On The Wane

It’s fairly unusual for this blog to reprint comments for the sake of a new post. But in this case, I think it’s warranted, despite my better judgment—which some would say is on the wane and they may prove to be right

dhonig, a commenter on this post, and a fine wine blogger, wrote the following as a response:

"The whole thing boils down to a claim that it is "unethical" to commit to writing an unbiased review as a condition to receive a bottle of wine. When pressed as to exactly why that is unethical, how it devalues the unbiased review, the answer is, uselessly, "because it is unethical." Sure, it is said in different ways, but those ways are nonsensical. "It makes you an Rodney Strong employee." Really? How? Did Dr. Debs get a W-2? Did she get a 1099 as a contractor? Does her family depend upon her ongoing relationship? No? I didn’t think so….

"Tom, you are wrong.  You are not only wrong, you are hurtful, condescending, and even pedantic."

When a client comes to Wark Communications, the relationship that evolves usually works like this:

-The CLIENT agrees to give me something

-I, in exchange, agree to do something in a given time frame.

-There is no guarantee that they’ll like what I give them.

-They usually do.

Like it or not, a person who writes about or reviews a product they have no association with is working as a reporter, a critic, a commentator. There is a silent agreement that has always existed between the writer and their audience: The audience will give their time to the writer because they believe the writer is working on their own time, not on the time or on the condition of the subject of their work.

This silent agreement is the foundation of both reporting and criticism. Whether or not the content of a writer’s work is an honest assessment of their subject, when this agreement is broken, the writer risks breaking down the most important thing this agreement is supposed to facilitate: trust.

Was the breech of journalism’s and criticism’s conventions and ethics that surrounds the experiment with Rodney Strong so terrible that it puts some sort of nail in the coffin of wine blogging? No. But it is the kind of crack that gives keen observers of wine blogging an opportunity to claim the blogging medium is "not reporting", "not real criticism", "not real journalism", "easily corrupted".

So what! This is all insider baseball and it doesn’t harm my readers. It’s no big deal to those who look to wine blogs for inspiration and education and entertainment. And no one’s positive impressions were bought. It’s just wine anyway.

All true.

But the "so what" of it is this: There are people who believe, passionately, that there is a real possibility that the unique idea of the "citizen wine writer" exemplified for the first time by the wine blogosphere can actually make a substantial change for the better in the way people talk about, enjoy, understand and appreciate wine. The chance of this change actually occurring depends entirely on the wine blogosphere and its citizen journalists being seen as honest brokers; as ethical commentators; as free from liabilities that come with being trapped by the common accusations of compromise that are often flung at traditional wine publications—deservedly or not.

What I think is this. I think a mistake was made in demanding that bloggers write about this wine in exchange for receiving it. And I think a mistake was made in demanding that the wine be written about within a certain time frame as a condition of receiving it. I think this mistake was made due to exuberance that results from realizing that wine blogs can indeed be exactly as I described them above and that by participating in what is a noble experiment, that potential to change how wine is appreciated might be confirmed sooner rather than later.

No one has been accused of being "dishonest or stupid", not at this blog, dhonig. They’ve been accused of making a mistake; of not thinking something through; of not readily seeing the consequences of not thinking something through.

I’m one of those people who does believe passionately that wine blogging has the potential to change for the better the way wine is appreciated. I actually get a little giddy when I see a really well done blog post or come across a newly discovered blog that I think is really well done and valuable. And I really hope this comes through to my readers because I learned that it is an unquestionable fact of life that giddiness breeds giddiness. And the more people that get giddy about wine blogging and its potential, the sooner that potential is reached.

As a result, I find my self writing about blogging and blogs fairly often. But I write about everything I see. So let me make a suggestion regarding these observations I try to make: They are always clearer when you take off the rose colored glasses.

One final thing, dhonig:

1.ostentatious in one’s learning.
2.overly concerned with minute details or formalisms

For the record, the target of an insult is suppose to be offended by it.

Posted In: Personal, Wine Blogs


50 Responses

  1. Ryan - August 28, 2008

    This is ridiculous. Your first post and this one never, in my opinion, accused anyone, but did raise good questions. Why is raising questions and trying to do better at what we do wrong? I respect and like all the wine bloggers involved in this, and I would hope that instead of the rants I’ve see, I would have seen some dialog and understanding that no matter the facts, there were misunderstandings.
    At this point I feel what happened is a misunderstanding in many ways. For this reason why not try to move on. No one wants to see wine blogging fail. Rather we want it to grow stronger. Challenging ourselves, while hard at times, can lead to a better foundation and better wine blogging one would hope.

