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I just retired!

63 comments

 

Last Friday, I told Rick Tigner, the CEO of Jackson Family Wines and a man for whom I have the utmost admiration, that I was quitting the job I’d held since March, 2014.

Why? Because I turned 70 years old in June, and I’m feeling my age.

I always had believed I would be retired by seventy, provided my finances were in order. I inherited no money from my parents, and I never had a proper pension, because I’d worked for nearly 30 years as a freelancer for Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast, neither of whom paid very well. What I did have in the way of a nest egg, though, was a very nice private investment through my family that gave me every expectation of a comfortable old age.

Alas, that private investment turned out to be run by Bernie Madoff. On Dec. 10, 2008, I—along with thousands of others—got the bad news: My life savings were gone. Along with the money went hopes of an early retirement.

However, there was some good news: In 2005, the feeder fund I was invested in unexpectedly stopped accepting new deposits. Thus, for the next four years—until the date of the Madoff arrest, and for the eight years since–I was, through force majeure, able to invest my money elsewhere. And when, in 2014, Jackson Family Wines offered me the new job—at considerably more money than I’d ever made at Wine Enthusiast—I was able to tuck away much of that, too, with the result that, by last week, my banker and I determined that I did have enough money to comfortably retire. Granted, I will never have a high-spending lifestyle. But then, I never had one before, and you can’t miss what you never had!

Turning seventy, in case you haven’t had the experience, is psychologically impactful. When I turned 40, 50, 60, it didn’t change how I felt about myself. My health was wonderful: I’ve always been in the top one percent of my age cohort when it comes to fitness. But seventy? You can’t make believe any more that you’re not old. Seventy may be “the new forty,” but it’s still threescore and ten, which Psalms tells us are “the days of our years.” The aches and pains accumulate; one fatigues more easily. More to the point, one becomes happy with (or at least reconciled to) what one is, and stress, which is inevitable in any job, is no longer welcome. The result was that, after an enormous amount of reflection, and plenty of back-and-forth in my own mind (Should I do it? Shouldn’t I?), I decided to “do it.”

This decision obviously has major consequences for me. For one, it means I’m on a fixed income. For another, it means that my career in wine is over. Period. Done, finis, #ByeBye. I no longer have any reason to be interested in wine, aside from drinking it, although it’s likely to be years before I fully disengage from thinking and reading about it; old habits die hard. But I have already begun that process in full deliberation. The symbolic act of interment, which I have yet to take, will be to eliminate all the Google alerts for “wine,” “wine industry,” “wine critic” and so forth that have filled my in-box for so many years. I haven’t done that yet…but I shortly shall.

And this blog?

Well, I still have a lot of readers. Whenever I traveled the country for Jackson Family Wines, people—complete strangers—came up to me and told me they read me every day. That is enormously gratifying; the only people who probably can relate to it are my fellow bloggers. It hasn’t always been easy to come up with topics five days a week, but then I think of all those folks across America (and in other countries) who begin their day with a little Steve, and I don’t want to disappoint them…to disappoint you.

So I will continue this blog. But there will be changes. Big ones. Going forward, I’ll write about anything that interests me. It won’t necessarily be about wine. I will frequently write about politics, which is an intense interest of mine, and I will certainly do my best to demolish the Republican Party, which deserves it. I’m sure I’ll lose readers, maybe a lot of them. But I may also gain some new ones. Be that as it may.

So, to those of you who are going to bid me a fond “farewell” because you want a strictly wine-oriented blog, I say, Adieu to you, too. Thank you for reading steveheimoff.com all these years. But you might check me out from time to time. The writing will be better than ever.

One final remark: I can’t begin to express how grateful I am to the Jackson family “kids” (as I call them) for the friendship, support and, yes, love they have given me. Julia…Chris…Ari…Hailey…Max…Katie…Shaun. You are wonderful, kind, special people with extraordinary hearts. I’m so very glad I had the privilege to get to know you; our tastings (and we still have one more left!) have been a highlight of my career. Your parents raised you right.

GUSSYPlus I get to spend more time with my pups!

  1. Monica Larner says:

    Congratulations Steve. Bravo! The years I worked with you were truly wonderful.

  2. Even though I rarely drink California wine, I’ve found your blog very interesting, and have been reading it for years; and I expect I’ll continue to do so, at least as long as it continues to arrive through my Feedly feed.
    By the way, I found this amusing: ” Whenever I traveled the country for Jackson Family Wines, people—complete strangers—came up to me and told me they read me every day.” It reminded me of the kind of things Trump used to say (and maybe still does). But in your case I believe it.

  3. Congratulations and all the best for the decades to come!

  4. Congratulations, Steve! Best wishes for the future. As always, I look forward to your posts. Live long and prosper.

  5. Kudos to you Steve! I too have been in the masses of entertained and informed readers of your blog for years. You have a wonderful talent for writing that truly expresses your voice on whatever the subject you were covering. Not a “just the facts” dry blog, but a true thought out dialogue. You were also able to cover an impressively wide range of topics in the wine world- including occasionally in mine (compliance) which is definitely impressive! So thanks for all that – and glad to hear you’ll continue in this next chapter.

