Today I look back at where the blog has been, and where I would like to see it go in the next year. This isn’t a self congratulatory puff piece, at least that isn’t my intention; I want to touch briefly on some topics that I hope to cover in greater fullness in the next year, and rededicate myself to what I think I’ve done well with my blog over the last year.
In January last year, I started blogging on Myspace, not about wine, but about whatever I wanted. My writing was equal parts journal, soap box, and therapist’s couch. I wasn’t writing about wine, and the writing didn’t come easy every day, but I found that I enjoyed writing. I found that the writing helped me clarify my thinking on a variety of subjects, and I found myself shocked when people found their way to my random writing and bothered to read it.
It wasn’t until May that my first wine oriented articles appeared in the blog. Murphy Goode was looking for a really good Hardy Wallace, and at the time I thought I would be a great candidate. Murphy Goode’s contest is why I started to focus on wine.
Although I had loyal facebook friends, was able to mobilize support from members of online forums where I was a member, and through 30 year reunion communications had my high school classmates voting en masse, all leading to my video application being the 8th most popular out of the almost 2,000 submitted; looking back, I can say I was woefully unqualified for Murphy Goode’s job.
I had more knowledge of Sonoma County than any other applicant, a love and passion for the area I was born and raised. I have awards for marketing Sonoma County wines; my experience is grounded in the real world, and compliments my Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing. I was the perfect candidate, except for one little thing: I wasn’t really a wine blogger, and my writing wasn’t really all that good.
Through the Summer, I continued to write my little blog on Myspace. I still wrote whatever I wanted, and wasn’t hemmed in by being a blog about a subject yet. As I wrote, my writing started to improve. I never felt that my writing was artistic, beautiful, elegant; for me writing felt like craft, not art. The most I could hope for was to construct a well built article. I felt like a handyman.
By Fall, I was happier still with my writing, feeling like a craftsman. I was happy with my writing, and actually proud of a piece or two.
In December, I moved my blog here to WordPress, and originally named it John On Wine, Food, Friends, and Wine Country Lifestyle. I narrowed the focus, and was surprised that inspite of the narrower focus, my readership increased.
Coming to WordPress, I brought some of my writing from Myspace, but deleted the vast majority of what I had previously written. Looking back at my archived articles, I wonder if I might have deleted enough.
Without intending to, I have written almost exclusively about wine in 2010. The writing is easier, I have worked for many years in the industry, have experience, knowledge, passion, and I enjoy sharing what I know and think. I shortened the name of the blog to John On Wine.
Where I once had fewer than 100 find my blog in a week, I now have over 200 people visit my blog daily. There are wine bloggers that claim 10,000 visits daily, so my success is small, but I am happy with it.
The decision to focus on wine was made unconsciously as I looked at the writing about wine, both in print and online. It seemed that wine writers were writing for each other instead of for regular people. Seriously, why waste a sentence writing about a wine receiving a 100 point score from a well known wine critic if the wine is a small 150 case release, costs $275 a bottle and all of the bottles are already allocated to customers on a list maintained by the winery with a 15 year wait to get on the list?
I am the wine geekiest of my friends or family, the Frasier Crane in a world of Daphne Moons. I want to write about wines that taste good, cost relatively little, and are readily available. I want to write without pretension or built in snob biases against certain wines (yes, I’m looking at you White Zin). I have friends who didn’t drink wine, but drank beer instead, with meals. I write for them, not other wine writers or bloggers, and I am thrilled when I get an email from a friend about bringing home a wine from the supermarket, or ordering a glass of wine in a restaurant, because of something I have written.
That is why I write, that is who I am writing for. Please do not bring up “monetizing” my blog, a regular person picking up a wine is my payback.
I live in wine country, I write with passion, I do well what the wine industry as a whole does horribly, I market wine, and wine country to my readers. My writing has led to some opportunities, invitations to special tastings and events.
I love writing about a huge tasting like ZAP; the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers grand tasting in San Francisco is an opportunity for a Zinfandel lover to choose, from several hundred Zinfandels being poured by nearly every producer of the varietal, Zinfandels to taste over a three hour period.
I am proud of the recap I wrote covering three days of ZAP events, and about my chance encounter with Zinfandel icons Joel Peterson of Ravenswood, and his son Morgan Twain-Peterson of Bedrock wine Company.
