Bloggerview #15: Lyle Fass
Who: Lyle Fass
Blog: Rockss & Fruit
It didn’t take me long to figure out why I really, really liked Lyle Fass’ Rockss & Fruit blog. Lyle is an "advocacy wine blogger", my favorite kind. Don’t take it from me, just read the interview below ("My blog represents the forces of good…in the battle vs the forces of evil"). Let’s face it, it’s just more interesting to read someone with serious opinions, especially when they express them as well as Lyle does. Lyle also happens to be a wine merchant in NY. They guy knows his wine, his wine industry and he knows what he thinks will make the wine industry a better place and what will make wine drinkers better wine drinkers. It all makes for one of the most entertaining and educational wine blogs out there, and Lyle makes for one of the best Bloggerviews yet.
1. When did you begin blogging and why?
I started blogging when I left my last job as I had to find something to pass the time and needed to express myself. I have such a big mouth and so many opinions it was a natural progression from posting on wine bulletin boards to establishing my own blog. Another factor is the wines I tend to taste and enjoy are not really written about that much on the Internet so this is a perfect forum to pontificate about everything from Grauburgunder to Irouleguy. The world does not need another blog to praise Caymus or Harlan. I blog to bring attention to the small, artisanal producers with terrific, unique wines and great price to value ratios.
2. In two sentences describe the focus of your wine blog.
A daily report of the wine wars from the front lines. My blog represents the forces of good (natural, unique wines showing terroir) in the battle vs the forces of evil (spoofulated, high alcohol boring wines that all taste the same).
3. What sets your wine blog apart from the pack?
The wine world is at a crossroads. The popularity of Robert Parker has caused increasing numbers of winemakers to create wines to target his palette. In this Brave New World, wines have high concentration and high alcohol. They all taste the same with gobs and gobs of fruit and little other flavor.
While it is certainly nice to able to quaff big fruity wines once in a while, the uniqueness of wineries that are centuries old is something precious and that is in danger of disappearing. Winemaking should be an art form, not a brutal Stepfordian science designed to produce spoofulated wines to please the average palette. A counter-revolution has begun with a small band of wine lovers trying to present an alternate view. They are creating natural wines that speak of the people and place where they are made. These wines taste unique and even casual drinkers can tell the difference.
In my blog, I try to explain the philosophy of natural winemaking and also to point out examples of these wonderful, unique wines. I detail in-depth visits to wineries like Paul Furst’s winery in Burgstadt. I talk about the wines of Jean-Paul Brun in the Beaujolais, Francois Chidane in Montlouis and Angiolino Maule in Veneto. I recently completed a  part series on my travels to Germany.
My blog also covers the life of a wine buyer/retailer in New York (for example, eight course meals with wine lovers at the best restaurants in the city with crazy wines from our cellars).
I also try to be funny in an absurd type of way.
4. How would you characterize the growth in your readership since beginning your blog?
The growth has been pretty remarkable. In the beginning I was begging people to read it. I was sending multiple e-mails out per week saying “Look everybody I have a blog! Read it please!” But then with some key mentions in The Pour, other blogs and bulletin boards more people started to read. Nowadays some things I post get picked up on some random sites and readership is growing virally. This month I will smash last month’s record. But no rest for the wicked as I want it to grow and grow and keep doubling readership every month.
5. Do you accept sample for review?
I am wine retailer so samples are my life. People do not give me samples explicitly for me to review, but usually they find their way on my blog. And I am cutthroat. If I don’t like a wine it will get railed despite the fact that it was free. I will treat it with equal jubilation if I like it.
6. What kind of wine rating/review system do you use and why?
Well you need to know I am anti-points and rating systems. I used to not be and when I posted stuff on bulletin boards I used points but then one day I said to myself “Who the bleep are you to give points to a living breathing thing that is changing constantly and all you are getting is a snapshot in the life of this wine.” Since then no points and no ratings. But if pressed I use the tried and true, would I buy it again?
