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Some people in Napa Valley need an intervention


You know what an intervention is, right? “An orchestrated attempt by one or many people – usually family and friends – to get someone to seek professional help with an addiction,” says Wikipedia. There’s even a T.V. show on interventions, called Intervention.

The concept started back in the hippie days, when parents would hire somebody to abduct a son or daughter who had dropped out of society to join a cult. Nowadays, it’s more about rescuing people who have a serious addiction to drugs, alcohol or both.

What does “addiction” mean? We throw that word around as though its meaning were transparent. My Webster’s dictionary defines “addiction” as “the condition of being addicted” [presumably, to something], so we have to look up the root word “addict.” There we find the word “addict” to be derived from the Latin; an addict is someone who “gives himself up to some strong habit” and, more specifically in the modern sense, “a person addicted to the use of a narcotic drug.”

Now we’re getting someplace. What is a “narcotic” drug? From a Middle English root-word that means stupor, from which the word “stupid” also derives– and we all know what that means! “Stupid is as stupid does,” in the immortal words of Forrest Gump’s mom. So we can connect the dots: addicted people do stupid things due to their addiction.

See what fun etymology can be?

What got me thinking about addiction and stupidity? I got my latest copy of “Bounty Hunter.” That’s the marketing publication of Bounty Hunter Rare Wines & Provisions, in downtown Napa. Now, Bounty Hunter carries a lot of rare and expensive Napa Valley wines. Its founder and CEO, Mark Steven Pope, explains on the inside of the cover how he and his store’s employees go the extra mile to make sure their customers get only the best wines. “We taste between five and six thousand wines every year,” he writes. “Our Wine Scouts, AKA your Personal Sommeliers and Wine Country Advisors,” is how he describes the staff, implying that you can trust their palates. Which is as it should be in a great wine store.

So I’m browsing through the issue and by page 4 I’d had enough Robert Parker, Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator mentions to make me hurl.  On page 2 alone, of 12 wines listed, 7 cited their names. Perhaps, in the booklet’s 41 pages, one or another critic or publication was mentioned, but if so, after scrutiny, I missed it. So here’s my question: If your staff are so smart, dear Mr. Mark Steven Pope, then why do you have to lard your reviews with Parker and Spectator? Isn’t that an insult to “your Personal Sommeliers”? I don’t know a single sommelier with any self-respect who would cite Parker, Spectator, me or anyone else, other than herself. It’s total rubbish.

Mr. Pope’s addiction to Parker and Spectator is merely the symptom, however, of something larger and more insidious in Napa Valley. He’s hardly alone in his craving for a Parker-Spectator fix. The line of addicts is long, populated by people who really ought to know better. But then, they’re addicts — in a stupor — literally unable to see things clearly.

I feel sorry for these people, I really do, just as I feel pity for the poor schlubs on the Intervention TV program. You look at them and think, “It’s so easy, just stop with the pills and the booze and the needles, and get a life.” But, of course, from the point of view of the addict, it’s not easy. That’s why they’re addicts. They’re not able to stop themselves from stupid behavior even though they may realize, in some dim little corner of their minds, that it is stupid and self-defeating, and that they publicly embarrass themselves with their sorry dependency. Unfortunately, for these particular addicts, there is no intervention I can think of–unless it’s reading this blog and coming to their senses.

  1. Steve, not one of your better posts, but as the stupid addict digs his hole, you etymologically vaunt yourself right over the whole mess, maybe dragging our “sorry dependency” into your own talents or reviews? should “we” not quote you; what if it was your name instead of RP’s? Is it not wise to balance a review with another’s opinion when advocating that big money be plunked-down for a wine? I’ll dare to risk a few bucks for an unknown wine, but if I’m spending $25 or more for a bottle, I like to have some sense of what I’m buying, and since RP, ST, JS, LM, and others have a track record, it’s logically not stupid to have a Paraclete come-along-side. I doubt that Mark Pope’s “Personal Sommeliers” are well known outside of Napa.
    My last thought (Aren’t you glad?) That other magazine, Wine Advocate, heralds “advocacy” for a reason.

  2. Carlos Toledo says:

    Rather cool post. Post for thought…

    I had written a long series of comments on this sad circus (RP and the rest of that happy thing), but what the hell. Not worth my few neurons anymore.