  2. Iris - August 29, 2008

    As a wineblogger myself (and a reader – and a winemaker), I struggled my way through all these commentaries. I quite agree with Tom, personally, as a reader, I prefer reading opinions on a wine, the blogger has discovered himself and I appreciate, when he tells me, how he did come about this wine, why it rose his curiosity – and just a “free sample” is not one of the most exiting stories I would like to read.
    On the other hand as a blogger, who writes about wines, he appreciates and would like to be discovered by other wine lovers, I can understand that it flatters ones ego, to be “selected” as one of the happy few, who get a 75$ bottle as scoop, because it means that your influence is judged superior to others (in German this would be a good point in what is called the “Schwanzvergleich” in the bloggosphere- don’t ask me to translate, I’m a woman, so no specialist for that…) – and at this point I think, Toms initial post should be read twice to make us think about our real motivations.
    As a winemaker of a very small and mediatically unknown winery, I wonder, whether it would help my marketing to make the same proposition to winebloggers if I have no previous “notoriety”, no “high price segment” already on my side, to make bloggers accept my offer without hesitating.
    Mentioning my winery would probably not be very interesting for them, and I don’t think that it would make them accept my request (especially in a given time schedule), only because I send them a free sample…
    So in a certain way it seems to come all down to what we know already as “name dropping” – and that may be a pity for what we all believe being the more innovative wine-bloggoshpere.

  3. dhonig - August 29, 2008

    Tom, thank you for the civil response. Let me start, if I may, with the end, because I think it actually sums up our entire disagreement. You reprinted the definition of “pedantic,” perhaps hoping to correct my usage. From my point of view, though, you actually made my point. Let me explain. The second definition of “pedantic,” as you noted is “overly concerned with minute details or formalisms.” In this case, I believe you are overly concerned with a formalism, agreeing to review and the timing of the review. Why do I say that? Easy. Everybody who has attempted to say WHY that is bad has ultimately reverted to, “because it is bad.” Look at your own post. It suffers a gross disconnect in logic:
    ** “Like it or not, a person who writes about or reviews a product they have no association with is working as a reporter, a critic, a commentator. There is a silent agreement that has always existed between the writer and their audience: The audience will give their time to the writer because they believe the writer is working on their own time, not on the time or on the condition of the subject of their work.” **
    Really? Upon what do you base that conclusion? I have never, not once in my entire life, looked at a review of anything and said to myself “I wonder if they had a deadline imposed by the movie, restaurant, wine, etc.” I have wondered “did they get the movie, wine, etc., for free,” but that criticism applies to WE, WS, WA, and others, so holds no water here. Yes, I understand that you FEEL like the deadline and promise to post something is unethical, but why?
    Ethics do not exist in a vacuum (with the exception of religious edicts from bygone days, but that is a different conversation). Ethics exist because to violate them causes injury of some kind. Assuming both Dr. Debs and Wine Enthusiast both get the same free bottle of wine, they are even on ethics. Now Wine Enthusiast accepts advertising from the winery or the distributor. Ethical? Apparently, because that is how wine journalism works. It makes me wonder about their bias, but I include that in my analysis. As long as they are up front about it, advertising is not an ethics issue, because the reader can factor it into his or her own evaluation. Next, a blogger, who does not receive advertising, does receive a deadline, even a condition on getting the wine, but no conditions on what they can write. Does this mean they are going to be biased? Certainly no more than a person whose livelihood depends upon that advertising. If they are up front about the program, and the reader can consider in his or her evaluation, where is the injury?
    I have asked repeatedly, but never gotten an answer, to the question- what is the ethical DILEMMA created by this situation. If there is no ethical dilemma (beyond ‘that’s the rule as I understand it in different media’), there is no ethical violation.
    As for you PR analogy, it is flawed. The company coming to you is your client. They pay you. That analogy is actually far more apt to Wine Enthusiast and its advertisers than to wine bloggers.
    Finally, if you fail to appreciate how very hurtful much of this has been to Dr. Debs, to Sonadora, to many people, that can only be (because you seem a truly decent person) because you fail to appreciate the presumption behind your critique. Unless you can point to the ethical dilemma caused by the otherwise formality of an “ethical rule,” the only way people can read what you write is to assume you are criticizing them personally. Either there is an obvious problem, and nobody has pointed one out, or there is an insidious problem, which must be the presumed failure of the bloggers.
    Tom, as for your final line, no, I never intended to insult you. I used the word “pedantic” just as you have defined it, for its meaning, not to injure. I hope that I have made that clear. I also hope we, as a blogging community, can get past this. Unfortunately, I think that will require some action on your part. Perhaps we start with a discussion of a set of blogging ethics. That would be far better than adopting a different set of ethics and ex post facto accusing friends and comrades of violating them.

  4. Thomas Pellechia - August 29, 2008

    A nice explanation, but I disagree with one thing: I don’t think the mistake was in setting the conditions and demanding that bloggers live by then. I think the mistake was in accepting the conditions and the demand.

  5. Strappo - August 29, 2008

    Clearly, all the brush has not been burned in this fire. More flame and smoke to come.
    Despite bruised feelings and so on, this is a healthy and vigorous debate.

