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Tuesday Tributes
The Bashing of Steve Heimoff

By Charles Olken

There will be those who accuse me of jumping on a bandwagon after it has left the station, but, dear friends, read closely and you will see that I am actually jumping off the train while it is in full flight.

The other day, Steve Heimoff, he of the eponymously name blog called “Steve Heimoff” made some comments about politics and was roundly bashed for his views. Some folks simply reminded Mr. Heimoff that his expertise lies in wine, not in politics, while others pointed out that they came to his blog to read about wine, not about politics.

I can agree with those folks—and it is why this blog and Connoisseurs’ Guide do not engage, if we can help it, in such discussions. It is not that we lack for political views. If the truth be told, Connoisseurs’ Guide was founded by a couple of refugees from JFK’s New Frontiers and LBJ’S Great Society. If you are too young to have experienced those movements, they were catnip rallying points for liberals back in the 1960s, and we were part of them. You have rarely heard us speak of them or of our views about anything political. With all the sins we were committing on behalf of our favorite tipple, we were getting into enough trouble without also engaging in political debate.

It was hard, at times, to remain silent, but we did even when others in the industry felt that they were free to loose their views on us. Over the more than three decades of our existence, we have heard anti-Semitic, anti-Hispanic, anti-government rants that have set our teeth on edge. As citizens, we have objected, but not as winewriters.

All of which leads us back to Steve Heimoff. Let me make it clear that we are neither siding with Mr. Heimoff’s views nor disputing them—publicly, that is. In fact, the folks who toil here are somewhat divided on the subject between agreeing with those who have labeled the Heimoff views as arrogant and those who have defended them.

Rather, the point here is simply this. Even though we do not engage in political talk in these pages, we do feel moved to defend Mr. Heimoff’s right to say whatever it is he wants to say in his own blog. Political discourse in this country has become mean-spirited, and when Heimoff spouts off, he gets attacked not for his views but for spouting off. If Steve had asked me, I would have said, “Stick to wine, old buddy, it is our last. Political commentary is not”. But he did not ask in the first place, and he has every right to talk about what he finds to be right and wrong in the second.

The funny thing is that he actually was talking about wine, but he made an unfortunate comparison between closed minds in wine and closed minds in politics. And for that he got bashed. I am not fond of some of the language used, but just as I defend Heimoff’s right to call out those folks with whom he disagrees, so too do I defend their right to bash back.

I just hope that I remain able to avoid the subject here as I have enough trouble with folks who take issue with my views about wine.


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I Had Hoped....
by Samantha Dugan
Posted on:10/11/2011 9:11:00 AM

I read the post you are talking about here, twice in fact. When I first read it I couldn't believe what I was reading, on a couple fronts but then I remembered a post Steve had written awhile back where he was remarkably insulting to beer drinkers, got everyone all fired up and then said it was just a joke. I had rather hoped this latest was as well but reading the comments, looks like not so much.


I do agree with you though Charlie. He has the right to say whatever he wishes and I do support that, just as I do the people that got all up in his grill about some of his less than avory comments....


So the thing that got me, aside from the blanket and down-right snobby shit, was the message he was sending out, that wine makers are missing the boat by pandering to these "tasteless" people that like sweet stuff. How soon they forget. I rarely leave comments there anymore but I did leave one on that post and was one of the few that didn't attack him for the way he said what he did but for what he was saying. I said something along the lines of, "I totally agree. I mean what if a bunch of wine drinkers fell in love with wine after tasting like White Zinfandel or some mass produced semi-sweet Chardonnay? Oh wait...."

Look, there is always going to be a bunch of folks that will never love dry wines. You know, that group that slams down apple, chocolate and s'more martinis? Just the way it is and I think that the wine business is smart to promote Moscato to folks that like the sweet stuff because, as history has shown, some of them do in fact end up craving and drinking drier wines at some point.

Broad Range of Tastes
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:10/11/2011 9:52:25 AM

Spot on, Sam.

I disagree with much of what Steve had to say about the devolution of taste in this country. But if Steve feels that way, then fine. That is his opinion and we will have to disagree.