  3. whoa! strong words coming from a professional wine critic (or do you prefer to be called a wine writer?)

    when i was a wine buyer @ whole foods, I would use professional tasting notes for about 10-20% of my shelf talkers – not because i didn’t love writing them, but because i know that some customers cared more about the opinions of robert parker, wine spectator, or gary vaynerchuck. i think people use wine scores to “legitimize” a wine. as in, “don’t just take my word for it, look at this score!”.

    while the point of this post might be lost on me, i did think it was pretty funny. but my question is this: as a professional wine writer, isn’t this what you want people to be doing with your tasting notes?

  4. Why would someone need an intervention when what they’re doing is helping drive sales, and build a business? Maybe you’ve slipped into a Labor Day rabbit hole. As Dennis mentions above, these somms are likely unknown outside Napa. But Parker, JL, et. al. are known widely. Their influence – like it or not – makes consumers feel confident when buying. If it didn’t work we wouldn’t see retailers doing it. It may not be romantic, possibly even offensive to purists, but wine scores – like film, book, video game ratings – from brand name reviewers move product. It’s cultural.

  5. raley roger says:

    Okay, Steve, now I’m officially confused. You often come here to herald the relevancy of the 100 point system; so much so that you have suggested it’s here to stay. Yet, when fine retailers use it to help sell their wines, and inform their shoppers, you pitch a fit; mostly, I think, because the publications and critics often quoted are not the Wine Enthusiast.
    Personally, I tend to buy mostly on instinct,and word-of-mouth, from fellow wine lovers. But, on occasion, I’ve bought on scores, and, on more than one occasion, those scores did serve to point me in the direction of a good wine.
    Is your real issue the fact that retailers use scores to sell wine…does that somehow make them lazy in your eyes…or is it the fact that the Wine Enthuasist scores hold less weight than those of other publications?

    I’m a little tired, frankly, of RP being thrown under the bus, time and again, just because he’s so influential.

  6. Steve,

    I fear you are going to get flamed for this post for it reads as if you are being disingenuous. After all, you earn a living from producing the same reviews so (to continue the “addict” theme..) you are one of the “Pushers” or the tobacco company ad exceutives.

    I do not believe you are purposely insincere, and I can understand the true frustration about the real issue we are all kvetching about. I just added my own satirical kvetch to the winery blog yesterday (, managing to offend everyone equally, I hope.

    My question is: What do you propose we all do about it (other than beat that dead horse further)?

  7. Oded, I’m used to getting flamed so it doesn’t bother me. This is an important topic for us all the discuss. If I as the messenger have to get shot, so be it.

  8. Dear roger raley, I’m not throwing Robert Parker under the bus. I wrote nothing about his skills or talents or success. I have enormous respect for his accomplishments. As for Wine Enthusiast, why would I not fight to be among those publications cited by Bounty Hunter and others? I’m proud of my work and I know it can stand alongside that of other critics. I am simply doing what I think is the right and fair thing to do, and pointing out the dangerous short-sightedness of retailers who depend only on a handful of publications, when the market is rapidly changing.

  9. Steve,

    Ok, I get it and I agree that it is an issue we should discuss. Sadly, I believe that it all ends up with “follow the money”. As long as success is measured by dollars and the faux sense of achievement a stack of them in your bank account brings – the more of this we will see. Have you noticed that some folk now have titles such as “Wine Master” and “Wine Curator”? LOL!

  10. Why I like going to my local wine shop: A sign in the window says : Weixmax Wines is Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate Free Zone.” He has the stop sign over each publication.

  11. I think you need to spend more time on outside pursuits. Join a choir and sing some Bach. Spend a week in a small town, without any wine, and don’t read anything about wine. Or hang out with Clint Eastwood for a few days.

  12. Steve,

    I think you do a great job of titling your posts with catchy language to drive traffic and making controversial arguments to foment discussion. That said, oftentimes I find what you say infuriating (though often it’s more how you say it) but today’s post just takes the cake.

    The egotistical tone, name-calling and denigration of others is just the start — calling their bahavior “stupid” and their actions “publicly embarrass(ing)”. But what’s missing is WHY you think they are stupid — you don’t ever enumerate what it is about their approach (as you see it) that makes you think this way. What’s stupid about it? What’s short-sighted about it? Why is it rubbish?

