On 14 Years Writing and The Art of Being a Wine Blogging Bomber
When I was 14 years old (1977), I was enduring my last year of junior high school at Sinaloa Jr. High in Novato, California. I remember a few things about that year. The things that stand out most is being suspended for a week of school for having been the ringleader of an expedition to San Francisco’s Chinatown where I and two others conspirators procured a collection of small smoke bombs, which were subsequently unleashed on a somewhat entertained collection of students at Sinaloa Jr. High.
The principal didn’t think it was so funny, nor did my father. In any case, I lived with the “bomb-thrower” nickname for a few months.
Many years later, after having started and maintained this wine blog I was again labeled a bomb-thrower by some. That label again didn’t really stick as my bomb-throwing on this blog is very inconsistent.
Whatever bombs I do still throw usually amount to calling out bad influences on the wine industry and wine consumers. Wholesalers, anti-Napa Wine interests, nefarious attorneys, overzealous regulators, etc.
This post being the acknowledgment of the end of my 14th year writing this blog, I went back and looked at which of the 3,263 posts have garnered the most interests. The top ten most read posts over these past 14 years include a number of different posts that advise visitors to Napa Valley how they ought to plan their visit, and a few calling out bad acting wholesalers. As I would expect.
The posts that serve as bomb tosses actually amount to relatively few. However, they are well read. For that reason, I want to take this opportunity to make a defense of throwing literary bombs.
First, let’s acknowledge what a bomb is. It’s disruptive insofar as it sets someone or some group back on their heals. It does this by publicly calling them out for bad acting, bad form or, especially, selfish behavior that hurts large numbers of other people. Bombs name names. Bombs seek to shine a light on those who generally hope to keep word of their actions out of sight from those who they tend to harm. Literary bombs also draw attention to the bomb thrower.
There can be consequences for the bomb thrower. In my case, it has meant losing any hope of working for certain companies and certain types of companies. It has also resulted in many very ugly emails in response to the bombs. I almost always take a “sticks and stones” view of these letters. Only a couple of times have actual threats been leveled at me. So, all in all, I’ve not really suffered for the bombs that have been thrown. However, it’s a good idea to acknowledge that there are possible consequences for a bomb post and to determine if the potential consequences are worth the impact you hope the post will have.
But then there are the benefits.
Wine writing is most often an exercise in celebration, investigation and happy talk. And why shouldn’t it be? Few products produce as much happiness as wine can. It’s hard to fault those who write about yummy wine or choose not to publish bad reviews or tend to publish laudatory profiles of wine people, wineries and wine regions and wines.
But the impact of reminding people that bad actors or bad ideas live among us is to remind people that some of the most pleasurable things in their lives are open to compromise by people who don’t’ care about your happiness. Reminding people that bad actors roam among them keeps folks on their toes just a little while they talk happy and make happy times with wine. And reminding people with literary bombs that they should be on the watch for those that threaten to mock their enjoyment of wine empowers those who sometimes forget that they, collectively, do have power.
Finally, a well-built literary bomb, one that points directly to an offense, one that is well written, and particularly one that pulls no punches while also giving readers a way to take action, is a thing of beauty and the bomb thrower will draw the attention of good people. And if you are a wine blogger who tends to focus on education and profiles, the one-off bomb presented to those that trust you will carry a good deal of weight.
So, on the occasion of the beginning of my 15th year writing this little wine blog, let me offer the following advice:
- Throw the occasional well-made bomb—your readers will appreciate it and be better off for it.
- Don’t unleash smoke bombs at your Junior High School.