Category:Podcasts

Winecast 54: Melanie Ofenloch and wine’s #MeToo moment

Melanie Ofenloch
Melanie Ofenloch: Yes, wine has a good old boys network.

“It’s something that is so pervasive and such a part of the fabric of how men feel they can take things. It’s just not right.”

Melanie’s post about the podcast and the sommelier sex scandal

Melanie Ofenloch writes the Dallas Wine Chick blog, and is well regarded for her work. But that’s not her day job — she is a long-time top-level marketer, and she has traveled the world for a variety of multi-national companies. As such, she lends a unique perspective to wine’s #MeToo moment.

And, not surprisingly, says Melanie, the Court of Master Sommelier sex scandal is no different than anything she has seen in the business world. The surprise is that so many people accepted it as part of the culture. But the stories that have come out, she says, don’t even scratch the surface.

So why were people in wine so complacent? Why did it take so long for this to come out? Why did it happen in wine, which prides itself on being different? And what can be done to fix it?

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 13 minutes long and takes up almost 9 megabytes. Quality is mostly excellent.

Winecast 53: Doug Caskey and Drink Local during the pandemic

doug caskey
Doug Caskey and his spiffy Colorado wine Zoom background.

“The situation isn’t good, but it’s difficult to make a monolithic assessment. The situation depends on where you are, and it can be all across the board.”

Colorado’s Doug Caskey has been one of the leaders in the local wine movement for almost as long as there has been one. He has been the executive director of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board since 2000, and has served in a variety of roles with the Wine America trade group. As such, he is well-placed to discuss how the pandemic is clobbering regional wine.

Perhaps the biggest problem, Doug said, is that state laws classify wineries as bars. This means they suffer from the same restrictions as places people go to pick up girls and boys and to get drunk. Which, of course, is hardly the case with a winery tasting room. In addition, local wineries depend on events like weddings and concerts to stay in business, which are also limited by pandemic bar restrictions.

Among the topics we discussed:

• The recent spike in coronavirus cases doesn’t bode well for Drink Local, since wineries that have been able to re-open their tasting rooms may not be able to keep them open.

• The pandemic hasn’t been a boon for Drink Local at retail, despite all the glowing sales numbers. Consumers seem to be buying the best known brands instead of trying lesser known regional labels.

• The Trump wine tariff, advertised as a help to Drink Local, has actually been a tremendous hindrance. It has wreaked havoc on the wine supply chain, making it more difficult for local wines to get on store shelves.

Yurts, as a solution to outdoor winter dining. Yes, yurts.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 13 minutes long and takes up almost 9 megabytes. Quality is mostly excellent. And yes, I was able to post Doug’s Zoom background.

Winecast 52: Jessica Dupuy, The Wines of Southwest USA

Jessica Dupuy
Jessica Dupuy

Her new book, “The Wines of Southwest USA,” is a candid look at wine in Texas, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico

Jessica Dupuy, through her work with media outlets like Texas Monthly, has been fighting the good fight for Drink Local for more than a decade. Her latest effort: “The Wines of Southwest USA” ($40, Infinite Ideas). It’s a candid assessment of regional wine in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. We’ll give a copy of the book away during the blog’s 13th annual Birthday Week, beginning Nov. 16.

Overall, she says, wine quality is much improved — but that is still much room for improvement. “We’re still not at the point where people see local wine the same way they see local spinach from the farm down the road, or peaches or whatever. So in that respect, we still have a lot of work to do.”

Among the topics we discussed:

• Arizona may offer the highest upside among the states in the book, thanks to a core of impressive young producers.

• Colorado remains one of the most fascinating states in the country, since so much of its grapes are grown at altitude.

• The pandemic has hit regional wine hard, and there remains doubt about how well it survive when things return to normal.

• And finishing a book during a pandemic, with home schooling, is not the easiest thing in the world.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 16 minutes long and takes up about 11 megabytes. Quality is mostly excellent.

Winecast 51: Ray Isle, Food & Wine magazine and wine during the pandemic

ray isle
Ray Isle: “Producers are doing anything they can to keep prices from going up.”

“It’s a complicated time for sure, and especially complicated for small producers. … It’s not a time I’d want to be starting a winery.”

Ray Isle, the executive wine editor of Food & Wine, has a unique perspective on wine during the pandemic. He not only writes about wine for one of the country’s leading food magazines, but he brings a practical sense to the job that many of his colleagues don’t bother with. Or, as he said during our chat: “I got into wine as a poor graduate student, and my budget for wine was about $14.99 a month, and I’ve never abandoned that. You have to write about the affordable stuff. That’s what people like to drink.”

