

  8. I used to defend Steve to my friends in the trade as an Anti-Laube voice. I even touted his RRV book. Then he started his blog, and I got to know his voice a bit more…

  9. Bye bye Gary. You are the Steve Jobs of the wine-social media community. We loved your comments.

  10. Wow, talk about being “ungracious”. Gary comes on here and apologizes for a bad impression he made, and you can’t even address it. Hopefully you did it privately, or I guess you’ll continue to carry it with you.

  11. I think Anthony just nailed it… talk about hypocritical… ungracious indeed…

  12. E Harkins says:

    steve says:
    August 25, 2011 at 10:00 amBrian, I don’t think Parker, Laube and I agree on everything. As for winemakers, they want to make as many critics happy as possible.
    Appears to contradict your implications made in the body of the article where winemakers only “wet themselves” for Parker meetings and scores. If your response is true regardless of Parker there or not is of no consequence since they’re trying to make “every critic as happy as possible”. I don’t agree either high scores might get consumers (the people who actually make this industry a viable business) in the door but if the wine is no good it won’t keep them – certainly not at the prices that some high scroed wine can command.
    Your article comes across as petty and bitter and seems best explained by some of your responses above. You basically admit holding a grudge against GV for his reaction to you at some chance meeting comes across as the result of oenophile omnipotence. I would now be hesitant to take any value in your wine reviews if this apparent lack of objectivity seems to govern what you write about … seems as if a winemaker doesn’t greet you in a way you expect he’ll be luck to get over 70…

  13. I’m a fan of critical thinking, but I’m realizing that your blog spends more time slinging mud at people than doing its part to expand people’s minds. Everyone has their style, but just don’t forget that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

  14. Two words aptly describe Steve Heimoff here: SOUR GRAPES.

  15. I am not sure I understand why this would bother John Kelly to the comment that we are a$$es – I am sure if there were people bashing Johns wine and salon and John’s loyal wine club members defended the wine, salon and him – would he hava a problem?

    all people are doing is defending Gary against a blog post that states opinions of which most disagree.
    For example-
    “One Trick Pony”
    +well the guy grew a retail wine store from a small store to a giant store and its web business before most could even spell “www”
    +Gary put out one of the most succesful video blogs ever
    +Gary became an expert in using social media before most knew that media was social
    +Gary wrote several books on growing business through social media
    +Gary speaks at wine events, at tech events and business events
    +Gary is not 5’10
    +Gary runs a media company

    Well that must be one big pony- and that is the point, sure make an opinion and write about it but try to let a few facts influence you once in a while

  16. Steven Bonesing says:

    No big deal but it’s apparent that you write of which you do not “knoweth”.. Gary is a mensch,an animal salesman, and ambitious beyond the stars. He is true to his word and I truly believe that he digs people. I wouldn’t mind the mindless bashing if I got the feeling that you knew more than a blurb about the guy. But hey that’s just me a BLN to the end.. Cheers..

  17. What happened to all the comments (the column lists 66). Editor’s perogative I guess. Nevertheless, here’s one more vote for the SH perspective. Garbage mouth Gary just doesn’t have the finesse to get into the Big Time, though determination can carry one a long way toward reaching the American Dream (a.k.a., “the bitch goddess success”). He did help increase interest in vino, no question. Now he can concentrate on growing his Motivational Speaker biz.

  18. Tom Merle, I didn’t delete any comments.

  19. KAHUNA, thanks. Somehow in all this, the part where I praised Gary got ignored. I wrote (of him and Parker): “Both these individuals have writ their signatures large on the history of wine. They will be long remembered, and honored in the pantheon.” My gosh, that’s pretty high praise.

  20. CABDRINKER™ says:

    Gee- I guess your so called praise is lost with such wonderful writing like:
    “He reminded me of those rock bands that gets a hit or two, and then you never hear from them again.”

  21. CABDRINKER™ says:

    Gary has enough hits to make a double album of greatest hits whereas I never heard of you before yesterday. Seems to me you are the one blog post wonder. Just sayin.

  22. Tom, click on “Older Comments” at the bottom of these comments.

    Steve, to get back to my comment and your response. I know you, Laube, and Parker don’t agree on everything, but is it fair to say that if Parker and Laube have high praise for a wine you tend to like it too? I know that’s not always the case and I know there are exceptions, but from what I’ve seen (honestly, it isn’t much) the three of you generally feel the same way about quite a few wines, don’t you?

    My point being, do you think many winemakers will go back to making a style that wouldn’t be Parker friendly if they know they will likely still get positive reviews from Laube, yourself, and possibly Galloni by doing what they had been doing to please Parker?

    I’m just curious why you seem so certain that winemakers can’t wait to do something that doesn’t have to please Parker. You’re the insider and you probably talk to more winemakers in a week than I have in my life, so I’m asking as someone looking for more insight, not as someone trying to attack you.

  23. Brian, I have never made the slightest attempt to correlate my scores with JL’s or RP’s so I don’t know how to answer your question. All I know is that I am told by winemakers that they appreciate the fact that I like wines that are drier and less big than what JL gives big scores to. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t give those wines big scores too. I think I have a more catholic (small “c”) palate than RP or JL. There are sound reasons for that I can explain at another time

  24. Dear CABDRINKER, thank you. I hope you’ll now be a regular reader of my blog and will weigh in frequently with comments.