  6. Dear Monica, always great to hear from you! Hope everything is good.

  7. Congrats, Steve!

    So, glad I got the privilege to work with you at Wine Enthusiast. I learned so much from you and have so many great memories of the time we shared during those events.

    You worked hard for all the fun and relaxing days ahead!

    Cheers,
    Joyce

  8. First: Congratulations on your retirement. You have had a long a distinguished career and will be remembered for a long time.

    Secondly: The great thing about blogging and social media, is that you don’t have to worry about what anyone thinks, limit yourself to a single topic, or even care if you have any readers. That said…

    Please don’t presume that because you are a very good wine writer, that qualifies you to write intelligently about politics. I wouldn’t expect good wine advice from Rush Limbaugh or Michael Moore or Anderson Cooper.

    Best of luck in your retirement. Cheers and don’t forget to drink the good stuff.

  9. Aaron Bader says:

    Steve,

    You will be missed. What a great way to bow out: Monday AM. We (I) have so enjoyed your insights and look forward to what you can show us in this new phase. You have worked hard at it and you deserve this change of pace. Many Thanks and Congratulations!

  10. I mostly qualify as one of those strangers, having only met you once. Your posts have always been thought provoking and well written, I assume it was passion and practice. I salute you.

  11. Gary Cowan says:

    Steve. Congratulations on crossing the retirement Rubicon. I suspect your best writing days are ahead of you. All the best to you and Gus.

  12. Hi Steve —
    Congratulations. . . I always like reading your blog and will continue to do so! And will look forward to your opinions (I’m sure there will be many!) on other topics. Ah — just in time for election season.

    Meanwhile, all the best,
    Elin McCoy
    Wine critic, Bloomberg News

  13. Congratulations, Steve. It must be a great feeling to say you reached retirement and are leaving when you want to!

  14. Steve:

    Congratulations on your decision. I have a few years on you, but still find writing (and researching) wine, the wine business – and food, travel, entertainment and wine country lifestyle – more fun than anything else I can think of doing. I’ll admit that I’ve gotten more selective in what I choose to do, but breaking news is still the most fun of all.

    I’ll look forward to your blog. It’s always been interesting and I suspect that I agree with you on your political views. But I’ve come to the conclusion that nothing even comedians can say will top what Trump does himself!

    Best,

  15. So…. Now we get to spend time together again! Yes!

  16. Thanks Elin. You work for a great organization!

  17. Paul Gregutt says:

    Steve – Well stated, my friend. Having known you through the tough post-Madoff years, I am truly delighted that your financial worries have subsided. Old age isn’t for wimps, and a lot of us are right behind you. Thanks for showing the way. And don’t be a stranger!

  18. I won’t be a stranger Paul, although it’s not likely I’ll make it up your way. But of course you always have someone in the Bay Area to have a drink with!

  19. Margie Healy says:

    Steve, congratulations on a well-earned retirement. Thanks for all you did over the years to support the California wine industry – always insightful, always interesting and always leaving us wanting more. All the best …

  20. Elke Wolff says:

    Steve – I am an avid reader of your blog and delighted that I had the chance to meet you and your pup in person at the Petite Sirah symposium a couple of years ago. Congratulations on your retirement. I wish you all the best and enough energy to chase your dreams!

  21. Bob Henry says:

    Retiring . . . like HoseMaster of Wine™ ?

    Or Michael Corleone?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPw-3e_pzqU

    The wine world has its hooks in you. We’ll be hearing more from you.

    (Aside: “Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?” . . . aka Bill Haydon?)

  22. Peter Marks says:

    Congrats Steve! The wine world will less interesting, but your political observations have always been incisive and spot on, and we can look forward to that. Maybe now you’ll have time for lunch?

  23. Welcome to the club, Steve. And now you can be a consumer’s choice wine drinker who goes into the crowd source pool. Unless you continue as an ‘expert’ who participates on wine judging panels of those who know better 😉

  24. Steve:

    Congratulations on your retirement!

    I always look forward to reading your blog. Glad you’re not retiring completely from that. You’ve provided us with such a wealth of information and so many important insights over the years. Greatly appreciated.

    Maybe I’ll see you around the neighborhood a bit more.

    All the best,

    Gino

  25. Wishing you the very best success in your new endeavors, which sound myriad and satisfying and—dare I venture?—fun.

    Best always,
    Meg Houston Maker

  26. Hey Peter, great to hear from you! Don’t you live back east? That would make lunch a challenge! Anyhow, every once in a while your name comes in up a most positive light. I hope you are well.

  27. redmond barry says:

    Hi-Ho, Steverino.Well and nobly done. Your writing is a pleasure in itself, and may well be a habit you don’t break. I’ll be reading.

  28. redmond barry says:

    Ps: the CAPTCHA still sucks.

  29. Dear Steve, You will, of course, be greatly missed by the wine community. But, I’m glad you’ll continue to blog in whatever form that may. Enjoy it all!

