November 6 2010
In Part III of my review I continue an annual, highly subjective look at what I think is the best of what’s around in the wine scene.
Quote of the Year
“In farming, every now and then, you get a baseball bat across the face. We got that this year.”
Generation Next / Online Video
This category is designed to highlight emerging people that merit watching as they develop into more central figures in the wine scene. For online video, I’m choosing Jess Altieri from WineChannelTV.
What to do if you’re a twenty something broadcast major from NYU with a passion for wine? Many might get a production or a field-reporting job in a third-tier TV market and start climbing their way up the ladder in a hyper-competitive field, drinking a glass of wine at the end of the day as a respite from a short-term sentence in trying to make it happen in Dubuque, IA. Not Jess Altieri. She starts an online media company.
There’s a lot to like about Jess—her camera presence is warm, and she has a joie de vivre about her. Like any good personality, you feel comfortable spending time with her. However, equally important, her business model is spot-on.
Altieri may feel like it’s challenging to get people to understand what she does, but it won’t be that way for much longer, the convergence of TV and the Internet is happening quickly, not to mention the fact that the appetite for wine information is growing significantly.
Wine enthusiasm is a radically underserved market on TV. Most of what is on broadcast TV is hackneyed and generalized to the point of not having an audience. Online, sure, you have Gary V. as mensch reviewer for a new generation and you have wineries producing high quality videos as an extension of their marketing, but there is nobody that’s doing eyewitness reporting at trade shows and tastings, acting as a red carpet reporter and go-to person for wine happenings. Jess, smartly, is moving to fill that void. Keep an eye on WineChannelTV, I have a hunch you’ll be seeing a lot more of her.
Generation Next / Writing
I like people that make it happen and Ben Weinberg is making it happen. Writing about wine is a second career for this former financial planner with both a JD and an MBA.
Weinberg’s former gig was writing the wine column for the now defunct Rocky Mountain News. Currently, he’s a regular contributor to Sommelier Journal. His writing credits this year include Wine Enthusiast and The World of Fine Wine, a magazine that is the pinnacle in wine writing, in my opinion.
Weinberg also maintains a blog called Unfiltered, Unfined.
He’s low on the radar for the socially fuelled online wine scene, but he’s got the one thing that many others don’t – paying work.
Keep an eye on Weinberg as an emerging voice in wine writing.
Winery Blog of the Year
Last year my selection was Judd’s Hill and “Judd’s Enormous Wine Show,” a tough act to follow. This year the nod goes to Jordan Vineyard & Winery and their “The Journey of Jordan” blog, a video-driven effort that does, indeed, capably follow Judd’s Enormous Wine Show.
Started in December of 2009, but begun in earnest in January of this year with Lisa Mattson, Director of Communications, at the helm, The Journey of Jordan is a varied and interesting lifestyle-oriented video blog with moments of inspiration enveloping always-interesting video vignettes.
According to Mattson, “(the) goal with the Journey of Jordan, our weekly video blog, is to share everyday life on the estate and bring extra value to those who enjoy Jordan wines.” She continued, “There are so many people out there who have been to wine country, but they don’t live here and can’t visit each year, each season, each month … these videos are a great way for them to feel connected …”
Mattson has done an exceptional job in bringing the flavor of Jordan to life for online viewers.
Wine Blog Post of the Year
This category goes to the blog post that stayed with me the longest, be that bad or be that good. This year’s winner is W. Blake Gray for his post titled, “An Open Letter to Marvin Shanken” in which he calls for the reassignment of Jim Laube at Wine Spectator.
To co-opt former football coach Lou Holtz’s quote in reference to Notre Dame, “If you were there, no explanation is necessary. If you weren’t, no explanation is satisfactory.”
Since posting, comments have been deleted and the general tone is much less rancorous than upon publication (ipso facto editing for the Internet records?). Suffice to say, the initial post read like a suicide bomber hurling a Molotov cocktail to add insult to his own injury.
*Note* W. Blake Gray indicates in the comments to this post that no comments nor the text of the post referenced above were changed. I think the lesson is that “perception is reality” and I trust that in online wine writing, without a second set of editorial eyes, words can be miscontrued from author intent.
Region of the Year
You can make an argument for dozens of areas around the globe. The pace at which the walls in the global wine village are being broken down is fast and furious.
My vote, however, has less to do with sales momentum and more to do with preservation(or lack thereof) as a microcosm of the global wine village.
My award for “Region of the Year” goes to the Mosel region in Germany (A balanced NPR piece here). Reaching its vocal nadir in the spring of this year, pockets in that region have been battling against building a bridge smack dab in the middle of the wine region, a crime that can be equated to a third-party painter adding background detail to the Mona Lisa. That is the media’s perspective, however. A closer inspection of the coverage indicates that while building the bridge may visually blight the area it would have minimal impact on acreage under vine while bringing modernity and increased accessibility for tourism.
The Mosel is home to the most beautiful Riesling on the planet, wines that are ethereal and delicate. Yet, the vocal minority have lost their fight as plans continue for the bridge, an indicator that tradition and progress are in a perpetual battle in the crucible of wine.
In Part IV, the final post in my series on the best of wine online, I’ll look at product of the year, book of the year and more.