    It’s easy to name call, but I think we’d all be the better for having a discussion on the substance of your issues with the approach of the people you shamelessly call “stupid” “addicts.”

    And if you’re going to highlight things that are “publicly embarrass(ing),” I think you need to look at this post in the mirror…

  13. Ryan Waugh says:

    My perspective is from the brands themselves. How does one want to build a wine brand and how is that brand going to make customers feel and how loyal are they going to be in the future? The amount of loyalty a brand has will tell them how much work selling the wine they will have to do in the future? Of course the retailers are going to use any press to help sell the wine. It has been my experience that a majority of retailers want the wine to sell itself and not spend the time trying to educate consumers and give them a good perspective of the entire wine industry and its products.

    My wife and I have spent the last 12 years building a brand that the general wine public knows nothing about. We do not do ratings and we are not part of the wine marketing machine. However, our community of FOWCers (Friends of Waugh Cellars) is incredibly loyal. We have a 92% retention rate the last 9 years of the wine club and our business is extremely profitable. Admittedly, we are not huge on wholesale and dont care about being in all the fancy restaurants and being in magazines and such. I love growing grapes and making wine and my wife and I love sharing our products with wine lovers and creating great relationships. With that said, if I did want to be in all the restaurants and had different asperations for myself and our brand I would certainly be playing the rating game. I would never blame anyone for going that route. I just feel it is tough to find true loyalty and great quality relationships with that way.

    I agree with Steve in a lot of ways. Our business is addicted to the scores and the ratings. I can tell you it is very possible to build a successful wine brand, have incredibly loyal customers and sell $85 to $100 bottles of wine without a critic saying its good wine. Do you think building a brand with scores is a dangerous situation? What happens if and when the scores are no longer there and that was the brands connection to the customer base?

    Great discussion Steve. Thank you for brining it up! Have a great holiday weekend.


  14. Thanks back at you, Ryan, and best of luck.

  15. Dear K: If I worked at a wine store whose owner touted my expertise, and then that owner used outside critics to sell the wines, I’d be offended. Wouldn’t you? If the owner is hiring experienced palates, why not let THEM review the wines?

  16. I had a slightly different reaction than Steve when the Bounty Hunter catalog arrived last week. Noting the Parker/Spectator fixation I thought it was Mark Popes clear recognition of what motivates his customers. That, and it’s a lot easier to copy someone else’s critique than write your own. It’s pretty shallow, but if you are adverse to shallowness, you shouldn’t be in this business.

    I do not think it is shallow, however, for a blogger to point this out. It should be done more often.

    Speaking of shallow, I bet there is an incredible lineup of fawning vintners who have paid their $2000 for access to Galloni in this upcoming CIA tasting. I’m sure most will claim it is simply their quest of a better understanding of Syrah and gaining the great insights that Galloni will have on the 12 syrahs they will taste (that alone worth $1k)… not to mention an understanding of how these wines fit on the precise 100 point scale of wine quality. And, let us not forget, the culinary delights of the following $1k dinner at Press.

    I wonder if any bloggers will examine this event? Probably not, $2k is a lot to pay for blog fodder.

  17. Randy Caparoso says:

    Great post, Steve! Whether I agree or not (and this time I do), love it when you say it like it i and put the bug up behinds… Randy (Sommelier Journal)

  18. doug wilder says:


    This is a question I think I am in a good position to answer. From 1990 – 2008, I worked as Buyer at some of the most influential retailers in Northern California. A dynamic, successful retailer like Bounty Hunter got there by having product that people want. Sure, scores will sell wine, but your best clients want information on the next new thing. When I sold wine, I found the outer edges of the consumers would buy once those scores hit. However,the strength of Mark’s team and any excellent retail resource is to spend the bulk of your time working with individual clients where you have built a strong trust and developed a dossier on their tastes and hot topics. At Dean & Deluca during its peak, we had 1300 wines on the shelves, all hand picked by the staff, largely before being reviewed and there were no shelf talkers anywhere.

