Bloggerview #28: Joe Dressner

Bloggerview #28

Who: Joe Dressner
Blog: The Amazing Adventures of Captain Tumorman  &  The Wine Importer
Blog:   & 

Joe Dressner Occasionally you'll read that This Person or That Person was the first wine blogger. I'm pretty sure the real first wine blogger to actually blog in a traditional blogger format is Joe Dressner. But let's leave that for later and get to the heroics first. Joe is a principle in Louis/Dressner Selections, a New York importer with a near legendary reputation that is dedicated to bringing "real wines" to the American marketplace. If you want to know what that means to Joe, read about it here. That said, Joe is one of the legitimate iconoclasts in the American wine industry, a man with apparently uncompromising positions, a willingness to speak his mind always, and a biting (sometimes vicious) sense of humor. As far as I can tell, Joe began writing "The Wine Importer" blog in 2001. That effort continued non-stop until 2008 when Joe continued his writing at his "The Amazing Adventures of Mr. Tumor Man", where he as detailed his battle with a brain tumor. Over the past two years Joe has on occasion been brutal in his assessment of my own work in the wine industry as well as at this blog. And yet, I can't find any reason not to like him, admire him and follow his words on a regular basis. His words on both his blogs and elsewhere I describe as honest, pointed, battle-ready, courageous, mean spirited and compelling. You'll see what I mean as you read this bloggerview with Joe Dressner.

1. When did you begin blogging and why?
My first blog was in November 2000, but I was already active on several wine discussion boards for a couple of years. The wine boards were the first instance of the internet being used to bring together wine geeks. Parker was on the Prodigy board, the Wine Spectator had a board, Robin Garr had his WLDG board and I met several people from the Garr board.

I was already an importer and became friendly with several people on these wine boards. I was moving toward natural wine and found many of these folks were going in the same direction.

I stared a personal blog in November 2000 because there were too many disputes on the wine boards and I found it all a bit ridiculous. Heated discussions would flare up, someone would call someone else a Nazi, and before long no one was rational. I tried to inject satire and irony on the boards, but this made some people even angrier.
I am a frustrated writer and the idea of self-publishing was appealing. I found it absurd that you could write almost anything you liked on the internet with no editor, no fact-checking and no reality check. Any imbecile, myself included, could write whatever came to mind and I enjoyed mixing facts and fantasy with my opinions, true stories, invented anecdotes and fictional characters. I’ve tried not to be libelous or mean-spirited but sometime I get carried away.

Lastly, at a certain point in my wine importer career I became appropriately disgusted with the wine trade. Everything was about self-promotion, marketing, hype, points and critics. I was an importer because my wife Denyse Louis, my partner Kevin McKenna and I had fallen into a mysterious lost valley of natural wine makers. We saw our role as popularizing their wine, not some sort of glamorous life style. All the pomposity in the wine trade (and with many of today’s wine bloggers) make me physically ill. I once vomited when reading about the New York Wine Experience.

We like farmers who work hard and I wanted to use my blog to make fun of “The Wine Industry” and to popularize real wine.

2. In two sentences describe the focus of your wine blog.
Being ridiculous, honest, truthful and making shit up while being factual and fictional.

3. What sets your wine blog apart from the pack?
A blog is only a self-publishing mechanism. It’s the content that matters. I have two blogs actually. was the original blog but now I am at I believe this is the only blog written by a wine importer with brain cancer. I’m very proud of my brain tumor and I think my readership finds my tumor fascinating.

4. How would you characterize the growth in your readership since beginning your blog?
At first, only my parents read the blog. Now several other relatives and my oncologist are avid readers.

5. Do you accept sample for review?
There is so much disgusting wine out there I would be sickened if I tried to sample too many wines. I’ve been an importer long enough to know where to find wines I might like.

6. What kind of wine rating/review system do you use and why?
I am against all these systems. I can tell by where a grower’s vineyards are, how they work, what sort of plants they have (clones or massale), how they vinify and bottle, and various other essential elements how the wine will be in bottle. The wine in bottle is only a momentary flash of the wine in process. Unless, of course, the bottled wine is already dead.

7. How do you fit the maintenance of your wine blog into your daily schedule?
I have one of my many underlings cover my workload at Louis/Dressner so I can mindlessly blog. I spent about nine months in radiation and chemotherapy which made me tired, but gave me lots of quality blogging time.

8. Have you utilized any particular techniques to successfully market your blog?
I’ve insulted as many assholes as possible.

9. In your view how, if at all, is blogging different than traditional wine writing for print?
There is not traditional and non-traditional writing. Blogging is not haiku. It is the written word. Unless you write one of these mindless sites with links to other sites with links to other sites with links to other sites. I don’t consider that good blogging or good writing. It is just sheer boredom and a sheer lack of imagination.

