Wine Producers, Are Your Voices Being Heard? (A Glimpse into 1WineDude’s Cellar)

Vinted on March 19, 2013 binned in best of, commentary, guest posts

[ Editor’s note: following is the third guest post from the 1WD intern: the young, unpaid Shelby Vittek, who many of you will recall really shook things up with her first 1WD article (and continued that trend with her second). You can check out more of Shelby’s wine writing work at, and find her on twitter at @BigBoldReds. You’re of course encouraged to chime in and let us know what you think (but keep things civil, you opinionated b*stards!). Enjoy! ]

Have you ever wanted to know what kinds of wines make up 1WineDude’s cellar? What exactly constitutes the mass of media samples he gets shipped every week? Where do they come from and exactly how many bottles are waiting to be opened and reviewed?

I used to wonder. But that was long before I spent months sorting through the endless boxes of wine samples in the cellar. In October, I bravely—and perhaps somewhat stupidly—agreed to take on the massive project of cataloguing and organizing them all. I had watched this episode of 1WineDude TV, (cut to 3:25) where I got my first preview of the mountain of boxes, but really had no idea how big of a challenge I had signed up for. At the start of my “internship,” I was prepared to personally catalogue maybe a couple hundred, 500 bottles at the most, and thought I’d finish the project within four or five weeks.

Yet here we are, over four months and 820 bottles later, and I’m just finally able to announce that every single wine has been accounted for and its details entered into a tracking spreadsheet. Of course, this number is bound to change the next time I hear the doorbell ring and am met with five more shipments of samples. But for now, the cataloging chaos has calmed, and my “wine friends” (as 1WD’s daughter calls them) have a slightly more organized home.

To celebrate the end of a huge undertaking—even if momentarily—I want to share with you some intimate details of the wines I’ve had my hands all over for months, as well as some things that surprised, perplexed, or disappointed me…

First of all, what’s the big deal with California? I don’t get it. More than half of 1WD’s cellar is made up of bottles from California: 425 to be exact. This was not what I had expected, and certainly doesn’t represent the way my East Coast Millennial eyes view the wine world. Personally, I’m more interested in an unheard-of indigenous grape from Italy or a great-valued Spanish wine or a weird region in Greece. It didn’t take long for me to grow tired of entering yet another cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay from yet again Napa Valley or Sonoma into the spreadsheet.

Part of my general disinterest in California may stem from the fact that I’ve never traveled to wine country there before. I’ve extensively visited wineries all over Europe, but never any in my own country. Why? Well, partially because my parents honeymooned in Napa and California wines will forever remind me of them…not as cool as they used to be (sorry, Mom and Dad.)

But also because I’m an East Coaster. On this side of the U.S., we don’t have access to all the California wines that people who live there do. I’m sure a great deal of 1WD’s samples from out west would be very difficult to find on shelves here on the East Coast.

Keep in mind that a flight out of Philadelphia to Portugal is just as long as one to San Francisco. If I could spend the same amount of time on a plane and be in Europe or California…well I’d choose any European country, any day.

During the long, cold winter months I spent “hanging out” in 1WD’s basement cellar, I had plenty of time to think back to my memories of traveling through wine regions in Spain, Portugal, Italy and France. So the few numbers of wines from European regions in the cellar saddened me. There were 59 from France and 54 from Italy. There were only 49 Spanish wines in the mix, mostly from Rioja, with very little love shown for some of my favorites from Ribera del Duero and Toro. Now, don’t get me wrong, I would be beyond thrilled to have these 162 bottles as part of my own cellar. But their presence lacked in comparison to wines from California.

And Portugal? Where are you? There were only 7 Portuguese wines—2 of them ports, the rest Vinho Verde. What about the great reds of the Douro Valley? Are they supposed to be off the maps for bloggers for a specific reason?

I was happy to find what I thought to be a healthy number of wines from Argentina—52 bottles—though after 1WD’s recent 2-week trip there, I doubt they will be uncorked or unscrewed anytime in the near future. Chile, on the other hand, has some catching up to do. I only catalogued 21 bottles from there, even though I know the country is producing some interesting up and coming wines. Even my own Napa-loving mother enjoys dabbling in great values from Chile. For the time, she mostly drinks wines from Santa Rita and Cono Sur, but I’d like to see her explore beyond the two producers to which she seems to default.