What truly bugged me was the personal nature of the bashing. I don't care how much he gets bashed for his opinions, but bash the opiniions, not the person.

Last week, I wrote a column about the "good" aspects of Prohibition. And someone added a comment, "Are you crazy?". I was all I could do not to go after that person for his intolerance. But, we do not need that in the wine space and so it did not happen.

One other point where Steve was wrong. I started my wine drinking with Guild Tavola Red. It was a soft, sweet red wine. Along the way, I made a stop at Lancers and Mateus. Those were stops of a college kid and a twenty-something. Not all of us who became Lancer's addicts graduated to Chardonnay and Chablis. But some of us did just as some of this group of twenty-somethings will. I do not see Steve's devloution of taste. I see a continuum of experience that keeps repeating itself.

I never did post those sentiments on his blog because, by the time I got there, the place and tone had turned ugly.

my 2 cents
by John Kelly
Posted on:10/11/2011 10:18:19 AM

Charlie, Sam - I agree that everybody should enjoy the wines they want to enjoy. I also insist that it is my right to bash them for their tastes, though Emily Post would suggest that I keep it to myself - or at least do it behind their backs. It might not be the most polite thing to do so in print, even on the interwebs.

Whatever. Steve's piece was nothing new. We bashed white Zin and wine cooler drinkers back in the day. Long after we are dead someone will be bashing them again.

We also harsh on people who only buy and sometimes drink Parker 92 point wines, don't we? Well, Ido anyway.

by TomHill
Posted on:10/11/2011 10:24:28 AM were right to stay out of it, Charlie. I bit my tongue and stayed away as well. I thought Steve was a bit dismissive of us drinkers from the "bible belt" (born & raised in Kansas), but I was gonna just let it go by.

   I'm finding I'm liking a lot of the sweet/fizzy reds. Probably drunk more Lambrusco (w/ artisinal salami) over the last 6 months than in the previous 30 yrs. I started right in w/ Lancers/Mateus and never did (sniff/sniff) stoop so low to drink GuildTavola. Must be a Bahston thing!! :-)



Did you say this was a Heimoff bashing party?
Posted on:10/11/2011 10:51:48 AM

He is an blowhard about his politcal views. Funny how the liberally-minded who preach tolerance and all-inclusiveness are intolerant of thoe who do not agree with them....

If Heimoff is an "expert" on something, it certainly is not in wine.

An "expert" would not shrug his shoulders at the idea of having a "California palate" and say there is nothing to be done about that. A real expert, would cultivate their knowledge and skills.

I do not see Heimoff doing that. Instead, he just says it cannot be done and does not try.....


Guild Tavola Red
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:10/11/2011 10:52:07 AM


I am often amused at the outcry about teen-aged drinking as if we did not drink when we were that age. Back in the day, when we were young and poor, our group would take our one portable radio (anybody here remember portable radios the size of a small dog?) and go over to the river and consume one bottle of beer apiece (all we could afford). I was not a beer drinker then but did share a bottle of Tavola Red with my buddy, John P, whose Italian immigrant parents always had wine on the table of which John was allowed to have a small share. So, he was a wine drinker and I found Tavola Red more palatable than cheap beer.

Sweet reds are the province of the young and the rap stars. Good on 'em. Can't wait for some of them to discover that there are dry wines they like and join us in the pursuit of fancier pleasures--as some surely will.

I cannot see for the life of me how the sweet red phenomenon is harmful to wine quality or to the palates of those that drink them.

S-hut U-p A-nd M-ake W-ine
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:10/11/2011 11:00:07 AM


Good advice, that. You might take it to heart. It is his blog, and while I don't do politics here, Steve is free to do whatever he wants.

And if you are going to criticize hsi love of his own palate, I need to hear you criticize the Euro-palates who can recommend two dozen wines and not one of them from the US. They surely are just as much in love with their own views of the world.

In fact, Arthur, while we can criticize those who exclude wines from one region without tasting them, Heimoff has never said that wines from other than CA are to be excluded a priori. In that he is far more open-minded than lots of wine commentators.