7. How do you fit the maintenance of your wine blog into your daily schedule?
Pretty much if I get an idea or see something interesting I stop what I am doing and blog about it. It’s just the way I am. Spur of the moment, spontaneous. Some of my most inspired posts were never planned and just happened in the moment. I try to post every day and multiple times a day if I can because I want people to keep coming back and checking multiple times a day and thinking “What is this loon going to write next?”
8. Have you utilized any particular techniques to successfully market your blog?
Besides my shameless self-promotion and whoring of myself every chance I get in the name of Rockss and Fruit, no.
9. In your view how, if at all, is blogging different than traditional wine writing for print?
I am so far from being a professional writer it is not even funny. A book could be published on all the spelling mistakes and grammatical errors on my blog. Blogging is current. Blogging is controversial. Blogging is funny. Blogging does not conform to any traditional format. Blogging is witty, self promoting and irreverent. Most importantly it seems that wine bloggers are part of an underground community that is forming. It seems with traditional wine writing, there are factions that have developed and have always been there. The British camp versus the American camp is good example. Not happened yet with blogging. I hope it doesn’t.
10. Which other wine blogs do you read regularly?
First if I have left you out it does not mean I don’t read your blog. It probably means you don’t update it enough for me to read regularly! In no specific order:
11. Do you believe wine blogs have made any marked impact on the wine industry or wine culture?
Oh yeah. For me personally I have gotten emails from happy and unhappy winemakers about things I have written about their wines. I read blogs for wine news, tasting notes and general commentary. Its where the most interesting wine writing these days by a mile. They have made a pretty big impact now but the big impact will happen in the future. The best is yet to come.
12. Vacation: Paris or the Caribbean?
Paris. I mean . . . its Paris. . 10 times out of 10. You seen one beach you seen ‘em all. I have seen one.
13. Pet: Dog or Cat?
Cat. Ozzie has even made an appearance on Rockss and Fruit.
14. Airplane Reading: New Yorker or People?
Ha! Me read on a plane. I am usually so freaked out you have to peel me off the floor But if I had to choose it would be People because it is brilliantly mindless and that is what I need when I am freaking out.
15. Car: Prius or BMW?
I’ll answer that when I get my license.
16. Chablis or California Chardonnay?
Chablis. I have not actually drunk a California Chardonnay voluntarily since 2001. Tasted a bunch but never drank one. But I really don’t drink much Chablis as there is too much Riesling out there.
17. Describe what you would have at your last meal?
It would be a tasting menu I create from all the great meals I have had in my life. It would start of with those light cracker-wafer things from WD-50. Then some beautifully prepared simple vegetable (carrot, squash, celery) from Blue Hill. Then the cucumber and garlic from Grand Sichuan. After that a selection of Sashimi from Gari. Then an intermezzo of fried chicken from the Cornerstone Grill. After that back to Grand Sichuan with tea-smoked duck and spicy chicken with Chinese broccoli. No desert as it is not my thing. I would wash this all down with the 2001 Donnhoff Niederhauser Hermannshohle Spatlese. I am assuming this would be in 2025 when this wine is mature.
18. What is Heaven Like?
Watching the sun set over Kastanienbusch in the Pfalz from the main road in Birkweil.
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?
This was a tough question because I am not sure I would want it to be four famous people I have never met because what if I don’t like them? I mean I could get in a verbal battle with Aristotle or Bogart and it would be a mess so I would want someone there I know. There are two reasons I would need someone there I know. If for some reason there is a weird vibe between me and the other three famous people the person I know would make me feel comfortable. The other reason is I know what is in their cellar so they would bring the wine. With all that said it would be Woody Allen, Matthew Barney, my buddy Mark Dumeez who is the sommelier at Savoy in NYC and my best wine buddy in the world who also would bring the wine and Keith Olberman as he covers politics and sports.
20. What advice would you give to someone considering starting a wine blog?
Write what you feel and don’t think about