Over in the corner sits 25 bottles from Washington State and 15 from Oregon—wines that seem to be living in California’s big bully-like shadow. There were other regions I wish I had come across more often too, like Austria or Germany or South Africa. I can’t help but feel like there should be more from these places, like these areas should be trying harder to be heard.

Another surprise was the small representation of wines from the land down under—only 25 from Australia and 15 from their neighbor, New Zealand. Lately I’ve heard a lot of chatter about Australian producers trying to “reemerge” with less boozy wines. The “typical” high-alcohol wines from here carry a not-so-great reputation in parts of the geeky wine world that I don’t think they completely deserve. I have no problem with bigger wines. As long as they’re in balance, I tend to like them very much. (Hence, the inspiration behind my @bigboldreds Twitter name.)

But if Australian producers are making a greater effort to make a wider variety of wines that appeal to those afraid of bigger ABV numbers, then I hope they also put the same effort into getting samples into the hands of people the can help promote them. And at the very least, should get their message across to consumers.

There were a few odd-balls in the mix, which excited me or intrigued me, and some that I can’t wait to taste—a few from Uruguay, some sparkling wines from Brazil, a Tokaji from Hungary and one bottle from Mexico.

While the samples in 1WD’s cellar may not exactly mirror what consumers see on shelves or perfectly represent the state of the wine world, I think we can take away something useful from taking a closer look at the wines that make up the collection. To producers or regions that want to be noticed, well, you need to give us a reason to notice you. If you aren’t promoting your wines to the media who are talking about them, how is your message or your wines supposed to be known by consumers? It would be okay if you were engaging consumers directly, but that doesn’t seem to be working out so well for most of you (yet). Either way, we want to hear from you, see your bottles, and taste your wines.

The amount of samples that constitutes 1WD’s cellar is just absolutely… outrageous. I mean, what’s someone supposed to do with 820 bottles of wine? Sure, the simple answer is: Drink them. But Joe isn’t really the biggest fan of tasting a bunch of wines at a time. He typically tastes 3 or 4 wines before dinner, and then drinks his favorites with the meal. Even if he tasted 4 wines every single day for 6 straight months, there would still be more bottles to get through, and that’s not accounting for all the new samples that will arrive in the meantime.

With only a few more weeks left of my internship, I’m happy to have tackled the massive endeavor of sorting through wine samples just in time. I’ve learned a lot and grown more curious along the way. I want to send a special shout-out to the crowd of PR folks who send copies of technical sheets, which include SRPs: You are the best. To those of you who don’t: You should consider doing so. It’s much more convenient and easier for Joe to grab the tech sheet wrapped around a bottle when he goes to taste it than it is for him to play a scavenger hunt game through his emails to find it.

The clock is ticking and I’m feeling the pressure to arrange some great tastings before I check out, as both a reward to myself for sorting through 820 bottles of wine, and as a way to create space in the cellar for all the new shipments of wine that will come once I’m gone. My long days in a cold cellar are on the steady decline, and it’s now time for a drink. Where do I begin?





  • passionatefoodie

    How many wines in the cellar were purchased as opposed to received as a sample?

    • 1WineDude

      Richard – every wine Shelby is discussing here is a sample. My personal stash is tiny at the moment, maybe two- three cases worth.

      • passionatefoodie

        It would be interesting to compare the nature of your personal stash to the samples, to see the type of wines you actually buy.

        • 1WineDude

          Richard – yeah, thanks for the idea; I’ll look into that for the future. It is a different animal, was heavy on the Riesling until recently (since I’ve been drinking it all! :).

          • passionatefoodie

            And how much DRC is there in the samples or your own personal stash? :)

            • 1WineDude

              Richard – ZERO. Thanks for rubbing it in, you b*stard!

  • karenp

    Seriously, using a spreadsheet when CellarTracker would have made your job so much easier?? I gave up on all of the manual work of a spreadsheet years ago and am surprised to learn that a millenial wouldn't have looked for a better tool than an old accounting tool. Given the social aspects of cellartracker, not only is it easier to search out and enter inventory but it also allows you to esaily share tasting notes and comments.

    • 1WineDude

      Karen – Ive got mad respect for CT (and Eric, its founder, knows that), and your insight makes sense superficially, but you need to consider some deeper aspects of what we are doing here. For one, we need multiple authors to access and edit the content, at times we have to custom-sort the inventory, I wanted to minimize bias from reviews from other sources, there’s a lot of contact and other such meta-data that we also need to record, and taken as a whole CT just didn’t make sense. I also have other means of sharing the results of the tastings than CT – namely, my twitter account and this website! :) Not to say I wouldn’t consider CT in the future, but not using it was a conscious choice, and has everything to do with my situation and nothing to do with CT not kicking ass or not making sense for 98% of wine lovers out there.