    Think of the catalog as the yellow pages to advertise what you do, and your core list as maybe a couple thousand names that get most of the attention. As a retailer, when I was faced with a customer waving a copy of Spectator or WA around and asking for cases of the latest 97 pointer that we had sold through months before, I would tell them “The wines you want, you don’t know that you want”. After they understood there may be some wisdom in building a relationship, they could buy a few bottles, make their own determination and reload accordingly. More often than not, once those reviews hit, the wine was safely in their cellars. Those became solid clients who still follow my recommendations, years removed from retail.

    I have no doubt that Bounty Hunter salespeople spend the majority of their time turning their core clients onto things they are discovering that are not in the catalog. Mark is one of the most successful wine retailers in America and he didn’t get there by relying on six month old information. He has those wines because wineries realize that his business attracts a lot of interest. I haven’t used this phrase in a long time “Napa Valley is where the pebble meets the pond” – you can’t get closer to the center of the action!

  19. Think many have missed the boat on this one – it’s not a critique of the wine writers or scores, it’s a critique (albeit a small one) of the purveyor of the wine. If they trust their own people, then why is there a need for the purveyor to point out that “critic RP rated this a 94″ or critic SH rated this a 92.” If their folks are that good, depend upon them for the ratings, is what I’m reading…

    Well, I’ll tell you – I believe it’s not the purveyor who needs the intervention, but the folks buying the wine who just have to have a highly rated wine. The overly pretentious who don’t judge the wine by taste, but by the RP score; or the SH score; or the JL score; the particularly overly pretentious, and dare I say snobbish, seem to gravitate to one reviewers scores – it’s not the reviewers fault, but the complete lack of logical, rational, thinking on the part of the buyer… So they can present the wine to their guest and gush that “Oh, all three of these have 95+ scores…” Taste doesn’t matter to these folks (in more way than one, it seems)…

    So, don’t shoot the messenger (Steve), but, also Steve, don’t shoot the purveyor – suspect, as others have pointed out, that the purveyor makes a lot of extra sales by putting these scores out there… and I can vouch for this from personal experience (I make and sell a small amount of wine – about 250 cases a year) – I had a purveyor taste and love my wine, but his comment was “I would give it a 95 at least, but you have no ratings on it and my customers won’t buy it unless it has a 94 score from “fill in the blank with famous wine critic/writer.”” So, the purveyor knew his audience and I didn’t hold it against him.

    A lot of folks want that high score before they will purchase – doesn’t matter that the wine store person my have a better taster and a better idea of what the person might actually like..

  20. Steve,

    I’d suggest the owner IS letting the sommeliers “review” the wines. My guess is that those sommeliers have a hand in selecting the wines that are sold (“review” being implied by curation). My guess is also that those sommeliers have personal relationships with many of RWCo’s customers, and help them by personally describing the wines, sorting through the catalog of choices, and adding their own personal tasting insights where relevant. My guess is that these sommeliers have lots involvement in the business overall (or else why would they be on the payroll), and that they’re pleased (not offended) with their positions (or else they would quit and find work elsewhere).

    By combining the use of sommeliers and using professional reviews, I see them employing a variety of sales approaches to appeal to the various categories of customers and the different things they respond to, respectively. Seems reasonable to me.

    What all of this comes back to, hoewever, is you suggesting you know better than Mark Steven Pope or thousands of other retail store owners about how to sell wine. I’d argue, since they’re doing it all day every day, they probably have a pretty good sense of what works (at least for them). I’d also argue that there isn’t just a single “right” way to sell wine — some people use lots of scores and are successful, others use none and are successful as well. For you to sit outside and insult these people who put their time, effort and capital at risk in the crucible of the competitive marketplace to find out what works FOR THEM, I find beyond obnoxious.

    It’s fascinating to me that you take the position that you know better than just about everyone you reference about what’s good or appropriate for them — the store owners, the sommelier/employees, most of Napa Valley, etc.

    Just… Wow…

  21. A lot of you are missing an important point, not to mention slamming wine consumers for being so stupid they buy only wines legitimized by an expert. What’s so bad about people following critics who share their tastes? We all don’t have the money to try everything and then decide. I don’t agree with the Advocate on California Chardonnay but the Rhone Valley reviews are right on for me. Same with movies, some critics like any brainless action film but others don’t. I’ve learned who to trust in certain categories. Same with wine for me.

  22. I agree with Randy. Great post, Steve. I think you’ll enjoy our new video series, a tribute to this exact subject. I’ll send you one of the videos next week.