10. Which other wine blogs do you read regularly?
The most informed reading on the net about wine is on the wine boards. Lots of people I trust and r
espect are on and I look in 14 times every day and sometimes participate. I look in on Parker’s board  sometimes. Of course, I read the Vulgar Little Monkey Translucency Report, Herb Caen (the first and still greatest blogger), Lyle Fass, Alice Feiring, Peter Liem, Eddie Wrinkerman and Eric Asimov. I think Dr Vino is a genius as is Jeremy Parzen but I forget why.

11. Do you believe wine blogs have made any marked impact on the wine industry or wine culture?
Not particularly. I think the wine boards have had a much stronger effect. But I can tell you as an importer, the traditional print outlets (Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, The New York Times) still move large quantities of wine. I think many bloggers exaggerate their importance. As someone who sells wines, I do see the many favorable write-ups our wines get in blogs. They don’t sell anything, sadly to say.

12. Vacation: Paris or the Caribbean?
Poil Rouge.

13. Pet: Dog or Cat?
My dog Buster died at the end of August. He was a much beloved Corgi/Pitbull mix and was the inspiration for several cuvées we imported. We adopted a Cherrier Mix last Saturday who is named after my brain pathologist. Like Buster, Zaggy is a rescue dog.

14. Airplane Reading: New Yorker or People?
The Grundrisse by Karl Marx

15. Car: Prius or BMW?
Before I had brain cancer I would ride a bike. I find the car culture detestable. The automobile has ruined civilization.

16. Chablis or California Chardonnay?
Chablis is 99% machine harvested, over-cropped, yeasted, over sulfited and disgusting. California Chardonnay stinks and should be ripped out for whatever might go better. So, I would have to go with Chablis.

17. Describe what you would have at your last meal?
Boiled Morteau sausages bought in Poligny, new potatoes with salty butter, sharp mustard, comté from my Morteau merchant in Poligny and a Savignin Ouillé from Overnoi/Houillion.

18. What is Heaven Like?
I aspire to limbo in the after-life. I couldn’t say.

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’d invite five. My parents from 1985 (my father Sam is now dead, my mother Irene suffers from chronic illness), my son, my daughter and my wife. I would like my kids to see my parents when they were much younger. My son was born in 1986 and my daughter in 1988.I would let my father bring the wine because he always told everyone that the Louis/Dressner Selections label on a bottle of wine was a sure sign that the wine would be great.

20. What advice would you give to someone considering starting a wine blog?
Do something productive like campaigning for universal free medical care rather than writing a blog about how some spoofed wine smells like papaya and hazelnuts.

Posted In: Bloggerviews


11 Responses

  1. Dale Cruse - October 5, 2009

    Those are some great answers, but I think #20 is my fave.

  2. Ron Washam, HMW - October 5, 2009

    Joe seems like my kind of guy. I just wish he hated my blog too!

  3. Charlie Olken - October 5, 2009

    Having read Joe for some time now, it is my opinion that there is no way to know whether he will love or hate anything save for his own wines and better health care.
    That does not make him a lot like you, but where he is like you is in his willingness to take no prisoners with his opinions. Yet, you are a humorist and Joe is an angry man, and that is also an essential difference.

  4. George Heritier - October 5, 2009

    Good ol’ Joe, you gotta love him…
    (Kim chimes in over my shoulder, “No you don’t!”)

  5. Thomas Pellechia - October 5, 2009

    Another time to bite my tongue.

  6. GrapeEnvyGuy - October 5, 2009

    One of the more interesting wineblogger interviews I’ve seen. Dammit, and I just purged my bookmarks.

  7. Strappo - October 5, 2009

    Pellechia’s comment the best yet.

  8. lgking - October 5, 2009

    This guy is great. I love his views on tasting wine below…
    “How boring the world of Points/Tasting notes has become! I even see my friends, people I like, writing endless tasting notes with endless useless fruit/wood/earth analogies that are of no possible use to anyone. Yes, they drop off the points, but they are still using the same methodology. Furthermore, modern oenology has learned how to manipulate wine to create manufactured aromas and flavors that fit into the “tasting palates” artificial construct.
    I’m always shocked to see people enjoying fake fruits and fake sweetness and fake viscosity that is so obviously fraudulent and alien to wine. But even people with good intentions get sucked into this whirlwind of tasting frenzy, thinking that they are somehow coming closer to learning something about wine.”

  9. Cheese Spread - October 6, 2009

    Great Interview! I am impressed.

  10. brain cancer chemotherapy - October 6, 2009

    Hi Joe, your answers for a wine blog are excellent. What about a cancer awareness blog?

  11. Dylan - October 6, 2009

    While I agree a lot of people take cars for granted, for many, work isn’t the easiest bike ride away–especially in certain weather conditions.

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