Bloggerview #11: Amy Lillard et Matt King
Name: Amy Lillard & Matt King
Blog: La Gramiere
I think I first started wanting to be Amy and Matt sometime last year.
I began reading their blog, La Gramiere. It was a simple little blog about two Americans who moved to the Rhone to start their own winery. There was nothing particularly groundbreaking about their tales. There was no used of interesting blogging tools. It was merely two Americans in a foreign land trying to make the most interesting and delicious wines they could and letting us all know what their world looked like. I was hooked. Today, Ann and Matt’s daily travails and adventures are a regular staple in my reading. Reading La Gramiere represents a short mental break from everything else and I always come away smiling. These are fine folks from all I can tell. I’m going to meet them one day when I invade their lives with my wife and kids in tow on a French vacation. That will be a good thing for me, but an even better thing for my kids. It will show them that even living your dreams might mean a little bit of hard work…but that’s the point.
1. When did you begin blogging and why?
I began in July 2005 in order to chronicle this crazy adventure we had just embarked upon. Mainly to keep friends and family in the loop. Then one day I was poking around some other blogs and asked if they would link to my site, that’s how it all started, Alder and Lenn both put links to my blog on their sites, and I started taking it more seriously, realizing that it could be a great way to build interest in our new endeavor and eventually in the wine itself.
2. In two sentences describe the focus of your wine blog.
Two crazy Americans farming the vineyards, picking the grapes and in the end making wine in the Southern Rhône Valley. Take part in our daily adventures, trials, successes and failures of our new life as vignerons!
3. What sets your wine blog apart from the pack?
I think it’s my honesty and my self-effacing, stream of consciousness writing. Writing in this way makes people feel like they have a front row seat in the creation of this winery and our first wines.
4. How would you characterize the growth in your readership since beginning your blog?
To be honest, I was 2 years into blogging before I even realized that you could track things like site visits, page views and referring addresses! I am definitely what you would call a low-tech blogger. I see “widgets” on other people’s blogs and wonder how they get them there and what those widgets do! I think the growth is steady, but I’m certainly not breaking any records.
5. Do you accept sample for review?
If someone wants me to taste their wine, I’d be happy to, but it’s not what my blog is about!
6. What kind of wine rating/review system do you use and why?
My best accolade for a wine has always been the word “Yum!” next to my tasting notes. The more exclamation points the better it is.
7. How do you fit the maintenance of your wine blog into your daily schedule?
That’s a tough one. There are times when there’s lots going on and lots to talk about, then it’s easy, you just make time, because you want to share. Then when things are a bit slower, and you are into your third year of making wine, the posts can seem a bit repetitive, but then before you know it something new arises and you’re off again. I think it’s better to post often when you have something to relate to your readers. When things are quiet I tend to not post as much, when it becomes a burden, it’s just not fun – for the reader or the blogger, I’m sure readers can tell when the posts are less interesting and more “obligatory.”
8. Have you utilized any particular techniques to successfully market your blog?
Like I said in the beginning I started out by asking other sites to link to mine. Then I was lucky enough to have people like you at Fermentation and Craig Camp at Wine Camp promote my blog, that helped a lot. Basically that’s it. I don’t really have the time to spend finding all of the different ways available to market my blog. Maybe someone out there has some pointers???
9. In your view how, if at all, is blogging different than traditional wine writing for print?
The great thing about blogging for me is that it’s immediate. Especially during harvest when people want to know how things are going. Never before have we had the ability to show wine lovers what’s going on in the vineyards in such a timely fashion. For that matter, winemakers/wineries have never had to ability to so directly communicate with the public. For us, just starting out, our blog created interest in our wine even before it was bottled. Now that’s pretty amazing.
10. Which other wine blogs do you read regularly?
Let’s see besides the obvious ones that I’ve already mentioned, I read Jamie Goode, Joe Dressner, Alice Feiring, Eric Asimov, and have recently enjoyed Lyle Fass. There’s also some really great French winery blogs that I enjoy, but you’ve got to be able to read French!
11. Do you believe wine blogs have made any marked impact on the wine industry or wine culture?
Definitely, I think it’s demystified the whole industry and made it much more accessible to consumers. Just look at us, who would have ever heard of La Gramière if it weren’t for my blog? You have journalists like Alice Feiring and Eric Asimov writing much more personal accounts of their wine experiences than you would ever find in print media. Importers? Take Joe Dressner, his blog lets you into the somewhat crazy world of a wine importer. Before blogging/the Internet, importers were hardly ever emphasized, now it’s common to see names like Terry Thiese, Kermit Lynch and Joe Dressner among many others, mentioned in posts and articles.
12. Vacation: Paris or the Caribbean?
Ahhh vacation. Before owning vineyards, I wouldn’t have hesitated, it would have been Paris, even though I’ve lived there and even though I can still get there in 2.5 hours on the train. Now though, I must say, a week lying on the beach soaking up the sun and sipping tropical drinks sounds pretty darn good!
13. Pet: Dog or Cat?
Both, we have a dog and two cats, love them all.
14. Airplane Reading: New Yorker or People?
New Yorker although I admit that it can be over my head at times…
15. Car: Prius or BMW?
Here in Europe we have diesel engine BMWs that get virtually the same mileage as the Prius. That, combined with the fact that hybrids are most efficient in stop and go traffic, and the fact that for me to make the 40 minute drive to Avignon there isn’t one stop light, I might have to choose the BMW… But my little blue 1978 Renault 4 is still the best car ever!
16. Chablis or California Chardonnay?
Chablis, no question.
17. What Would Your Last Meal on Earth Consist of?
Pata Negra, foie gras, and a dry-aged rib-eye, the kind that only exists in the US, and finish up with a French cheese plate that would bring De Gaulle to his knees! Nope, not a vegetable in the lot. Of course there would be wine, I would have the sommelier choose it, and he would know just what I was in the mood for if it was my last meal on Earth.
18. What is Heaven Like?
Hmm, not sure it exists, life is pretty good, so it’s hard to think about what’s next…
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?
Richard Olney, RW Apple, Edward Behr and Frank Schoonmaker. I figure that would make for an interesting evening. Everyone would bring a favorite bottle… I do feel a bit sheepish about not having any women, Gabriella mentioned MFK Fisher she’s definitely on the list and if I could add another it would be Colette. Colette made me think of Hemingway too, can’t we make the party a bit bigger?
20. What advice would you give to someone considering starting a wine blog?
Ask yourself why you’re writing it, and why someone would want to read it. What do you have to say/relate that sets you apart from everyone else. For me blogging is a personal thing, and you definitely have to be willing to identify yourself and give people a reason to believe in what you are writing about. Find your niche and explore…