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The Examiner Wine Column


DanielK
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After much prodding on my part, Scott has finally signed up for an account here on DR: vineguy. He was a bit too shy to start his own topic, so I have done this for him.

Scott writes the weekly wine column for The Examiner Newspaper, as well as posts to his website The Vine Guy. He is a self-taught wine connoisseur, very plugged into the DC scene, and is becoming more of a foodie as well. I hope to get him out to a DR.com dinner at some point, and perhaps we can get him to do some wine pairings for us!

I'm sure he'll scan the board and start weighing in on some of the other wine topics, but in the meantime, here's a link to a recent Examiner column. Plug away with questions or comments!

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Well, It's nice to finally have a chance to check out Don Rockwell's site. I have heard a lot about the site from many people in and out to the industry - including wine shops, restaurant owners and PR professionals.

If anyone has any questions on the articles we (my wife also shares writing duties with me at the Examiner Newspaper), please fire away.

Also, if you have any suggestions for topics you'd like to see us cover, feel free to let me know. We are always looking for interesting topics to cover and we figure readers are the best source for new ideas.

Scott Greenberg

The Vine Guy

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As Lloyd Dobens once said, "Continual improvement is an unending journey." To that end, I am attempting to improve the weekly wine column at the Examiner Newspaper. I truly believe that there is room for improvement to produce a reliable wine column for our community. To that end, I am seeking honest (and constructive) criticism that will be beneficial in making the column something that wine lovers and wine novices will look forward to reading each week.

I have included links to recent articles. Please check out these (and other) columns on the Examiner Website (http://dcpaper.examiner.com) and let me know what you think - everything from writing style and content to layout and artwork. Please keep in mind that I have to write for a VERY broad audience :lol:

Summer Sippers to Beat The Heat - Examiner, June 13, 2008

Livio Felluga - King of Friuli Examiner June 6, 2008

2005 White Burgundies - Examiner May 15, 2008

Thanks for your feedback...

Scott Greenberg

The Vine Guy

Wine Columnist

Examiner Newspaper

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I'm looking for a wine column that doesn't recommend the same old national brands over and over again, ad nauseum.

I realize that you have to write for a broad readership, but try to take your readers out of their "comfort zone" a bit. Challenge them a little bit. Get them to be a little bit uncomfortable once in a while by "drinking outside the box" (and, no, I don't mean box wine either!) Don't be afraid to voice a minority opinion, or champion a deserving wine that runs counter to the prevailing drinking trends.

Oh, and when you do have to write reviews of the ubiquitous national brands, don't make them sound like love letters, it raises suspicions of undue influence (other wine columnists have fallen into this trap, and it cuts right to the heart of their credibility)

For all I know, you're already doing that, I'm sorry I haven't taken the time to read your columns yet, but that's just how I feel.

I appreciate your soliciting our opinions. :lol:

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Get them to be a little bit uncomfortable once in a while by "drinking outside the box" (and, no, I don't mean box wine either!) Don't be afraid to voice a minority opinion, or champion a deserving wine that runs counter to the prevailing drinking trends.

I like the way you're thinking, Joe! Explore those frontiers, and bring us back a metaphorical potato...nothing adds reader interest like the joy of being let in on a discovery*

Two other observations. First: info for novices would be nice in a sidebar, particularly what to look for (because we can't believe that any mere mortal could be expected to memorize the characteristics of every bottling) and what pitfalls to avoid...that might help advanced tasters avoid that I'm-being-talked-down-to feeling. Second: while the DC Examiner normally flies below my radar, I must admit that until your post, I had no idea they had a regular wine column...if you can find the "dining" link, it only shows you Jeff Dufour's articles. I gather from the link in your signature that there used to be a features/wine page, but it seems to be gone for now.

* well, nothing besides sex, celebrity meltdowns, or both...

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I realize that you have to write for a broad readership, but try to take your readers out of their "comfort zone" a bit. Challenge them a little bit. Get them to be a little bit uncomfortable once in a while by "drinking outside the box" (and, no, I don't mean box wine either!) Don't be

Well said. I'm looking for a wine column that will inform me about wines that I don't already know and can still afford to purchase. I particularly enjoy a column that highlights a varietal or region that I'd never heard of previously. Some of my favorite wine pieces over the past few years are the WSJ Gaiter-Brecher pieces on Torrontes & Arneis from the past month and Don's piece on Godello from a year or two back. The Torrontes piece was informative about a grape that many know of, but don't know well, while the other two introduced me to grapes that I'd never before tried. One nice thing about columns that feature a particular varietal or region or even vintage is that it is particularly conducive to highlighting a series of bottles in a variety of price ranges, which probably allows you to reach a broader readership than you might otherwise.

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This is all great feedback.

I really do try to find "off the beaten path" stuff to write about - but not just obscure wines - I also try to promote a different spin on popular wines. For example, I wrote about the well known Italian producer Castello Gambbiano, but I took more of a "hospitality" approach in the article. Last week I received an email from a couple in No. VA who recently went to Italy with a copy of my article and made a visit to the Castello. They showed the owner the piece and were treated like royalty. They could not believe what a great experience they had! This is the wonderful ancillary side of wine. A side that does not get written about enough.

On the other side, sometimes it's hard not to "gush" over a well-know wine and come off as pandering... it is a double-edged sword of which I am all too acutely aware of.

So far, I think all of the comments are useful and well said. I am curious, though, if you think the following idea would be helpful: take the reviews and turn them into "shelf-talkers" for retailers to use in their stores.

So - keep those cards and letters coming. I will begin incorporating the feedback ASAP.

With thanks,

Scott

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If your passion is wine, write about it. What brought you there, what continues to bring you back, and what you think gets people on board. Find out what your public enjoys, why they enjoy it, and how wine of many different styles can be enjoyed along those lines.