I am equally proud of my piece dedicated to White Zinfandel. There are plenty of wine snobs, many with wine blogs, who write about White Zin with derision. I do not join them, but will happily join a friend at a Summer picnic in enjoying a deliciously sweet and refreshing White Zin.
I visit wineries, and write longer feature pieces, making generous use of photography to paint a better picture of the property than my words convey. I am surprised, when leaving a winery that I am going to write about, to find I love the winery and want to work there – each and every time. Every winery I visit is special, a jewel, worthy of a story, stealing my heart. I don’t seek out special wineries, I just find that every winery I have visited so far is. Sit down with a winemaker, a tasting room manager, a winery owner, and it doesn’t take much digging to find the uniqueness, the magic, the specialness.
I write evaluations and reviews of wine accessories and wine books. My article condemning the vacu-vin pump wine saver was one of my most read pieces and I still have people visiting my site to read that article after Googling “vacu-vin.” I read and reviewed Randall Grahm’s book Been Doon So Long; I loved reading it, I hope my love for the book inspires someone to buy a copy for a wine loving friend, and I know it will make a Christmas Gift list recommendation piece at year’s end.
I write about wine and health. My piece on wine and pregnancy is linked and referenced on several maternity sites. I followed that up with a review of a book on the benefits wine offers in fighting the effects of aging, “Age Gets Better With Wine.”
I have taken up issues; Government censorship of wineries, neo-prohibitionism, wine blogger ethics, FTC rulings that apply to bloggers but not print writers, and snobbery by wine writers.
I don’t want to become a wine blogger writing for other wine bloggers, endlessly twittering about absolutely nothing in an attempt to be a loved member of the in crowd wine blogger community. I’m a 49 year old man, not a 12 year old girl. I believe in the value of community, and I think that reading more than one wine writer has value; I honestly think that too much of the wine writing (I’m guilty of this sometimes) out there just plain sucks.
Here’s a funny one; there’s a wine blog that calls itself “Wine for Regular People” or some such misnomer that reviews bottles of Lynch Bages at $95 and Morley Cabernet at $175. Those are single bottle prices folks. I have just one question for the regular people who read my blog: How many of you are interested in wines you’ve likely never heard of at prices you’ll never pay? Seriously, I would respect the writing if it wasn’t front loaded with a bald face, um, lie. Change the name of the site to “Wine for Elites For Whom Money Is Not An Issue,” and you will instantly stop being mockable funny and start garnering immediate respect.
While I’m touching on things I don’t like; let me talk about Social Media Marketing hacks. I know of one winery wasting their money on not one, but two employees who together do not accomplish the worthwhile Marketing output of the majority of their peers. To make matters worse, one of them has publicly written that building his own personal brand is his focus in doing his job. What about your employer’s brand? Another gripe, I find there is far too little Marketing involved in most Social Media Marketing. How about you stop talking about your personal business on your employer’s site, maybe try developing a voice, a message, a professional content? My complaints about the weak could fill an entire article, and perhaps in the future, they will. Two people I think are doing a great job with Social Media Marketing in the industry are Eric Hwang and Rick Bakas; on their heels, learning and growing almost daily, is Nicole Marino.
I think that Social Media Marketing holds amazing potential for the wine industry specifically, but the only wineries that will see a benefit are those hiring people with a strong work ethic and pre-existing marketing skills who can apply them within a new environment.
So bringing this post to an end, I want to thank you for your support. I write for you, my regular guy or gal reader. I will continue to write an insider’s view into wine from the wine country. I want to continue to mix it up, providing varied content, but try to find more inexpensive, available, good wine to write about.
I will leave the wine ratings, 100 point scales, letter grade, puffs, stars, to others. I can’t, and don’t want to, taste hundreds of wines at an event and sum up each wine by assigning it a number; there are well read and respected wine writers who do just that already. I am looking forward to Summer, hot days spilling into long warm nights, friends gathered, enjoying food that I prepared from locally sourced farm ingredients, and wines. I love to write about wine in context.
I would rather tuck review sample wines away until Summer and review them in context, painting a much more full picture of fellowship and enjoyment, than open five wines, taste one after the other, and publish my tasting notes today.