  25. Steve, I know you don’t attempt to correlate your scores with Parker, Laube, or any other critic for that matter. I wasn’t trying to suggest you were with my previous comment. Any critic attempting that would have been shamed out of the industry long ago.

    But to give you some examples of what I was referring to, the Schramsberg ’07 Brut Rose got 94 points from you, 92 from RP and 91 from JL. The Mondavi ’07 Reserve Cab got 95 points from all three of you. And the Darioush ’07 Signature Cab got 94 points from yourself and JL and 93 from RP.

    Should these three winemakers even care that RP is no longer reviewing California wines? Do you think they would do anything different this year than they would have knowing RP was sniffing around?

  26. See my argument opposite this here and massive credit and thanks for Mr Heimoff for commenting on it.

  27. Steve,

    Yes your compliments would get lost in all of this since they were kind of backhanded. Still wondering if or why you haven’t addressed the apology Gary extended. Ungracious still?

  28. Steve,

    When I posted up above, your blog indicated that there were 66 comments. I counted only 16. Several of those posts referred to comments that just didn’t exist. Someone mentioned that GV came on to apologize. No Vay-ner-chuk post. So if you didn’t remove 50 comments how can I find them. The mystery grows. T.O.M.

  29. OK, Brian, thanks for pointing out Older Comments. Didn’t know it existed.

  30. Tom, I almost never delete or not approve comments. I’ve done it maybe 3 times ever, and only when there’s defamation of character or outright insanity. Of course, I get a lot of spam comments, or what looks like spam, and I routinely delete those.

  31. Steve
    Well-conceived, thoughtful, well-written, interesting post.
    Now for something completely different-Why did SF Natural Wine Week get so little attention ? It is pretty clearly a potential threat to corporate wine, although the threat seems miniscule. Nonetheless, I thought bloggers, always looking for something about which to write, would be all over it, even if just to belittle or dismiss or poke fun and wisecrack. Parker was moved to make some brutal comments about “natural” wine. Bunt

  32. Steve,

    I knew this was your policy Steve, so I was mystified because I didn’t know this software has an “Older Comments” function. I just missed it, having never clicked on it in the past when I use to post.

    Also, I fail to see how you have been ungracious. You are forthright which makes you such a good blogger, giving opinions that you can’t make in your print writing. You are one of the few practitioners of critical thinking. So many of the commenters seem unable to make distinctions and overreact when their sacred cow is pricked.

    You stated your opinion of GV’s behavior at the WE awards program. Gary is sorry (this is different, by the way, than “I apologize”). But even so, apologies, which are issued constantly by public figures, don’t undue past actions. So I am unclear what the Defenders want you to do.

  33. James McCann says:

    What I’ve always found ironic is that while Gary was building his personal brand on WLTV and through his blog, WL’s home page always featured traditional reviews. (A Parker 94 For Only $24.99!)

  34. Bunt marker, I never heard of SF Natural Wine Week.

  35. Steve
    Google it, and consider next year. I think this will be, if not The Next Big Thing, at least The Thing. It should be good for massive hits on your blog, because a lot of people DO care what’s in their wine. Just like what’s in their food. Yes, it’s a trend, but so what? It may well be here to stay, and turn into a Frankenstein, or the next Big Deal, post-Parker. You don’t want to be playing catch-up on an important trend, do you? Bunt

  36. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for your honest opinions. I read your blog daily because you make me think about the wine world outside of my “domaine” so to speak. I’m not sure what your critics expect. Do they want you to just be nice and polite? Isn’t it better that you be honest and thought provoking? If we all agree on everything, you wouldn’t need to write and we wouldn’t be interested anyway.
    I’ve never met Robert Parker but I do feel the effects of his palate. As a natural winemaker, I spend my days in the winery talking to people about why and how my wines are made by natural yeast, and yet manage to have aromatics and flavors consistent with the varieties. Many people come into the winery with a somewhat negative view of natural winemaking or native yeast….until my wines convince them otherwise. It’s an unending uphill battle and I have to think it’s because of powerful people in the industry who have disdain for these methods…the most vocal and influential of which has been RP.

    Anna Marie

  37. Gregg Burke says:

    Hey Steve,
    The post seems a bit bitter. I do expect better from you, because you do write very well and I love the wit you bring.
    In regards to Gary V he has done a lot for the industry. I have met him many times and I have to say to his detractors that he is a very humble and a very nice guy. As a retailer in the state Gary was a pain in the ass because he was very good at what he does and he put pressure on everyone large and small. I was happy when he stepped down from WL. I have no idea what he will do next but I have a feeling that we will see him again.
    As for Parker not covering California, let’s see if Galleoni(?) shares his passion for the over oaked and overripe. So far from his Italian ratings he does not, but time will tell.

  38. I don’t think the post was bitter at all. A very thought-provoking read. I never thought of making the parallel between Parker-California and Vaynerchuk-wine videos. Interesting comparison. Thanks, as always, Steve.

  39. Steve
    As a blog, which is arguably some sort of entertainment/news medium like Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, I think your business is in traffic, media share, hits, whatever. If that is true, you are doing well. Criticism, controversy, whatever- you are creating activity. I don’t fully understand the milieu, but based on the number of responses, you have succeeded. Hmmm… Bunt

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