Tasting notes, varietals, grapes - anything related to wine
I thought readers here might be interested in my extensive summary of the address by Robert M. Parker, Jr., at the Professional Wine Writers Symposium last week at Meadowood. In it, among other things, he responds to my question about the thinking that went into closing eBob down to non-subscribers in 2010, and whether he has had any regrets: http://www.rjonwine.com/wine-critic/robert-parker/
Richard thanks for this piece. One of the most balanced pieces on RMP I can recall reading on this Board.
Thanks - Richard.
Nice read. Thanks Richard!
Just when I start to like him a little based on his comments, he follows it up with an incredibly arrogant statement. He doesn't even realize it, I'm sure.
Looks like he is wearing a Navy SEAL pin. Facinating insight into his psychology.
Do as I say not as I do.
Thanks Richard. I appreciate the information. A couple of thoughts:
1. He really throws Squires under the bus. Wow. As a side note, is Squires still the guy in charge at eBob?
2. Surprised (but maybe not) at his physical condition. I guess all that travel and living of the good life takes a toll.
3. Asking him for what he sees as future opportunities for wine writers is a great question, but the fact that he doesn't give an answer that is satisfactory isn't that surprising. So much has happened from a technology standpoint since Parker started his career that it doesn't surprise me that he isn't as up to speed on what's next out there. I would suspect this is one of the many reasons that he cashed out. As an aside, my Grandfather started an apparel manufacturing company from scratch. It took a lot of guts and even more hard work to make it a successful company. But it took his sons (with new and innovative ideas) to take the company to the next level and into the next generation of manufacturing and sales practices. Parker came along at a fortuitous time and put in the hard work and guts to become successful. Now he is handing the proverbial wine writing reins to the next generation of writers and it's their job to figure out where the opportunities lie.
4. It takes a really special personality to ignore or shrug off criticism for a long period. Now I tend to agree with much of the criticism that was aimed at Parker, but the sheer volume has to get to a guy and to me, it's no surprise that Parker didn't handle it perfectly. Most people don't. Discussion forums can be great places to learn and build relationships, but they can also be tough on both the participants and those whose business or product we are discussing.
Immaturity-my life, not my wine.
I thought the Squires comment showed more sympathy towards Squires than "throwing him under the bus."
White Lake, MI
Terrific coverage Richard - thank you -
I grew up with the Wine Advocate, and remember how exciting it was to receive that baby in the mail every other month back in the 80s - You got to know Parker's palate pretty fast after an issue or two (he was trashing Burgundy to my chagrin back in the early 80s as well - I wanted to literally attack him after his '85 and '88 Burgundy reviews) but no one seemed to mind because it was just so exciting to be exposed to all the little French and Italian importers Parker was introducing us too -
And it's always been Parker's "telling it like it is" attitude that was the draw much more than the line of thinking that he was that "knowledgable" about wine -
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"What if I fall?" "Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?"
I'm certainly open to other interpretations.
Actually, Mike, I missed the second half of the Squires comments when I replied to you. On second read, I am in agreement with you.
White Lake, MI
He was awarded that by the Navy Seals foundation the previous day for his efforts in raising significant funds to support their efforts.
RJ very nice article.
Having been on Parker's/Squires board back then, I never heard his take on the partition.
I was a bit shocked at Parker's appearance. I remember him as robust as in the 2003 photo.
I may have to re-think my wine intake ... although it was never at his level.
Park City, Utah
Great article, Richard....and pretty even-handed treatment, I thought, of him.
A couple of points:
1. The NYTimes columnist was TerryRobards, not Harry. Don't know if that was yours or his mistake.
2. I don't believe that that was correct that PenfoldsGrange was not imported into the US in '78. I seem to recall
seeing it up in Boulder in the mid-'70's...but I could be wrong.
3. As Mike says, he certainly did throw Squires under the bus. Deservedly so, perhaps.
4. I won't comment on his appearance because it always peeved me when these reporters would attend a
CondyRice press briefing and would preface their article about what dress she was wearing.