Posted on:10/11/2011 11:25:00 AM

Charlie what are you referring to by condescendin with the "good advice" comment?



Posted on:10/11/2011 11:32:20 AM

Incidentally, wine criticism is supposed to be a consumer service - and not a platfom for the individual's personal preferences in wine. that is what Heimoff and others appear to miss.

People getting into this line of work just see what others do, accept the status quo and don't bring any more meaninful methods to the process.

Nobody seems to start by developing a system of evaluation and rating that is new, unique or meanignful.

Getting a pannel of people who have not agreed on a method and criteria or rating is not a way to do that either.

That's consensus. And consensus is another word for compromised, mediocre results.

by Charlie Olken
Posted on:10/11/2011 11:46:16 AM

I guess I find your public bashing of Steve, including questioning his credentials, to be incredibly ironic given your SUAMW handle.

Posted on:10/11/2011 11:48:52 AM

Missing Post
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:10/11/2011 12:56:37 PM

Arthur, the reason your comment above is blanc is that it consisted of code of some sort and did not come through.

The blog does not like cut and paste additions and we are looking into ways of correcting that but have not yet solved the problem.\

Please be encouraged to post again, but please do not post code or cut and pasted comments.



I d make wine, so.....
Posted on:10/11/2011 12:58:01 PM

it was a work count issue

I d make wine, so.....
Posted on:10/11/2011 12:58:24 PM

"word" - need a new keyboard

I do make wine, so.....
Posted on:10/11/2011 1:05:11 PM

As to my, Moniker, check the "About" section on my blog....
Credentials mean some sort of formally recognized and verified accomplishment/achievement.
Steve has a master’s (I think in sociology) and his thesis was about the impact of computers on writing/publication (if I recall correctly). Then he drank a lot of wine and took notes. That, alone, does not make one an expert nor does it constitute credentials. You can make love to a lot of women and still be a lousy lover...
Make no mistake: I am sure he worked for his degree. It’s just not a formal course of study in wine and the sciences related to production and consumption.
That is the point of "Shut Up and Make Wine: Kit wines are available for under $200 and it does no cost that much to start a small garage “winery”. It is through making wine and studying how the process affects the finished product that one learns more than the process of putting stuff in one’s mouth and saying how much they like it (or asinine things like the wine represents a vintage’s heat, when the wine is from a cool site, cool vintage but from a producer apt to make hotter wines?
No prominent wine writer/critic can present all the work they have done to develop a novel, sound, meaningful wine evaluation system. They just say it cannot be done. If you don’t try….

I do make wine, so.....
Posted on:10/11/2011 1:11:44 PM


There was a time when people thought the earth was flat and the sun revolved around it. Our understanding of the universe has grown tremendously since and continues to evolve - largely because people asked questions of the status quo and sought to know the real absolutes of the universe and not those posited by those who did not bother to ask and look.

That status quo in the wine world is demonstrated in preferences for one style and not another substituted for a meaningful way of rating.

My point, all along, has been that wine evaluation should take the taster's preferences out of the equation. The evaluator should take a wine and assess it for what IT is, describe it. To be able to do that, one has to no only taste a lo o wine, but actually study, learn and train. After that, they can make a judgment and a recommendation about it - who will like it and who won't, whether is should be opened now or if it has potential to improve in some way over time and if it will go with a particular type of food.

And to the last I say (and I never thought I'd be doing it): see Tim Hanni's post about the WSET adopting his system of food-wine pairing. It is actually fairly well-thought out and based on real properties of wine and the human senses and the chemical and physical interactions between the two. It is a far better and meaningful and useful approach than the resigned "drink what you like with your food" or the lame assertion that "all great wine goes with food" - both completely useless recommendations that 1) presume that the reader has no intellectual or gastronomic curiosity 2) has not capacity or aptitude to develop their senses and preferences and 3) essentially cater to some patronizing lowest common denominator.

To me, that seems both intlellectually lazy and disingenuous. I have little tolerance for bot.

