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The 2009 Best of Wine Online Awards Pt. I (1 – 10)

A highly subjective, non-comprehensive look at my opinion on the best of the online wine world in 2009 …

• Best Wine Blog / Professional or Industry

Steve Heimoff.  You have to sit in amazement at Steve’s ability to take subjects, provide compelling commentary, and stay above the fray as his opinion elicits responses (a lot of responses) in the form of comments.  Being thought-provoking and staying above the fray is an art that only a skilled writer can pull off.  Likewise, I pay close attention to the daily curation of wine blogs by Wine Business Monthly ( and Steve has absolutely dominated this with the lead post if not daily, then multiple times weekly.

• Best Wine Blog / Consumer

Joe Roberts at 1WineDude (  I pay close attention to traffic for top wine blogs and Joe has ascended into the very upper echelon in 2009.  Traffic is one thing, but the really impressive thing about Joe’s blog is he has grown his site free of agenda and with an engagement-oriented, populace-style approach that isn’t replicated by other top bloggers. Plus, he does frequently laugh out loud funny posts. Named top wine blog by FoodBuzz and mentioned in Forbes this year, Joe is one to watch. 

• Best Wine Blog / Multiple Contributor

NY Cork Report ( Anybody who is paying attention has surely noticed that the quality at the former Lenndevours site has gone from very good to great over the course of this year.  Full of very frequently updated and interesting content from a wide range of contributors, Lenn Thompson and his team of correspondents are doing professional level reporting on the NY winery scene that can’t be found anywhere else. 

• Best Wine Blog Newcomer / Multiple Contributor

Palate Press ( Launched in September of this year, Palate Press is the vision of David Honig. Offering a wine-centric online magazine with all contributions receiving a quality brush via a pro’s editorial hand by W.R. Tish or another editor, Palate Press has breezed onto the scene and published significant content with a very high quality level.  Traffic and attention bear this out, as well.  Palate Press is one to watch in 2010.

• Best Wine Blog Newcomer / Consumer

Gonzo Gastronomy ( by Katie Pizzuto.  Though technically started in September of ’08, she hit her stride in ’09.  Written authoritatively with insight, humor and a personal voice, Katie does a fantastic job.  And, to boot, every post offers a riddle in the form of a headline taken from a song lyric.  Gonzo Gastronomy is my favorite new site for the year.

• Best Wine Reviewer / Consumer

Megan at Wannabe Wino (  It takes some “sticktuitiveness” and consistency to develop a strictly wine review web site that garners respect from peers and readers.  Megan scores on that count. Wonderfully prolific and delightfully down to earth, Megan represents the best notion of what consumer-based wine reviews means to the online wine scene.

• Best Wine Reviewer / Professional

Bigger Than Your Head ( .  Frederic Koeppel is a former syndicated wine columnist and journalist at Memphis’ The Commercial Appeal.  Pure and simple, Frederic writes reviews the way you wish you all reviews were written – a little bit of context, a little bit of description and a recommendation.  He uses exactly the right amount of words to get his point across.  And, his palate is reasonably undefined – meaning he’s as likely to review a $12 wine as a more expensive wine – New World and Old World—giving every wine the same evenhanded treatment without overt palate preference.  This is a well-done site from a class act.

• Most valuable new commenter

If comments didn’t exist, you wouldn’t have blogs, pure and simple.  It’s the two-way feedback that drives the quote/unquote “conversation.”  For that reason, it’s good to know that you can teach an old dog new tricks.  Therefore, I bestow most valuable new commenter to Charlie Olken.  Charlie is the publisher / editor of the Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine and was a newcomer to blogs in ’09.  You can find him hanging out and offering sage wisdom in the comments at Fermentation, Steve Heimoff and other blogs with a wine business skew.

• Wine Blogging Impact Award

TasteLive ( The concept is so simple you wish you would have thought of it.  An online wine tasting in real time.  Duh.  Gathering wine bloggers and those in the online wine scene for coordinated tastings, Craig Drollett has the recipe for wineries / brands / country associations that want to build mindshare while providing real value to the people that participate.  I expect his business to continue to grow as more and more wineries figure out that gathering a small group of people together online to talk about their wine provides not just real-time feedback, but a meaningful connection tool.

• Best Blog that is not a Blog

Garagiste Wine (  It takes a skilled wordsmith to build a business based on email sales offerings, yet that’s exactly what Garagiste does.  Jon Rimmerman and his team offer two or three wine offerings daily that read like a Harlequin novel if the subject of love and romance were a bottle of wine.  Focused on small producers of fine wine, you get the sense that Jon is your personal guide down the road to a hardcore wine obsession.  Of course, it helps that their curated offerings also deliver in the bottle.  Their daily missives are some of the best wine writing going.  Anywhere. 

In my next post, I’ll look at 10 other “Best of’s” from the online wine world looking more broadly at the events and developments that mark 2009 as watershed year in the changing dynamic of how we learn about and love the grape.


