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What I’m thankful for (wine edition)


I’m not a particularly sentimental guy, although I do frequently cry at the schmaltzy endings of Hawaii Five-0, but this being Thanksgiving, it occurred to me to look at my past and be thankful for the people who helped me. Here, I’ll limit it to my career as a wine writer.

To begin with, I am very grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to be a paid writer. For that, I have to thank the man who fired me from my last “straight” job as director of the Career Planning and Placement Center at the California College of Arts and Crafts, Neil Hoffman. He and his Deans were fools and knaves, and while I didn’t deserve to get fired for doing my job correctly, in retrospect it was the proverbial silver lining on the cloud. I needed to find a new career, fast, and, being that I was a career counselor who frequently advised students to do something they loved, rather than merely something that made money, I decided to follow my own advice. I loved two things: writing and wine. So I put them together and became a wine writer.

Thank you, President Hoffman!

I thank, also, Jim Gordon, now the editor of Wines & Vines but back then editor of Wine Spectator, who gambled on a newbie by taking me on as that magazine’s lead freelancer. (Actually, it wasn’t much of a gamble. I was good, and Jim knew it.) And I thank my current publisher, Adam Strum, for taking me on when I left the Spectator. Adam has been a loyal and fair employer to me, and he has shown a wise hand in shepherding Wine Enthusiast to the dominating position it holds today.

Thank you Adam!

I’m thankful to the great editors I’ve been lucky to have over the years, Mr. Tim Moriarty particularly coming to mind. Editors can be a pain in the neck (because they’re always making you rewrite stuff when you were hoping you were done with it), but the stuff always comes out better; and editors probably think writers are a pain in the neck, so we’re even.

I thank also the members of the wine industry, who have been so kind to me for such a long time: the winemakers (to name any but not all would be invidious), the owners, the cellar rats, the members of the P.R. community whose praises I have sung loudly and often. You all have made my work a pleasure, and you are the reason why the wine industry is the best to work in, in all of America.

I’m thankful to the high tech industry for making my work so much easier. When I started, I used to type my articles out on a typewriter (if you’re under 25, look up “typewriter” in the dictionary. If you don’t know what a dictionary is, Google it). Then I’d have to mail my articles to Jim Gordon through the U.S. Postal Service!!! It sounds tedious and bizarre, but back then, it was the only way we knew, and so it seemed natural. Who knows how reporters in the year 2061 will send copy to their editors?

I’m grateful that my health has been such as to allow me to do the often strenuous work involved in being an active wine writer, and that includes tasting. Tasting is a laborious, physical routine that requires stamina and a sound constitution. One of the reasons I’m such a gym bunny is that it’s really important for me to stay trim and fit if I want to do my job well.

I’m grateful for the friends I’ve made among other wine writers, some of whom are no longer with us. (R.I.P. David Jones.) Only another wine writer knows what this job is like–the good, the bad, the ugly and the absurd. I’ve had plenty of yucks with my colleagues (including my fellow writers at Wine Enthusiast), and that has helped to keep me sane (if I am).

I’m thankful that wine has become such a popular thing in America. Never thought that would happen, but it did. Way to go, America!

Have a great Thanksgiving!

  1. Happy Thanksgiving Steve! Predictably curious, what you might be drinking?

  2. Steve, I am glad that winewriting is so much less strenuous for me than for you. :-}

    Could you have ever imagined spending a lifetime getting paid for what you might have done for free?

    Since I am a lot older than you, I can tell this story.

    My graduate school class reached what would have been the 65th birthday for most of its members a few years back. The Class Secretary send out a note asking what we all were doing in our “dotage”. Were we retiring? Sailing off into the sunset? Starting a new career?

    I wrote back and said that I could not imagine retiring from what I do. One of my classmates responded with, “Of course you can’t. You are doing what I want to do in my retirement”.

    Somehow, I am able to get through all the hard work and still find it fun, rewarding and full of new challenges.

  3. Charlie, of course you’re right. We’re lucky to do what we do. But I do think it helps a lot to be in peak physical condition.

  4. Wandering wino, I will be drinking anything and everything on the table!

  5. Steve, you realize, don’t you, that by actually expressing gratitude in a column you are countervailing all the trends of the moment toward simple-minded negativism. I hope you repent of this madness soon and stop poisoning the hostile atmosphere that our politicians have taken so many years to build up.

  6. Patrick, your comment is the dumbest, stupidest thing I’ve ever heard! There, is that negative enough 4U?

  7. You could make it more negative, Steve, but I think to do so would require a burst of profanity. And let me point out in conclusion, leaving aside all postmodern sarcasm/irony, that I am thankful for your blog, because it’s always very stimulating.

  8. I second Patrick. I’m grateful for your blog. It has been enlightening and entertaining, both of which I appreciate.

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