Field Notes from a Wine Life – Media Edition

Odds and ends from a life lived through the prism of the wine glass…

Rex Pickett

If you’re not reading Rex Pickett’s (author of Sideways and Vertical) blog, you are officially remiss.

Pickett is a gifted writer who cranks out perfectly incubated long-form posts with turns of phrase that are both wry and rich, offering insight into the machinations of publishing, film and stage that few culture vultures grasp.

Pickett recently wrote an extensive (3900 word) post on the reasons why a film sequel to Sideways (directed by Alexander Payne) would not be made from Vertical, Pickett’s book sequel.  In doing so, Pickett offered a discursive meditation on Payne’s artistic pathos and the factors that may be playing into Vertical’s stall on the way to celluloid.


Unfortunately, Pickett removed the post after re-publishing a second version that deleted much of the armchair psychologist rumination he originally channeled from Payne’s psyche.  An email inquiry to Pickett on why he removed the post (in either iteration) has gone unanswered.

If I were a muckraker, I would publish the post because Pickett’s deletion of the post from his site did not delete the post from RSS feed readers like Bloglines or Google Reader.  But, I’m not a muckraker…

Hopefully, Pickett will revisit the topic in a manner that is less confessional and more elucidation because it was worth the extended read time.  Until then you can read the other posts on his site and gain tremendous insight into the vicissitudes of the publishing process, what the afterglow is like after capturing the cultural zeitgeist and how he’s helping bring Sideways to the theatre with a stage version.

It’s definitely recommended reading.

A Discovery of Witches

While we’re on the topic of books and authors (and with Halloween around the corner), a reinforcing mention goes to Deb Harkness of Good Wine Under $20.  Earlier this year a little book she wrote called, “A Discovery of Witches” was published and immediately shot up the best sellers lists.  The movie rights were acquired this summer by Warner Bros, likely securing Harkness’ financial future in the process.

While I read fiction infrequently (the last fiction book being Vertical by Rex Pickett), those that I know who can tell the difference between kindling and a classic call A Discovery of Witches “mad genius.”
Any conversation about a wine blogger doing good should begin with Deb Harkness who is now dabbling in rarified air.  Pick up her book if you haven’t yet.

Bargain Wine Books

There’s little doubt, in the prolonged US economic malaise we’re experiencing, that “value wine” and “bargain wine” are hot topics.  Heck, an entire channel of business has been defined with “Flash” wine sale sites.  Given that, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a couple of wine books would be published with this specific focus.


What is a surprise is that the books are authored by wine writers with real chops engaged in offering a deeper narrative than the slapdash compendiums of wine lists that has passed muster in years gone by.
Just in time for the holidays, Natalie MacLean has Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines publishing on November 1st and George Taber, a wine writer on a tear with his fourth book in six years, has A Toast to Bargain Wines: How Innovators, Iconoclasts, and Winemaking Revolutionaries Are Changing the Way the World Drinks publishing on November 15th.

An Idea worth Duplicating?

Celebrity deaths come in threes and new wine ideas come in twos.

We’ve seen this duplicative market entry in recent years with winery reservation systems CellarPass and VinoVisit and now we’re seeing it with quasi-wine search engines.

WineMatch and VinoMatch are both in the early stages of launch purporting to help a consumer match their likes with wines they might enjoy.

Meh.  The problem with these sites isn’t that consumers don’t need help finding a wine they like, the problem is that most wine consumers don’t understand what kind of wine they like.  Yes, it’s the tannins that dry the back of the mouth and its residual sugar that makes that K-J so delectable…

By the time consumers figure out their likes and dislikes graduating beyond the “go-to,” they don’t care about having somebody help them “match” their wines to their tastes because they’re on their own adventure.

It’s just my opinion, but these sites face looooong odds of finding consumer success and short of the slick willy seduction that happens with some wineries who haven’t been bitten and as such aren’t twice shy, they won’t find *any* success.  But, I’ve been wrong before, at least once.

Pictures and Pithiness

While we’re on the topic of online wine services, I’m not sure whether I should be happy or aghast that I’ve been a habitué of the online wine scene for long enough to see a derivative – it’s like watching a remake of the movie Footloose when I was saw the original in the theatre.

There’s a new wine site called TasteJive that takes the concept of a wine blog called Chateau Petrogasm, popular in 2007 and 2008, to new heights.


Around the premise that a picture is worth a thousand words even if that picture has nothing to do with wine, they have created a site that provides nothing but visual metaphors with a 140 character description for finding wines you might like.

I loved the idea of Chateau Petrogasm, I like the idea of a perfectly crafted 140 character slug, but I’m very uncertain about the community aspect of TasteJive—the users who control the uploading of pictures and descriptions.

As noted mid-20th century photographer Diane Arbus said, “A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.”

Not exactly a recipe for success in bumping into a wine.