Suburban Wino 2: The Wordpress Experiment

Suburban Wino Headquarters: Wine Sample Black Hole | December 9, 2011

Are we talking a matter of proper etiquette here?  Or should people know better?

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  First off, wine bottles can’t talk.  Nor do they have arms.  Plus, sound doesn’t even exist in outer space, so even if wine bottles could talk (which they can’t), you wouldn’t hear them screaming.  But if they could scream, and we could- in cases where sound does not exist- see what they were screaming (sort of like a “closed captioning” for outer space situations) I’m pretty confident they would scream in some sort of Blade Runner font.  But only in outer space.  If said wine bottle was in the mountains of Tennessee, it would scream in more of a “log cabin” font.  But, since being in Tennessee and not in space, we would be able to hear the screams, thus, the need for real-life closed-captioning would be moot.  And there’d be no reason for a wine bottle to scream in the mountains of Tennessee anyway.  That is, of course, unless it came upon a band of crazed mountain folk, all hopped up on mountain dew and such.

Which brings me to my first thought:  why would anyone want to send wine samples to a blogger who is really (truly) concerned about wine bottles in space?  What am I supposed to do with these bottles of wine they send?  I don’t even have a spaceship.

No doubt, many a wine blogger probably broke ground with visions of free wine.  Admittedly, when I was offered my first sample bottles (I’ll never forget you, Two Friends Imports), I had that “aha” moment that a deluge of good times were around the bend.  Freewheelin’.  Poppin’ corks like Ted Danson was in town or something.  Yet, it was not the reason why I started doing this.  Honestly, it never occurred to me that free wine might be part of the deal.

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So, on the rare occasions when I’d get some free wine, I’d give it all a nice, evaluative taste, and then I’d post my thoughts on the blawg.  Tasting notes and whatnot.  Still, I figured doing all this was part of the game, but it wasn’t my wheelhouse.

After a couple years in, I had another epiphany:  I don’t like tasting notes.  Even more so, I don’t like to read someone else’s tasting notes.  Not exclusively, at least.  Not that there’s anything wrong with tasting notes.  They help many folks build a memory of familiar smells.  But, to me, they aren’t interesting to read unless I’m drinking that same wine at the exact moment that I happen to come across said tasting notes.  Or unless I’ve had the wine before.  Neither of which happen very often.  Instead, I’m stuck reading a memoir of someone else’s senses.

Honestly, there a few folks who can pull them off.  When Samantha Dugan writes a tasting note, I immediately want to go find that wine and drink it until slip into a haze that finds me lounging carelessly in a hammock for hours.  But it’s not where her bread is buttered.  They just happen to work when she does sling ’em.

When people I really like (say, a Steve Paulo, a Joe Roberts, or a Ben Carter) want to do notes, I can appreciate that they’re just trying to keep the tasting chops sharp and honestly educate.  Plus, folks like them already have bodies of work that lends honesty to the notes.

But, too often, I read, “I tasted under-ripe bing cherries and bartlett pear skins and the essence of dew upon spring’s first stinging nettles.”  And that makes me want to break a bottle of wine and stab things with it.  Because it’s so full of shit that anyone who wants to get into drinking wine must get the feeling that you have to be full of the same measure of shit to enjoy a dang alcoholic beverage made out of grapes.  Poppycock! (forgive the blue language)

Anyone who has taken the time to stop by this blawg should probably know that I don’t write any tasting notes and I don’t really evaluate any wines.  PR companies that popped by here couldn’t possibly think that this is a “hotbed of wine evaluation”.  If they keep sending them and keep offering to send them, am I being rude and “unprofessional” (as if there’s anything “professional” going on here) if they don’t get posted?  Furthermore, if I lay out in advance that “you can send me wine, but I will almost assuredly not get around to writing about it”, does that exonerate me from the common courtesy of acknowledging these wines?

For some bloggers (like Beau Carufel, whom I like a lot), the answer is “no”.  According to Beau, “Wine bloggers are under an obligation, which more and more of us seem to forget or dismiss, to write about what we’re sent.”  Totally disagree.  If I have a taco blog, and someone sends me sauerbraten, am I obligated to talk about it?  No!  So, if I’m not a “review blog”, then no one should expect reviews.  If they didn’t do their homework, then tough…

…alas, then I start feeling like a jerkass.  Thumbing my nose at free wine, and coming off as trying to big-time a little winery that is just trying to get some publicity in a saturated market.  Was Nigel Tufnel this conflicted after demanding same-sized meats for his tiny bread?

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So, as this is a de facto swan song for my days of receiving free wine samples, I might as well list as many thoughts as I can get out here:

1.  I think Twitter tastings are cool.  If I get some stuff designed for a twitter tasting, I usually tend to participate.  Yeah, it’s a bunch of people shooting out tasting notes, but I’m tasting along with them, so it’s all good to compare and contrast and learn together.  That said, if you were following me on Twitter and weren’t involved in the Twitter tasting in question, how you wouldn’t be compelled to unfollow (at least temporarily) is beyond me.

2.  If I do get anything, I never give it away.  I will always open it and taste it objectively by myself.  After that, it may be consumed, used for cooking, slugged with friends, poured down the drain, or given to hobos who are 21 years of age or older.  Cause there’s nothing more depressing than an underaged hobo with a discarded bottle of sample wine.

3.  Reed’s, a soft drink company, sent me a non-alcoholic soda called “Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer”.  It tastes like something that dead elves who go to elf heaven probably drink.  Flying Cauldron butterscotch beer is sent directly from elf heaven.  It’s that freaking delicious.  A PR person asked if they could send me some as a sample.  I said, “yes, and I will absolutely be sure to talk about it on the blog, you magical purveyors of the preferred beverage of elf angels.”

4.  There are a few PR folks and wineries that are really cool and whom I like.  And if I have a relationship with someone, there’s a better chance that I’d have an emotional connection to the product and want to write about it.  Such is human nature.  I’m no critic, just a dude that cranks away at a keyboard sometimes.  That may not be an objective approach, but I’m not in line for a job at the Wine Advocate either.

5.  I recently tasted through some wines from Tudal Family Winery (that were sent to me as samples).  They were really good.  Very balanced, with reasonable alcohol.  Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel Blend, and a few Cabernets.  Tasty with the steak and sauteed broccolini I made.  After tasting them, and then drinking them with the food, I took them out by the fire pit and drank them by the fire.  They were really good there, too.  Made me with I had a hammock out there.  So, I guess you’d say that Tudal Family makes some really tasty steak/broccolini/outside/campfire/hammock wines.  That’s about as good as I can do for a tasting note.

6.  Anyone who thinks my approach isn’t correct, or isn’t “serious” enough, or is setting wine blogging back is taking him/herself too seriously.  


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