  23. Otis, I wasn’t criticizing consumers who buy by the critics. I was criticizing wine merchants for touting the abilities of their floor staff, then belying those abilities by turning to outside recommendations. And I’m criticizing the dependency of some people on these two sources of information, when there are so many other credible sources.

  24. K: I use this blog to write about my opinions. My job is not to sell wine. If it were, I’d have learn how to do it. But I don’t. My job is to discuss issues, provoke when necessary and push these discussions forward.

  25. Richard, I can’t blame “the folks buying the wine,” as you suggest. Consumers need help when it comes to making choices. I myself rely on critics for which movies to see, what restaurants to eat at, and so on. I think it’s great that there are experts in all these fields to help guide us to decisions. But I do blame this addictive reliance on only two sources of information that seems to pervade so much of Napa Valley.

  26. Thanks for weighing in, Randy.

  27. Dear Morton, well this blogger won’t be spending his hard earned ca$h to hear Galloni, who is a nice man. Unless you want to gift me, that is!

  28. Thanks Lisa. Looking forward to your video.

  29. Steve- You didn’t specifically mention that the Bounty Hunter publication does not contain any numerical scores. Using only the text of reviews is somewhat unusual for retailers as far as I know (unless the score is low, then its quite common…)

  30. Steve,

    You really stirred up the hornets with this one! I see your point touting their great insider palates only to blast WA and WS scores all over everything. Why not use their own reviews and notes? I’m going to say it’s probably due to consumer trust. Put on your consumer hat and look at BevMo. A huge portion of their display notes are from Wilfred Wong. I had no idea who Wilfred Wong was when I first shopped there and thus did not trust his scores or notes. I never bought one unknown wine with his high scores. Once I found out who he was, I still did not trust his scores. How do I know he’s scoring it purely or whether they got a great deal on a bulk order and trying to push it? How do I know if they’re inflating a mediocre wine to sell at a higher price point?

    I think Bounty Hunter is trying to establish consumer trust by using known critics and trying to avoid the criticism applied to BevMo and Wilfred Wong lame as that might be…

  31. I don’t see this as an “either or” proposition for anyone selling wine.

    Staff recommendations and outside-critic scores posted via shelf talkers are nothing more than tools. The salesperson needs to be able to assess the customer and use the right tool for that customer in their approach to making a recommendation (and hopefully, a sale).

    Ultimately, the consumer is the one responsible for their buying decision — but their level of confidence varies tremendously, so they seek out the best info possible to help guide them and validate their choice. The critic’s review (and subsequent shelf talker), the knowledgeable staff person, the visiting winery rep during an event tasting, articles in magazine and on the web — all are tools that people can use (or choose not to use).

  32. Michael Donohue says:

    Years ago, when working for a distributor, the wise and talented German winemaker Rainer Lingenfelder told me that if all I could do was quote Parker or the Spectator (or implicitly Heimoff) to a client, then I had best consider an alternate career. I think we all agree selling on points is so easy it’s almost sinful – and addictive! I once sent out an e-mail with the subject line “Parker 95 point Shiraz for $25” and instead of the normal silence, I was flooded with requests. I know a wealthy gentleman with roughly 15,000 bottles in his cellar (not sure when collecting becomes an addiction) and he won’t buy a thing that scores less than 94…

  33. Michael Donohue, I’ve known lots of collectors like that too. The stories I could tell….

  34. Bob, well you might have a point there with the BevMo comparison, but then BevMo does not attempt to portray themselves as a fine wine shop with a knowledgeable floor staff. Bounty Hunter does.

  35. Steve, Another thing to consider is how well your magazine markets to retailers and consumers. As someone in the trade, I have always looked at WE as having a broad spectrum of content covering travel, food, spirits, beers as well as wine and I consider you as good of a critic as anyone else but the nature of the magazine is not driven toward the collectors and therefore it has a different audience than Spectator, Tanzer, Parker and other independents. Because of the advertising, and the diverse content, I see WE being a closer competitor to Wine and Sprits than even Wine Spectator (that will always be an uphill battle because they were first). I do see WE scores used by wineries – Blackbird and Brulium are a couple examples that pop to mind because I have reviewed their wines as well. One uses my reviews, the other doesn’t.

