Bloggerview #33: Ed Thralls
I like "Wine Tonite". It strikes me as a quintessential 2010 Wine Blog insofar as if you glance through it you'll see that it's producer, Ed Thralls, has taken advantage of all the social media bells and whistles, integrated them perfectly into the site and makes the experience of reading Wine Tonite a simple straightforward one. But most of all what I like about Wine Tonite is the effortless, personable, experiential nature of the writing. Certainly this is a reflection of Ed, who clearly loves wine and everything about it. Ed is a Certified Wine Specialist working on his Certificate of Winemaking from U.C. Davis. You get the sense from reading Wine Tonight not that you are learning along the way with Ed, but rather experiencing his discovery of the various facets of wine.
1. When Did You Start Blogging and Why?
I started blogging in 2007 on Vox.com looking for some kind of creative and therapeutic outlet initially talking about everything I was enjoying in my personal life at the time from triathlons to rants about baseball and just a little about wine. Wine Tonite! went live in 2008 inspired by the idea of sharing information about the wines we would taste with our local wine club and my decision to completely immerse myself into the subject of wine.
2. In two sentences describe the focus of your wine blog.
The blog portrays our personal experiences with wine as well as our journey to become more knowledgeable about wine in a casual and informal setting such that readers may be able to relate to or learn from them in a real and collaborative way. We expect to learn more from the reader than the other way around.
3. What sets your wine blog apart from the pack?
Straight talk. Long gone are my days of writing poetry and being published in literary magazines. I generally try to keep my topics short and sweet (or at least off-dry), though I try to let my sense of humor get noticed here and there, but that more often is easier to perceive face-to-face. Sometimes it’s a stream of consciousness and spur of the moment, but if you don’t want a lot of fluff and big, fancy words in your posts, we’re right up your alley. However, the fact I misspelled Tonite! has to give me some points in eccentricity, no?
4. How would you characterize the growth in your readership since beginning your blog?
Steady. Readership crept along very slowly in the early days and I’m not even sure those in the wine club, for whom I started the damn thing in the first place, checked it out that much. Much to my surprise other local bloggers found me fairly early on and participated but the Murphy Goode Winery social media campaign gave me a nice little boost early in 2009. Now, there is a social media “system” in place and there are new visitors almost every day.
5. Do you accept samples for review?
Yes, I will accept samples for review, but make no guarantees that a review will actually make the site or that it will be a good one if it does. I’m not going to lie. It’s cool to get free shit no matter what it is, right? But, I never feel obligated to review and if wineries quit sending me wine that will be OK. However, when I come across some phenomenal juice, I am probably going to feel more inclined to tell someone about it.
6. What kind of wine rating/review system do you use and why?
When I do put up a review, I try to do so in a qualitative way as best I can so that an everyday wine drinker can read it and relate to what I experienced in the wine. I don’t do ratings or scores.
7. How do you fit the maintenance of your wine blog into your daily schedule?
Like a round peg into a square hole (that’s what she said). I wish I could post something every day and I know I will someday soon. Most of my blog work happens first thing early in the morning or late at night when I am not studying for my UC-Davis winemaker’s certificate and often depends on what content or topic I am excited about at the time.
8. Have you utilized any particular techniques to successfully market your blog?
It’s all about participation, being part of the conversation and developing relationships. The online “system” I mentioned above consists mainly of the social media mirepoix of Blog-Twitter-Facebook as well as personal network relationships, including folks in the wine biz.
9. In your view how, if at all, is blogging different than traditional wine writing for print?
I think blogs can be more personable and accessible which allows the reader to more easily relate to the writer. Traditional print writing is one-way telling you something and blogging is a two-way conversation about something. Chances are I am not going to be able to really get in contact with Robert Parker if I have a question about something he wrote, but I can expect in most cases a blogger to respond to my comment within 24 hours and we can continue the dialog. Though, I have heard RP is giving Twitter a go, so maybe he is reachable? The rules regarding experience, expertise and credibility apply equally in both arenas, but I still think many readers are more comfortable with the blog format and style of writing from many bloggers than those stereotypically pretentious mags.
10. Which other wine blogs do you read regularly?
None other than the award-winning Fermentation blog by this most wisest of wise wine men. Then there are Dirty South Wine, Suburbanwino, AtlantaWineGuy, Dr. Vino, DrinkNectar, Benito’s Wine Reviews, Good Grape, 1WineDude, SeattleWineGal and many, many others when I find the time.
11. Do you believe wine blogs have made any marked impact on the wine industry or wine culture?
That’s a tough one to measure I think at this early stage. However, I certainly notice bloggers driving traffic to wineries, exposing thousands of people to information and chatter about wine daily and challenging the status quo at conferences, in print and on the blogs of well-respected current torch-bearers of the wine writing world.
12. Vacation: Paris or the Caribbean?
Tough call. Growing up in Florida, I really love the sun, establishing my base tan, the tropics, sand volleyball, chicks in butt-floss, the Miami-Vice theme song and a strong fruity rum-type drink with a pink umbrella that I could experience in the Caribbean. But, on the other hand, if I went to Paris, I’d head straight for the vineyards. I’ll say Paris to win some brownie points with the wife too.
13. Pet: Dog or Cat?
“a dog's got personality. And personality goes a long way.” – Pulp Fiction
14. Airplane Reading: New Yorker or People?
Instructions on the barf bag
15. Car: Prius or BMW?
“chillin in my beemer, listening to Ether” – Swizz Beatz
16. Chablis or California Chardonnay?
I’ve had some pretty darn good California Chardonnay lately, so I’m going with that.
17. Describe what you would have at your last meal?
I’m not a big foodie type and not that sophisticated when it comes to food, so I’d have to come back to something comforting like a bucket of KFC (Killer F***ing Chicken) original recipe, double-mash and flaky biscuits and a well-aged wine from the Cote Rotie, not caring if it paired well or not.
18. What is Heaven Like?
Waking up in a vineyard in the valley just as the fog rolls off soon after budbreak where the sun always shines and the climate is always cool.
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?
My sister (Michael), Robert Frost, George Carlin, Galileo Galilei and Frosty would have to bring some romance in a bottle.
20. What advice would you give to someone considering starting a wine blog?
Just do it, do your best and forget the rest, keep pressing play…