As often happens, comments that follow a blog post can be more provocative and helpful than the original posting. Thus, thanks to Paul Mabray of Vintank, a Napa-based "digital think tank for the wine industry," I've been introduced to several stimulating wine blogs. They are the spinoff of a list that Mabray posted a few days ago under the intriguing headline, "The 9 Most Important Wine Bloggers in the US."
At first, I thought Mabray might be pulling our leg. Surely, both that headline and his opening claim suggests he was setting us up for April Fool's Day: "They are the most influential to both the trade and consumers. Their voices influence thousands of other wine personalities and tens of thousands of wine professionals," he says of the annointed nine. Who knew there were "tens of thousands" of wine professionals? In reading the post, however, I find nothing to substantiate his conclusions. I was hoping to discover hard evidence to convince me why these nine are the most influential wine bloggers in the country, but there was none, not a bit. The folks at Vintank may do a lot of thinking, but based on this example of its research it isn't the Rand Institute when it comes to backing up its conclusions.
Nevertheless, I agree with Mabray that the nine are hard-working, stimulating and entertaining, which is why I include on this blog links to six of them. Now I may have to make room for a few more, only one of whom Mabray mentions, and not as one of the nine but as "one to watch." The others were suggested by readers who followed Mabray's commentary with a few comments of their own, often along the lines of, "Hey, you forgot to include...."
In cursory fashion, I checked them out, and found a few I'll be reading again, and who you also might enjoy:
- Wine Without Worry is the blog of Jameson Fink, an erudite Seattle wine enthusiast, which explains his focus on wines of the Pacific Northwest. His frequent posts are tightly written, light, smart and helpful. Anyone planning a trek to the vineyards of the Northwest would be wise to spend some time first at his blog.
- Girl With a Glass is the blog of Alana Gentry, about whom I know nothing. By a quick reading of her recent posts, I can't even tell where she is based. Her view is broad, in other words, as well as even-handed and non-intimidating. She posts fairly often, and her writing has a tone both cerebral and jaunty.
- Cheap Wine Ratings is the blog of two Cincinnati chaps, Tim Lemke and David Germano. As its name suggests, it's all about everyday wines, which they think shouldn't be priced more than $20, though they occasionally include recommendations slightly above that threshold. The point is that they write of wines that deliver value, and the wines they write of are approached with a sense of joyful discovery, without prejudice concerning varietal, region, style or so forth. I'm sure they write of Ohio wines, but in my brief scan of their material I didn't see mention of a single one. Instead, their view is ecumenical, their perspective fresh. Their choice of wines is timely and varied, their attitude breezy but informed. And their blog is a model of organization and maneuvaribility. And note that they note the wines they receive as samples, a nice touch of transparency.
- RJ on Wine is written by Richard Jennings, a passionate, self-described "wine geek" based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has an unrelated day job, but you wouldn't know it by the comprehensiveness and reach of his tasting notes, which are numerous and long. How does he make time to do all that? His tastes are diverse, his tone serious, and he obviously enjoys providing readers with deep background on the history, region or style of wine he is addressing in his latest roundup. His photos are boring, and he avoids prices, but he's endearingly enthusiastic, with no axes to grind, no positions to defend.
- Simple Hedonisms is a collaboration of several Sonoma County contributors, most notably vintner William Allen. While the attitude is enthusiastic and the focus is Sonoma County, this isn't a booster blog. The evaluations of wines are diverse and they ring with knowledge and candor. The information they provide is pragmatic and empowering, with the kind of confidence and balance that makes you eager to go out and grab a bottle to experience the wine for yourself.
It's interesting to me that two of these five, as well as others mentioned in the comments attached to Mabray's remarks, are decidedly regional in their focus. It's just a hunch on my part, but I suspect that the day is drawing near when regional wine blogs will have the most influence on the wine community. Why? Well, let me pull a few thoughts out of the air. The locavore movement is cultivating more appreciation of goods produced close to home, for one. Secondly, the world of wine is so wide, deep and diverse that no one person adequately can cover it all; this realization is fostering the rise of wine critics/columnists/bloggers who are content to study, experience, and report on specific regions, whether they be as big as Chile or as small as Napa Valley. There will remain a role for wine writers with a national or international platform like the New York Times and the Wine Spectator - provided, of course, there's still a New York Times and a Wine Spectator - but for everyday information on what's fermenting in their backyard I suspect wine enthusiasts will look closer to home for most of their guidance. I've no statistics, analysis, metrics or anything but intuition to back up this prediction, which pretty much qualifies me to be a fellow at the think-tank Vintank.
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