    • raypedia

      Actually, putting things into a spreadsheet is the easiest way of getting it into CT in bulk, if he were interested in doing that. But CT is more for an individual who's wanting to keep track of his/her personal cellar, notes, values, etc. Granted, it would be nice to see Joe's reviews in CT, but again doing it via spreadsheet is the easiest way to bulk upload (I'm pretty sure that's how Richard Jennings does his 200 tastings at a time…) regardless of whether the cellar is tracked there.

  • Les Hubbard

    First, Let's give Ms. Vittek cudos for writing a great posting – if this is her final exam as an intern I'd give her an "A." Second, about those CA wines that make up 51% of the 820 bottle samples, I'd say, of course, that's because CA represents the largest producing state in the U.S. Check out the domestic wine wall in a large Philly area wine retailer to verify. And yes, Shelby you definitely should visit Napa despite the flight time equal to that to arrive in Portugal. Just forgive your mom and dad for honeymooning there and also hussle over to Sonoma County, down to the central coast, especially Paso Robles. I'm glad you've finished your work in the cold cellar, but I suspect that it was no colder than similar work in any large storage cave of a European vineyard. And whatever your future endeavor, please continue writing as you do have a wonderful knack. As to what to drink, grab one of Rob's best bottles and, of course, share it with him at dinner some night.


    • @bigboldreds

      Thanks, Les! I'm hoping to take a long trip to CA to hit all those spots on in the near future, though I always have my eye on the next European destination

  • Les Hubbard

    1 Wine Dude,
    You're never going to get through those 820 bottles if you continue to only sample so few per day. You need to take a leaf from Parker's book, perhaps sampling 10 or 12 every morning, spitting naturally. Save the best couple of bottles for dinner and give the rest to a neighbor or neighbors who enjoy wines, yeah, that's what Parker does. BTW, I'm supremely jealous of your tasting through DRC wines, wow what an experience! I've only been able to enjoy about ten bottles of DRC wines throughout my lifetime. When asked by consumers at retail what is my favorite wine I always mention DRC which I can no longer afford. Oh well,
    that's life.


    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Les. You're right, but I'm really struggling with the idea of tasting a lot of wine out of context… I need to noodle on it more…

      • Todd - VT Wine Media

        We "organize" a tasting panel, filled from a rotating pool of local wine aware folks ( and periodically newbies ), specifically so that it is not just my one tongue wagging, and for a broader set of response data.

  • Todd - VT Wine Media

    Excellent report, and now that this task is complete and your stage almost ended are you interested in cataloging another cellar in Vermont? WE have an ample supply of the Douro Rojos you were looking for… ;)

    Really quite interesting to see the distribution range, and to wonder about:
    how much of that has to do with the availability of marketing funds from the regions represented,
    with specific marketing initiatives that identify Joe as a demographic indicator,
    info on when they arrived ( brand/price relative to the recession ).

    Actually, sounds like a research study opportunity for an intern…

    • 1WineDude

      Todd – I suspect a LOT of it has to do with that

  • nick

    why no cellartracker?

    • 1WineDude

      nick -see response to Karen above

  • Doug Wilder

    I'm curious to what extent these wines. sent as tasting samples came to you 'unrequested' compared to requests for a specific theme of tasting made to either wineries or PR firms. I find that by announcing to wineries in a sample request that I am tasting specific type or region allows me virtually empty my tasting pantry for every issue within a two month period. The final job being emptying and dumping the bottles into recycle after all the images are shot. I know that your travel schedule keeps you busy, but I imagine most of the wineries who send these wines do so with the expectation that you will taste and possibly write about them in some timely manner. Seems like a daunting task at hand. Good luck!

    • 1WineDude

      Doug – the **vast** majority of those samples are unsolicited. And so you are keying into one of the biggest issues I am facing, which is that I cannot possible cover (or even, realistically, taste) all of the samples. The uncharacteristically smart thing for me was that several years ago I started reviewing wines via twitter, which is both fun and challenging and allows me to up the tasting volume and cover more of the wines (including many that are tasted when I travel, etc.). That worked great for a few years, but as you can see the situation is now=C2=A0 matter of volume. And so I'm contemplating doing higher volume tasting days in which I grab everything by a certain producer, or in some kind of theme, and taste them all at one sitting, with the possibility of that branching off from the twitter reviews and turning into more of a feature peace if one of the wines really grabs me, etc. It strikes me as a bit crazy that producers, labels and brands now need to compete for my attention even in my own basement, but I've given up on trying to stop the flow of samples because nothing I've done to stem that tide has worked. The fear I have is that I do NOT want 1WD to turn into a tasting/rating slog; the blog started in part as a reaction against that kind of tasting. So the balance isn't going to be easy (if it were, I'd have already found it! :).