  6. Jeff - August 29, 2008

    I can tell you very succinctly that Ryan’s high ground perspective about this being healthy, Steve Heimoff’s back-pedaling and Tom’s dogmatic defense of his opinion all boil down to one simple thing:
    A few bloggers–me, Wannabe Wino, Dr. Debs, Wincast, 1WineDude and a couple of outlier blogs like Feed Me/Drink Me feel a couple of empirical things:
    1) Facts have been inaccurately presented and not fact-checked before opinions were proffered
    2) The wine itself is pretty darn good, but that has gotten lost in a lot of holier- then-thou rhetoric
    3) Completely honorable, fully disclosed integrity-based intentions were followed
    4) The lions have eaten their young
    The greatest tragedy is that numerous people now feel very disenfranchised from what has been a very collegial environment, myself included.
    Blogging isn’t journalism, just like changing your oil isn’t being a mechanic.
    I think blogging ethics will come up at the upcoming blog conference and I welcome the opportunity to coalesce around shared understanding because there seems to be a disconnect right now.
    If you want to talk about ethics, I think Marvin Shanken should send me a case of wine for breaking his news cycle. And, I’d gladly accept it, too.

  7. 1WineDude - August 29, 2008

    “What I think is this. I think a mistake was made in demanding that bloggers write about this wine in exchange for receiving it. And I think a mistake was made in demanding that the wine be written about within a certain time frame as a condition of receiving it.”
    Tom, I think there was a mistake made: Neither you or Steve Heimoff checked with the winery or any of the participants before discussing ethics.
    Jeff at Good Grape acted as our Editor.
    An Editor is allowed to to make writing an article a condition – that’s their job, I think. Wouldn’t a paid journalist be fired for consistently NOT delivering a promised article by a deadline? If not, I’ve changed my mind – I wanna be a journalist! Sounds like a sweet gig!
    The fact that Jeff spearheaded this condition is being ignored, but it’s central to the argument, as far as I can understand it.
    I don’t want to sound inflammatory, but stick yourself in my shoes: If you’re going to ignore basic facts, and/or not check them before posting, then you’re just an unethical a writer as you claim others to be. And if it goes on, I’d offer that it calls into question your credibility, and therefore that of your American Wine Blogging Awards, etc.
    My opinion is that you’re now generating 10 times the publicity for RS / Rockaway that the participants did, and no one’s accusing you of being on the RS payroll (yet)…

  8. Tom Wark - August 29, 2008

    “Tom, I think there was a mistake made: Neither you or Steve Heimoff checked with the winery or any of the participants before discussing ethics.”
    Would I have learned that the sample came with the requirement it got written about? I already knew that.
    Would I have learned that the sample came with the requirement that it got written about in a particular time frame? I already knew that.
    Would I have learned that Jeff from the Good Grape was organizing the project with Rodney Strong? I already knew that.
    Would I have learned that the write ups were authentic representations of the opinion of the program participants? I already knew that.
    Would I have learned that an editor assigned a story to a few writers in order to see if their work increased the sales of the subject of their work. Yes. That would have been new. That would have been brand new because I’ve never known an editor that did such a thing because that doesn’t make them an editor, that makes them a marketing agent.

  9. 1WineDude - August 29, 2008

    “Would I have learned that an editor assigned a story to a few writers in order to see if their work increased the sales of the subject of their work. Yes.”
    Don’t recall that being the driver (stated or implied) behind this, Tom. It’s an interesting one to track for RS, for obvious reasons, but I don’t care about it personally. And, like I said, I *was there*.
    So I’m totally confused now:
    – I’m unethical for taking a sample from the winery under condition I’d write an article. Oh, wait… I didn’t take it from the winery.
    – I’m unethical for agreeing with an acting editor that I’d write a post to a given deadline. Oh, wait, that’s what almost every writer does.
    – I’m unethical for taking part in a “marketing experiment”. Oh, wait, I never agreed to that and RS would be morons anyway if that didn’t analyze that data.
    I need to hook up a generator to you and Steve Heimoff, because with all of your backpedaling, I could Go Green and power my house for the next week. 🙂
    Keep milkin’ it, bro’ – I’m learning a lot about self promotion here!

  10. 1WineDude - August 29, 2008

    I’m out (this time I mean it).
    Final response from me on this is over at my blog for anyone who’s interested.

  11. Strappo - August 29, 2008

    “There’s battle lines being drawn…
    Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong”
    This is the way it’s coming across now, to me at least:
    High-road hardliners vs. self-justifying whiners. Just call me Phil Gramm.

