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It was the best of times, it still is the best of times


(with apologies to Charles Dickens)

I blogged last week on the Rutherford Dust tasting, and mentioned a few old friends I was pleased to run into. When I originally typed that adjective old, I was aware that it could be interpreted two ways: “old” in the sense that I’ve known these men and women for a good long time, and “old” in the sense that many of them now have gray or white hair if, in fact, they have any hair at all (and if they haven’t dyed it which, ahem, one or two of them might have).

I remember looking around the room and thinking, “My gosh, everybody looks so much older than they used to.” (Except for me, of course.) And that brought forth a bunch of thoughts I want to try and frame and share with you.

On one level at the tasting I was scared. I say that, because I thought, “How can a tasting like this be appropriate or even relevant if the only people here are in their 50s and 60s?” I mean, it was very difficult to escape the conclusion that the tasting was happening in a bubble, or a time warp, in which bunch of elitist old writers was tasting elite wines that most “normal” people will never be able to afford, and don’t really care about, to be frank. It was almost like being in a nursing home where everybody sits around and strolls down memory lane. “Remember back when FDR said…” blah blah. Where was anyone young? Where were the bloggers, guerilla marketers, hip Millennial deejays who do wine tastings at clubs, online entrepreneurs, new media publishers?

But since that was a troubling, negative thought, I decided to take it to the next level, and I did. I realized that any time we do anything, it’s within a context that necessarily separates us from everything else, to some degree. For instance, I went to a San Francisco Giants game on Sunday that put me in the company of baseball fans. But it also separated me from people who would never be caught dead at a baseball game and don’t know the difference between Lincecum and linoleum. That doesn’t mean there was some kind of irreparable gulf between baseball fans and non-baseball fans. It just means that each of us goes to the places we like and that make us happy and where we feel comfortable.

And then I thought, Wait a minute. I was just at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla. There, I was completely surrounded by hundreds of wine lovers in their twenties and thirties and forties. It was sort of the opposite of the Rutherford Dust crowd, age-wise, but it was no different, in kind. Each person at both events had a heart and a soul that’s passionate about wine. Each person was there to learn more about wine, and to see old friends (“old” being a relative term) and make new ones.

And that made me realize how lucky I am to have the best of both worlds. If I felt any remorse for some of the older people at the Rutherford tasting, it was because I wondered if they’re getting cut off from a younger generation of exciting new wine drinkers. I would never want or allow that to happen. Wine blogging has enabled me to stay relevant, or at least feel like I’m staying relevant. It’s been one of the most delightful twists in my professional, unpredictable career. I hope I can stay saturated in that turbulent young culture for a long time; but I sure am glad I’m still able to get invited to “elite” events, like the Rutherford Dust tasting, and see friends who are “old” in the best of both senses of the word.

  1. Who are you calling old? You make me glad I went up to Riesling Rendezvous instead of Rutherford Dust. Sat next to a very pleasant young blogger by the name of Wine Peeps. I liked her. She laughed at my OLD jokes. But, I did conclude that my new blog was going to be called Wine Gramps.

    Now, I have nothing against WinePeeps or any other peeps. Some of my best friends are peeps, but I did realize that this YOUNG thing had no real background in wine. I remember the 71 Rieslings like it was yesterday. She wasn’t borne in 71. I remember the 74 Napa Cabs and the 82 Bordeaux. She wasn’t borne then either–or, if she was, she was barely peeping at the time.

    So, I don’t mind being of a certain age because I may have slowed down, but my nose still works and I have tasting memories that inform the inputs that my OLD nose is passing through to my brain. As the SF Chron article on aging remarked so germanely the other day, I may forget that my glasses are on my forehead but I have a lot more complex processing skills because of the accumulated knowledge gained over the decades.

    Who you calling OLD? I am not OLD. It turns out that I am mature, complex and just beginning to peak.

  2. Charlie, lol!

  3. Not directly on point, but we do live in vastly different times. In the “old” days a serious wine review magazine would not think of being affiliated with a wine sales department. The current wine promotion of Wine Express, a Wine Enthusiast company, cites another wine authority (WA) to give it the necessary 90. Did WE, the mag, find it didn’t clear the bar? The lines that might have been set to avoid the perception of conflict of interest do get all mushy.

  4. Hey Steve!
    No where near 50. Not even 40.


  5. Tom, you can think of Wine Enthusiast Companies as Procter & Gamble or General Mills — a company that owns many unrelated smaller companies. Wine Express has nothing to do with Wine Enthusiast Magazine, any more than Haagen Dazs ice cream has anything to do with Cheerios — even though both are owned by General Mills. Get it?

  6. But Haagen Dazs doesn’t review Cheerios as a supposedly independent 3rd party. While you make it clear your reviews are independent of the marketing arm of WE, it looks suspicious from the outside. That’s the perception, but not the reality, I suppose.

  7. Steve, you also missed Brian (aka norcalwingman), who’s not in the 50-60s category, yet. (I really missed him, too, at the event. He commented on my blog about it this morning.) How about Randy Caparoso? Is he there yet? Gerald Asher was with a late 30’s early 40’s something young man. They were there, just not as prevalent as the “old” friends.

    I, too, had that same observation.

    There’s one plausible reason. I have the same thing going on with my Petite Sirah Symposium next Tuesday. I invited every blogger that I could find (sorry if I missed any of you). With the younger group, most of them have day jobs, and they can’t just “get away,” even when invited to an event. I suppose they can take personal or vacation days, but how many of them can they take before it’s too many?

    Because we’re in the biz, and working at our own levels of independence, we can write our own agendas. That’s one of the luxuries of one’s hair going gray or away… We write our own scripts. We live the life…

  8. joshiemac says:

    A very thoughtful post. Thanks for writing.

    I like to think that I have diverse interests: wine, food, sports, literature and politics to name a few. I try really hard to not get too caught up on any one interest. I would never just want to think/talk/read about just politics or just wine. I try to jump back and forth as much as possible, integrating ALL of them into my life as much as possible.

    Accordingly, I would never want to hang out with just wine nerds, or just sports fans, or just political junkies. Diversity is what makes life interesting and fun. Different people, different interests, different approaches to life.

  9. The more apt parallel would be if Proctor & Gamble or General Mills also owned Bon Appetit or Sunset mags. It seems to me that there are certain partnerships that may be inappropriate.

    Just Tom Merle being his usual Tom the Crank.

  10. Greg, I don’t know why it’s so hard for some people to understand. Wine Express has nothing to do with Wine Enthusiast. Totally different company, different business model. It just happens to be owned by the same people.

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