    As part of my marketing and development I conduct a survey of my subscribers and one of the questions I ask is what else they read and it is very difficult to find consumers who name a publication beyond the ‘big three’. I have the WE 2011 Wine Star Winners issue in my office and just thumbing through it now looking at the Award Winners, they seem to represent the captains of the industry at large wineries or distributors. That sort of recognition is cool (from the standpoint of being an industry mag) but if I am a consumer looking for compelling content and early recommendations on wines how do I square that with a magazine who awards the largest winery in Livermore, a million case producer and the head of a liquor distributor as representing the best? I’m in the business for three decades and I don’t even know who most of these people are…

  36. Steve, I see your point and even agree with your basic premise. But I have to ask, would your criticism be the same if they only used one source of external information: you? I have a feeling that this post would have a very different thesis if that were the case.

  37. Dear Kyle: I’d be flattered, but I would have written exactly the same thing.

  38. STEVE!

    Funny how, compared to me, your “obnoxious” post is downright gentile, yet brings the self-righteous out of the woodworks. Makes for great theater.

    The industry has always complained about scores, but has always used them relentlessly and hypocritically. They’re not so much addicted to scores as they are addicted to how easy it is to make money from them. It’s only and always about money. I owned a wine shop and never posted any scores. I always asked my partner, “Are we selling Parker and the Spectator, or are we selling us?” Doesn’t mean we were better than other wine shops, or more successful, but maybe we weren’t as lazy.

    And the Bounty Hunter calling its employees “Sommeliers” is outright laughable. May as well call hospital orderlies “Doctors.”

    I get the Bounty Hunter catalog, too, though I don’t recall ever signing up for it (I probably did). It’s essentially wine pornography. Just as pornography objectifies women, the same can be said for how wine catalogs like the Bounty Hunter’s objectify wine, making it an object for simple lust and possession, and transforming it from a living and breathing thing to something you want to own and throw into a deep dark cave so that you can enjoy fondling it whenever you want. They use “Parker 99” where porn uses breast augmentation.

    I think you’re mostly right in this rant, STEVE! Will the new generation of wine drinkers be so addicted to scores? Only the ones who end up in the 1%.

  39. Steve,

    Not an apologist for them, I find their spiel as obnoxious as you do. Just coming up with a possible reason.

    Ron, I’m with you on the personal Sommelier thing. Almost as insulting as the micro-brain pinheads they call a “Genius” at the Apple store. They’re former Starbucks barristas with a couple of night classes and now you have to make an appointment?

  40. Thank you for inviting the application of,direct reference to, and absolute definition of these terms through a clear and concise dictionary inspired format.

    I too will take this opportunity to define a particular word in the English language that will set the tone of my response. Eh hem…

    niggler – someone who constantly criticizes in a petty way.

    The inspiration of this word comes from the definition of who and what you are.

    A critic – someone who frequently finds fault or makes harsh and sometimes unfair judgments.

    The comparison of a small, Napa California based retailer of wine, who employs about 94 people total including but not limited to:
    Wine scouts
    Warehouse employees
    Wine bar staff
    Departmentalized management,to a Goliath of a company such as Apple whose revenue in 2011 was $108 billion and who employs 60,400 people or even to Starbucks, who employs 37,00 people and posted $11.7 billion in sales last year, is like comparing the amount of people of who have commented on this post to the amount of people who smoke Marlborough cigarettes.

    You sir, are addicted more than than the rest of us-
    addicted to telling people how they should conduct their business, buy or sell their wine, appreciate and taste that bottle of wine, and worst of all, you infect us all by forcing us to criticize your criticism.

    Now lets get back to the issue at hand.

    Do we, as wine professionals loathe the frequency in which we come in to contact with Parker reviews? You betcha. It’s disgusting and it has gone too far.

    Does that mean that when an independent wine merchant introduces consumers to wines that they’ve never heard of before because that consumer lives in Ohio, has 3 kids, a wife, a company to run and they don’t have the luxury to sit around and talk wine all day and they have never heard of a wine  like Kapcsandy before, that if that merchant should so happen to quote the most heralded and popular wine critic in the world at the time, that the merchant in question has somehow alienated himself form the wine savvy community?

