Sunday, May 11, 2008

The SwanSong

So, I’m sitting in my chair facing my keyboard and looking at a blank screen—that’s today’s version of a writer facing a blank page.

In this case, the blank screen is because I am no longer sure what to say about wine online.

A number of adjectives describe what the online discourse about wine sometimes does to me. This week, I stumbled upon one too many adjectives, along with one too many jerks.

It saddens me that so many times those who voice their self-righteous proclamations seem to know just enough about wine and winemaking to be dangerous and not enough about humility and the general way that people need to act toward one another in order to peacefully share this planet.

In other words, a hell of a lot of wine geeks should never have been let out of high school!

How did it come to pass that people use the gift so pleasant as wine to bring attention to their status, to their self worth, and to their self-appointment as arbiters of taste? They subvert the goodness of wine. They claim they speak and consume wine out of passion. What comes through to me is obsession. Passion is an emotion of the heart—obsession is an emotional illness.

In any case, wine geeks never were my intended audience for Vinofictions. They are not my whole problem.

I aimed for the general wine consumer. My aim was to use Vinofictions to educate to the extent of my knowledge, which in wine amounts to about 26 years of study and experience in the business, from grape growing to winemaking to wine selling and wine writing, alongside decades of wine consumption that reaches back to age seven.

I am fully aware that, while I may have learned things through study, I don’t know it all, and so I also hoped that through dialog on Vinofictions I could continue to learn from others while they learned from me. But Vinofictions hasn’t really captured much attention and has generated even less dialog.

Wine writers with more than just opinions can help others come to their own decisions by giving them an understanding of the facts. But that doesn’t appear to be what gets the attention. What seems to get attention are wine writers who issue proclamations and position subjectivity as if it were information. I don’t do that kind of thing well because I do not believe in it.

I am suspending Vinofictions for the 2008 summer while I consider if I have anything left to say and also to find out if what I have to say has much of an audience. Right now, I’m of the opinion that the audience isn’t nearly as large as the time and effort warrants.

The blog will remain online so that the archives will be available to sift through and read.

A few of you have been kind enough to take part in this blog and to throw me encouraging words. I thank you. I wish there were more of you.
And to prove to you that I am not a saint, and that I, too, have something to sell: my third book is scheduled for an autumn release. Hope you all read it.
Copyright Thomas Pellechia
May 2008. All rights reserved.


  1. You deserve a larger audience. You write from the heart. Take the summer off, drink wine, grill some food, play piano, read and listen to music.

  2. Marco,

    That reminds me of an old story titled: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

    It is.

    This week I must polish up the piano and get it ready for the piano tuner. It's like a car that runs better after it has been washed and Simonized ;)

  3. Thomas,

    I may have missed it but be sure to alert us when your book is available! Have you shared the title already?

    I place blogs in the same category as scientific journalism in that a given journal's so-called "impact factor" (based merely on the number of citations) is a poor indicator of the net worth of the information conveyed. Your blog has a much greater impact than the number of visits or comments posted might indicate. Of course, the hucksters and shills would rather you pipe down and leave wine boosterism to their ilk. Enjoy the summer and here's hoping that you return fully recharged.

  4. Sir:

    I've enjoyed the lucidity of your prose and your wide knowledge. If I've said little in response, it is because I have so much myself to learn.

    I hope you will return after the summer refreshed and renewed.

  5. Thanks again, Jay and Marie,

    Jay, I love the analogy.

    Perhaps, I am just a mere mortal anyway, and I need to be made secure that someone or many are listening or if what I am saying isn't just the ramblings of a renegade.

    When I was young and studying music, my piano teacher, who was also a Zen Buddhist, among other outlandish (I say with affection) things, used music lessons to instill a few life lessons.

    He'd say "hit the keys lightly, so that they respond rather than react," things like that. But one thing he said truly gave me a picture of myself.

    "You are the type who, when everyone is saying no, you are convinced that there is a yes hidden under their protestations."

    Of course, he was right, and it works the other way around, too.

    Being a contrarian is my way of getting at the truth. Also, I know what lies behind hucksterism, and how easy it is to dupe people, especially those who don't even ask questions.

    For instance, someone pointed out recently how so many CA wineries use spinning cones and concentrators, centrifuges, etc to remove water and reduce alcohol but you never find that stuff mentioned on the label alongside, say, the barrel aging program or premium care in the vineyard. Curious.

  6. Thomas,

    I've been reading and enjoying your blog entries for some time and hope you enjoy the time you'll spend away from bloging.

    Also share your sadness when seeing so much wine pontification. For a wine consumer like me it's probably not that bad as I can also switch off and read something else, for a wine professional it must be tough to put up with.

    In regards to wine passion versus obsession, I think that is really obsession but it's not really/entirely about wine, it's obsession about looking good and showing on top of the game. And a lot of insecurity. Wine is just one element for them. I think.

    Be good.

  7. Javier,

    I agree completely with your view of obsession.

    Passion calls forth the poetry in us; obsession brings out our dark side.

  8. Hey Thomas,

    First, you have blogger burnout - it typically happens after about a year of blogging.

    Second, you might have aimed for the general wine consumer, but there was no way for such person to find/learn about your blog. Only wine geeks (and the like) stumbled upon it. Wine blogs don't really reach the general wine consumer (with a few exceptions, such as WLTV). If that's who you want to write for, you need to find a print publication, or so, takeover for the guy who does it at Chow (for example).

    Hey, write again when you've got something to say. What's wrong if that's just once-a-month, or so?

  9. Jack,

    At about 4,000 hits per month, I assume some general consumers sign onto this blog.

    I already write for a few print publications, but only in the East. The only publication I write for a few times a year on the West Coast is the trade mag, Wines and Vines.

    I've been published in Slow Food, Decanter, and other places, as well as some books--it's not that people don't know I exist.

    You are right, however, about blogs. Most of us who are not paid by a magazine or newspaper to maintain a blog do it for the passion--I don't even have ads on mine.

    I was hopeful that somewhere out there my stuff would spark a mainstream periodical willing to go in a direction separate from the run-of-the-mill, copycat, same schtick wine magazines.

    No takers.

    You are right again: I intend to make an entry when there's something to talk about or some issue that can use a skewering...

  10. Blog burnout - none of us are immune. It'll be a year for me this september so we'll see what happens. Having seen your comments elsewhere but not spent much time on your blog, I can report that not reading it was a mistake. You have good perspective and well-written prose. Looks like I will now be procrastinating for ever longer periods of time writing and reading wine blogs.


  11. Thanks, Joe.

    It helps that I've been a writer for most of my life and a wine professional for almost half of my life.

    What's that saying, "I've seen it all..." Geez, I'm beginning to sound old!