  12. Thomas Pellechia - August 29, 2008

    “I have asked repeatedly, but never gotten an answer, to the question- what is the ethical DILEMMA created by this situation. If there is no ethical dilemma (beyond ‘that’s the rule as I understand it in different media’), there is no ethical violation.”
    The answer is in the journalism class that covers ethics. A journalist does not accept preconditions, especially from a PR agent, to write something, whether that something is a story or a review (that’s not to say that all journalists live by this ethical rule; but those who are found out usually lose their jobs).
    Tom’s major point is: if bloggers want to be taken serious, they need to function under journalistic ethical standards.
    Seems to me, the fact that what went on has to be explained and defended points to the ambiguity of the situation. Ambiguity does not build confidence.

  13. Mary B. - August 29, 2008

    I think Josh said it best, and he said it early. See comment #15 in the previous post.
    Let’s remember we are a very small community of professionals–yes, professionals–and while self-examination is painful and occasionally edifying, one of our greatest strengths has always been our sense of community.
    By the way, I respectfully disagree that blogging is not journalism. To my mind, the best of the best bloggers are journalists–writing without a cushion of staff interns, fact-checkers, and managing editors. Some of our wine bloggers are or have been professional, published writers who have chosen to write about wine on a free and open platform.
    Tom, here’s an idea for a discussion. WS Editor James Molesworth said last week, “This is the problem with the ‘blogosphere’. It’s a lazy person’s journalism. No one does any real research, but rather they just slap some hyperlinks up and throw a little conjecture at the wall, and presto! you get some hits and traffic…” (http://forums.winespectator.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/6826053161/m/835102245?r=638102245#638102245)
    How about a list of blog posts that demonstrate fine reporting, timely coverage, in depth analysis, and perfect copyediting?
    A wall of fame list might also be a useful tool for the upcoming conference. I wish I could attend. Next year for sure!

  14. KenPayton - August 29, 2008

    Curiously, Molesworth’s comment linked above compliments nicely the spirit of a recent featured post on the Good Grape site. The writer there says of wine bloggers generally, “Get over yourself, accept that we are a pimple on the ass, do something interesting.” Let’s hope the alc level of RS’s Rockaway is high enough to be used as an antiseptic.

  15. Jeff - August 29, 2008

    I am the writer at Good Grape. And, I am a journalist by education.
    Blogging is journalism in the sense that it’s citizen journalism, but is it journalism in the sense that it’s fair and balanced? No.
    A big, no. Blogging is op-ed. Sure it’s journalism under that banner, but it’s not an AP report. It’s heavily skewed towards opinion and opinion my friend is editorial, which has it’s own page in the newspaper.
    It’s the biggest canard in the history of the Internet for self-important people to think that blogging is going to coalesce into mainstream journalistic standards.
    Newspapers are going out of business–why? Because of blogs. Nobody cares about anything anymore besides:
    1) Headlines
    2) Soundbites
    3) Opinion
    Wash with an antiseptic? Not so much.
    Now, I’ll grant you there needs to be an ethos, probably an ethos that shares tenets from journalism proper, but to say that blogging is balanced is to miss the point.

  16. dhonig - August 29, 2008

    **”I have asked repeatedly, but never gotten an answer, to the question- what is the ethical DILEMMA created by this situation. If there is no ethical dilemma (beyond ‘that’s the rule as I understand it in different media’), there is no ethical violation.”
    The answer is in the journalism class that covers ethics. A journalist does not accept preconditions, especially from a PR agent, to write something, whether that something is a story or a review (that’s not to say that all journalists live by this ethical rule; but those who are found out usually lose their jobs).**
    In other words, no reason other than somebody else said it was a rule for different media. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, can point to the ethical dilemma created by this alleged ethical violation, other than to say it violates rules. That is particularly unpersuasive.

  17. Thomas Pellechia - August 29, 2008

    I cannot agree with you more about the present situation, although I know that editors also vet op-ed writers to be sure that they have the chops to back up their opinions. Plus, the present situation does not definitively preclude bloggers from becoming journalists.
    And dhonig, you are correct, if bloggers want to remain opinionated geeks, but that won’t make them into journalists.

  18. Tish - August 29, 2008

    Excellent points, Jeff and Mary. As lazy journalism goes, methinks Wine Spectator has gotten exremely lazy in recent years.
    Instead of covering restaurant wine in various wine-lover’s angles (exciting sommeliers, exotic pairings, critical analysis of pricing, etc..), readers are fed occasional, fluffy travelouges and a biblically onerous and (as we now know) an ethically dubious Awards issue.
    And have subscribers been so brainwashed that they don’t even realize that the majority of features in the magazine are driven by ratings-saturated roundups?
    By contrast, if you want to read about direct shipping, where does one turn: to the blogosphere. Will Wine Spectator cover the Bloggers conference coming up this Fall in SOnoma? That will be interesting… I think they are petrified of bloggers, despite their purported attempt tohave their own editors serveup online content and call that “blogs”…

  19. Strappo - August 29, 2008

    This is the most substantive debate about wine blogging, its purpose and rules of engagement that I’ve seen. It should be part of the “curriculum” at the Sonoma love-in — not that it won’t come up spontaneously.
    As to lazy journalism, Tish hits it on the head re: WS. Look who’s talking. The crack about online editorial (advertorial?) content and pseudo-blogs points up the biggest advantage of real blogs. Whatever our failings, we wine bloggers do what we want. That’s huge. That’s our real value — nearly all of us answer only to ourselves and, perhaps by natural extension, to our regulars. For all the BS about a blogging community, the real community isn’t among bloggers but with the people who come to our blogs all the time. If some of them happen to be other bloggers, that’s nice but it isn’t the point of what we do.