I do make wine, so.....
Posted on:10/11/2011 1:12:00 PM


by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:10/11/2011 1:57:15 PM

I find enlightening the comments that wine critics make about matters that may be inside wine but are not exactly inside the process of critiquing wine.


Because how they see the world tells me about the process they use to critique wine. If a critic starts from the basis that a certain segment of the readers may be too damned uncouth to ever be serious about wine, well then, I believe I already know what the critic will be saying about certain wines--notwithstanding the wine's individual merits.

This is why, Charlie, I have trouble with most aesthetic tells me nothing little concerning the item being critiqued, but it says volumes about the critic.

In your case, I applaud the blind tasting, buying the product, and consensus method--it offers a much better shot at presenting an evaluation rather than a critique. The fact that you don't piss on or condescend to your readers is a plus and it's something I find regularly coming out of the mouths (or fingers) of certain critics.


by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:10/11/2011 1:58:47 PM

but (not and) it's something I find regularly coming out of the mouths (or fingers) of certain critics.

by Charlie Olken
Posted on:10/11/2011 2:18:18 PM

Arthur. Thanks for slowing down and talking to us all. We may or may not agree with you, but conversation is best when one presents an idea and explains it. And equivalently, when one critiques an idea and explains the critiique. Bashing the person with whom you disagree does nothing but throw kerosene on the fire, and if there is no fire, then it is also the match.

I disagree with you, as you know, about the need for "credentials" for wine writers. And, more significantly, I disagree wholeheartedly that the absence of some as yet undefined credential can be translated into the absence of expertise on the part of virtually all winewriters everywhere. That is just silly.

Thomas, thank you for the kind words. It has always been our goal to understand what we are tasting and to use those understandings to create descriptions that are accurate and are delivered in everyday language.

We deliberately do not engage in causality but rather in description. Although we certainly have a fair number of winery types reading CGCW, the biggest block of our readers are consumers and frankly, they do not want to know which yeast, what fermentation temperature, how much acid added or not, whether any alcohol-lowering technique was employed, etc, etc.

In the end, it is about the wine, not about the technique.

the Steve
by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:10/11/2011 2:33:25 PM

Charlie, I went to the blog post that you referenced, after i posted my comment here. Funny how my comment still stands.

I stopped reading Steve's blog a long time ago for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is his inability to understand that there indeed is a world outside his personal experiences. But for some reason, twice in the past week i was turned onto a couple of his posts that almost begged me to comment--and so I did, with a pang of guilt for breaking my vow to stay away.

Trouble is, no matter how many negative reactions a self-absorbed person attracts, the self-absorption demands that the person view the attacks as coming either from other self-absorbed people or from idiots; therefore, comments need not be taken seriously.

In my comment on this particular issue, I was hung up on his use of the phrase "bad wine." As I posted over there, that phrase is not subjective--it is technical. To me, use of the phrase to express that you dislike a particular wine, without backing up the accusation with facts aboutthat spell out why the wine is bad shows how little the person not only understands wine but understands his responsibility as an evaluator of the wine.

Bad Wine
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:10/11/2011 2:46:44 PM

Thomas, maybe it is my failing eyesight, but I cannot find the phrase "bad wine" anywhere in the Heimoff column. What he does say however is that young people have bad palates. On that point, he is way off base. I have said as much here and also over on his blog.

But, I do think he defines the type of wine about which he is speaking in terms of bland, sweet and insipid. Now, those are not technical terms, but I do know (perhaps from having been a Guild Tavola Red drinker in my misspent youth--how in the world did we ever get to college if we were so bad as to "drink"?) what he is talking about.

by John Kelly
Posted on:10/11/2011 3:01:34 PM

Thomas - I agree with you about the "bad" wine comment. If one does not care for it because it is sweet and cheap, it is not bad . If it is sweet, cheap, flabby, flat, and has V.A. and other off aromas as though it were produced in a dry cleaning factory, it is probably bad.

