Bloggerview #24: St. Vini

Bloggerview #24

Who: St. Vini
Blog: The Zinquisition

St Vini 2 If I had a nickel for every time someone has asked me who writes The Zinquisition, I'd have at least $2.00. For liberal arts majors, that's at least 40 times. Going by the St. Vini moniker, the author of the Zinquisition blog writes anonymously. And he has been blogging longer than nearly every other wine blogger out there, starting with his first post in July 2004. What's clear about St. Vini is that this is a man who works in the wine industry. While he admits this here and there in his posts, you could tell even without his confession. His blog posts almost always have the air of an industry insider. And they are also very opinionated, something I like very much in a blogger. I've been reading Zinquisition religiously since I started blogging and have never stopped. Though his posts are not nearly as regular as I'd like (he explains below), St. Vini remains, in my mind, one of the most insightful wine bloggers.

1. When did you begin blogging and why?
Mid 2004. I felt that blogging was going to take off as far as a review media for wine, and thought there should be some apartisan representation from within the industry. This would mean not being able to blog about products that I have (or have had) a hand in making or bringing to market. I was also tired of working for “old school” owners who couldn’t see the value of having decent websites, and who were so full of their own dogma and back label copy that they lost sight of what the customer wanted: good value. A heavy dose of stuffy “traditionalism” went along with many owners’ philosophies, and I felt that was keeping the everyman from enjoying wine to the fullest.

2 In two sentences describe the focus of your wine blog.
I focus on the bizarre and otherwise unintelligible happenings hidden behind the scenes. Well, at least I try to…some of it is still unintelligible even through an insider’s lens.

3. What sets your wine blog apart from the pack?
Anonymity on my part. Maybe the fact that I’m on the inside and probably hear a bit more than most bloggers do about topics important to the industry itself. And again, that I mostly talk about how wine is made and industry topics rather than rate wines.

4. How would you characterize the growth in your readership since beginning your blog?
Hmmmm….it’s grown quite a bit, and I’ve had more hits from Asia and Eastern Europe in the past few years than I ever did (or ever expected) when I started.

5. Do you accept sample for review?
Never. Despite the fact that I’d have to drop my anonymity to get the samples in the first place, I’d definitely have moral qualms about recommending any wines to people without their first knowing who I was and what possible involvement I might have with the products in question… Hell, I hate being shilled to myself, why would I do that to anyone else? But I don't have any problems identifying wines which I find are defective. I have had plenty of people email me asking if I would taste this, that or another thing. My favorite emails are ones from “Southerly” distillers asking if they can send me some of their tequila for review. Sadly, I have to turn them down.

6. What kind of wine rating/review system do you use and why?
I find that wines fall into three categories: “Yum! Go grab some more”; “Serviceable, though not a show stopper but worth repeating for everyday use”; and finally “Avoid at all costs!”
Does it need further explanation?

7. How do you fit the maintenance of your wine blog into your daily schedule?
Frankly, I don’t. Work takes precedence over blogging, as does family. If there’s time & a good topic out there, then I’ll blog about it. Having said that, I don’t feel the need to update the blog on a daily basis.

8. Have you utilized any particular techniques to successfully market your blog?
I don’t market the blog at all…..

9. In your view how, if at all, is blogging different than traditional wine writing for print?
Lay people are driving this for the most part. The overly-stuffy professional wine writers are being usurped by the common man (or woman). Egalite!

10. Which other wine blogs do you read regularly?
Fermentation, PinotBlogger, Vinography, the Pour, I read most, then it's off to two-dozen or so other blogs on a as-I-can basis. I do try to get these ones read at least once a week if not more often, depending on how busy I am. I'd love to spend more time reading other blogs regularly, but time management keeps me moving a bit too much.

11. Do you believe wine blogs have made any marked impact on the wine industry or wine culture?
Absolutely! Look at the expansion of the wine blogosphere…five years ago there were hardly any. Now a quick search brings up 47,000,000 hits (some are compilation sites and otherwise redundant entries, so they don’t really count, but even if there are 1/10th of that amount)! Wineries are finally figuring out there is something to this – witness Murphy-Goode advertising for a wine blogger/twitter/facebook person for a 6-month stint. Blogs are where many people are finally finding a forum for voicing their concerns, hopes, triumphs and disappointments.