  20. Mary B. - August 29, 2008

    Jeff, as you’ve pointed out, journalism encompasses many forms of writing, including reporting (unbiased fact-based news coverage), editorial opinion, columns, feature writing, backstory news features, and speculative trend coverage. This last type of writing is what characterizes the major wine publications—most of their writing is speculation: the hot new wine/travel destinations, the hot new producers. Does anyone remember WS’ cover article declaiming that Sangiovese is a Failed Experiment in California?
    I feel that the state of wine blogging today should be judged by the best that’s out there. As Thomas points out, there is nothing to preclude wine bloggers from writing hard, fact-based news reports alongside soft, human interest travel features, alongside personal wine reviews. If anything, a writer that can write well in several forms of journalism will attract a larger readership.
    Regarding Molesworth’s comment, it would be just as easy to judge wine print publications by the number of little wine rags out there that are chummily written, hee haw adventures which are poorly copyedited. Just as one can point to tens of thousands of poorly written and edited small town newspapers with their columns on the care of feeding of horses, social hall doings at the American Legion and local Grange, and their vitriolic editorial rants against the local school board.
    But of course that would be ridiculous. An excellent periodical, an excellent writer, deserves credit and should, in my opinion be called a journalist, albeit perhaps a journalist or a publication that specializes in a certain form of reporting and/or writing. And the size of one’s readership shouldn’t matter. I’m sure the pulp shock rags have a much higher readership than WS.
    I think it would be an interesting project to challenge ourselves as a community to write in a selected journalistic form, with a month to accomplish each piece. For instance, one month we could each choose a topic to uncover in an investigative piece, another month we would all write a human interest feature (not a typical winery bio-review), another month a speculative trend coverage. Is anyone up for that? Food for another Fermentation post, maybe?

  21. Strappo - August 29, 2008

    God no, Mary — speaking for myself. Even WBW is too confining for me.

  22. Thomas Pellechia - August 29, 2008

    Mary, Mary, you are quite contrary: we want freedom from ethics, from journalism, and from the microscope, but we also want others to take us serious at face value; in other words, we want to have and to eat the cake at the same time.
    I like your proposal.

  23. Mary B. - August 29, 2008

    Writing means … never sitting on your hands.
    I have opened a discussion thread for the first Wine Blog Journalism Challenge on the ‘Cellar Rats’ discussion forum:
    It’s not a competition–it’s a chance to hone AND display our abilities as a wine writing community.

  24. KenPayton - August 29, 2008

    Of course I know you are the writer of Good Grape. I was making the point, too subtle by half, that when bloggers cozy up to producers they squander their unique voice and become staff.
    Far from believing wine blogging is journalism or that it should even be its vocation, rather, I believe in multiple, distinctive points of view and a healthy division of discursive labor. As a reader of blogs, and scribbling one of my own, I would argue there are far too many that post on the same topics, drone on and on about very common things. Indeed, it is often the journalistic aspiration itself, participation in the daily echo chamber, that renders large bundles of blogs so tedious.
    And with respect to wine reviews, tasting notes are truly the laziest, most overrated form of wine blogging the net has yet produced. There are untold thousands of wines in this world to try. I can drink a different, random bottle every night for the rest of my life without referring to any source but my own native curiosity. Another expensive, super ultra-premium, vintner’s reserve Cali cab! Subscription only, even better! Strike up the band!….yawn… No there there.
    Neither do I particularly believe in a blogging community, as is obvious. All I know is the work to be done and a readership to inform as best as I am able.
    BTW, is it really true that bloggers are writing the newspapers obit? Every day I read the Telegraph, the Times of London, NY Times, LA Times, the Guardian, the Independent, Wash Post, the Globe and Mail etc…on the net. ‘[N]obody cares about anything anymore besides: Headlines, Soundbites, Opinion.” You forgot hyperbole.

