It’s that time again – when we reflect back on a year that’s almost over. What was so special about the 2019 vintage? For me, there were several things that made 2019 memorable . . .
Retweet by Eric Asimov
I peaked early this year – January 22nd to be exact – when I was retweeted by New York Times wine writer, Eric Asimov. His first monthly “wine school” column of 2019 focused on three big brand, readily available, supermarket wines. These wine selections of his caused quite the uproar on Twitter. While some wine enthusiasts applauded his efforts to understand what appeals to the masses – others accused him of promoting these wines.
This was Eric’s first “wine school” that I’d actively participated in and I wrote a post about the “assignment.”. The results weren’t all that surprising to me, but his retweet of my post WAS. This was my first real lesson in the power of social media – his single retweet led to a huge uptick in visits to my site (thank you Eric!) Unfortunately, this didn’t translate to an increase in subscribers . . . I guess his wine school crowd isn’t particularly interested in outlines on the 1855 Classification or WSET Diploma study tips.
And interestingly, at least to me anyway, this was not my most viewed blog post of 2019 . ..
Stepping Into the Instagram Influencer Fray
For the first few months of 2019, I sat on the sidelines watching a longtime Instagrammer (aka Amarone) vent with regularity about the rise of “wine influencers.” I understood his frustration, but disagreed with his methods – which consisted primarily of snarky memes and posts mocking these “influencers” (mostly attractive, younger women). However, when Amarone decided to take a shot at me (together with my dead yellow Lab), well . . . the result led to my most viewed blog post of 2019.
In fact, an entire hashtag movement was actually spawned because of Amarone and a few others (to be clear, not because of my post). #youcansipwithus is still going strong, but thankfully, the antagonists appear to have backed off a bit. I might revisit this issue sometime next year – to see what progress has been made (or not made).
Personally though, I made some progress in 2019 . . .
Finding My Groove on Instagram
In 2019, I found my Instagram niche. I finally determined who my target audience was: people wanting to learn more about wine – including both serious wine students and curious consumers. And also who my target audience was not: Jimmy Bigcellars with trophy bottles as well as the ChardonnYAY crowd.
Based on this, I decided to focus my content on wine studies and education – but I wanted to do this in a fun and engaging way. So I started creating Instagram wine quizzes. I’m a wine geek at heart (I mean, I prepare outlines on wine for shit’s sake!) and I genuinely enjoy producing this type of content. Not only do the quizzes help me retain information better, but I’ve also connected with wine students from all over the world (Mumbai, Cape Town, London) – and have met several in person! I really do get a tremendous amount of satisfaction hearing from other wine people that my quizzes or outlines have helped in some small part with their studies.
In addition to finding my own groove this year, I was also able to assist others with theirs as well . . .
Supporting Other Endeavors
I have a pact with myself to never agree to write about a product, class, person, wine, whatever that I don’t believe in. For me, this means turning down certain collaborations – even if they’re offering payment. However, there were a few opportunities that I jumped at the chance to participate in this year. Not surprisingly, they each had an element of wine education to them:
Cristie Norman launched a unique online wine course for beginners that is both highly educational and entertaining. Wine Masters released two seasons of their documentary series focusing on winemaking families of France and Italy. Snooth Media hosted a virtual wine tasting of Sweet Bordeaux wines. And I was thrilled to support each of these ventures – they were all genuinely educational and incredibly well-done.
Completing Half of the WSET Diploma
This past year I completed my third exam for the WSET Diploma – so I’m officially halfway done! I have the Fortified Exam in less than one month (eek!) and then it’s complete focus on the dreaded Unit 3 Exam for the next five months. And finally, the research paper which is due at the end of July. So if all goes well, I should have the Diploma completed by August.
I had hoped to have 4 of the 6 units completed by now, but due to a change in scheduling at my school this didn’t happen. The Tracy Flick in me was initially annoyed AF, but this WSET Diploma break actually turned out to be a good thing because it allowed me to pursue other things like:
Becoming an Italian Wine Scholar
I completed the Italian Wine Scholar course and passed with Highest Honors! As I mentioned in a prior blog post, this venture took me quite a bit longer than anticipated, but was well worth the time and effort. Not only do I have a much better grasp on Italy and its 20 different wine regions and umpteenthousand different grape varieties, but since I passed with such a high mark I also qualified to teach the course! Which I started to do in 2019 . . .
Teaching Wine Courses
I have two of wonderful mentors up in the Pacific Northwest who gave me some incredible teaching opportunities this past year: Mimi Martin and Tanya Morningstar Darling. I got my feet wet by leading sections of the Italian Wine Scholar course and WSET Level 2 – and have plans to wade in a bit further in 2020. I still believe wine education is the direction I’m heading with my future wine career, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be certification courses only – because consumer focused classes are just as enjoyable . . .
Presenting Wine and World Views Seminar
Last year, Hubs was in a major bind when he was hosting a wine event at a fancy schmancy SoCal restaurant for some clients when the sommelier at the restaurant resigned just a few days prior to the event. He asked me to fill-in at the last minute to speak about the wines being served and to lead the discussion with about 50 well traveled wine enthusiasts.
True confession: I’m not overly confident about my public speaking abilities – I get jittery and tend to talk too fast. (Ok – truer confession: I sweat when I’m nervous!!). Yes, I know this is ironic since I’m leaning towards wine education which requires speaking in front of others to some degree. However, for reasons I’m still not entirely sure of (maybe my daily meditation practice, or gaining more confidence in my knowledge) – I really did nail this presentation. And you know what else – I had a hell of a lot of fun doing it! Maybe that’s the key: have fun and don’t worry so much about getting every little fact correct. Give Tracy Flick the night off. 😉
I still have a ways to go before I get truly comfortable speaking in public – but thankfully, I’ve got a couple of very good examples to learn from . . .
Attending Master Classes with Masters
I’m fortunate to be taking my WSET Diploma classes from a Master Sommelier and auditing the French Wine Scholar course from a Master of Wine. While they’re both incredibly knowledgeable individuals, they also have very different ways of approaching wine studies. By learning from both of them, I feel like I’m getting the best blend of education and gaining a more thorough understanding of the wine world.
They each teach certification courses, but also focused tasting classes. And since I have yet to find a tasting group in SoCal (a goal for 2020 – send me a note if you’ve got a lead for me!!), I attended as many of these Master Classes as I possibly could last year – including Brunello, Bollinger, aged Rieslings, Northern Rhône and Vintage Port. I’m soaking up as much information as I can from these Masters – and some pretty damn good wine too. Speaking of damn good wine . . .
Traveling to Walla Walla
This last “top wine moment of 2019” hasn’t actually happened yet, and I normally avoid setting my expectations too high but I think in this instance I’m safe. Hubs and I are on our way to one of my favorite wine regions in the world – Walla Walla. We’ll be spending my birthday and New Years Eve and Day there, partaking in some wine tasting, and … looking at some property while we are there.
While I’m not sure exactly what Walla Walla has in store for us this visit, I know that at least some part of this adventure will be a highlight of the year. And, well, perhaps for many years to come!
Happy New Year to All!