The Taste of Gratitude, Thirteen Years On

Warning. Self reflection ahead. Skip if all you want to read are wine reviews.

It’s been a long hard year, but not in the sense that my life approached anything close to suffering. By hard I mean I’m contemplating so-called first-world problems. My struggle this year has been one of balance. As some of you know, I spend most of my hours during the day running a design agency in San Francisco. I’ve been lucky enough to have that business thrive in the past couple of years, and that has been as good for my family’s future as it has been bad for the time available to write about wine.

I’m always careful to describe my feelings about this situation as dissatisfaction rather than complaint. Complaining about not having enough time to write about wine is like complaining that I don’t have enough time to knit. It calls for the world’s smallest violin performance by everyone within earshot.

On the other hand, we all get to define what is important to us and (if we’re lucky enough to live more than a life of subsistence) to strive to reach our own goals and dreams. Mine have been tantalizingly distant for the last dozen or so months, as I fight to run my company with the level of quality and dedication that my personal standards and the marketplace both demand.

Despite this invisible struggle of mine that alternates between seeming trivial and being existentially frustrating, writing still energizes me and I continue to be incredibly grateful for the pleasures and perks of this craft. Case in point? I’m writing this self-indulgent little bit of introspection as the cotton ball clouds fan out below me across the landscape of New Zealand, as I make my way towards Christchurch for a week of tasting the southern hemisphere’s finest Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and Rieslings.

I work hard to never take for granted the incredible luxuries afforded to me by this hobby-turned-minor-career. No one deserves the kind of adventures I get to go on with regularity, and I continually remind myself that even being halfway decent at working this keyboard in front of me doesn’t really earn me the right to being entitled.

I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to enjoy this view of New Zealand’s southern island emerging from the turquoise reefs surrounding the Queen Charlotte Sound while Bono croons into my headphones the song he wrote about what he calls “ordinary addictions.”

I’m wide awake
no, I’m not sleeping

This past week I passed the thirteenth anniversary of beginning this incredible journey I’ve been on, and don’t want that date to pass without offering again my thanks, both to the circumstances that have allowed me to practice this avocation, and to you, my readers, who have supported and encouraged it. To be sure, I would do it without you, but you have made the experience much sweeter and rewarding for all your support, kindness and friendship. More than any of the other myriad pleasures afforded by my entry into the world of wine writing, meeting so many amazing people and befriending more than a few has certainly been the greatest gift of my writing adventures.

Many things have changed in the past thirteen years. The engagement and dynamism of the community that used to comment on blogs has shifted to Facebook and Twitter, and while the former is still going strong, we may be seeing the decline of the latter, to be replaced by who knows what. Yet wine blogs continue to proliferate as more amateurs and professionals move into the medium that no longer can be considered some backwater of wine writing. Every day more wine reviews are posted for free reading online by amateurs and professionals than any one of the top publications publishes all year.

While I’ll admit to a certain amount of nostalgia for the days when I could count the number of existing wine blogs on two hands, their authors regular correspondents and mutual commenters, I couldn’t be more pleased with the way that the whole game has turned out. For all that we’ve lost in the way of regular commenters, we’ve gained in some measure of legitimacy and influence. Oh yes, there are those who love nothing more than to mock any wine blogger who suggests that an individual or the whole lot of us might matter in the world of wine, but anyone who doesn’t acknowledge at the very least the aggregate power of the crowd needs a remedial course in sociology.

Being (even a tiny) part of a sea change in the way that America (and the world) talks about and engages with wine has been nothing short of delightful. I don’t spend as much time thinking about it as I should, except in moments like this. But whenever I do, if you’ll forgive a little enthusiasm, I find it breathtaking.

There’s still a lot of change coming, especially as those who have held sway in the world of wine reach and exceed the age of retirement. New voices will arise to take their place, or not. New media will arise to feed the habits and predilections of the digital natives beginning their love affairs with wine.

That’s why I can’t wait to see what the next decade looks like. And I’ll keep up this little habit of mine for the same reason I started it — it makes me very happy. And here’s to the things that make us happy, wine among them.

Thanks for reading, for your support, and for loving wine.

What does gratitude taste like? How appropriate. Signing out as Adele sings…the sweetest devotion I’ve known.