  30. Count me among those who will continue to read this blog regularly, and I anticipate it will be an even more interesting read when not limited to wine related subjects…

  31. Alder Yarrow says:

    Congratulations. That’s a huge milestone, and worth celebrating. Enjoy it!

  32. Regina M. Lutz says:

    Congratulations on a huge milestone! I hope you won’t stop writing any time soon — about wine or anything else that interests you.

    And now that you’ll have lots and lots of free time, come visit us in Napa and enjoy a glass or two. Bring Gus — we can take a promenade around Alston or Skyline Park. He’d love it!

    Best wishes,

    Regina

  33. Nancy Weil Brown says:

    I am thrilled for you! We spoke shortly after the Madoff disaster and you were still in shock and, appropriately, worried. That didn’t stop you from creating exciting new ways to earn a living in an industry you loved. You are a fine writer and a wise political commentator (especially since we agree)and I look forward to reading your blog whatever you choose to write about.

  34. Steve,

    Congratulations on your career, retirement and making your continued journey on your terms. I look forward to reading the variety of topics you will post.

    David

  35. Carole Meredith says:

    Congratulations on having made what must have been a big decisions. And now, on with the rest of your life. I look forward to continuing to read your blog.

  36. Steve,
    I’ll miss reading your articles, always entertaining, but congratulations!

    Enjoy!
    George Christie

  37. Adolfo Alarcon says:

    Steve,

    I’ve always enjoyed your blog, looking forward to the new chapter.
    And I admire your lack of financial greed, that’s a virtue!
    Congratulations. In vino veritas

  38. Tary Salinger says:

    Steve,
    Congratulations!! You may not leave with lots of money, but you do leave with loads of respect and integrity! Best of luck to you.
    Tary

  39. Steve,

    Congrats on both a well deserved retirement, and many years of good work. Your contribution to our industry has been staggering. While I didn’t always agree with you, I always respected you. It appears that now I’ll simply have more things to disagree with you about. 🙂

    I give this post a 98/100.

    God speed,
    Louis

  40. Blake Gray says:

    Congratulations, Steve. I’m glad you have earned some financial security.

    I don’t always (or even often) agree with what you write, but I admire your diligence and tenacity in writing something every single day on this blog. A lot of people who are critical of individual posts of yours should try it for just a month to see if they could do better.

    I hope you put some good wine in storage. Now is the time to start drinking it.

  41. 70, Whoa! You deserve a break man! Enjoy the hell out of it. Cheers!

  42. Hey Steve- wtf, you’re 70? explains the good scores, that old palate of your couldn’t taste sh*t. Also, just sent you some samples, mind sending ’em back?

    Just kidding amigo. I do hope you keep up the blogging- always appreciate your perspective. Cheers! Cameron

  43. Gee, Cameron, next thing, you’ll be demanding the money back you paid me for all my nice reviews! Anyhow, thank you! You rock.

  44. Mitch Cosentino says:

    Hey Steve, we all have to make the decision based on ourselves and our situation. You can only be true to yourself. While I have never really thought about retiring, many friends and old classmates have. But as they remind me “all I do” is make wine and play golf. So the point is spend your life living, whatever that is for you. Just don’t stop writing after all that is the only thing that you “have to do” now (at least for those of us who enjoy the writing). But if you want to cut that back to 3-4 times a week, I think most people would be fine with that 🙂

  45. The great Mitch Cosentino! Thanks for the kind words.

  46. Scott Wiegand says:

    Interesting choices for comparison. From too far right, too far left (and both conspiracy theorists), and not a political commentator but journalist. In any event, I have a feeling I would rather listen to Steve than any of those three about politics.

  47. Scott Wiegand says:

    Congratulations, Steve. I can’t wait to see what else you have to say about the world.

  48. STEVE!
    As someone who has retired from his blog several times, I can tell you that you’ll enjoy being away from wine writing. And that you’ll miss it. So much more civilized than politics, except, of course, when I’m doing it.

    I will say for those still here reading your comments that you have always been a great sport about my lampoons of you, something that is much rarer among wine writers than folks think. It demonstrates an ability to not take yourself too seriously that probably helped get you to 70, and in such great health. And it’s certainly a measure of humility, a trait most genuinely talented people share.

    I’m not a political junkie, so I probably won’t be here reading your blog. You’ve given up wine so you won’t be reading mine. So thanks for the memories, STEVE!, it’s been a pleasure sharing the blogosphere with you.

    I’m not sure why Congratulations are in order. It’s like congratulating someone who escaped prison. You’re free to go now, STEVE! Enjoy the sunshine.

  49. Carlos De Toledo says:

    Cool, congratulations for completing a career this far with so much respect amongst peers and readers.

    I guess i’ll come back more often now then. All that cali-jingoism can be lowered a bit now, eh?

    So, what’s more likely to be sipped during dinner time from now on? Wines from everywhere, domestic or beer? As the world burns even the good english sparkling wines aren’t too far from the shelves in america…

  50. Mitch Cosentino says:

    I wonder if the lead wine writer for the other “wine” mag many retailers refer to as the Speculator will get such positive attention when he retires or just goes . . .

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