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I reply to my critics



I get a fair number of complaints from readers who say, “I used to love reading your wine blog. You were a great wine writer, but I don’t care about your political views. You’re not an expert. Go back to writing about what you know: wine.”

Usually I don’t reply to criticism of my blog because the vast majority of people who put me down are Trumpists, and I’ve given up trying to have a rational discussion with them. However, I want to get this on the record, and explain why I changed my blog’s focus, and how I feel about these criticisms.

Rock stars sometimes get lambasted because they dare to change styles, or they prefer to play their new songs in concert instead of their old hits. Dylan experienced this at the Newport Jazz Festival. Keith Richards wrote about it in his memoir. If you’re a Rolling Stone in concert, do you play “Sympathy for the Devil” for the ten-thousandth time, or do you play, say, “I Gotta Go” off their 2016 album, “Blue & Lonesome”?

You can play both, of course, but many bands have discovered that if they don’t play enough of the old hits, the audience is disappointed. Still, rock stars are artists, above all, and artists like to feel that they evolve and learn; they don’t want to get stuck in a rut when that rut no longer interests them.

That’s how I felt about wine back in the late summer of 2016. I’d been writing my wine blog for eight years. It was one of the top wine blogs in America, with one of the highest readerships. My blog was a must-read in the American wine industry, particularly in California. I was aware of its status. And yet, when I retired, I thought to myself that there was no longer any reason for me to continue writing about wine. I’d “been there, done that.” I wanted to move on to new creative ventures.

I could have kept on writing about wine. Nobody forced me to stop. My readership numbers were not declining. However, I’ve always felt that there’s no reason to do creative things if they don’t interest me and challenge my intellectual and writing abilities; and wine became considerably less interesting the moment I retired. So I asked myself, “If I’m not interested in wine anymore, what am I interested in?” And there was one clear, obvious, overriding answer:


I grew up in an intensely political household. It was a Democratic household, where FDR, Adlai Stevenson and, later, John F. Kennedy were heroes. I was for Jimmy Carter before most Americans heard of him. I wrote Bill Clinton a letter in 1988, when he was still Governor of Arkansas, urging him to run for President. I supported Hillary Clinton as best I could and, when she lost the 2008 nomination, I was happy to be for Obama. The advent of Trump filled me with alarm, horror and disgust. That such an evil, incompetent and ignorant fool should be President seemed like a nail in America’s coffin. So, on the day in September, 2016 that I announced my retirement, I also announced that henceforth the focus of my blog would shift, from wine to politics, and specifically to anti-Trump and anti-Republican politics.

I have never regretted that decision for a second. I knew I would lose many readers, and said as much in my blog. I knew I’d come in for some criticism. But the important thing, in any creative venture, is to do what turns you on. Not your audience: they want you to stay with the old stuff. It’s what they’re comfortable with: it’s what attracted them to you in the first place. It’s why people want Paul McCartney to play “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

Well, in fairness, if I went to a McCartney concert, I’d want to hear “Can’t Buy Me Love” too. But a blog isn’t a rock concert: you can’t do a little of this, a little of that. You make your decision what your focus is, do your best, and hope that others will like what you do.

And if they don’t? Fine. Besides, there’s another reason I’m satisfied with the political slant of my blog. I never felt like my wine blog was important to America’s growth and survival. But I feel like it’s imperative for me to be as strong an anti-Trump voice as I can be. It may sound weird, but there’s something patriotic about what I do. I’m not a nationalist yahoo or anything like that, but I do love America, and I feel an obligation to do my part, however small, in protecting her from the onslaught of Trump and all the reactionary, theocratic baggage he brings with him.

So that’s my answer to the critics. If you don’t like my politics, then don’t read me! I really don’t care. I’m doing my part to be a good citizen, partaking in the most important conversation an American can have. Compared to toppling this awful Trump regime, writing about the 2014 Pinot Noir vintage in the Russian River Valley seems irrelevant.

  1. Bob Rossi says:

    In light of your statement about patriotism, you might be interested (disgusted?) to read this letter sent to my local paper:

  2. Hi Steve, i’m not a critic but used to follow your blog for years. Never came to terms with your love for california wines…but i guess that’s water down the drain now.

    My advice for you is to try to emulate more the evening talk show hosts, plus dudes like John Oliver, Bill Maher who are putting out lots of witty, lively, down the point heavy criticism of the deranged in chief disguised as jokes. Yes, they have an army of writers, but you can do it as well, though maybe not daily.

    Speaking of daily, there’s a heavy gaffe from the DIC (deranged in chief) in the morning and another one guaranteed in the evening. You’ll go crazy trying to keep up with that, literally.

    Life’s boring as it is with all the problems we have to face on a daily basis besides the sorry state of politics in the USA (do you think the congress for instance will get any better after the whacko goes away? Think again).

    So, if you can join in that kind of smart and funny crowd and write less with your liver, so much better for you and your loyal readers (who by the way, pay nothing to read you).

    For as long as the world has existed (6,000 years according to the holy books, yeeeeh), humor and satire have also been used as means of fighting the lousy powers.

    Best wishes, man.

  3. Actually, Steve…I’m assuming my comments were what prompted this post, as I clearly got under your skin…it’s not that your politics are so whacked, which they are, but I don’t really care about that. It’s that we went from thoughtful, expert discussion on wine, to hair-on-fire, wild eyed Trump hating ultra liberal gibberish. You aren’t changing anything…you are simply confirming what everyone thought of super left leaning nutcases (and there are nutcases on the right as well…you are just a left mirror image of ultra right nutcase Alex Jones) in the time of Trump: You are all whack jobs. This discourse isn’t helping. If you think Trump is 100% bad, and Obama/Hillary are 100% good…it is meaningless. No one is perfect or perfectly bad.

    The biggest issue…in a world where there is NOT much thoughtful discourse on subjects for which you may be an expert (in your case wine), it’s a shame to lose expert level discourse on a subject that lots of people decidedly AREN’T experts at…I know as a younger wine drinker, I liked learning about how to think and react to wine, and your blog was incredible. I don’t begrudge you from moving on, but as I tell my retired father who was a surgeon, it’s a shame the world has to lose the experience and intelligence acquired over a lifetime of learning. My dad, like you, has no interest in talking medicine at all. I don’t half blame him, but it’s too bad the world misses out on his expertise.

    By the way, I assume you will be paying higher tax rates and will forgo enjoying Trump’s tax cuts, right? You will send the difference to the IRS, right? Because, if you hate Trump so much, you should “resist” his policies. Just checking…

    And by the way…I don’t read this blog…once a week, I skim your posts hoping to see a random post about some wines you had tasted. This post obviously caught my eye.


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