Bloggerview #6: Tyler Colman
Name: Tyler Colman
Blog: Dr. Vino
I wasn’t surprised when Tyler "Dr. Vino" Colman walked away with two of the first American Wine Blog Awards, including best overall blog. And I was very happy when he was nominated for a James Beard Award. Tyler’s "Dr. Vino" blog is what I think of as a perfect example of an excellent wine blog: it combines a personal bent to the point that by reading it one gets to know the man, yet it’s absolutely clear that we are dealing with a professional who knows wine and takes his reporting and blogging very seriously. Tyler’s blog certainly ranks among the top 10 (perhaps top five) best read wine blogs on the Internet likely for the reason I lay out above for its excellence. Tyler was kind enough to submit himself to the Bloggerview questionnaire. After reading his responses you will, if he strikes you as he does me, find him to be someone you’d have enjoy hanging out with talking not just wine, but simply hanging out.
1. When did you begin blogging and why?
I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the political economy of the wine industry in France and America. Whew!–I almost needed a glass of wine to make it through that sentence! Over the course of my research, people kept asking me for good, cheap wine recommendations. After I defended my dissertation, some of my friends bought me the Dr Vino URL. So then I could put my recommendations for value vino on the web. That was in October 2002. Wow–this is my fifth anniversary! I should throw myself a party.
And if you want to read some of my writing without having to go to the web site, next spring the University of California Press will publish my book "Wine Politics: How Governments, Environmentalists, Mobsters and Critics Influence the Wines We Drink." Although it’s an outgrowth of my dissertation project, I’ve entirely re-written it for a broad audience–the theory chapter has been replaced by an editorial cartoon.
2. In two sentences describe the focus of your wine blog.
Wine talk that goes down easy. One sentence–how about that!
3. What sets your wine blog apart from the pack?
Well, for one I’ve been at it for a while, which means that I’ve developed a good following of readers. The readers are really terrific, smart, funny, high-quality people. Maybe I should hand the blogging passwords over to them since their input is great.
As the line between blogging and reporting blurs, I also try to do more reporting, blog-porting if you’d like an ungainly neologism. I’ve put a lot of effort into my blog, very often putting content there as opposed to trying to place it in magazines or newspapers. I’m very honored that has paid off with recognition, such as winning the Best Wine Blog award in your American Wine Blog Awards and a nomination for best food and drink web site from the James Beard Foundation.
I try to keep the tone light and the style crisp, making serious points through humor. Stephen Colbert is the patron saint of the blog.
4. How would you characterize the growth in your readership since beginning your blog?
It’s strong! Almost every month hits a new high. The rapid growth contributes to making blogging a very exciting medium.
5. Do you accept sample for review?
Yes. I buy most of the wines I review on the site. But samples serve a purpose of showing me what’s available in the broader market. I usually bag them and throw them into blind tastings.
6. What kind of wine rating/review system do you use and why?
Words! Very old fashioned, I know. But they’ve worked well for millennia conveying more important things than wine talk.
7. How do you fit the maintenance of your wine blog into your daily schedule?
Nights and weekends aren’t just for cell-phone usage–they’re busy times for blogging! (occasionally to my wife’s chagrin.) But since I am a full-time wine writer and wine educator, it spills into the day too.
8. Have you utilized any particular techniques to successfully market your blog?
9. In your view how, if at all, is blogging different than traditional wine writing for print?
Blogging is very fast moving–I can come up with an idea or do an interview and have it up to a (potentially) worldwide audience practically instantaneously. It’s also highly interactive. I love that. Many print journalists talk at their readers while bloggers tend to talk with the readers: blogging is a conversation. Have a comment on what a wrote? Post it! In that way, the world is my editor.
Blogs also continue the conversation with other blogs, as we are doing here. Could you imagine one print publication running a long Q&A with another print publication?
10. Which other wine blogs do you read regularly?
I read lots of other wine blogs. In fact, I just wrote a story for Wine & Spirits magazine on great wine blogs that haven’t yet hit the mainstream. I split wine blogs into three categories: amateur/enthusiast, journalists, and wineries.
Each category of blogs offers something different. The enthusiast blogs bring a great sense of what’s happening from the consumer’s perspective and are often very interactive. I really encourage enthusiast bloggers to have high ethical standards. Journalists’ blogs are generally written by wine experts and have a lot of experience but they can often seem kind of wooden, as it can be tough to get the knack of the interaction that the web is so great for. But many can be funny and/or relaxed because the journalists aren’t under the normal constraints of print, either for space or for style. And enthusiasts, who also don’t have editors, need to remember to write short, a very hard thing. Blogs are a skimmable medium.
Winery blogs are a bit of a different animal since they are fundamentally sales pitches. Josh at Pinotblogger has done a great job of informing readers about the winery life without sounding like propaganda, in part because he doesn’t have anything to sell yet since he’s telling the story about starting a winery, something all wine consumers fantasize about at one point or another. It’s really too bad that he didn’t get his winery license through a bureaucratic snafu and will have to remain a "home winemaker" for another year.
11. Do you believe wine blogs have made any marked impact on the wine industry or wine culture?
I hope so! Wine blogs are growing and wine culture in America is growing. The one certainly doesn’t cause the other, but they are mutually reinforcing.
12. Vacation: Paris or the Caribbean?
Depends on the time of year, but 10 months out of 12, Paris.
13. Pet: Dog or Cat?
Neither. I’m not opposed though. Maybe we should have a web site on wine writers’ dogs? Can’t let all those wineries steal the canine glory!
14. Airplane Reading: New Yorker or People?
The New Yorker.
15. Car: Prius or BMW?
If those were the only two cars in the world and I was buying, I’d take a Prius.
16. Chablis or California Chardonnay?
17. What would Your Last Meal on Earth Consist of?
Vegetables that I had grown myself, a wild boar that I shot, and bread made with wild yeasts that I caught in the air. Oh wait, that sounds like a lot of work–I’ll leave that to Michael Pollan and have Charlie Trotter whip me something up.
18. What is Heaven Like?
Wow. Dunno. Get back to me in 100 years.
19. If you could invite 4 people dead or alive to your fantasy dinner party, who would they be and who would you have bring the wine?
Being a political scientist, I’d invite some presidents. Thomas Jefferson for sure–and he could bring some of his wine so that way we know it is authentic. Julia Child could come and cook. Bill Clinton could come too since he’s fascinating and a great conversationalist. And Gandhi too since he would be very interesting and since he was a teetotaler, I could have his share of the Jefferson wines. Oh wait! We need Mrs. Vino there! Right, Gandhi just got booted.
20. What advice would you give to someone considering starting a wine blog
It’s a lot of work. But it can be a lot of fun. And what the hey–it’s practically free, so jump in!