We Now Interrupt This Wine Broadcast To Finally Answer The Big “Going Pro” Question…

Vinted on March 13, 2014 binned in about 1winedude blog, going pro

Picture this: It’s a gorgeous and sunny day in South Africa, and I’ve just finished giving the keynote address at the 2013 Nederburg Wine Auction. I’m drinking Cape bubbly and grazing for food, and mingling with interesting people from all over the Southern Hemisphere. Of course, I’m exchanging business cards with all of these folks – winemakers, media, buyers. Then the inevitable question comes (after the equally inevitable oohing and ahhing over my way-cool tiny moo.com business cards, I mean):

Them: “So… what do you do? In ‘real life,’ I mean?

Me: “You’re looking at it!”

I have to accept this as inevitable and totally understandable, since so few people can actually make any money whatsoever independently in the wine biz. How are you able to ditch your IT career?

The exchanges are predictable, not because the question is dumb (far from it), but because the question is so pervasive. I get asked a variant of this question literally during every event and during every trip. Not some events or trips; every event or trip. Now, for those of you who aren’t trying to claw a living out of the wine world, the question might seem odd, so take this joke by my friend and Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis which adds the necessary perspective, and sums up the wine media struggle nicely:

Q: What’s the difference between a wine writer and a large cheese pizza?

A: The large cheese pizza can actually feed a family of four for one night!

It’s funny, but in a stinging, Dilbert-strip, this-really-is-my-life-OUCH! kind of way. And so I understand why the question gets asked. I haven’t ever really answered it, though, until now.

I recently gave what has turned out to be the single most intimate interview of my life to Daily Capital, the blog of the popular financial app and service Personal Capital (its author blogs independently at a great personal finance site called Financial Samurai). That interview basically clears up how I’ve been able to pursue wine media full time (and still help to support a family without having to feed them cat food), but I’ve never talked about it in detail before because it wasn’t strictly wine-related, and it was a topic that was just too… well… personal.

So, now that the interview has been published this week, the answer is out there. We can now return to our normal sophomoric soliloquising about vino…






  • Thomas Pellechia

    Nice, honest interview, Joe, especially the part about luck. Few admit that–now, send some my way…;)

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Thomas. I can try…

  • Dick Brubaker

    Good story Joe, you are spot on with every answer. Too many successful people splurge on $40K cars and big mortgages, then find they can't save for the future. I'm leaving IT and planting 60 Cabernet vines, as one of many retirement hobbies.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Dick. And congrats!

  • gabe

    Interesting read, thanks for giving us that peek behind the curtain.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Gabe. I debated discussing it here for reasons that I guess are now obvious, so having an opportunity to do that outside of the blog was helpful. I am hoping that it might help others somehow to hear the story, too.

  • Rowland

    Thanks for pointing out this article Joe, I didn't see it the first time. Great advice and lessons learned – trying to teach my kids the same thing – regular saving and controlled spending are the keys. But the natural tendency is to try to find the "best investment" that will magically make your fortune.

    I tell them retirement is not about getting older and quitting work – retirement means you have achieved financial independence and enjoy the choices that brings. And you can do it way earlier than you think if you don't keep growing your spending to keep pace with your income!

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Rowland!

      As I mentioned in response on the PC article comments, in hindsight, since I am divorcing my soon-to-be-ex-wife on fault grounds (use your imagination – it’s just as bad as you think), I shouldn’t have said those positive things about her in the interview. The truth as I have now uncovered it is that I did all of the savings myself, despite the destructive actions of my then-wife. Thankfully, I saved a lot of money, and I have copious amounts of documentation on my pre-marital financial state, and so should still be financially whole even after the divorce. Anyway, a cautionary tale for everyone there: be very, very, VERY sure that you are actually “marrying the right girl” when you do tie the knot. And you never know what craziness will hit you in life, so save your butt off as early and as much as you can!

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