  25. 1WineDude - August 29, 2008

    Against my better judgment, I’m back. But this one seems kind of important so here I am…
    Tom – this reviewer is *you*, right?
    You don’t have to answer actually, because I checked the facts and it is actually you, as stated right here on your blog ( http://fermentation.typepad.com/fermentation/2008/04/after-great-pro.html ).
    I am correct in my understanding that the above is a program that requires you to –
    1) ‘Write about this wine in exchange for receiving it’, and
    2) Requires ‘the wine be written about within a certain time frame as a condition of receiving it’
    You don’t have to answer that one either, because I checked the facts at thewinespies.com for you. And that is, in fact, what you have to agree to do in order to participate in the program and receive the wine:
    “Review a wine that we send you, in time for us to post [your review] on one of our 1 day sales”
    What you might want to answer is –
    How is the above different from what you and others here have been citing as a mistake? Or had you actually made the exact same mistake before any the participants in this study?
    Your words:
    “I think a mistake was made in demanding that bloggers write about this wine in exchange for receiving it. And I think a mistake was made in demanding that the wine be written about within a certain time frame as a condition of receiving it.”
    I’m really struggling as to how to frame a logical interpretation of your two posts on this subject that isn’t somehow hypocritical on your part.
    Also, my understanding is that it’s common journalistic practice to get the facts before publishing your writing.
    We’ve established that you did not do that – according to multiple statements from the winery, the participants, and the organizer of the event.
    Isn’t it also common journalistic practice to publish a retraction? From a recent correction/retraction policy I came across: “Retractions are judged according to whether the main conclusion of the paper is seriously undermined as a result.”
    Logically, a retraction from you seems to be in order on this matter?
    Looking forward to your response.

  26. Dr. Debs - August 29, 2008

    I’m so sorry Tom, but I read your post about this wine on your blog and I’m sure you disclosed you received the wine for free in exchange for review on a set day but I couldn’t actually find that in the post. Instead, you talked about how “fun” it was. Is the disclosure of the relationship in invisible ink? Or are there facts not in evidence we should know about? Did you buy the wine yourself? I would hate to say you were being unethical without knowing all the facts.

  27. KenPayton - August 29, 2008

    Pecked to death by ducks…

  28. 1WineDude - August 29, 2008

    “Pecked to death by ducks…”
    Or by facts.

  29. KenPayton - August 29, 2008

    So you suddenly become a journalist…

  30. Strappo - August 29, 2008

    This is way better than “Survivor”.
    It’s like when Susan Hawke came back in later seasons and reopened the scars that she’d inflicted on Richard whatever after he’d been mean to her…

  31. KenPayton - August 29, 2008

    She still lost.

  32. 1WineDude - August 29, 2008

    Go easy, folks.
    I might be a duck, but there’s no way you can say Dr. Debs is one. If you’ve ever read her blog, that is.

  33. fredric koeppel - August 29, 2008

    Strappo, you actually watched “Survivor”?
    boy,it’s getting late on friday night and the dogs need to go outside and i’m wrestling with a post for BTYH on all these issues, but I have to say a couple of things here. 1st, to whoever up there said that blogging was killing newspapers: that’s wrong. newspapers starting going down the tubes way before blogging became any kind of force in the world, done in my falling advertising revenues, the huge increase in the price of newsprint (which is going up another 30 percent by Jan. 1) and the splintering of the audience. I work right there in a newsroom where this is happening.
    2nd. Ken, I agree with much of what you say, but to assert that writing tasting notes is lazy blogging or journalism is also wrong.as long as we bloggers about wine concentrate on blogging about industry issues, then our readers will be in the industry and each other. it’s by writing about wine and the experience of tasting it and drinking it and how we taste it, how it was made and where it comes from — that’s what will increase our audiences beyond our own weary, navel-gazing selves, and we need that audience. Wine consumers basically want to know two things: which wines they should buy and why, and which wines they should not buy and why. I think that educating them on these matters is pretty damned honorable.

  34. 1WineDude - August 29, 2008

    Mr. Koeppel – well said!
    To quote on of my readers today:
    “Pedantic is the operative word about all this…how does any of this crap advance your audience’s enjoyment of wine?”

  35. 1WineDude - August 29, 2008

    Mr. Payton – Yeah, I decided to be a journalist, just for today though.
    I was also an editor.
    I gave myself a bottle of wine, on condition that I had to agree to write something handing Wark his own jock strap tonight before I could open it. The deadline of tonight was the ‘certain time frame as a condition of receiving it’ part.
    Mission accomplished.
    Off to grab my corkscrew!

  36. Chicago Pinot - August 29, 2008

    >>>There are people who believe, >>>passionately, that there is a real >>>possibility that the unique idea of the >>>”citizen wine writer” exemplified for the >>>first time by the wine blogosphere can >>>actually make a substantial change for the >>>better in the way people talk about, >>>enjoy, understand and appreciate wine.
    Look, as a newbie wine blogger, I am flattered but WTF ! ! ! ! I am also intimidated by the pressure these folks are indirectly placing on me.
    I work at a supermarket called The Night Thing (not it’s real name). The customers who enter my wine department are lovely people, but when I offer them a sample of wine, the majority look at me and giggle or put their head down in shame. My customers don’t care about blogs, scores, Parker, or anyone else. Price is the tiebreaker for the vast majority of wine consumers, and I will hold to that opinion until someone can give me solid documentation to counter it.
    The puritanical attitudes about alchohol and non-curiousity about trying new things which I believe are held by the vast majority of our citizens is not going to be changed by a couple of hundred wine bloggers.
    If you are a wine blogger and want to accept a comp, as long as you cop to it, I have no problem.
    I blog to have fun, get some freebies and maybe meet some cool chicks. I tutor, donate to my church and volunteer at suppers for the homeless to give back to society. Everyone’s story is a little different.