5. In his response to Jon's pointed question (good for you, Jon) he says: "it's a mistake to have a formula to pick grapes at a lower brix".
The same can be said of higher brix as well. Formulas for winemaking are always a mistake. I don't think any of these winemakers
who prefer lower alcohol wines doing anything by "formula", least not the ones I know.
6. In "this argument w/ AdamTolmach": "...people making those wines should trash those that are big and alcoholic". I guess I can't recall
anything that Adam has ever said that I could characterize as "trashing" those wines. Quite an overstatement. Applies to a lot of those winemakers.
Most of them state outright the style of wines they wish to makel; but that does not constitute "trashing" the wines that don't fit that mold.
7. It seems that you did pick up an underlying thread of arrogance that often comes thru in Parker's screeds and that he seemed to go out
of his way to downplay.
Thanks for sharing that with us, Richard.
Agreed with your comments re his Burgundy reviews.
After his comments re 1993 red review ( with his translations at the back of that Issue ), I did not renew my subscription.
Shocked for his appearance and sad.......
For me, nothing more important that your health after age 65.
“The mistake that was probably made was that I should have policed Mark a little better. I believe in ‘killing them with kindness.’” Parker indicated that, by contrast, Mark, an attorney, metaphorically “took a sledgehammer,” beat people down, and then “poured sulphuric acid over them. That doesn’t engender a lot of friends.”
“I do believe flavor intensity is critical, and I look at what the wine is going to be. You need some power, some richness, some intensity. Otherwise, the wine will fall apart because there’s nothing there. And I am looking for wines that will be better in five to ten years than they are today. Some of the thin, feminine, elegant wines being praised today will fall apart. You can’t expect soft, shallow wine to get any better. You need some intensity.”
This displays such a fundamental misunderstanding of wines like Burgundy and Rioja that it boggles the mind.
É prohibido prohibir!
For me, reading Parkers comments and screeds is a waste of time, as usual…
For ages, people create idols, worship them and then destroy them. The last phase of such a spectacle is painful for everyone involved, particularly, of course, for the idol himself.
Rudi - The Bordeauxphile -
I wish I could like and respect Parker more, but he makes that impossible. I have rarely met an individual more in love with his own persona. His gratuitous insults and his exclusionary world view make it extremely hard to give the man his due.
I don't have to speak; she defends me
A drunkard's dream if I ever did see one
Thank you Richard!
If I hadn't read the comments I would have had an overall very positive impression of Parker's comments. I think he just doesn't choose his words carefully, at all. As for the wine criticism industry withering, I took it to mean that he was able to monetize it into a career, and that will be very difficult in the future for anyone (I think there is room for another glossy wine magazine though, half of each issue for newbies and half for more experienced people).
I especially liked this comment:
Parker told us, “I was extremely lucky. I wish you all the success I’ve had. And the climb to the top is what makes it all worthwhile. Once you get there, there’s nothing there.”
I think he's saying throughout the talk that the circumstances under which he was able to create a career may never be duplicated; I think he would concede that if he came on the scene today (admittedly partly created by him,) he would not rise to where he is. I think his comments are all prefaced by his admission that a LOT of luck was involved.
I appreciate someone who does not couch his comments to please other people. His message is, say what you really think about a wine in wine criticism rather than evaluating it based on whether it fits your favorite model.
Of course there are many bases for criticizing Parker, but I am commenting on Richard's piece in a vacuum.
As for Parker's appearance, after you have back surgery you can't stand up at a sink for a while to shave. Other than things that can be explained by the surgery, he looks pretty good for a 66 year old to me.
Again there are many bases for criticizing Parker. But this talk by itself makes me like the guy more. And my (mistaken?) impression is that the people on this board that criticize him the most tend to be Burgophiles, and Parker has zero influence on Burgundy presently, so doesn't that make him irrelevant to those people rather than harmful?