Posted in, Good Grape Daily: Pomace & Lees. Permalink | Comments (35) |


On 12/15, 1WineDude wrote:

Wow - thanks so much for the mention.  This is an AMAZING list of blogs and I’m humbled to be a part of it!

And (I’m being serious here) I had no idea I was mentioned in Forbes.  Do you have a link to that?

You’ve got my vote for best writing of the year, btw!


On 12/15, Thomas Pellechia wrote:

Is it possible to hate “best of” lists only because one never seems to get on them?

Jeff, since you can’t put yourself in the list, if I made up such a list, your analysis blogging would be in it.

On 12/15, Lenn Thompson wrote:


Thanks for the mention. You know that you’re one of the bloggers I respect and enjoy reading the most, so it means something coming from you.

Since you didn’t mention them in the post, I’d like to mention my killer contributors by name: Evan Dawson, Bryan Calandrelli, Julia Burk, Jason Feulner and Kevin Burns. Without them, the NYCR wouldn’t be possible.

On 12/15, Sonadora wrote:

Thanks for including me Jeff! What excellent company to be in and it’s always nice to get feedback from other wine bloggers.

Happy Holidays!


On 12/15, Evan Dawson wrote:


We’re thrilled at NYCR at the mention. It’s tempting to view the following comment as a blown kiss, returned as courtesy, but it’s genuine: We love reading your commentary and we respect the hell out of you.

Very astute to give props to Charlie. Entirely deserved. I love the fact that he’s knowledgeable, cordial, and debates with grace and fairness.

Regarding Heimoff, good points - and yet I have one quibble. I admire Steve and I think he does some fascinating blogging. But occasionally he owes his commenters a response and he doesn’t deliver. Just off the top of my head, Bob Dwyer has asked some important and pertinent questions that fell unanswered. If Steve cleans that up, his blog will be even better.

Cheers and thanks again.

On 12/15, Chris wrote:


I’m just beginning to enjoy wine blogging, but your writing and ability to give props to others lifts the whole community.  I’ve only read a few of the ones you mention, but now I have more to seek out for good info.

Thank you for that.

On 12/15, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

I nominate you for being a good friend and all around great guy in this biz.  Your sage advice, wisdom and humor are all things I appreciate about you.  Plus your a Notre Dame fan and a solid Hoosier.

On 12/15, Charlie Olken wrote:

What’s a Whoo-zher?

Seriously. I am flattered to be mentioned. I post in blogs for the fun of it, and, while I am old enough to be your daddy, I can reliably report that I am not.

However, new tricks for old dogs is what this business is about. Oh, and new tricks by new dogs as well.

Various blogs have had debates about the value of experience versus innovation, new media and new voices. To me, it is all one continuum. We are talking about wine—and that is very cool even to me after three decades and more of doing it. Those who see any part of the wine-commentary universe simply miss the point. We are here because we love being here.

Keep it up and let the world of wine keep expanding.

And thanks also to Evan. I am honored by your words.

On 12/15, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Charlie - you’re way too cool to be anyone’s Daddy!  Keep up the good work.

On 12/15, 1WineDude wrote:

Is it ok if I *wish* that Charlie was my dad?

On 12/15, Jeff wrote:

Thanks for the comments, all.  I’ll do pt. II tonight hopefully.

Charlie—your “been there, done that, got the t-shirt” perspective is always welcome at my site.  Ditto that for Thomas who I considered creating a category for—maybe MVP commenter at Good Grape.

First time commenter Chris—thanks for stopping by.  My only word of caution on wine blogs is that there are so many good ones that your feed reader will become a daily habit.  Be warned and let me know if I can point you to any other ones!

Thanks again, all!


On 12/15, Charlie Olken wrote:

Aw shucks !!

And a point of correction. My comment above should have read—“Those who see any part of the wine-commentary universe AS THEIR ENEMY simply miss the point”.

Sorry for the confusion.

On 12/15, Thomas Pellechia wrote:


Flattery will get you everywhere…

Maybe you can put Charlie and me into a category of elders; I suppose Heimoff, too.

I elect Charlie as the eldest…

On 12/15, Garagiste wrote:

Wow!  It was great to wake up this morning and see Garagiste on the list.  Thanks so much for including us, Jeff.  Love your blog, both form and content.

On 12/15, Jim Wilkerson wrote:

Great list Jeff!

I completely agree about Frederic Koeppel. I used to live in Memphis and read his column religiously. I love his blog, too. As you say, he “writes reviews the way you wish you all reviews were written.” And as a new wine blogger myself, I come away thinking I wish I could write that way.

On 12/15, Katie wrote:

Eternally grateful for the mention, especially coming from you, Jeff, as I truly love your writing. Finding bloggers who love wine is easy…finding bloggers who love wine and can write well is another matter, and I’m flattered for the company. Special props to Garagiste…I love, love, love Garagiste!

Rock on.

On 12/15, Ed wrote:


Love the list and happy that I read most of them… looks like I’m following the right people.

Keep up the good work to all and, of course, you, Jeff.  I enjoy your work immensely!

On 12/15, Benito wrote:

Congrats to the winners here, and one minor correction because I must stand up for my friend: it’s “Fredric” Koeppel, not Frederic. 

