Friday, May 31, 2013

A Swan Song

Someone once told me that many wine bloggers keep in their line-up of posts a "swan song" just waiting for the publish button to be hit. Well, I just hit mine.     

It's time. It's time to take a sabbatical at least through the summer, or maybe longer. I am tired and perhaps you're tired of reading this blog. 

Through the Walla Walla Grape Vine has been a big part of my life since 2005 and I may still be one of the longest running wine blogs in Washington State. Originally it was just intended to be a personal diary of my thoughts and tastings about the local wine industry. Long story short, who knew anyone was reading what I had to say? 

It's been one hell of a wonderful ride. The people I have met, the experiences I have had, I could have never imagined any of it the day I published my very first blog. And it indeed changed my life.
Nine years later I am still blogging, but need a rest and a new project or two.  For the moment I do not know what to say anymore about wine or the wine industry that hasn't already been said, or as I ponder it all - - why should I say anything about a wine? You don't need points and scores. The true lover of wine should be their own judge. They should open their minds, become adventurous, expand their palate, taste and explore wines for themselves.  

Last year the archenemy to wine bloggers, the HoseMaster of Wine wrote a few thoughts that really stuck with me. Typically Ron is relentless with satire regarding the wine industry and especially wine bloggers. I have even been his target a few times. But this time, in his blog of "The Golden Age of Wine," there were some comments that really resonated.
What amazes me is how wonderful and entertaining and fascinating wine itself is, whereas wine writing is, with few exceptions, dreary, pedantic, insipid and repetitive. Perhaps that’s because so much of it revolves around descriptions of aromas and flavors we, as humans, are poorly equipped to perceive, much less express. Wine outmatches us. I can summarize an awful lot of people in a few concise phrases. Describing Chave Hermitage, however, seems beyond my capability. And everyone else's. - Ron Washam, HoseMaster of Wine
Later in a comment to me, he said:
But what I intend is to talk about wines that move me. And even after all these years and all those wines, there are wines that can still move me. - Ron Washam, HoseMaster of Wine
This is how I have been feeling, lately. Wine outmatches us. I am feeling outmatched. 

Like anything we love, there have been high and low moments when it came to my experiences as a wine blogger. I can honestly say, the moments have been mostly "high."  

A high moment when a winemaker would bring me a bottle of their wine to sample. For me it meant they valued what I had to say about something they put every bit of their blood, sweat and tears into. It was more than a high moment, but an honor.

A moment is high when Walla Walla tourists reach out to tell me they are fans and read my blog. I am always humbled, and often surprised, when someone reaches out to say they are reading my words. The first time a tourist searched me out, I became speechless and tearful. Verklempt is the word.

A high moment came when Thomas Matthews, Executive Editor and James Molesworth, Senior Editor, both of the Wine Spectator; confronted me online, separately, about something they read on my blog that they did not agree with and chastised me. Believe it or not, truly a high moment. 

A high moment for me, but certainly not a pretty one, when I held my breath, stamped my feet and threw a hissy fit to get the organizers of Wine Bloggers Conference to not hold the 2010 conference in California or even Seattle, Washington but to listen to me and to trust me and to hold the conference in Walla Walla. So far, it has been the most attended wine bloggers conference. 

The highest moment came for me last summer when it was announced that I was up for a wine blog nomination for Best Wine Writing along with nominees such as Alder Yarrow of  Vinography, one of the internet's most highly rated wine blog and Randall Grahm, author, eccentric wine visionary, founder and winemaker of Bonny Doon Vineyard. 

I didn't need to win the ultimate award.  Just the fact of being nominated beside such well known and respected people was enough for me. Unlike Newt Romney, I had no acceptance speech prepared, because I knew there would be no need for it. Ultimately when the winner was announced, I was relieved I didn't have to go up to the stage and speak to a crowd of over 300 people. Just being at the conference, hearing the claps and supportive shout-outs from the audience when my name was called out, and seeing my name on the screen during the awards presentation clutched my breath. That was enough for me.  

Later that evening of the awards, in the hotel elevator there were three young women who were not with the conference, but looked at my name tag and screamed. They "knew" me and read my blog. As we got to their floor and as the door slowly closed, I heard one of them scream, "Oh my gosh, we met the Wild Walla Walla Wine Woman!"  That moment was better than any award.

