Called Out On Strikes

Friends are people who tell you the truth. And yesterday I got served a face-full of friendship. It turns out, my truth-telling pal insisted, I have been a big, fat phony since I started writing this blog. The big, fat part, I thought was fair. But phony? Wow, talk about knowing how to hurt a guy. She reminded me that in my first post, my manifesto, I claimed that the object of The Grape Belt was to stamp out pretentiousness and snobbery and any other sort of highfalutin nonsense that got in the way of more people drinking more wine. I thought that was a pretty good goal to have if one is going to write about wine.

Turns out I’ve done a shit-poor job of living up to that aim. Turns out I have been a less-than-critical observer of my own work. After years of telling students to read closely, to look at what the author is doing and why, I completely ignored my own advice. Okay, so I’ve bought a few decent bottles of wine in a few fancy restaurants. Yes, I bought myself a wine cellar , which now holds a few hundred bottles that are worth more than I’ll probably make in the next six or seven months. And, I conceded, I have written way too much about things that a Mr. Everyman shouldn’t care about. Too much stuff in my posts is way too exclusive, I was told. And exclusive is something I tend not to like. My friend wanted to know if I had the guts to turn this thing around. (Cripes, enough with the fat jokes).  Was I going to keep hop-hop-hopping down the Snobby Trail, maybe start shopping for ascots and collecting antique corkscrews, and getting all palsy-walsy with folks who pronounce foreign words a bit too precisely? Or, should I actually do what I set out to do, which is make wine more interesting and more accessible to a growing number of people?

After about 30 years, er, minutes of my friend’s “support,” which my wife gleefully contributed to, I’d had enough, and I responded with one of my favorite, if not slightly worn, two-word phrases. I knew that this remark was going to hurt me more than it hurt her – she has pretty thick skin, unlike me who is just thick everywhere – and so I mustered up the resolve to say, with just a bit of exasperation in my voice, “You’re right.”

What else could I say? We were still in the middle of a pretty nice dinner so “fuck you” would have been completely inappropriate, and off-putting to my wife and daughter. Plus, she was right. My blog posts were too preachy, filled with too many things most folks couldn’t give a rat’s ass about. Like a poorly prepared politician I’d gotten off message after about two minutes on the campaign trail. So, it’s time for resolutions, time to get The Grape Belt back where it belongs. In coming weeks, look for fewer ascots and more bargains, less self-congratulation and more suggestions on making wine part of your every waking minute. Too much? Okay, how about starting by making wine a fixture on your dinner table? We shouldn’t think of wine as something only stuck-up assholes enjoy. You’re not a stuck-up asshole, are you? I’m not. Well, at least not any more.


13 thoughts on “Called Out On Strikes

  1. Linda Medrano

    Since I have just met you, I want to assure everyone that while you are big, you are not fat, and there was nothing phony about your charm and personality. Plus, this blog is a delight!

  2. Tom Riley

    Alana, thanks much! Great tips from an experienced hand. I will try to follow these smart guidelines as I continue. As all writers now, nothing happens if the butt isn’t in the chair. My goal for the next several months is to write with increasing frequency, and to suffer a bit less ‘paralysis by analysis’ with the passage of time. Will definitely have more tomorrow. The idea list is starting to get a bit unwieldy. Need to kill a few of them off. Thanks so much for chiming in.

  3. Alana Gentry

    Hi Tom, I just found an email from you so I came here to check out your site and saw this post. Ouch! 🙂 Okay, #1 it’s hard being a blogger and if you stick with it, you’re way ahead of the game; #2 your voice/direction will sort itself out, you’re just doing it in public 🙂 #3 my motto is “I’m all about my readers” so even if my intellectual brain is pumping questions, I don’t try to answer them on my blog, I just keep plugging away trying to entertain and educate with a light and friendly touch and #4 if your blog readership is growing, it’s probably not as bad as you think. Now put down that glass of wine and get blogging!

  4. Gabriel Holland

    Ha is it weird that reading these (along with your great ability to teach) makes me proud to have been your pupil? Keep up the good work.


    1. Tom Riley

      The benefit is all to me, Mr. Holland. Trust me, I got the better of the deal. Thanks for reading. Spread the word to the other SJND folks when you can. Hope you are well.

  5. gnevs

    Tom, you know I don’t typically disagree with Mary due to her aforementioned record of correctness but I must pop in to say I have enjoyed every post. When I read them, I could literally hear your voice in my head and it made me laugh. I particularly enjoyed your comments about zinfandel in your previous post (that’s red, I want white zinfandel). Looking forward to future posts whatever direction they take and very much looking forward to on-site learning adventure in July.


    1. Tom Riley

      Gail, you are too kind. But that’s sort of like saying the sky is blue. I am very much looking forward to the on-site in July. So much for us all to learn, so little time!

  6. Mike G

    Holy Thurston Howell III, Batman!

    As much as I’ve enjoyed your highbrow rants, I have to admit your friend was right. (We both know your wife is almost always right). A bit more pandering to Everyman is definitely in order, and in fact could be highly educational to those of use who struggle to understand wine coming from outside of California. Sure, there’s the occasional Malbec or Syrah (the Argentinian and Australian equivalents of Merlot), but for the most part I’m a straight up Zin / Cab kind of guy. Enlighten me, in small words if you please.

    But remain true to your core. If you understand and appreciate wine the way you do, being called a stuck-up asshole is kind of a compliment.

    1. Tom Riley

      Mary’s record of correctness is only sullied by her ongoing relationship with me, otherwise she’s always right. I’m with you on the Malbec, mostly (a few tips on that coming your way). I will endeavor, through vigorous cheerleading, to open your eyes to all the great grapes who are just waiting to meet you. Thanks for the support. I look forward to some seminar and tutorial time in July! I’m already picking out bottles for that Friday. Can’t wait.

  7. Noreen

    Oh, this made me laugh, too! I can see the point about the wine cellar, but to some extent, it established your authority. On the other hand, including Goofy Grape kept you tied to the common man. And, maybe, we all secretly aspire to have the knowledge to go toe-to-toe with the wine snobs, even if we will never turn our bomb shelters into wine cellars.

    1. Tom Riley

      Great feedback, Noreen and Caryl, thanks! Yes, Goofy Grape is very Middle America. Quoting Alexander Pope is not. I need to pay attention! Thanks for reading. I promise more, more often.

  8. caryl

    i am a relative new comer to The Grape Belt so i can’t comment on the right or wrongness of these critiques…but the post did give me a great morning chuckle!! so i anxiously will await to see where the road goes next! (and i don’t think “making wine a part of your every waking minute” is too much!!! something to aspire too..)
    caryl- a friend of Noreen

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