Wine enthusiasts never have had it better, whether in the array of wines to tempt them or in the range of reading to inform them.
Rare is the month without the release of a newly published wine book. Wine columns and wine features remain a staple of newspapers and magazines. As they stroll down the wine aisle in a grocery store, shoppers are slapped in the face with a veritable blizzard of shelf-talkers, those dangling cards of poetry and points meant to entice a buy.
And then there are wine blogs. As with other niche interests, they form a virtual galaxy of commentary meant to inform and inspire. In hopes of being educated and entertained, I follow several. In addition, I was a judge for last year’s Wine Blog Awards. My assignment was to read 140 entries to help whittle the field of candidates for best post of the year.
From that experience, coupled with regular surfing of the blogosphere for bookmark material related to wine, I’ve found 11 wine blogs I check out regularly. I list them in order of preference:
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HoseMaster of Wine: As serious as the world of wine is, it does allow time for humor. Each Monday and Thursday, Ron Washam customarily posts a commentary on his needling wine blog HoseMaster of Wine. Washam, a former sommelier and comedy writer – he might say they are closely related – is the most opinionated, humorous and ribald observer in the wine world. His body of work is irreverent and remorseless. It’s almost always satire and parody, though he occasionally drifts into straight commentary, sometimes even with tasting notes. This past year, one of his posts was named the best of the year in the Wine Blog Awards. His success has spawned several imitations, which in their awkwardness show just how difficult satire is. www.hosemasterofwine.blogspot.com
On the Wine Trail in Italy: Alfonso Cevola is a wine merchant who divides his time among Italy, Texas and California, where he finds material that he sculpts into posts that are exceptionally philosophic, intimate and poetic. They are frequent reminders of what draws people consciously to wine in the first place – it’s a rather pleasant and informing link to tradition, people and place. www.acevola.blogspot.com
The Connoisseurs’ Wine Blog: Charles Olken and Stephen Eliot, two longtime observers of the West Coast wine scene, weigh in a few times each week with pithy commentaries on the latest news, scandal, marketing scheme or wayward practice to catch their attention. Once in a while, they’ll post tasting notes, which is what they do primarily with their subscription newsletter Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine, but the blog is where they vent more about issues than wines. Their attitude is scholarly more than scolding, with conclusions consistently level-headed, however blunt. www.cgcw.com
Tom Wark’s Fermentation: The Daily Wine Blog: Tom Wark is a Napa Valley marketing guy whose clients run to members of the beverage industry, but his smart, timely and spirited blog is deep, broad and unflinching, often concentrating on the politics of the wine trade. His posts are so tightly written and so structurally conceived that his blog is one of the few to read as if it actually has been fine-tuned by an editor. His posts are cerebral and earnest, but one lighthearted exception – an analysis of what is meant by “wine country casual” on invitations to winery soirees – drew 135 followup comments, which could be a record for the genre. www.fermentationwineblog.com
1 Wine Dude: If any wine blogger is going to leverage his posts into a full-time career, it will be the peripatetic, ambitious and energetic Joe Roberts, a.k.a. 1 Wine Dude. He’s based in Pennsylvania but travels often to wine regions about the globe. So far, he’s parlayed his amusing essays and colorful tasting notes into presumably paying gigs at Answers.com and Playboy.com, where the value of having an editor is evident in his tighter, smarter and more cohesive commentaries. His embrace of wine is all encompassing, his attitude open and adventurous, and his writing candid, though in the hyper-patois of a millennial who has had one Red Bull too many. www.1winedude.com
The Gray Report: W. Blake Gray stands apart from other wine bloggers for his newspaperman’s temperament, skepticism and sense of storytelling. Whether he’s writing of brettanomyces or a newly designated appellation, his posts are spirited, comprehensive and often cantankerous. Not to say he’s insecure, but at every opportunity he crows about how he won the 2013 Roederer Award for Online Wine Columnist/Blogger of the Year. blog.wblakegray.com
Vinography: A Wine Blog: No list of wine blogs is complete without including Alder Yarrow’s Vinography, the granddaddy of the medium. It was so new a decade ago he had to include in the title “A Wine Blog.” The blog’s early nimbleness has been succeeded by a creeping haughtiness, predictability and narrowness. (He’s partial to Sonoma County and Napa Valley, rarely venturing to other California regions). Yet the occasional post can be fresh, witty and helpful; just check out the interactive graphic he assembled last fall on San Francisco wine bars and wine shops. His features are complete, with lively quotes and fine photography. www.vinography.com
Steve Heimoff: The key to enjoying the observations of seasoned California wine writer Steve Heimoff is to skip the first three or four paragraphs of each post. This gets you to the point of what he’s writing about without enduring the longest self-possessed wind-up in the wine blogosphere. At about the fifth paragraph, however, he’ll deliver fastball or curve that lets you know he’s been around and seen it all. The most prolific of wine bloggers, he posts virtually every day, and his commentaries, once reduced to their essence, are provocative, sincere and timely. He also generates more incisive comments than perhaps any other member of the genre. www.steveheimoff.com
RJ on Wine: If you want concise, candid and direct tasting notes, this is your one-stop resource. “RJ” is Richard Jennings, whose day job is in human resources with a mental-health agency on the San Francisco Peninsula. By nights and weekends, he’s one busy wine critic. He can follow up a trade tasting with compact and telling notes on hundreds of wines. He also writes detailed profiles that while informative could use an editor’s hand to help him seize more pointedly the essence of the wine estates and wine personalities he features. www.rjonwine.com
Dr. Vino and Terroirist: Both Tyler Colman, a.k.a. Dr. Vino, and David White of Terroirist post occasional essays and tasting notes, but both blogs are similar in that they aggregate wine news from around the world, providing links to articles, studies, commentaries and the like meant to enhance the understanding and enjoyment of wine. www.drvino.com and www.terroirist.com