My memorable low moments? (Que the Saturday Night Live Debbie Downer sad background audio, "Wah-Wahhh,") "She has a little blog. She writes a little blog." Yet, I never heard the same spoken about any of the male fellow bloggers. I never heard anybody talk about their "little" blogs. I often wondered if I should be seeking a pat on my little head, as well. 

Another low moment came when I was dismissed of my wine writing duties and was told I was being replaced with someone "younger, hip, and more knowledgeable about wine." Even I was anxious to read this prodigy's writing, until I discovered her only "published" article was a short-term blog about college dorm life. Why wasn't I just told they were cutting budgets and the kid was willing to work for free? 

These low moments are when it hits you and you question yourself and become critical of your work and  - - like the song, "The ol' gray mare ain't what she use to be." It's moments like these when I remembered one of my favorite movies, "All About Eve" starring Bette Davis. So, you don't understand the parallel of the movie and this blog? Look it up, youngster.

Last summer at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Portland, Oregon, I spent a lot of time by myself looking for answers and listening to the professionals of print and publishing. Unlike past wine blogger's conferences, I didn't do much socializing. I wanted to soak up information. I also looked at the young and enthusiastic faces who were ready to make a name for themselves in the wine blogging/writing world. I sat quietly and listened to them. Many informed me they were the ones who were going to make ka-billions in the wine writing world - - and I must have been at the conference visiting my wine blogging young-adult child, right?

I didn't have the heart to tell them they wouldn't become a mega-star or make their millions on wine blogging, but I wished them well. You don't go into wine writing, and especially wine blogging, to make tons of money or to fill your wine cellar for free. You do it out of love - - passion. You do it because you are eager to share your information with others. Those who share their love and the passion for their craft are the ones who will succeed.

So, what am I going to do since I will no longer be blogging and how long will I be gone?  At least through the summer I am going to give the blog a rest. Possibly even until the end of the year - - or longer.

In the mean time, one of my new projects, I have been inspired to research and write the next "great American novel." I just signed a contract with The History Press to be a part of their new book series, "American Palate." Please watch for the release hopefully in September 2014.

I have another vehicle to keep my mind and keyboard alive, whether anybody reads it or not.  Chronicles of Catie"Rants, Raves, Reminiscing, and a few Recipes ..." However, there won't be much wine speak and postings are rather sporadic. When I am not on the keyboard, I want to take advantage of my newest project, a 1967 vintage Fireball camp trailer and sell some cool shit (home decor and fashion accessories) out of it and even do some glamping. I also want to walk along the rivers and find rocks - agates, jasper, fossils - - and more rocks. 

If anything, I would like to think that in some small way this blog contributed to getting the word out about Walla Walla wines and it contributed to the wineries of Walla Walla learning about wine bloggers, as well. In the mean time, I will be in search of that wine that outmatches us. Perhaps someday I will be back to tell you all about it. 

As Margot Channing said in the movie, All About Eve, "Slow curtain, the end."


Anonymous said...

Catie - Thank you for many years of great writing.

I've been reading your work for a long time now. I consider it part of the fabric of the Walla Walla Valley, and Washington wine generally.

Your candor, your insights, your flair with the written word: all will be sorely missed.

- Paul

Anonymous said...

what a beautiful, thoughtful, graceful swan song! have fun in your next literary adventures!

Sean P. Sullivan said...

Catie, I read this post with great sadness but with full knowledge of how draining blogging can be. I have always admired and enjoyed your writing. The wine blogging world - especially here in Washington - truly won't be the same without you in it. It is my sincere hope that this post will not be your last. But, if it is, thank you for the many (many) years of perspiration, inspiration, and information.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful Swan Song .... Best of luck Catie!

Anonymous said...

Catie, I'm so sad to see you taking a hiatus; I just started following your blog, and I've found so much to learn from it. I'll have to content myself with working my way through your archives. Thanks for all your Walla Walla wisdom!


wild walla walla wine woman said...

Paul, Gwendolyn, Kim, Sean, and Emily - Thank you all for the kind words and taking the time to leave a comment. Best wishes to all of you in your wine writing/blogging projects.I appreciate every one of you.

Calvinhobbes said...

Catie... how sad. I just start reading wine blogs and one of the best out there stops writing. What can I say except, Thank you. I hope (and some how believe) you will return. I'll buy the first copy of your book (and someday hope to write mine). Best of luck, Allen Shoup

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