  37. KenPayton - August 29, 2008

    I’ve just put the neighbor’s dog to bed. My own mutt shit herself while I ate dinner with my family. The odor smothered my stir-fry. Tired myself.
    My remarks about tasting notes were a sort of ‘firing line’ (a popular tactic during the Civil War). I meant only to ‘draw fire’. Since I have no reputation to defend, it is easy.
    I remember well our exchange about the ’03 Vina Alicia Syrah back in January. It was your tasting notes for that wine that persuaded me to buy two expensive bottles from a New York concern. That said I must add that ‘tasting notes’ are the bastard child of all the supplemental info you list. The additional work you may provide, an intellectual context, is for naught, according to the staff writer at Good Grape. You see, its all about headlines, soundbites and opinion. Such a deep cynicism is remarkable. Karl Rove as a wine blogger…. Fuck him…
    Let’s consider a cult cab. Farm workers make as much as $100 for a full 12 hour day. Barrels, if French, by todays exchange rate, $850+. Bottles and corks break down to $2.00+ per unit. Labels are a modest addition. Subscription wines save additional costs. Bottom line, even the finest Cali cabs cost no more than $15 to produce. So where does the $75 price point come from? Well, from blogger/mag reviews, as in the case of RS’s Rockaway. Opus One typically enjoys a price of $120, depending on Parker’s mood. Yet the case production is over 100,000! RS? Subscription wines are by no means limited. But it would take a journalist to find the truth.
    Are consumers well served? Uh, no. But marginal bloggers are,
    What I find amusing about this modest tempest is the profound ignorance of its principle advocates. Screwing the consumer is a higher value than basic research into the wine’s production value.
    “Just a bottle, please.”
    1WineDude, tiresome child, I’ve nothing.

  38. Tom Wark - August 29, 2008

    I think it goes without saying that any wine, regardless of its price, be it $10 or $1000, is very much worth that price if it sells out at that price.
    If what you see is a problem with some wines selling at far more than they should, that’s not the magazine’s fault. That’s the consumer’s fault.
    The question of “value” is a very interesting one. How does one assess what value means to different people. If, for example, a person gains a great deal of pleasure having in their possession a wine that is coveted by many others, the value they may put on that wine might be far greater than the value an avid stamp collector who could care less for what wines are coveted would put on the wine. If the collector of wine is satisfied with his purchase and doesn’t regret the amount they spent, then the higher value they put on it is at least partially, if not fully, justified by their experience.

  39. KenPayton - August 30, 2008

    Correction: please ignore “But marginal bloggers are…” from the third paragraph of my post above.

  40. Strappo - August 30, 2008

    Whew. Tom, this is the gift that keeps giving. The personas that are emerging ar fascinating. Bloggers marginal or not defining themselves. Futures being limned and battle lines still being drawn.

  41. 1WineDude - August 30, 2008

    Strappo – nah, the battle lines were drawn days ago, when Tom threw us under the bus in order to progress the ethics debate. Entirely unnecessary, and based on an incorrect assumption from Tom that he’s not recanted.
    This can all end by Tom, instead of backpedaling or ignoring outright the fact that he has in fact done the exact same thing he threw others under the bus for doing, simply saying “I was wrong.” Then the distracting freakshow crap can stop, and the discussion around ethics can continue (non-poisoned).
    As far as I’m concerned, that’s the only battle line here.
    (That would, of course, imply that those who agreed with him on that portion of things were also wrong to do so. They are all adults, I trust they can deal with that.)
    And Ken – I prefer “tiresome man-child.” Please note for our future correspondences.

  42. 1WineDude - August 30, 2008

    Whoops – forgot to add that I’m now working on another multi-blogger review event. It will involve me stipulating that anyone participating agree to write an article related to the wine, the winery, or the event, by a deadline, as a condition of receiving the wine FROM ME.
    It’s going to be a *good one*, too, if the winemaker I have in mind agrees to it.
    Same group of bloggers – since they did such a good job on this event.

  43. Mary B. - August 30, 2008

    1winedude, you are laying out a condition to Tom. That you will stop leaving and encoring, and contribute something positive toward a discussion of ethics, but only if he first responds and behaves in the way that you want him to. It seems Tom is declining your offer.