And ya gotta admire his risktaking and drive.
Last edited by George Chadwick on February 24th 2014, 11:03am, edited 1 time in total.
Richard, we have had our differences in the past, but thank you for this.
Last night, I saw Alejandro Escovedo play with REM's Peter Buck in a very small venue. Alejandro did not look well and being seated in third row, his appearance saddened me.
I have a lot more fondness for Alejandro than RMP, but just the same, I find his appearance shocking and saddening.
To my way of thinking, his appearance is relevant-it gives context to his statements about Mr. Squires. In other words, the fact that he is ambulating with two canes and not taking the time to groom himself lends credence that his comments about Squires are coming from a man that is beaten down at the moment. It doesn't make his comments any more or less trustworthy, but it helps explain why he is saying this about Squires.
And my last comment is this; how ironic that he uses Adam Tolmach as an example of "wines without flavor intensity". Ironic because Adam had the guts, without any outside pressure to do so, to confess that he had made mistakes along the way (real or otherwise) and had decided to change his winemaking philosophy and yet he is being criticized by Mr. RMP who we have seen again and again disavow his mistakes.
Mitch, I don't think he calls Adam's new approach a "mistake". He just doesn't like that kind of wine.
Pretty much with you on this one, Mitch. Not sure I (or Adam) would characterize them as "mistakes" as much as just rethinking his winemaking philosophy
and making wines he more likes to drink. I thought it kinda ironic that Parker invokes Adam as well.
SummerNationals in Columbus in July, but looks like I'm not gonna make it. My last qualifying tournament coincides w/ RhoneRangers.
Give my best to your Dad.
I agree Thomas that Parker was once important. For me his coverage of the rhone was especially enlightening and influential. Without question, his impact on wine is/was enormous. I have no issue with his palate preference or his method and style of review. I just don't like the guy. 3 words: pompous, arrogant and hypocrisy. Simply amazing how he places the blame on others with so little self-relfection. The more he speaks out the further I distance myself and find him obsolete.
A really well written piece Richard. Thanks.
By the way I was treated back in the day, I think RMP and I have far different definitions of 'kindness'.
Apparently I'm lazy, have a narrow agenda, and offer little in the way of content and substance (RMP) (and have a "penchant for gossip" -KBI)
Kudos to him for this effort then.
He needs to do his 4-country "world" tour, then immediately retire, check himself into rehab and try to save his own life. He is killing himself before our very eyes with food, wine and stress that he deliberately brings upon himself. What he did to Squires and Miller is irresponsible and worse. (And now that I find myself actually sympathizing with Squires, I suddenly feel very dirty and must take a long shower!). At least he finally came clean on who owns the Wine Advocate...
Your typing skills show no reason for malignment, Richard----I am very appreciative to you to have the chance to read that piece. Well done, and thanks.
Yep. What this really shows is a total lack of self awareness. Parker was one of the most caustic and insulting voices on his own board, if you failed to agree with him in any way.
Huge +1 to all of this.
He doesn't look so bad.
Sort of going for a later Howard Hughes thing, only with better finger nails.
Hope he isn't aging his urine in jars.
Not to stand up for the guy, but he did just have major back surgery that has put him up for close to a year.
Jason, back itb
I am very surprised that this quote hasn't attracted more attention...
"I want to leave some kind of legacy in Asia. I started going there in 1998. In China, although the government is a dictatorship, there is robust capitalism. The people there are great students and fast learners. They’re too respectful to challenge you on anything, but they’re learning. They’ve read all the books."
Colorado Wine Press
Would love to hear this story. Heard references to it from time to time, but never heard from the horse's mouth what happened. All ended well, though, when you look to the community built here. I cannot overstate how happy I am here rather than over there.
Lolo Soldevilla, Paris, 1951
Bronze sculpture, 26x16
+1! Funny, but I thought the exact same thing when I read Todd's comments.
