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Off to the wine writers symposium!


I’m off this morning to the Wine Writer’s Symposium at Meadowood where, unlike last year, Mr. Gordon, who runs the show, didn’t ask me to participate in any of the sessions. I’m glad, because I don’t have to stress over presentations, etc., and can wander around freely, checking things out, inspecting the scene, and trying to figure out if this event has legs, which it may or may not have.

I mean, God bless the people who drop a bundle to come to this expensive event, but America has only so many slots for paid wine writers, and whatever that number is, it’s way less than the number of people who pay for multiple nights at Meadowood.

Most of the breakout sessions do not interest me. “Employing Storycraft in Winemaker Profiles, with writing exercise.” “Write Better Opinion Columns and Blog Posts.” “Get Your Book Idea Published.” Been there, done that. What Mr. Bill LeBlond, from Chronicle books, will probably not tell the audience concerning the latter–which I and many others know too well–is that publishing a wine book, hard as it is, may burnish your reputation, but won’t make you any money. And that’s after months and years of effort, which makes writing a wine book earn less than comparable hours working at Taco Bell.

So why am I going? Truthiness: Wine Enthusiast is paying my expenses. Otherwise, I couldn’t justify the cost. I’m enormously grateful to the magazine. I know I’ll have fun and I will try to represent my magazine with dignity.

What do I plan to do? Number one on my list is to to go the presentation that my beloved editor, Susan Kostrzewa, is heading up on “Holy Cow I’m a Freelancer! Now What Do I Do?” Obviously, I don’t need advice on that, but Susan is one of the finest, most morally upright editors I’ve ever worked with, and I want to hear what she has to say. In that audience may be someone who eventually has my job at Wine Enthusiast.

But that’s the only breakout session I’m looking forward to. Other than that, here’s my schedule, strictly unofficial. I’m going to get together with Joel Aiken, Beaulieu’s former winemaker and such a brilliant protege of Andre Tchelistcheff, to find out what he’s up to. I’m having dinner with the winemaker at Shypoke, Peter Heitz, whose wines have so impressed me. On Thursday, Francoise Peschon, the winemaker at Araujo, has kindly invited me to tour and taste; I mentioned the other day that Araujo’s 2006 Eisele Cabernet, their estate vineyard, was my top pick at the cult Cabernet tasting Jeremy Nickle invited me to.

For me, going to the Wine Writers Symposium is an opportunity to check out what’s happening. I have some concern about protecting the future of wine writing. I don’t want it to fall into the hands of incompetents who by virtue of hitting the “publish” button can send ill-informed nonsense for all the world to see. I’ve been rather heavily sunk down into the Napa Valley scene lately and I suspect there’s a lot of uncertainty how to deal with this brave new world. Does Abreu send their wine to Joe Roberts, or do they continue to depend on the military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned against, of a handful of too-potent influencers who distort reality? These elitist producers do so at their peril. Egypt and Libya are far away from Napa Valley, but eventually kingdoms topple.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to reporting from the front lines of the symposium.

  1. These seem of interest if only for the human spectacle. Glad you champion quality writing though, it shows in your work.

  2. I wish I worked for your employer. My employer won’t pay my way up to Napa so I can sit around and sip expensive wine for three days at a Writers Symposium.

    And when the day comes that Joe Roberts starts getting inundated with $200 cult Napa Cabs, we will know that he has come over to the dark side, and like those people who turned 30 and could no longer be trused, Joe will have become part of the establishment and will therefore get dissed by the very people from whence he came.

    Hurry up, Joe. The military-industrial winewriters complex is waiting for you.

  3. Steve, I can understand your error of “I mean, God bless the people who drop a bundle to come to this expensive event, but America has only so many slots for paid wine writers, and whatever that number is, it’s way less than the number of people who pay for multiple nights at Meadowood.”I think you meant “way fewer” not “way less.” But “truthiness?” Are you sipping too much wine? ☺

  4. Marlene, I hope to make way fewer grammar mistakes in my blog in the future! Thanks.

  5. Marlene Rossman says:

    Steve, I know how hard it is to be grammatical and clever on a daily basis! Speaking as a fellow wine columnist, I will say that your blog rocks!!!

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