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So far, I think all of the comments are useful and well said. I am curious, though, if you think the following idea would be helpful: take the reviews and turn them into "shelf-talkers" for retailers to use in their stores.

That's not your job. If your editor thinks that that's your job, you need to go back to your day job. Because that's a sham.

Again, see Asimov, E. Be inspired.

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That's not your job. If your editor thinks that that's your job, you need to go back to your day job. Because that's a sham.

Again, see Asimov, E. Be inspired.

Thanks Jake - It actually is my editor's idea, but I do get a lot of emails from readers who say that they would like some assistance in stores where they feel like either they can't find someone to help them or - even worse - the saleperson doesn't know the wines, so they think the shelf talkers are a good "aid."

To your point, though, this is my passion. And thank goodness for my day job because it allows me to persue this avocation. I just want to make this the best wine column in the city. The paper is devoted to the column (they give me a full page with color photos and complete autonomy in subject matter). And to Joe's point, that allows me to review some "gems" and "unsung" varietals that I want readers to try. That is my true passion.

Once again, thanks.

Scott

PS I really do like reading Asimov. I'd love to share a bottle of wine with him sometime...

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People are always on the lookout for well-priced bottles and up and coming wine regions and producers, but here are some story ideas for when there are none of those to report...

1. How about a varietal/price point taste test. e.g. "We lined up 12 cabernets that all cost $20. Here's what our panel found..."

2. Or a store pairing test. Go to 10 different wine stores in the area. Say, "I am serving X dish prepared in Y style. What wine should I serve if I can spend up to $15/$30/whatever a bottle." Report what they say and their rationale for the recommendation.

3. Or a points test. Have a panel blindly compare a number of varietals that cost the same but have a significant spread in rating points. Do people overwhelmingly prefer the 91 point riesling to the 86 point riesling? Or can people tell any difference between a 90 point merlot and an 89 point merlot?

4. Interview wine service professionals about the customer from Hell; e.g. the person who sends back the 20 year old Bordeaux because it has sediment. People always love these kinds of stories. And the following week you can write customers' revenge, culling stories about incompetent servers and somelliers.

5. Wine preferences by demographics. Ask around to shops and restaurants and bars whether certain wines are more popular with young or old folks, men or women, city dwellers or suburbanites, etc. Nothing stirs up controversy and site traffic like pitting half of the population against the other half.

6. Wines that people hate. Lead in with the "anything but chardonnay" notion and do a column about wines that people for whatever reason do not like, whether varietal or region. What makes it so? Wine magazine profiles always ask people what their favorites are...this would be a nice flip side to that. Personally, I am not fond of Rhone whites.

7. The humor of wine descriptors. This may already be a well-worn path; people have always poked fun at the imprecision and sometimes pomposity of wine language. But I think there is a real issue in the fact that most people have never tasted a lot of the foods used as wine descriptors, e.g., fresh black currants, which is the lead descriptor of Cabernet. Similarly with lychee, gooseberry, saddle leather, cat pee, etc. You could do a story about trying to find black currants or other obscure food descriptors in a grocery store and seeing if they really taste like Cabernet, Sauv blanc, Gewurtztraminer, etc.

8. How about a taste test of locally produced (VA, MD) wine vs. benchmark, nationally available wine. Or local wine against wine from other up-and-coming states like New York or Michigan.

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Who are you, kind stranger? I LOVE these ideas! I have forwarded your suggestions to my editor (and I didn't even take credit for it) and hope to incorporate many of your ideas in upcoming columns. I'd love to give you a "shout out" in a future column for your ideas, so please PM me with your info.

To the Rockwell Community At Large - Please keep these comments coming! They are very helpful and will be useful in making the wine column in the Examiner the best in the city.

Cheers,

Scott

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Weekly wine deals at local retailers ex. this week Calvert Woodley has Brancott SB for $6.88pb. Also could mention sales.

Hi Jay -

Interesting suggestion, but easier said-than-done since I am usually writing three to four weeks ahead of the column's run date. I am usually not privy to sales, bargains or deals that far out. Although, the retailers could certainly run ads along side the column to advertise their specials. My publisher woule LOVE that! :lol:

Scott

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Hi Jay -

Interesting suggestion, but easier said-than-done since I am usually writing three to four weeks ahead of the column's run date. I am usually not privy to sales, bargains or deals that far out. Although, the retailers could certainly run ads along side the column to advertise their specials. My publisher woule LOVE that! :lol:

Scott

Ok, I see your point; however that Brancott special reoccurs every few weeks so that might be a type of deal that your readers could be alerted to. Of course, CW could be contacted to advertise since they're getting free publicity. I do think it's worth recommending to your readers that they sign up for store email blasts as many retailers actively promote their sales and deals this way. Pearsons is a good example. Good column on zins; I like the Sauret bottling as well.

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COLUMN ON SOMMELIER'S THAT MAKE WINE, THAT OTHER WINEMAKERS SHOULD TAKE LESSONS FROM! : ) :lol:

HUH? Well, OK, I guess. Maybe I could do a column on wines that people who drink wine would make if they could make wine but wouldn't drink it... or something like that. ;)

Scott

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HUH? Well, OK, I guess. Maybe I could do a column on wines that people who drink wine would make if they could make wine but wouldn't drink it... or something like that. :lol:

Scott

Reference was towards great Sommelier's/Directors, that make wine now;Richard Betts, Rajat Parr, Paolo Barbieri, etc. whose wines are very good to great. How they got started, and what it takes to gain experience of winemaking from a background on the floor. And its directives towards "advice" to the bulk of new guys out there making overextracted, high alcohol, "wine for the masses, and deep pockets" : ) guess you need someone from DC doing there own wine though to get it initiated.

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