Marcy Gordon is a world-renowned wine critic, and her “Wine Lover’s Guide to the World” books are probably the most popular wine books on the market. Even though she’s got a graduate degree in English literature, most people who read her books have little idea of what she does for a living. If you’re interested in wine, you may want to ask her the following questions:
Marcy Gordon of the New York Times is a wine expert who has written many books on wine and wine culture. Her latest article “How to Choose the Right Wine for Your Next Picnic” was published in the “The New York Times” on June 4th, 2014. The article starts with an early history of the picnic, and then goes on to discuss the many wines that are appropriate for picnics.
“Turning the Tables – Interviewing the Interviewers” is a Q&A series profiling Wine Writers. We hope you’ll discover more about the wine writers you know, and learn about many others. The objective of this project is to understand and develop working relationships with journalists. They are after all, those that help tell our stories, review our wines and potentially provide media coverage. You can do this by learning their wine and writing backgrounds, story and personal interests, palate preferences, writing challenges and pet peeves. This is part of an ongoing series that will be featured monthly by Wine Industry Network.
MARCY GORDON is a wine and travel writer who works freelance. Her writing has featured in the San Francisco Chronicle, Sonoma Magazine, The California Travel Guide, and Forbes Travel Guide, among others. She received a scholarship from the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers in 2017. Marcy is the co-host and producer of the Wine Road Podcast, which won the Taste Award for Best Food/Drink Podcast in 2018 and 2020. She founded and directs Writing Between the Vines, a literary arts organization that offers one-week writing retreats on wine estates to authors. She worked in consumer technology and was the marketing team lead for the launch of Travelocity and OpenTable before becoming a freelance writer.
Visit www.marcygordon.com and www.writingbetweenthevines.org to learn more about her.
How did you get into wine and writing about it?
While living in Italy and working for an Italian guidebook publisher, I got interested in wine. I saw vineyards when I moved to Sonoma Wine Country, and I recognized a chance to improve my wine expertise and integrate wine and wine tourism into my travel writing.
What are your main narrative focuses?
I like unusual tales with surprising perspectives on people, wines, labels, and vineyards.
What are your main palate inclinations?
Are you a staff or freelance columnist? What are the benefits of each? I’ve written articles in the past, but I’m now a freelance writer. The benefits of writing a column include being paid on time, while a freelancer spends most of their time chasing down unpaid bills.
Is it still feasible to earn a career as a wine critic in today’s world? If that’s the case, how did you do it? Why not, if not? What are the most significant obstacles and difficulties you face?
Only a few handful are able to earn a livelihood as full-time wine writers. Many print publications have closed or gone online-only, and compensation has decreased significantly. Many articles are covered in–house, and freelancers aren’t paid well. I strive to keep my projects varied and don’t depend exclusively on conventional print media for story placement. Many pay rates are dependent on the amount of traffic and click-through you produce, so you must be a promoter as well as a writer. It’s a full-time job, and it’s impossible to calculate a profit given the amount of time and effort required to make it work. To make a career writing about wine, you’ll need additional sources of income or a supportive spouse or partner.
What do you think others would be shocked to learn about you?
Before the age of fourteen, I traveled to almost 24 countries. (I accompanied my mum on several of her travels since she was a travel writer.)
What haven’t you accomplished that you’d want to?
Hike the Levanda trails on Maderia’s island.
What would you be doing if you weren’t writing about wine for a living?
I’d want to work as a scriptwriter or as a psychotherapist.
The Writing Methodology
Can you explain how you approach wine writing and/or doing wine reviews?
I believe it is critical that wine tales and reviews both educate and amuse – facts alone are tedious. In my tasting notes, I attempt to include pop culture references or allusions to music or literature. I believe that one must create a mental image of what a wine would elicit and then utilize images to communicate that emotion to the reader.
Do you have an editorial calendar and/or do you create story ideas as they arise?
Do you use social media to promote your articles? What is the significance of this?
Yes, I use social media to provide links to the podcast and my writings. Despite the evils of social media and how time-consuming it may be, if you aren’t on it, you are effectively invisible.
