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Vinography in The LA Times

I was as surprised as some of my readers (thanks, Hector, for the tipoff) to discover that Vinography was featured today as part of an LA times article surveying the best wine sites on the Internet. Vinography, Joe Dressner's blog, and Red Wine Haiku are all highlighted in the blog category along with other wine sites and bulletin boards.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

"As you delve into wine blogs through a clearinghouse website such as wineblogwatch.arrr.net, what will amaze you is the variety, intensity and occasionally the hilarity of wine-world views on display. The ones I like to read are more curious about wine than opinionated, more about wonder than authority.

Vinography.com, by San Franciscan Alder Yarrow, has spirited opinions on everything from corkage to screw caps. Yarrow is exactly the kind of blogger who would write an opus on your coveted Barbera — witness his recent tasting note on a wine from Rhône producer Auguste Clape, a 1,000-word entry at once preposterously overlong and completely absorbing."

I love the fact that the author, Patrick Comisky, took the time to call out Vinography (and other great sites) as a favorite source, but I can't help but bristle a little bit at the backhanded compliment. The fact that Comisky calls my 902 word (ahem) review of the Clape Blanc a "tasting note" makes it clear, regardless of his absorption, just how much he (and I'm sure some other readers) misses the point of what I'm trying to do. My reviews are so very much NOT tasting notes in any way, shape, or form. You want pithy, purple, 25 word tasting notes? Go see Jancis! I'm about telling stories. Vinography is the campfire story time version of wine reviews; the leisurely chat with a friend in a sunny drawing room; the stroll down the garden path; the PBS miniseries; the not-reducing-the-complex-world-to-fifteen-adjectives way of talking about wine.

Perhaps that is preposterous, but only because so many wine reviews are the dull, barely informative tasting notes that fill so many other outlets for wine information. Somehow the world has gotten used to that being the only way wine is reviewed.

Well I say: NO LONGER! Down with the short tasting note! Up with the stories inside wine!

Stepping down off my soap box now. Quietly.

Go read the article -- there are lots of good sites featured in it.

Also, if the site makes you register to view the story, and you'd like to avoid LA Times spam, this site may be useful to you.

Comments (11)

eric wrote:
02.23.06 at 5:55 AM

"...witness his recent tasting note on a wine from Rhône producer Auguste Clape, a 1,000-word entry at once preposterously overlong and completely absorbing."

I think the last two words in the sentence were the stronger point. I took from that sentence that Vinography, like other web sites and resources, offers something more than your typical "tasting note" although that would have been more clear if he had used the quotes.

At any rate, I couldn't agree with you more about the need for more personal stories about wine.

Chad wrote:
02.23.06 at 6:56 AM

Alder --

I write lots of tasting notes. I read lots of tasting notes. Tasting notes are the writing on a gravestone, which is to say, a few kind words for posterity.

What's compelling about wine is waht's compelling about people: personal stories detailing the intricacies of how we've reached this moment and how this wine came to be. Character & personality count, but those things don't show up on tombstones and they certainly don't appear in tasting notes.

Keep up the great work.

Ben wrote:
02.23.06 at 8:13 AM


I like your analogy. I don't read tombstones, but I bet I would if there were good stories on them. Likewise most (short) tasting notes sound the same, with their overdescriptive notes that make my eyes glaze over.

That's not to say a tasting note can't be informative and entertaining. I just don't see it happening that often.

Alder wrote:
02.23.06 at 9:10 AM


Yeah, I think Patrick was being somewhat more admiring than critical, but it gave me the opportunity for a little rant.

Brad wrote:
02.23.06 at 11:38 AM

I could not agree more. A wine like Clape’s is a classic story, and what you did was retell that story in a way that was, to use Comisky’s words, “completely absorbing.” What the wine world needs is fewer tasting notes and scores and more storytelling.

Sarah wrote:
02.23.06 at 4:12 PM

Not to be too blunt, but... It's your blog, you like it, we read it, we like it, and if we don't, or we don't have time to read 902-word tasting notes and so on, then we don't.

End of story. I'm not sure where the fun appeared in critiquing the way others critique (how meta! how bloggable!), but it seems to be rather common these days. :/

St.Vini wrote:
02.23.06 at 5:37 PM

I thought it was a compliment in the sense that you've elevated a tasting note to something that might actually cause someone to remember something about the wine.

The L.A. Times yesterday and a letter to the editor of the SF Chron today (and a funny one too!). Tomorrow the WSJ?


Alder wrote:
02.23.06 at 5:42 PM


If only I could get into the WSJ. Then I'd be big time !!

For those who are curious, here's my letter to the Chronicle today.

Anonymous wrote:
02.25.06 at 6:21 PM

BTW, Clape benefits the same as others there from the tradition of planting Apricot trees. The resulting cross-pollination gives tiny hints of that in both red and whites.

Patrick is formally of the Bay Area. Nice to see him showing the love back.

Eddie Lin wrote:
02.28.06 at 11:31 AM

Hey Alder,

Are you trying to pick a fight with the author? May I suggest a cheese sandwich with grape juice day? Just a joke.

Alder wrote:
02.28.06 at 2:52 PM

Nah Eddie,

Patrick wasn't trying to slight me, but he did seem to miss the point of what I'm trying to do, so I used it as an opportunity to rant. I'm leaving it at that, however. It's not going to get anywhere near cheese sandwich in proportion.

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