New School – Old School
The new issue of Wine & Spirits Magazine is a fantastic read. The entire issue focuses on mavericks, revolutionaries and agents of change in wine (and food…for example, I learned that Goat is "in" and Pork Bellies are "out"…who knew!!)
I’ve long thought that Wine & Spirits Magazine is setting the bar high for the rest of the traditional wine magazines and this is the issue to discover what I’m talking about. It was nice to see Wine 2.0 well represented, particularly in the story on "Innovations in Wine Retail" by Tyler Colman. And there’s a fine interview with Gary Vaynerchuk (Gary is just south of "mainstream" in the world of wine, which means, if I know Gary, that he’ll be needing to move outside of the world of wine and introduce himself to the wide world of the American Mainstream soon).
What was really most enjoyable about this issue is the celebration of what’s new, rather than a celebration of what’s hot. Big Difference and the Wine & Spirits folks nailed it. The profiles of America’s Best New Wineries was particularly enlightening. You’ll find lots of new faces there, even if you are a wine geek that usually knows it all.
All that said, here’s my challenge to Wine & Spirits Magazine. You’ve cataloged what’s new and brilliant and innovative. Good. Now, how about cataloging those Old School Wineries and wine people and wine companies that, though perhaps under the radar for not being new and flashy, nevertheless continue to deliver the goods.
My criteria is the winery or wine company must be at least 30 years in the business and not owned by a corporate entity and not making more than 70,000 cases of wine.
I was talking with just such a winery today. They definitely fly under the radar, yet they’ve been flying for over 30 years. It’s a family owned place. When I left the meeting I started thinking about all the "old school" wineries that don’t necessarily get the attention that new ones do or that cult wineries do or that the big, huge wineries do. Yet, these Old Schoolers have been doing it for a very long time.
You’ll find most of them in Napa, Sonoma, Livermore and the foothills. But they are out there. The cool thing about profiling them is that they will be "new" to many who themselves are new to wine.
Go check out the new Fall Issue of Wine & Spirits Magazine. It’s on the newsstands now. It’s outstanding. Then, send me the name of your favorite Old School winery or wine company.
Thanks for the heads up – will have to go out and get the current issue.
It’s easy to get caught up in the ‘latest and greatest’ game in any industry, and the wine industry certainly is no different. I agree with your take that there are several wineries that fit your criteria that continue to produce great wines that fly ‘under the radar’ throughout the state. I’m curious what your list would contain . . . perhaps you can share that in another blog!
No place more old school in Calif:
Wente Vineyards is California’s oldest family owned and continuously operated winery. Founded in 1883 by C. H. Wente, the winery is now managed by the fourth and fifth generations of the Wente family. The winery farms nearly 3,000 acres of estate vineyards in the Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay, and Arroyo Seco, Monterey appellations, two premier Central Coast winegrowing regions.
Family owned and operated for over 120 years, the fourth and fifth generations are committed to producing wines of distinguished character and excellence at an affordable price.
The Wente family shares wine country experiences with visitors to the Livermore Valley at their award-winning Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, Greg Norman designed golf course, wine country events center, summer concert series, and two tasting rooms
Are you kidding, Tom?
Don’t you know the culture in which you live?
A magazine would fail the day after it stopped telling people about the newest sensation to hit the earth under our feet. That tried and true shit, that’s for shut-ins and people beyond puberty 😉
My wife was looking at that issue yesterday evening and it was her take that the issue was an advertorial. I didn’t read it. Their policy on being, how can I say… liberal… with the number of wines they recommend then soliciting advertising from those same recommended wineries pre-publication prevents me from taking anything in the publication seriously. (Although when desperate for a good rating I have to admit I have resorted to quoting their score in marketing materials)
Welcome to capitalism…
I’ve not found this to be the case with W&S. In fact they don’t review as many wines as other publications. And if you look at the wineries they named Top New American Wineries, I don’t think any of them have ads.
I’m wondering, Mort, have you worked with the folks at W&S much? I have.
TP is dead on about the way magazines think. Novelty trumps the tried-and-true.
As for the advertorial issue, I am with TW. Wine & SPirits is far more selective in terms of the Buying Guide; far less than half the wines tasted by their panel make the cut to be reviewed in the mag. And while they do sell label reproductions, their policy is openly stated and all of the reviews appear once in the run of the Buying Guide. Wine Enthusiast’s gallery-style display of labels — full pages in the front of the section, without respective reviewer’s initials — is literally advertising portrayed as an editorial showcase.
I will pick up a copy of Wine & Spirits soon. It’s the most earnest print mag out there, by far.
Get a score above 90 and you will get a call before publication to buy a photo of a label next to the review. I have done so twice. I think it was at least $750 each time. I have had several other requests which I declined. While there is no quid pro quo I have also tasted on a W&S panel of winemakers years ago. My experience then was that we, the panel, were over and over again exhorted by the person conducting the tasting to give more recommendations. I held my guns, was not asked again to be on a panel, not that I would have participated again if asked.
These practices are “industry standards” that need to be changed.
I totally agree that there are quite a lot of proven entities – just around Napa and Sonoma, no less – that continue to produce great wines and do interesting things in the wine world and yet have difficulty getting any attention for it. J comes quickly to mind; so does Flowers, Heitz Wine Cellars, Spottswoode, I could go on. Important to take an interest in things both new and new within old.
Boy…Heitz is a good call. They used to be considered the Bee’s Knees and now you just don’t hear much about them. They started making Martha’s again, didn’t they?