Many of us have our Squires/Parker devolution stories/moments, but I've never heard about Todd's other than some vague criticism by Squires that led to this board's namesake.
There was just something in the news that a beard adds 8 years to one's looks. So if he just had surgery, doesn't look too bad - looks mid 60s to me.
I think this is the single most consistent quality to Parker's behavior & statements. He behaves as if he sincerely believes that he is a messianic figure, whose purpose on this earth is to save all the misguided wine producers & consumers from their own ignorance & self-delusion.
“Burgundy is, well, Burgundy. A minefield of potential disappointments beloved by elitists and pseudo-intellectuals who like to discuss ad nauseam growers and terroirs—not quality.” RMP
At least you know it would be able to age on its alcohol content.
Good for RMP to attend this event and discuss his positions, which overall seem consistent if considerably less bombastic. With the chronic back pain issues and invasive surgery, no wonder he's been cranky. Unfortunately, he doesn't look too healthy in the photos.
He definitely threw Squires under the bus. What Mark was doing as administrator was not done in secret. If RMP wanted more leniency and/or accessibility, why is there a pay wall? Kindness?
What? WE is more influential than the WA?
Last edited by Scot H. on February 24th 2014, 1:19pm, edited 1 time in total.
He looks awful.
And no chance of it fooling the AFWE
"Peter..your well-reasoned words were a waste of time."
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Solar de Randez Rioja Res '97
NSG 1er Didiers Cve J Duret '02
Chappaz Fendant Liaudisaz '14
Petrolo Galatrona '09
Dom Clos de Tart '08
H Lignier Chambolle-Musigny VV '13
Perrin Côte-Rôtie '09
Sigaut Chamb.-Musigny 1er Sentiers VV '13
I have been and remain a fan of Parker. I don't mind the brash style, although it certainly costs gives his critics fodder. I find his reviews very consistent and no less limiting than many who dismiss the wines he likes and bash him for liking them. I happen to like orange wines and certainly some of the Loire Red wines he dislikes, but so what? I also happen to like SQN, Saxum and 2003 Pavie. So what? If Parker or anyone else doesn't like it, it makes for a fun discussion. Its a shame the Squires BB put the wall up but I don't think anyone can say with a straight face that BB was not a wild and disrespectful place at times. Parker at his worst, and I will grant you he had his moments, was not as ill behaved as many on that BB (and he was footing the bill). Heck, even Todd has his detractors for censorship on this BB. Some days you just can't win.
I wonder how many of us would put with someone publishing books with out names in their titles, just to make a name for themselves? How many bloggers wrote about this speech (second one I saw today) only to be followed by everyone feeling that gives them the right to say what Parker's faults are? Classic in America, build them up, tear them down.
As for the appearance remarks, reminds me of The Who when they played the Superbowl (or even the RHCP this year). Its hard to watch people that we knew young, get old. The fact that he appeared, requiring two canes, says more to me than disheveled hair or a scraggly beard. He could have easily skipped this appearance, but must have felt it worthwhile for some reason. I suspect it wasn't about the money.
ITB - California Syrah Blends
Outstanding writing Richard, and tremendous question.
ITB, Heritage Auction.
“I spent half my money on gambling, alcohol and wild women. The other half I wasted.” -WC Fields
As I read through the (wonderful) article Richard wrote, I kept thinking that by all appearances, Mr. Parker has zero idea how little credibility he has with my (31 years old) generation of wine lovers. His subscriber base is dying off, literally. I've yet to see any movement from The Wine Advocate towards attracting a younger audience and building credibility with that audience. Oh well.
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Loren, I agree with a lot of what you say, but to me he isn't brash; he is arrogant and unnecessarily dismissive. He is entitled to his views -- and to express them unambiguously -- but he treats those who simply disagree as cretins. I can't stand that kind of attitude, from him or from his critics (who are often no better)
I don't have to speak; she defends me
A drunkard's dream if I ever did see one