  44. Tish - August 30, 2008

    Everybody is right and wrong here. The gray area of blogging + wine + “ethics” has resulted in a stew of discontent. But I fail to see much ill intent ANYWHERE. Not on the part of the Rockaway reviewers, not on the part of the critical posters, not on the part of commenters. That will help make this a net positive moving ahead. And looking back, it will all be growing pains.
    Meanwhile, this whole brouhaha, along with the WS awards debacle (which I feel is related by timing and spirit, if not the precise topic) has some important lessons, for me at least:
    1. blogging is powerful
    2. traditional media are quite aware of and scared by bloggers
    3. the wine indsutry is becoming fascinated by bloggers
    4. as ethics go, these two incidents are truly tiny patoots compared to more sublte yet insiduous practices in the tradional wine media, ranging from dinners and trips to ssupect awards and advertising masquerading as editorial.
    As long as bloggers/commenters continue to be earnest and honest, everyone will be better off once this Rockaway dust settles.

  45. Tim Elliott - August 30, 2008

    Tish: Thank you for your incisive comment. You are correct. I hope bloggers adopt a code of ethics.
    Until then I would appreciate if Steve, Tom and anyone else not call me unethical when I did not violate my own ethical code (on my blog for 2 years). Full disclosure is the key here both for bloggers and the established wine print media.

  46. craigL - August 30, 2008

    Let me start by saying, you don’t know me.
    But I know you, all of you, as bloggers.
    I love wine. I make wine at home. I drink as many different wines as I can. I love when I find a really good bottle that is really inexpensive. I love to mark the day, from the most mundane to the most special, with a glass of wine.
    I also love reading about wine. I read the Spectator (even though they seem to have a soft spot for fake lists) and, as of the past year or so, I have been reading your blogs. And I love them also. I find your posts interesting and thought provoking. I’m not sure if I’m your target audience because I am a “lurker.” I rarely, if ever post a comment. I give your blogs a quick read in the morning and then go on with running my business, or taking my son to baseball, or whatever else fills my day. I learn a lot from your blogs, and from the comments that follow your posts.
    Your blogs are such a GREAT alternative source of information. Thank you for giving people like me your time as you craft your posts. I know it can’t be for the money for most of you. It has to be about the love and passion for wine. But sometimes passion gets us to point where we start to lose meaningful dialogue, and rather find ourselves involved in personal attacks.
    You should know that lately, after I read many of the posts and comments on various wine blogs, I have the same feeling in my stomach that I get when I find myself in a fight with my wife. It’s a feeling of anger, and hurt, and regret, and loneliness.
    It’s almost exactly the opposite of the feeling that I have when we are together, talking about our day, laughing about silly things, fascinated by the new wine find of the day, or pouring a glass of an old favorite.
    I look to your blogs for the latter experience, but lately the former is oozing from my screen. I am saddened. Something that I really enjoy has changed as of late. I’m finding that I am hesitant to check in, because I don’t find what I am reading to be of any value to me. Maybe you are okay with that, and that’s fine with me. But for me, I feel like I’m in the middle of a shootout of personal and hurtful comments, written in the heat of the moment, that cannot be taken back. It is sad for me to watch.
    I know a lot of you must feel personally hurt, and under attack, and misunderstood. I am sorry about that. If I could humbly offer a piece of advice that comes from personal experience, it would be to walk away.
    Walk away from this for now. Let it go. Enjoy something non-wine for a while. Let it go. At this point nothing is getting resolved. It is too personal.
    You all are entitled to your opinions, and, obviously, to your criticisms. That’s why I love reading your blogs. But we are way past an exchange of opinions and ideas and thoughtful criticisms.
    From the “cheap seats” I am eagerly awaiting the next WBW, or your next unexpected gem, or an insight into your life and how wine is a part of it. But before that, I am stepping away for a day or two. I have a peach port, a Riesling, and a Tempranillo to bottle today, a Zin to savor tonight, and then the rest of the weekend to enjoy. Join me, and leave this stuff behind. Enjoy your weekend.

  47. Enobytes - August 30, 2008

    I couldn’t agree with you more Craig, thanks for your enlightening dialog and positive point of view. We should all take this to heart and follow your advice.

  48. Strappo - August 30, 2008

    Ladies & Gents,
    If you haven’t seen it yet, check out what I hope is the ultimate analysis and Word on this affair, Fredric Koeppel’s excellent post:

  49. fredric koeppel - August 31, 2008

    Peach port! I want some of that …
    thnx, Strappo …

  50. erwin dink - September 1, 2008

    ** Until then I would appreciate if Steve, Tom and anyone else not call me unethical when I did not violate my own ethical code (on my blog for 2 years). Full disclosure is the key here both for bloggers and the established wine print media. ** — Tim Elliot
    Simple. Brilliant. End of discussion? (Not that I haven’t enjoyed it.)

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