Pissed at the Wine Enthusiast: Do they get ANYTHING right?

So I finally got my copies of the December ‘Best of 2008’ issue. Not that I would normally care, but someone said my picture was on page 117.

A little background:

We stopped submitting to WE several years ago beccause of the sheer number and magnititude of their errors–wrong vintages, wrong labels, and we were amazed at the score discrepancies: we saw two wines that we knew came out of the SAME TANK at a neighboring winery, but bottled by different wineries, given vastly different scores. And that is just one example.

Over two years after we stopped submitting, WE asked us for a .jpeg of our label. We asked why, but they were very coy, wouldn’t answer. That didn’t seem upfront or journalistically ethical, so we didn’t send one. Turns out, they were insulting “dog labels” in their year-end ‘Best Of’ issue. Something about “who would pull out a puppy-printed primitivo for anything except Tuesday night burgers?” They named our winery among the puppy perps, although they hadn’t tasted our wines for three vintages. (They used an O’Reilly label image from Owen Roe in OR.) Thanks, guys.

About six weeks ago, I was contacted by one of their roving editors about my 5-part series on internet wine fraud targeted at wineries. The editor asked for permission to use some of my material in a sidebar (how to identify the true source of the email; geographical location of the emailer; how to identify fraudulent credit cards, etc.) and a photo. I only agreed because I thought it would continue to a) help wineries, and b) demonstrate that consumers are not the only victims of wine fraud. So I said yes, with the caveat that the photo and information could only be used if they gave credit to the winery blog. The editor also wanted to know if I could provide any links or photos of wineries or consumers who had been scammed. I declined.

Now what I’m seeing is my picture (really BIG, and dorky looking but that’s not their fault) and nothing else except this caption.

“Mary Baker of Dover Canyon Winery created her Inside a Wine Scam blog on the winery’s website, to chronicle her personal dealings with fraud.”

Oh, thanks a lot! Now I not only sound like an idiot who would fall prey to internet fraud, but an Idiot who would Share That with the Wine Enthusiast.

To the Wine Enthusiast Editors:

  1. Take a class in journalism.
  2. I did not -EVER- have “personal dealings” with fraud, anymore than any one else who plays letter games with them. Plus, I actually did some research and wrote an article series that dances around yours in terms of detail.
  3. ‘Inside a Wine Scam’ is not a blog. It is a series of short articles that appear as posts on a blog. Do you even know what a blog is?
  4. The article series does not appear on our winery website.
  5. You wanted pictures of victims, and I guess you got one. I am a victim of gullibility when it comes to trusting the journalistic integrity of the Wine Enthusiast.

To be just a teeny, teeny bit fair, it is usually not the writing editor that puts together the layout, sidebars (or lack thereof in this case), photos and captions. But an editor should be reviewing their own final layouts for accuracy and balance, not just the pulp fiction factor. Poorly done. And my last interaction with the staff of the Wine Enthusiast for any reason.

Wow, Mary, that really is too bad. I’d be curious to know what their response is. Are you going to contact them?

[dash1.gif] Sure, I have nothing else to do with my face now … [tease.gif]

I’m going to have to get an issue just to see the picts! I’m sure you look great! [give_heart.gif]

So they can’t get TN’s or scores right and you thought they could get a story right?

WE is a joke, sorry they did that to you but I am not surprised.

A friggin’ sidebar.

Sorry to hear that Mary. Let us know what happens when you contact them.

WE is a joke and has been for a while…

Mary, please highlight for us your personal dealings with fraud, since you were knee deep in fraud, with all your fraudulent activities, fraud.

Fraud. Mary Baker.

Sorry to hear about that Mary.
I’m sure Captain Blueberry doesn’t know what he is talking about. [beee.gif]

Now there’s a shocking statement.

Sorry about WE’s incompetence. I for one read your entire write up on the fraud, saved the links and downloaded some of the shareware to use here at our shop. A lot of time and effort in your article, just like a lot of time in your wine/winery, only to have somebody come along with their own self serving manipulation of facts or numbers. I’m sure WE will be very receptive to your criticism. NOT.

Their business is spread awfully thin now, so I bet the magazine doesn’t get that much attention. Not only do they spend most of their time likely on the catalog (higher profits than magazine subscriptions), they are selling wine to major retailers under their own label, and using the Wine Enthusiast brand on a bunch of wine-related products.

Thank you, Randy. [thank_you.gif]

And Todd, I must confess. The picture I use on Facebook is a little … old. Fraudulent misrepresentation.

The Fail Thread is comforting me. [cray.gif]

Be careful, Mary.

Zach has been known to stalk before [help.gif] .

Great thread. We are blessed to have Mary hangin’ with the Berserkers.

I think its a pretty small very wine savvy crowd on the wine boards, so its easy to find fault and criticise the media here. But for most beginners and on, its the wine media that in most/many cases nurtures the early development and education as wine drinkers.

We all make mistakes. As someone in the business I recognize that if it wasn’t for the tremendous efforts of the wine media, we’d mostly still be stuck in the vestiges of prohibition and not enjoying wine or drinking liquor rather than wine.

As I drift into a cough medicine induced stupor as opposed to my normal stupor, I just thought I’d stick my neck out rather than be silent. Please be merciful and only use one stroke of the blade.


I think this is a very valid point, and the one that should be taken into consideraton. I’ve witnessed the big publications do this exact thing to wimemakers and wineries…and no real apology afterward. It seems that they “dont” have to review or edit their own stories for factual information, etc. It is the people that are written about that catch the mistakes while the rest of the readers just go along with the story…and we all know the majority wins.

I wouldn’t blame the actual writer of the story. I would blame the fact checkers, editors, and staff that should know what the hell is going on in the wine business, even if it is in Paso Robles or Santa Barbara County…and not just Napa or Sonoma. At least that is what we are told when this sort of oversight happens.

Thank you, Bob! [drinks.gif]

Peter, I will tenderly disagree. I think newspaper columnists and culinary magazines have far more reach and influence with casual and new-to-wine drinkers. Wine industry periodicals generally appeal to the beverage-retentive reader, so they should write to a more experienced audience as well as beginners; and IMHO any publication with a masthead should adhere to basic journalistic principles, like … accuracy.

FWIW I think Steve Heimoff is a fine writer, and I enjoy reading his blog. But I’m glad we dropped the WE a long time ago … personally, I was fairly annoyed by the cheesy 5-page ad-icles and the gay little news boxes for the ADD/ADHD.

Mary, I empathize with you, but journalistic principles and accuracy have been missing from the media for decades now. It’s better to be “sensational” than to be accurate.

T-Bone - fact checkers - really. If they even exist any more, it must be one lonely guy that spends half his day in the can.

Ah, Linda…I empathize with y’all. Big time. Here’s something written by Janet Malcom:

“…every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people’s vanity, ignorance or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse.”

–The Journalist and the Murderer (1990)

“Do not mistake activity for achievement.”
-John Wooden