12. Vacation: Paris or the Caribbean?
Rome. Then Chianti, followed by a week in Spain. Fly into Rome, out of Madrid.
Did I leave out Venice? Damn….

13. Pet: Dog or Cat?
Dogs (yes plural). A house is too quiet without dog(s), and unlike cats, they seem to know when to shut up for a while. Besides, how many stories of people being pulled from icy lakes by cats have you heard of? Dogs are far superior….

14. Airplane Reading: New Yorker or People?
Sky mall. It’s the most interesting, and useless, reading you can do on a plane.

15. Car: Prius or BMW?
Lotus. No wait….Maserati. Damn! My practicality is getting the best of me. Make it the Prius…

16. Chablis or California Chardonnay?
California Chard, hands down.

7. Describe what you would have at your last meal?

Something ‘rustica’, maybe wild game over polenta or risotto, some hearty soup, crown rack of lamb with a blackberry & balsamic reduction, plenty of bread. And since it’s my last meal, all the butter and olive oil I could stand! Dessert would be Chocolate decadence with a blackberry or raspberry sauce. The wine is tricky. Probably there would have to be 10~12 bottles open of different varietals and styles. 7~8 reds and 3~4 white wines.

18. What is Heaven Like?
75°F, with a light warm breeze out of the SSW. Sunny with partly cloudy skies and an occasional short shower in the afternoon, which nobody seems to care about because it dries up almost immediately.
Damn, I think I just described Hawaii…or Cabo San Lucas!

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?
I have way too many people on my list to pare it down to four. My fantasy dinner party would have to be for 50~75 people, and both Alton Brown and John Cleese would bring wine. Penn and Teller would bring the meat… Now THAT would be interesting!

20. What advice would you give to someone considering starting a wine blog?
Ask yourself why you’re doing it. I think there are many good blogs out there right now and we’re starting to see a bit of overlap. If I were thinking of starting right now, I’d email someone who has a blog I liked and ask about being a contributor to the common cause. That way you don’t have the obligation of maintaining the blog by yourself, and can even generate discussion within the blog editors via a point-counterpoint forum.

Posted In: Bloggerviews


9 Responses

  1. Samantha - June 1, 2009

    A fellow Sky Maller! Very sound advice on the “if you’re thinking about blogging” thing.

  2. Ron Washam, HMW - June 1, 2009

    I hate to out the guy, but I have it on pretty good authority that St. Vini is a pseudonym for Fred Franzia.
    Hey, St. Vini, come visit me at HoseMaster like in the good ol’ days. I miss your acerbic contributions.

  3. John Kelly - June 1, 2009

    Well, St. Vini is not me. Thank god I got that off my chest! What a relief. I also started down this same anonymous road in 2004, but then put up the blog for the winery and did not have enough time for both — since I was also doing an anonymous hard-left political rant at the same time. HMW — welcome back. But I don’t think St. Vini is Fred Franzia. I think it’s Grady Wann 😉

  4. KenPayton - June 1, 2009

    Good interview.

  5. Director of Lab Rhetoric - June 1, 2009

    I really like the efficiency of St Vini’s rating system, but Occam and I want to know: What’s the point of the middle category?
    If you can list 20 knock it out of the park wines under $15 — and if you can’t you just aren’t trying — why bother with serviceable?

  6. Iris - June 2, 2009

    Interesting, to read your interview – I just came about his blog (for the first time) yesterday – reading his article about a conference about biodynamics – linked on a French wine-lovers-forum:-). I surely will go back more frequently!

  7. JD in Napa - June 2, 2009

    The “liberal arts” crack was worth the price of admission; at least I didn’t have to look for my calculator.

  8. Tom Wark - June 2, 2009

    Being a former Liberal Arts major myself, I DID have to reach for my calculator, saving you the trouble. Just one of the services we offer here at Fermentation: The Daily Wine Blog.

  9. Dylan - June 2, 2009

    I really like his/her response to question 20. The idea of asking yourself why you’re blogging has been brought up before, but St. Vini took it a step further by recommending they add to the common cause of a discussion rather than fragment the theme across the internet.

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