Arthur - I find your comments about expertise and credentialing incredibly offensive. Are you suggesting that because I did not take a degree in enology or viticulture, indeed did not crack a book on the subjects that I found useful (other than "Knowing & Making Wine" - and found that august tome somewhat lacking) - that I am not an authority on grape growing, wine making and wine evaluation? Gee I guess all the people who have PAID for my expertise over the last three decades were totally duped!

Dude, I will be explicit where Charlie dances around the edges: on this subject you need to just shut up and make wine. You may not like or agree with any particular wine critic's style or palate, but you are simply not qualified to call them out for lack of credentials until you can demonstrate a similar level of experience. Who is paying you to write wine evaluations?

Bad Wine
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:10/11/2011 3:33:00 PM

Oops, found the offending phrase right there in the first sentence.

Now understand that we are talking semantics here.

Bad wine to Heimoff is insipid, dull, plonk with very little redeeming value. Okay. It's like pornography. I don't know how to define it but I know it when I see it.

Sure, in this biz, we should probably be more careful with words. Maybe Heimoff should have written dull, heavy, cooked, cheap and mawkishly sweet plonk instead of bad.

But, please also remember that he is writing commentarly, not a wine description. I am much more perturbed by his generalization that young people have bad palates and by his dismissal of the group of young sweet red wine drinkers as a group.

easy now, friend
Posted on:10/11/2011 4:20:03 PM

The difference between you and the pointifcators (and I know this from reading their writing and having discussions about the biochem and microbio underpinnings of wine with you) is that you understand those concepts. You may have your conclusions, but you have a better foundation than someone who just likes wine and pretends to understand it.
That you choose to interpret facts one way, does not change reality - no matter how loud you shout or how hard you try to squelch those that point that out.
I will take the opportunity to point out that this is what you are doing. And that is far more insulting than that of what you accuse me. Not once when I disagreed with you, did I tell you to shut up, go away, etc.
My experience and observation has been that when people resort to this kind of discourse, It’s because what the other person is saying is inconvenient, threatening or incomprehensible to them.
A wine critic should serve the consumer and in so doing challenge and question assertions of wine makers and growers. If they shut up - as you would have me do - they become your mouthpiece. If you wish to put me on salary, we can have a discussion about that.
Until then, the only people who need to shut up and make wine are those who have never made it and regurgitate banal absurdities about wine growing, making AND evaluation.
Please do not call me "Dude".

easy now, friend
Posted on:10/11/2011 4:22:50 PM

Also, John, from our discussions, I know that you definitely DID "crack a book on the subjects [relevan to wine]"

While we're at it,,,
Posted on:10/11/2011 4:29:24 PM

I do think it's relevant to poin to two 800-pound gorrilas in the room:

1. Critics's are reluctant to take a stand about absolutes of quality or the process of evaluation asl weel as the abiliy assess wine because: a) they are ignorant (to one extent o another) about those topics, b) are reluctant to offend readers (and lose subscriptions - revenue) and c) if they take too strong of a stand, they will piss off producers and that stream of free samples will dry up and all the cellar doors will slam shut (see: "Parker, Rober & Bugundy" or "Launbe, James, TCA, Napa").

2. Produers are reluctant to: a) tell consumers hey don' know wha they are talking abou because they will loose customers and b) take a side wih critics because that will cost them points.

No Subject
Posted on:10/11/2011 4:40:57 PM

(damn my keyboard)

Sorry, but I have to:
Posted on:10/11/2011 4:42:51 PM


"At SLWC, John’s responsibilities grew to encompass viticultural research – which allowed him to put his training as a scientist to use"

Sorry, but I have to:
Posted on:10/11/2011 4:45:57 PM


"Then in 1992 he left Stag’s Leap for a short but instructive stint at Duckhorn Vineyards before moving on into a deeply rewarding research position at Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, Sonoma County’s famous Chardonnay producer in the Russian River Valley. "

John. I know that you are really smart and intelligent. I wonder, however, if you may have allowed the distinction between "as yet unknow" and "absolutely unknowable" become blurred.