Memphis represent!

On 12/15, Jeff wrote:

Well, heck, if I knew I was going to get boomerang compliments I would have written this a lot sooner.

Seriously, though ...

Jim - I like your tasting note format.  The acacia weevil is freaking me out, though.

Katie—we can start a mutual admiration society.  Music trivia—the band Mutual Admiration Society was comprised of members from which bands?  No Googling.

Ed - when are you moving to CA? That’s where you need to be, my man.

Benito—darn it.  And I double-checked, too!  I’ll have to give my copy editor and fact checker, ahem, a hard time ... grin
Memphis Represent, indeed!


On 12/15, fredric koeppel wrote:

Many thanks, Jeff, it’s reactions like yours—sensitive and acute—that make doing my job worthwhile. You get it, and I appreciate that.

(& thnx, Benito!)

On 12/15, Jim Wilkerson wrote:

Thank for the compliment, Jeff. And Acacia Weevil would be a great band name!

On 12/15, Kimberly wrote:

I completely and utterly agree about the fabulous-ness of 1WineDude’s blog!  I recently discovered it, and. . .I think I’m in love! (insert birds singing and hearts fluttering here) The focus on intermediate-level folk, and the replies—yes, replies!—to comments, and the funny and informative and entertaining writing.  Well, let’s just say, it’s the whole lovely package.  And thanks much for the other blog suggestions here—I’ve just found a couple of other great sites to love.  : )

On 12/16, Tish wrote:

Great post, Jeff. Looking forward to parts 2-10! Appreciate the recognition for Palate Press, and think you nailed most of the others, too. You are clearly a keen overseer of what’s happ’nin in wine blogging.

As for our friend Mr. Heimoff, I concur completely that he has become a force in blogging; his ability to opine in print just about daily on topics that are usually touchstones to begin with has served him well.

But as an asterisk, I would not count tolerance among his virtues. His unhappiness with criticism that I posted here about the Ehthusiast (based on a point I merely repeated from your original post) led him to stop accepting comments completely from me. So much for free speech, thick skins, blogger respect and all that stuff…

In any event, your post taken as a whole is a virtual snapshot of how much quality and variety have emerged among blogs and other online sources of wine content.

On 12/16, Katie wrote:

Uh…..I give. Clueless and I hate saying that, damn it!!

On 12/16, Robert Larsen wrote:

Great post and comments from so many industry greats and new comers. Wow! Actually, to clear the air, Charlie is my dad, Jeff and I are twins separated at birth, Bill is my cousin who argues with our older cousin Steve all the time at Thanksgiving dinner, Tish married my sister then split, so he and I don’t talk any more, and Fredric and I fought over adopting a dog at the pound and he won. Truely fun to read the whole thing folks. Look forward to the next round, Jeff.

On 12/16, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Robert - you’re too funny.  These comments are hilarious.  We all must be getting slap happy with the end of year upon us.

On 12/16, David Honig wrote:


You’re too generous in your praise for others and too niggardly in credit to one more deserving candidate, yourself.

This is a great list and I am honored to see Palate Press included. The funny thing is, though, that many of the people responsible for any success of Palate Press were already mentioned. It starts with Tish, but other must-have contributors, people I hounded because I knew we wouldn’t get off the ground without them, were Joe Roberts, Lenn Thompson, Megan, and of course, Jeff Lefevere. We also have the good fortune to count Evan Dawson, also of the New York Cork Report, among our Contributors.

While I can’t count Jon Rimmerman among our regular writers, we did just publish his pizza review, what I hope will just be the first of many contributions.

Seeing all those names on this list, along with Palate Press, just verifies what should be obvious- good content starts with the very best people. I am honored, truly honored, to associate with each and every one of them. And with you.

On 12/18, EVO wrote:

Do I hear one big group hug??
Kill it, yer stoppin me.


On 12/18, Randy Watson wrote:

I hate to break up this love-fest, but I think you guys are forgetting something more important than “Best of” lists…

You all REALLY need to ask yourself this question:

But then again, what do I know?

I’m just the “Cousin Eddie that moved into YOUR neighborhood” ...

On 12/18, Steve Paulo wrote:

Very cool. And a “newcomer” category? Something for me to strive for in 2010!

On 12/25, שלטים wrote:

Proof that wine (and food!) does not have to be serious or academic, but can be fun too.
Very useful article, and informative at the same time.

On 12/29, rj's wine blog wrote:

top notch picks, jeff.  all totally on the mark.  and, so great to see garagiste included.  i’ve been using them for a long time now and they always come up with stunning wines, from small producers for unbelievable prices.  and, living in seattle, it’s nice that i get to run downtown and pick up my wine. 


On 01/12, Burr grinders wrote:

Informations like this I always prefer to collect. I always open your post with great wish.

On 01/25, Palladium Resorts wrote:

Those are really great sites.. good choice!

On 01/25, Palladium Resorts wrote:

I love the sites, they are really great and serves the purpose well.

Palladium Resorts


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