Do you think of yourself as a leader? In your view, what is the difference nowadays between a writer and an influencer?
Unfortunately, the word Influencer has taken on the same bad meaning as Blogger. Influencer has evolved to imply someone who is very young, has little experience, yet has a large following. Influencers, on the other hand, are an essential component of the purchase decision tree. If an influencer is someone who persuades someone else to purchase a product, then yes, I am an influencer. I don’t have a large number of followers, but I do have a dedicated following that trusts my judgment. In terms of the distinctions between the two–Writer and Influencer–I’d say an Influencer can get away with using a lot less words–a picture, a #hashtag, and they’re done. Beyond a picture, a writer delves deeper into a narrative and adds more depth and thought.
What advice would you provide to vineyards while dealing with journalists?
Give us all of the required spec papers or data, then explain us about the winery and the wines in your own words, rather than regurgitating statistics and spec sheets. Allow enough time for us to take photographs and bottle shots before to the tasting. The label is often in poor condition after the tasting.
If possible, I prefer to visit the vineyards, but I don’t mind skipping the tank and barrel rooms unless there’s anything special about them. Also, when we taste, please offer spit cups. I’m always amazed at how few businesses have a dump pail unless you ask for one.
What are the benefits of dealing with winery publicists directly?
The keys to the kingdom are publicists. A competent publicist can assist you in obtaining precisely what you need in a timely manner, as well as offer insights that you may have overlooked. While vineyard employees are frequently buried by the day-to-day responsibilities of operating their company, publicists have the capacity to help you. A good publicist is worth their weight in gold.
Which wine writers or reviewers would you like to be on a competition panel with?
Sarita Cheaves, Leslie Frelow, Tanisha Townsend, and Glynis Hill are the ladies of the Swirl Suite Podcast.
Which wine personality (alive or deceased) would you most want to meet and taste with?
I’d like to sample a variety of wines chosen by Josh Deconlongon (@Sommeligay), as well as some of his favorite Filipino foods. Alternatively, I’d want to go back in time and have a few glasses with Barbe-Nocole Clicquot, Champagne’s Grande Dame.
Time to Relax
How do you spend your days off if you have them?
Hiking along the Sonoma Coast or in the Redwoods to learn more about the region where I reside.
What’s the most memorable wine or wine-tasting experience you’ve ever had?
In Croatia, Bibich wine and food pairings are popular. At their vineyard in Skradin, Alen Bibich, a world-class winemaker, and his wife Vesna, a world-class cook, provide an exceptional food and wine pairing. I’ve had the good fortune to see it twice. Every year, the menu varies. It was just the day before Anthony Bourdain came that I saw him for the first time. Bourdain went on to brag about it on his TV program, but I had already written about it! Hah! The second time was after a long and stressful travel day that began with a 4 a.m. ferry trip from Hvar Island to Split, followed by a lengthy diversion to a vehicle repair shop where the car had to be emptied of all gasoline after normal gas was accidentally poured into the diesel car. I felt like it was all a dream by the time we arrived at Bibich. The taste, on the other hand, was really sublime.
What is your favorite wine-producing location on the planet?
Of course, I have to mention Sonoma County, which is really exceptional. But the wine areas of Croatia have a particular place in my heart, and I’m also a big admirer of the Okanagan wine region in British Columbia.
Do you have a favorite match of wine and food? What is your favorite recipe or pairing?
Oysters with Melon de Bourgogne and Kettle Chips with Champagne
More tales in the “Turning the Tables – Interviewing the Interviewers” series may be found here.
Carl Giavanti, Carl Giavanti Consulting, provides expert editorial assistance.
CARL GIAVANTI is a winery publicist with a background in direct-to-consumer marketing. He is in his 12th year as a winemaking consultant. Carl has over 25 years of experience in company marketing and public relations, first in technology, digital marketing, and project management, and now as a vineyard media relations consultant. Napa Valley, Willamette Valley, Walla Walla, Columbia Valley, and the Columbia Gorge are all places where clients are or have been. (www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.com/Media)
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