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I just retired!



Last Friday, I told Rick Tigner, the CEO of Jackson Family Wines and a man for whom I have the utmost admiration, that I was quitting the job I’d held since March, 2014.

Why? Because I turned 70 years old in June, and I’m feeling my age.

I always had believed I would be retired by seventy, provided my finances were in order. I inherited no money from my parents, and I never had a proper pension, because I’d worked for nearly 30 years as a freelancer for Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast, neither of whom paid very well. What I did have in the way of a nest egg, though, was a very nice private investment through my family that gave me every expectation of a comfortable old age.

Alas, that private investment turned out to be run by Bernie Madoff. On Dec. 10, 2008, I—along with thousands of others—got the bad news: My life savings were gone. Along with the money went hopes of an early retirement.

However, there was some good news: In 2005, the feeder fund I was invested in unexpectedly stopped accepting new deposits. Thus, for the next four years—until the date of the Madoff arrest, and for the eight years since–I was, through force majeure, able to invest my money elsewhere. And when, in 2014, Jackson Family Wines offered me the new job—at considerably more money than I’d ever made at Wine Enthusiast—I was able to tuck away much of that, too, with the result that, by last week, my banker and I determined that I did have enough money to comfortably retire. Granted, I will never have a high-spending lifestyle. But then, I never had one before, and you can’t miss what you never had!

Turning seventy, in case you haven’t had the experience, is psychologically impactful. When I turned 40, 50, 60, it didn’t change how I felt about myself. My health was wonderful: I’ve always been in the top one percent of my age cohort when it comes to fitness. But seventy? You can’t make believe any more that you’re not old. Seventy may be “the new forty,” but it’s still threescore and ten, which Psalms tells us are “the days of our years.” The aches and pains accumulate; one fatigues more easily. More to the point, one becomes happy with (or at least reconciled to) what one is, and stress, which is inevitable in any job, is no longer welcome. The result was that, after an enormous amount of reflection, and plenty of back-and-forth in my own mind (Should I do it? Shouldn’t I?), I decided to “do it.”

This decision obviously has major consequences for me. For one, it means I’m on a fixed income. For another, it means that my career in wine is over. Period. Done, finis, #ByeBye. I no longer have any reason to be interested in wine, aside from drinking it, although it’s likely to be years before I fully disengage from thinking and reading about it; old habits die hard. But I have already begun that process in full deliberation. The symbolic act of interment, which I have yet to take, will be to eliminate all the Google alerts for “wine,” “wine industry,” “wine critic” and so forth that have filled my in-box for so many years. I haven’t done that yet…but I shortly shall.

And this blog?

Well, I still have a lot of readers. Whenever I traveled the country for Jackson Family Wines, people—complete strangers—came up to me and told me they read me every day. That is enormously gratifying; the only people who probably can relate to it are my fellow bloggers. It hasn’t always been easy to come up with topics five days a week, but then I think of all those folks across America (and in other countries) who begin their day with a little Steve, and I don’t want to disappoint them…to disappoint you.

So I will continue this blog. But there will be changes. Big ones. Going forward, I’ll write about anything that interests me. It won’t necessarily be about wine. I will frequently write about politics, which is an intense interest of mine, and I will certainly do my best to demolish the Republican Party, which deserves it. I’m sure I’ll lose readers, maybe a lot of them. But I may also gain some new ones. Be that as it may.

So, to those of you who are going to bid me a fond “farewell” because you want a strictly wine-oriented blog, I say, Adieu to you, too. Thank you for reading all these years. But you might check me out from time to time. The writing will be better than ever.

One final remark: I can’t begin to express how grateful I am to the Jackson family “kids” (as I call them) for the friendship, support and, yes, love they have given me. Julia…Chris…Ari…Hailey…Max…Katie…Shaun. You are wonderful, kind, special people with extraordinary hearts. I’m so very glad I had the privilege to get to know you; our tastings (and we still have one more left!) have been a highlight of my career. Your parents raised you right.

GUSSYPlus I get to spend more time with my pups!

  1. I wrote the following just now for Tom Wark’s blog. Funny how I could not find the right words to say until I was able to come up with them over on that other place. As a member of the fraternity, I will miss you. The wine world will miss you. As your friend of decades, I join others is offering my congratulations.

    Read on, good buddy. Here is what “captcha” would not let me post over on Wark for some reason.

    I read Steve’s farewell yesterday and have yet to find the right words to say to him. He is too important, too relevant, too much a daily acquaintance. Everyone commenting on his blog is congratulating Steve. And I’m sure that congratulations are in order. Yet, why do I feel like something important (there’s that word again) is being lost. Like you and Jeff, I will keep reading Steve, of course, but it won’t be the same.

    It is not that he was just the best wine blogger around. It is not that he wrote daily and I never found the stamina to keep up with that. It is not that I always agreed with him. Perhaps it is that he made me think, that he made us all think, and, with all due respect to the rest of us who blog, and whom I read regularly, it is because the field of wine blogging is losing a presence who raised the bar for wine blogging and kept that bar up. I wonder if the genre, our genre will see his like again.

  2. Charlie, those damn Captcha! codes! I think they’re a product of trump industries. Well, despite your apotheosis of me and my blog, I can predict with a high degree of confidence that the world of wine blogging will continue uninterrupted. And if it doesn’t, so what? What’s important is that fine wine will continue to be made and enjoyed. Perhaps the era of wine blogs was just a temporary place-holder. At any rate, I am continuing the blog! And the posts might be about wine! You’ll just have to peek every day to see. As for you, old colleague, I can’t even remember how long we’ve known each other, although of course it feels like I’ve known you longer than I have, because The CHCW has been my handbook guide to California wine since the early 1980s. As you know I still have my 1982 edition and I will never throw it away because it represents the excitement and love we all felt about wine in that long-ago time. You too deserve hearty congratulations for the place you (and Earl and Norm) hold in the history of our wine industry.

  3. Congratulations, Mr. Heimoff. We have travelled off and on in the same circles, if not actively sipping the same beverages while so doing, and I have long enjoyed reading your work. Nothing more so than this post, however, which gives this aging beer and whisky writer hope.


  4. Christopher O'Gorman says:

    Congratulations Steve! The wine world will miss your unique and talented voice. I look forward to reading your musings when they do come, politics included.


  5. Dear Chris O’Gorman: The wine world will still have my wine posts. But the greater world will have my political posts. Thank you for your kind comment!

  6. Steve,
    Cheers to a great career. All the best to you in retirement!

  7. Steve,

    Good for you on all fronts. I will continue to read all of your blogs and I’d like to put in a request for your first political blog to share your thoughts on Gary Johnson.


    PS anything that allows you to spend more time with your dogs is a good thing by me!

  8. Wha? There is a 0% chance you will stop working in wine. After your nth political rant and realizing you don’t look so hot in a duffers cap, you’ll get sucked back in. 6 months from now… a few reviews… maybe another book… oh, can you help us out on some blendings. You can no more leave wine than you can leave the Gambino family.

  9. Steve,

    It was so very cool getting to know you and hang with you a bit, and just wanted to say cheers to a fellow borough-boy for successful navigation through the long road building a solid career.



  10. Heidi Witherspoon says:

    Relax, enjoy your fixed income, and I’ll still be stalking this great blog to see what you write next! Warmly, Heidi in Seattle

  11. Dear Heidi, thank you very much!

  12. Always loved your writing, Steve. You won’t remember me but we met at a UC Davis workshop, where you were generous and professional with your advice. Thank you for all you’ve done for the industry.

  13. Thank you Bryon!

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