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 (http://www.winebusiness.com) 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 (http://www.1winedude.com). 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 (http://lennthompson.typepad.com/lenndevours/). 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 (http://www.palatepress.com) 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 (http://www.gonzogastronomy.com) 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 (http://www.wannabewino.com). 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 (http://www.biggerthanyourhead.net) . 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 (http://www.tastelive.com). 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 (http://www.garagistewine.com). 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.