The former keeps us thinking, looking and growing. The later leads to stagnation and mediocracy.


by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:10/11/2011 5:07:14 PM

Charlie, the last time I checked, Steve was a wine critic. If he is going to use words to express the evaluation of a wine, they ought to be the right words. Irt is not semantice: "bad" means something is technically wrong; "I don't like what I find to be insipid" does not mean bad.

Even the words "dull or heavy" are meaningless--"cooked," however, can mean bad (if it isn't Madeira). The problem with words is that when you use them, like cooked, you ought to be able to defend your impression with some facts, you know, like, how did the wine get that way.

Opinions are a cheap and useless commodity--to me--whne they are issued without basis.

Bad Semantics
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:10/11/2011 6:19:19 PM

Among the meanings of bad in my Merriam Webster Collegiate is "objectiionableness and inferiority". Bad has no specific wine meaning other than problematic.

I do appreciate that we are now dancing on the head of a pin, but there is a different point that is more important to me.

A wine critic has zero obligation to explain causality. That is the work of wine scientists, not reviewers. Our job is to craft descriptions that (a) have clear meaning as to character and our level of enthusiasm and (b) will be confirmed by most tasters when they pull the cork.

by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:10/11/2011 7:04:22 PM


I know that a wine critic hasn't the obligation to explain causality--that's exactly why I have no faith in the activityand if we keep this up we will be spinning on the ehad of a pin, but forget that, just explore your last sentence:

"Our job is to craft descriptions that (a) have clear meaning as to character and our level of enthusiasasm: bad?

and (b) will be confirmed by most tasters when they pull the cork." well, that handles all the people who like bad wine.



No Subject
Posted on:10/11/2011 7:13:16 PM

Charlie, whether "a wine critic has zero obligation to explain causality" may be debatable. But, that they need to understand it as a foundation to the judgment and recommendations they make is not.

If they do not, they are not a informed, or reliable, source of information and evalutaion. 

Furthermore, in such a scenario, they only pass on what a winery's PR person or winemaker choose to tell them. That is not to color all PR professionals an winemakers as liars, but it cannot be denied that those people have an interest in the critic not perceiving their product as flawed or inferior.

As I said in an earlier commnet. a critic who regurgitates statements issued by the producer without checking, verifying o questioning them is just a mouthpiece and not an independent voice and judge.


Spinning On the Pinhead
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:10/11/2011 11:02:56 PM


One does not need to know where ascescence comes from to be able to recognize it. One does not need to know how a barrel is made to recognize the influence of oak.

So, what does a taster need to know? Please give me a list of half a dozen items so that we can discuss why you think I need to understand them. We will agree or not, but let's make this conversation specific.

No Subject
by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:10/12/2011 7:36:48 AM

Now we are the pin.

I don't want to go down the rathole of technicality ever again--with anybody, and that isn not at all what I started out talking about.

My point is that if someone is going to tell me that a wine is bad, I want to know why that someone says so. If that person can only tell me that it's bad because he doesn't like it, then I write the information off as meaningless. If there's something bad about a wine, the person calling it out ought to be able to identify it, and if thta somethign bad turns out to be that the wine is too sweet ot lacking in acidity for the critic's taste, I want the critic to then explain why or how that makes the wine bad.

The word "insipoid" is nicel descriptive; the problem with it, however, is thta it perception relies to a great extent on subjective preference. Therefore, the word is not enough for me to believe in the proclamation.

Maybe Arthur has, but noweher in my discussion have I ever said that a critic needs to break down the review into technical parts. But I do want critics to be precise at the very least in their language.

You may think semantics, Charlie, but a critic who consistently makes unsubstantiated subjective remarks cannot be truest to "know" the subject well enough.

No Subject
by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:10/12/2011 7:38:01 AM

make that "insipid"...typing too fast does that to me.

No Subject
by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:10/12/2011 7:39:31 AM

oh my, I shoudl re-write that comment, but I'm in a hurry--"truest" should have been "trusted" gottta go to work now.

Technical Semantics
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:10/12/2011 8:23:35 AM

Mr. P.