    You don’t rely on Mark Pope’s Bounty Hunter Rare Wine catalog to introduce you to wines beyond Silver Oak, Cakebread and Rombauer- but other people do.

    Too many people in the wine industry forget how lucky we are to be so well informed, overly exposed to, and heavily involved in wine.

     Far too often so many of you lose site of how you came about your wine knowledge, how many wines you have been fortunate enough to have been exposed to, and all of a sudden wine isn’t a casual addition to the dinner table anymore.

     Now its a science, a philosophy, a comparison to every other wine that you’ve ever had in your life.

     Are you forever doomed to be so concerned with your idea of what absolute perfection entails that you are now numb to absolute greatness?

     Yes, Mark Pope sells wine. 

    Are all of his customers wine professionals? No.

     Is Mark a wine professional? Yes. 

    Does he quote the most well known critic of wine in our generation in his retail catalog? Yes.

     Does that make him and the wine professionals that work for this well established brand glorified baristas? No!

    Wake up and zoom out. Not every human being with a thirst for wine, understands wine to the level that we do as wine professionals.

    If everyone on the planet was as wine educated as we are today, we’d be out of business.

    Appreciate your own knowledge and try not to defame those who wish to inform and inspire others in their personal journey of wine exploration.

    Please point that discerning critic’s eye at yourself and compare your words that you have made public on this issue to every other  essay that you’ve ever written in your life. How does it stack up? 

    I rate it 72 points.

    “Rather tasteless, empty, out of balance and overall not a piece of writing worth writing about.”
    JG- Critic Spectator

  41. Well Jordan, as a former Bounty Hunter employee, you’re entitled to defend them and criticize me! But concerning your charge that I am “forcing [you] to criticize [my] criticism,” no I’m not. I’m not forcing you to do anything, including read my blog! However I’m glad that you do, and I hope you’ll continue to.

  42. I was struck by the HoseMaster’s description of the Bounty Hunter catalog as “wine pornography.” I have been reading about evolutionary psychologists who describe
    the similarities between conspicuous consumption in humans and the flashy status and mating signals used by other animals. The view is that the need for luxury goods evolved before the goods themselves and most of the products we buy are chosen as a signal first and a material object second. Luxury wine is but one example of how men signal their quality as potential mates to women via conspicuous consumption. Just as other animals sexual selection can drive the evolution of outlandishly flashy plumage or color in the males to signal to choosy females, humans have their own signals. Mark Pope figured this out and tapped into it a long time ago. Hey baby, how ’bout I pop the cork on that Cree-stall!

  43. Pope and co are just doing business. You know they have some damn good wines regardless. You hate their audience, not them. The audience is addicted to a style of wine, and Parker scores ensure consistency in the fix being up to par. “A spectator high score will get us through the part of the day, but on a good Parker score, I can go two days, maybe more, still feeling ok..”. Haha.

  44. Morton: Yeah baby! Pop away and don’t forget to spread your plumage.

  45. The Bounty Hunter mailing is unique, very attractive and Napa-centric. It is a fine example of enduring (you may have heard of it) Print Media. Mr. Pope’s apt use of staff recommendations and RP comments as redundant systems is just smart marketing as is evidenced by his popularity and success. While we would like to see him branch further into other appellations of quality and conscience it is, of course, his football. Let those who would criticize step up and take the same risk and make the same investment or, merely, unsubscribe. Good post, Steve. It’s been a while since you have thus stirred the pot.

  46. Steve,
    You are a cry baby who is tired of not getting the ink that you think you deserve. So what do you do? You single out a perfectly good retailer to castigate as a case-and-point for your rant. As you say, the list of those addicted to WS and RP is long, so why the ad hominem attack? Your point could can be easily made without trashing an individual and his business. No class!

  47. Anyone who has been in the fine wine business and knows anything about personal taste knows what a farce it is that any single person’s taste should drive a whole market. But we also learn not to speak ill of it (at least not too loud) for fear of retribution. Most of us praise and validate the farce in the hopes it improves our chances of a good score or a sale. Our validation perpetuates the farce. God forbid someone should talk about this in public, let alone call us “addicts.” The nerve!


  1. News • Food, Wine & Design | The Taste Review - [...] Some people in Napa Valley need an intervention • Steve Heimoff [...]

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