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Friday, December 10, 2010

I began blogging almost four years ago, shortly after attending the Napa Valley Wine Writers Symposium in February of 2007. Blogging was still new then, a bit mysterious, and to an old print journalist like me it seemed peripheral at best. But I thought it wise to dip a toe into the waters, as I have with virtually every type of medium since I began working in radio in my college years.

Blogging has been far more challenging and rewarding than I ever imagined. I have had two false starts (poor design and execution) and one complete meltdown (accidentally wiped out the entire blog and its history). But for almost two years now, I’ve been doing Unfined & Unfiltered with considerable regularity, and followed other leading wine blogs as they too have evolved and begun to grope their way toward some communal meta-blog.

A lot of topics have been done to death, but will always be fodder for someone. Blind tastings. Food and wine match-ups. Outmoded liquor laws. Wine flaws. I’ve weighed in on these and more, and have pretty much said all I have to say.

The most successful blogs have a specific point of view, true of all good writing really. This one keeps a pretty tight focus on the wines and wineries of the Pacific Northwest, though I always want to put the region into a global perspective. The need for that is not likely to change, even though both Washington and Oregon have had some very good press lately. But much of the world’s wine writing is centered in New York and London, and the tight coterie of writers who inhabit those exotic worlds (neither of which is known for actually making wine, by the way) seems doggedly dedicated to blowing their own horns and ignoring the Pacific Northwest.

The latest example of this is a compendium called “The Ultimate Wine Companion”, edited by Kevin Zraly, and including writing (some of it decades old) by a long list of familiar names, most of them from (take a guess!) – New York and London. What is interesting about this book, which bears the humble subtitle “The Complete Guide to Understanding Wine by the World’s Foremost Wine Authorities”, is that, as far as I can tell, Washington and Oregon don’t exist.

The only reference to the thriving wine industries in either state that I have found among the book’s 384 pages is a line (one line!) for each state in an appendix titled “Vintage Best Bets”. Even here it fails, as the vintages selected as exceptional are not particularly so (2004 in Washington was exceptional mostly because so many vineyards were frozen out; 2008 in Oregon is not labeled exceptional when it most certainly was).

So this blog looks as if it will have its work cut out for it as long as I’m willing to saddle up and ride it.

Apart from finding juicy topics and doing the hard work of writing, the two main challenges for any bloggers are to 1) attract an audience and 2) earn a living. So far, my pg blog seems to be getting the readers, though I am remarkably poor at doing the tracking of that. I will try to improve in the new year. I have never made an effort to “monetize” this beast, though some congregators have come knocking, and I have politely declined. How much is a blog worth? No one knows. Will it ever be possible to have the sort of mass readership that attracts advertisers? Maybe.

For now, I am committed to doing this for the intellectual currency it trades in, and for the opportunity to speak out, unfined and unfiltered, on a wide variety of topics and concerns that cross my mind from day to day. I do enjoy the dialogue, appreciate your time and attention, and look forward to continuing to explore and develop the blog form in the coming year.

– PaulG


Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work, Paul. I'm sure all your current (and future) readers join me in expressing our appreciation for your efforts!
Mike Veseth

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Plymale said...

Funny about the "exceptional" '04 vintage

Anonymous said...

I think the big problem in blogging is coming up with something new, true, and interesting to say. 24 hours a day has intellectually crashed over this issue. It would be entirely fair for a wine blogger to either post only at set intervals or with an e-mail alert. I greatly enjoy your posts. RobLL

David Larsen said...

Thanks for exposing Kevin Zraly and "The Ulitmate Wine Companion". I am absolutely flabbergasted by how little these "experts" know about Washington wine and by the amount of inaccurate information. Really makes you wonder about the other information in their books.

Charlie Olken said...


Be happy to have the Northwest ignored by the New Yorkers and the Londoners. Better to be ignored than to be impaled as non-varietal, overoaked, overripe, lacking in terroir, dreadfully generic, deficient in acidity and all those other negative labels that are uniformly being thrown at California and its wines by those folks.

As for monetization, it seems very difficult to see how that can happen in any reasonable way relative to the value that equivalently smart words can earn in a print setting supported either by advertising or by subscribers or both.

Those bloggers who have professional careers in wine writing seem to be blogging either because they are required to blog as part of their day jobs (see Asimov, Bonne and others) or because they (we) have so much to say that writing is an outlet for our many thoughts about wine. And, there is the added question of relevancy. In today's world, there seems to be a non-monetary but still real return to good writers by staying in the public eye throgh the very popular but not very financially profitable medium of the blog.

I have been hearing for the last couple of years that people will get tired of all the effort that goes into writing blogs when there is no observable monetary return, but I see very few blogs closing down and suspect that we all have a lot to say and blogs let us say those things. So we keep on blogging.

If you figure out how to change that equation, please let me know.


PaulG said...

Charlie, I totally agree. It's the print pubs that pay the bills, and God bless 'em! I do enjoy blogging, for many reasons; but relevancy makes it absolutely essential. Anyone not blogging, doing Facebook, and Twitter as well, is quickly being marginalized. It's happened so rapidly that I suspect it's caught a few writers by surprise. But I've always been attuned to media, so I'm happy to be counted among the bloggers, unlike our mutual pal Ron W.

Paul W. said...

Please keep up the good work!

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