Because we are friends and will remain that way, I have to ask--

What is it about a comment of "lacking in acidity" that needs further explanation? If I find a wine "mawkishly sweet", I think most readers know what I mean. Is there further explanation needed? If so, what?

We may be in agreement, but I am fascinated by the possibility that you are suggesting some additional words that will make the meaning of my words even clearer. That is always the goal, and I do mean that sincerely.

clarity of clarity!
by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:10/12/2011 9:28:14 AM


First, the discussion wasn't about how you go about identifying wine--it's about a specific blog entry that a critic made in which he identified a generic mass of wine as "bad."

I have no problem with the fact that he dislikes the wines, so do I, but if the wine is produced as it was intended, then what makes it bad?

Shortcut word usage can be like Freudian slips: the word could indicate how someone views the world (or the plebian). At the same time, and I am not directing this at you, use of such proclamations relieves the critic from the responsibility of learning what it is that makes wine good or bad separate from one's personal saliva stream.






Posted on:10/12/2011 9:40:25 AM


I had invited you to e part of a group to discuss just that.

You signed in to the website I set up, looked around. Shrugged your shoulders and left without making one contribution or askin one question.

Even from your comment above, it seems you just want to disagree for the principle of it.


Political comments
by Tom Natan
Posted on:10/12/2011 9:48:18 AM

It's a hazard for people who don't regularly write about politics to express political opinions -- like it or not, it colors your readers' perceptions of your work.  I find that I no longer read fiction authors who openly support political candidates of a certain party, for example, and can't bring myself to listen to recordings I own of a particular opera singer who was found to have some over-enthusiastic nazi leanings after her death.

I got myself in trouble once by suggesting in a blog post after Prop 8 passed in California that people outside of CA who were against Prop 8 should boycott CA wines.  I got a storm of comments asking how dare I write about such a controversial issue, what about agreeing to disagree, not everyone feels the way I do so I should shut up, etc.  Hits went down by 25%.  I could say that anyone who disagreed with me that virulently was someone I didn't want as a customer, but I can't afford to lose any customers.  Lesson learned.

Arguments in Support of a Contrary are Often Contradictory...
by Richard
Posted on:10/12/2011 10:13:37 AM

Mr. Olken,  I applaud your intent in commenting on Mr. Heimoff's comments. I read Mr. Heimoff's comments, several times, and while I disagree with the specific comments on the Bible Belt and dumbing down - and the implication that one segment of the country is dumber than another - with the wider implication that those in NY or San Francisco have better palates than those in the Bible Belt, I defend Mr. Heimoff's right to say it.

  Having said that, often when we disagree with someone, that disagreement confirms their point of view!  The firestorm Mr. Heimoff created and the personal attacks on him seem to bear this out.  If I don't like something he says, I disagree in a logical, rational manner - I attack the message, not the messenger.  But, so often, it seems, in today's world, the messenger is attacked.  Is this because people have dumbed down and have nothing logical to say?  Is this the "I will shout louder than you and call you names and I win!" mentality. 

   I'm only saying that while I disagree with the way he said it and the specifics on singling out a specific area, the "dumbing down" part may be right - and not just on wine. 

dumbing down
by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:10/12/2011 11:21:52 AM


I happen to think that America in general--and maybe the complete Western cutlures--have been and continue to dumb down. That still doesn't take on the part that interests me, which is not political: when a critic uses the phrase "bad wine" indiscriminately, as a wine writer and wine iundustry insider, I react--maybe too indiscriminately, but hey, tit for tat and all that!

by Charlie Olken
Posted on:10/12/2011 11:37:40 AM

I have not spoken to Steve about the reactions to his piece. In general, he does not mind voicing his socio-political views from time to time.

The virulence of the reactions, however, do make me wonder if he has second thoughts about the political part, the overgeneralization part, the "bad palate" or the "bad wine" parts.

Words are trickly little buggers. We know what we think they mean, but they can have different meanings to others. Mr. P., for example, has just agreed with Steve in a general sense in that they both have dislike for gloppy, soft, sweet, cater to the lowest common denominator wines. So do I, and probably so do most of the people who read this blog, the Heimoff blog et al.