We talked about that, and Ray offered a variety of value wine suggestions, including the Sokol Blosser Evolution No.9 white blend (in a 1.5 liter box, no less, which I also liked); a South African red and white; and an $11 Chianti. We also touched on:

• Wine prices and availability during the pandemic — both seem to be better for domestic wines than for imports because of the tariff.

• The future of the tariff; he, too, is cautiously optimistic about getting rid of the 25 percent levy regardless of what happens in November.

• The state of restaurant wine, and why we should be worried about the future of the U.S. restaurant business because trouble there means trouble for or wine.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 18 minutes long and takes up about 12 megabytes. Quality is very good to excellent.

Winecast 50: Churro, the blog’s associate editor, and why Millennials and wine don’t get along

Millennials and wine
“I know I need the computer bag, but why are you making me wear the damn hat?”

“We can pay off our student loans or we can buy wine. What do you think we’re going to do?”

One reason I hired Churro as the blog’s new associate editor was his perspective – he isn’t a Baby Boomer, and brings a younger, more fresh approach to the blog. Which is the topic of this podcast: Why Millennials aren’t as interested in wine as their parents and grandparents. Our conversation included:

• Wine prices, and that wine is too expensive for many younger consumers.

• How to make wine easier by using wine apps like Vivino.

• Wine’s competition from craft beer and cocktails. As Churro noted, “they’re doing some amazing things with craft beer these days.” And, by omission, not so amazing things with wine.

• That it’s OK to sniff and swirl and spit, as long as you don’t make a production out of it.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 12 minutes long and takes up about 4 megabytes. Quality is very good to excellent.

And for the doubters in the audience: I’ve interviewed a dog before — Wishbone, the 1990s PBS TV star. In addition, dog whisperer Amanda Smith lent her much appreciated support.

Winecast 49: Janie Brooks of Brooks Family Winery and enduring the pandemic

Janie Brooks
Janie Brooks: “We have to be creative, and we have to go outside the usual winery audience.”

Janie Brooks’ forecast is blunt: Small family wineries aren’t doing well and their plight could get even worse

Janie Brooks doesn’t mince words: The pandemic could force a lot of family producers out of the wine business, and anyone who expects things to get better any time soon is going to be disappointed. She paints a picture of lost sales, consumers trading down, producers skipping vintages because they can’t sell what they’ve already made, and way too many grapes in the supply chain.

In other words, Brooks told me, everyone who isn’t a big producer — which is about 90 percent of the 10,000 wineries in the U.S. — is in big trouble.

“If you’re not at sensible price points, and that’s $25 or less, your wine just isn’t moving,” she says.

Brooks perspective is clear, sharp, and national. Not only does she run her family’s self-named, 20,000 case winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, but she is the board chair for Wine America, a winery trade group that includes producers across the U.S.

We talked about how consumers can help family wineries, as well the wine business’ need to do something other than market to the same old aging Baby Boomers. This is a subject Brooks is smart and passionate about. Her vision includes cross-marketing, something the wine business has mostly ignored for 20 years. In cross marketing, producers reach potential customers by sharing information with companies that make similar products; in this case, beverages like coffee and sustainable and green products.

Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 13 minutes long and takes up almost 9 megabytes. Quality is very good to excellent; in fact, would that my interviewing skills were up to the subject.

Winecast 48: 1 Wine Dude Joe Roberts and the Wine Taster’s Guide

joe roberts
Joe Roberts, 1 Wine Dude

1 Wine Dude Joe Roberts and his new book, the “Wine Tasters Guide”

Joe Roberts of 1 Wine Dude was of the first wine bloggers, and remains among the best-known and most successful. And why not? As he told me last week when we recorded the podcast, “If a wine doesn’t give you pleasure, what’s the point of drinking it, regardless of what I think about the wine?”

Hence his new book — and his first, the “Wine Taster’s Guide: Drink and Learn with 30 Wine Tastings ($14.99, Rockridge Press).” There is also a companion tasting journal ($10.99).

Joe’s goal? To make wine fun again by tasting it, and without the foolishness that passes for so much wine writing today. Joe is passionate about the failings of post-modern wine writing, and especially that we spend too much money on wine we may not like because we are too intimidated by the process.

We talked about how the book works, why Joe wrote it (given that he didn’t think the world needed another wine book), and how many times one checks the Amazon best-sellers page to see one’s book’s ranking. Click here to download or stream the podcast, which is about 15 minutes long and takes up 5 megabytes. Quality is good to very good (save for a few seconds at the beginning).