Whether those wines are "bad" or just taste "bad" (see the Webster definition that applies), it is incumbent on wine writers to be clear in their meanings. That so many have found fault with the words yet agree in a general sense re the type of wine in question suggests that the wording may be at fault more than the logic.

However, I have found the conversation here to be both spirited and informative even if my friend Arthur and I will always have trouble finding common ground.

Bad semantics
by Greg P.
Posted on:10/12/2011 11:40:02 AM

Hmmm... Not sure why comment was chopped...

Agree with pertty much much every point Arthur made, but can only point out that what he listed as point

No Subject
by Richard
Posted on:10/12/2011 12:01:21 PM

Mr. Pellechia, Good point!  As a sometimes dabbler in wine and almost winemaker, "bad wine" is something we should all object to - and I understand your point/critique completely - as Mr. Olken points out, a "bad" wine is one that is somehow tainted from a production perspective, i.e., cork taint or a wine that was made with some issue.  It is not a wine that "tastes bad."  And I have tasted wine that I, personally, think, is insipid and horrible - but someone else loves it.  So, thanks for clarifying your objection. 

by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:10/12/2011 12:53:36 PM

So Charlie, Richard and I agree on the word usage problem.

Based on the tone of the post and of past posts, I don't happen to think that "bad wine" was carelessness--I believe that he said what he meant, and that bothers me.

(And yes, Greg, there are parts of Arthur's concerns that I agree with, too, but I didn't find that argument germane to Steve's post and so I tried to shy away from it, not to mention that I am rather tired of arguing those points over all these years. As you and Arthur already know, I prefer that standards for wine criticism be established so that everyone is working from the same playbook, but it doesn't appear to be something that critics want, and that wine producers are demanding. As I've also said, after analyzing the situation, I find that CGCW's methods may be the closest to fair evaluation that exists in the American wine criticism world.)

by James McCann
Posted on:10/12/2011 5:49:55 PM


Thank you for hosting this discussion.  My only disagreement with you would be that while I certainly would never want to stop Steve from posting whatever he wants on his own blog, regular readers of his blog, Facebok postings, etc... understand that what passes for politics in Steve's world consists of:

1. Painting 100 million Americans with a very broad brush.

2. Personally attacking individuals as "nutjobs", "a##holes", and so on...

I don't believe calling his writing "sophomoric" and "offensive" (my opinion) was even in the ballpark of what Steve dishes out on a regular basis.

Sweet Wines
by David Vergari
Posted on:10/17/2011 12:24:19 PM


Sorry to be a trifle late to this particular thread--damned harvest keeps taking up one's time!

I continue to be amazed at the number of folks who wish to drink sweet wines.  I say, God bless 'em...and one more thing: it's not just rappers who dig the stuff.

There's room for everyone at the table.  Pull the damned cork, unscrew the cap and just enjoy a glass of whatever you like. 

Sometimes, the wine experts and pain-in-the-ass-know-it-alls (who really don't know it all) just get in the way.

The more I learn, the less I really know.

Pace e amore.  'vid.


No Subject
by randy
Posted on:10/17/2011 12:56:18 PM

wow, that was a fun read...   I guess my work has been done for me here.  Corporate Wine Reviewers and their gatekeeper NYC handlers can all go down in the proverbial sinking ship of corporate (wine) peddling...  I had him nailed 5 years ago... just like the pending mass human movement...

Corporations must not have the power they currently possess.  In wine world terms, "DOWN with the NYC corportists!"   ;)  see you all on the streets.


What was the original post?
by Blake Gray
Posted on:10/18/2011 12:08:04 PM

Charlie: I'm probably inclined to agree with you, but I want to see Steve's original post. Can you provide a link or at least a headline?

Whenever I write anything about politics on my own blog, I get right-wingers saying, "Stay out of politics." I'm not exaggerating by saying that's what's wrong with this country. Smart people don't talk about politics enough, leaving the conversation to talk radio and Fox News. So I don't know what Steve wrote, but in general I believe all of us should talk about politics more, not less.


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