  • Doug Wilder

    Also everyone is different about what to do with a wine after it is open. I set them aside and revisit the following day before I open any new samples and note the evolution. By the time I am done, usually half the bottle is done. Even when dumping the bottles from my last issue this weekend, I set aside five that were tasting beautifully even after being open for a few weeks. Yes, I do a sniff and quick taste of many wines before pouring out although many don't get past the nose. Regarding giving wines to neighbors, two of my three nearest are winemakers so it is a 'coals to Newcastle' problem! But they do help me deplete my styrofam shipping box stack.

    • 1WineDude

      Doug – that is very similar to what happens at 1WD HQ! But I don't have the winemakers nearby (just thirsty neighbors)…

      • @bigboldreds

        And a thirsty intern…

  • Ana

    I get it: we all want to discover the new region, wine, varietal, winemaker. However it takes time for a vineyard to grow, to develop, mature, and then to find it's heart. So, Shelby, don't discard California, or any other wine region; embrace the fact that it will take a long time to really discover it, and you'll need 820 bottles and more.
    As far as ibeing noticed: we want a conversation, let us know what you expect! Don't make us guess, we are also sort of busy… If you don't need a wine, say it, if you want Pinot Gris, let me know. If you want to taste Petaluma Gap wines, by all means we'll set it up. Might be fun: you just might find that the dark side of California is waiting for you.

    • 1WineDude

      Ana – nicely stated!

  • @girlwithaglass

    Shelby, what a wonderfully authentic voice you have! You can't leave Joe's blog. Joe, I want her to be a regularly scheduled guest blogger on 1WineDude or I'm stealing her. And Shelby, I live 20 minutes from great wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties. My interest is global wines too so go to my blog for my CA wine country picks and tips. Then come visit, I'll show you the good stuff.

    • 1WineDude

      @girlwithaglass Well, you definitely *cannot* have her until the internship is up at the end of the month! :-)

    • @bigboldreds

      Thanks! Although my internship is officially up at the end of this month, I hope to still make guest appearances here on 1WD. And I'll keep you in mind when I head out west to CA for wine :)

  • Dana Estep

    Joe, Shelby – were NY, PA, and VA shut out in your inventory? That would be highly disappointing given their proximity to your location and that you've posted about NY and VA wines in the past. If true, any theories as to why no samples from those wineries?

    and Shelby a trip to either NY or VA is even shorter than Portugal or CA. well maybe not travel time since you'd probably drive. but you can fit a lot more wine in the trunk of your car than you can in your checked baggage.


    • 1WineDude

      Hi Dana – not at all; they just constitute a very small percentage of the overall total of samples at the moment.

  • gabe

    i would guess that the reason most of the wines are from California is because it is the largest wine region in the country, and most of the people who read this blog are American.. The tradition of drinking your local wines is as old as wine itself. Surprised that you didn't have any local East Coast wines from Virginia or New York, although I am happy to see the PNW represented. Any Illahe still floating around in that cellar?

    • 1WineDude

      Gabe – I'm surprised, too. Actually, there are some NY samples in there, I think. As for the Illahe, that's long gone! :-)

  • MyrddinGwin

    Pity there weren't any Canadian wine samples in your cellar. That should be remedied.

    • 1WineDude

      MG – there are, actually. What Shelby reported in the post isn't the totality of the samples. But the Canadian juice is a *tiny* percentage of the total!

      • MyrddinGwin

        Phew. At least there's some, then, even if it's a tiny amount. Panic averted!

        Also, if Shelby ever decides to come to Canada to sample our wines, she would be welcome here. In Ontario, the Niagara region has the most wineries, but the Lake Erie North Shore has some of the best value wines, often less than $15 per bottle. I've only tried a few wines from British Columbia, but they were quite tasty, too.

        • 1WineDude

          Shelby – over to you! You might beat me up to Canada, actually… FWIW, I am seriously considering doing the TasteCamp in May in Quebec… Cheers!

          • MyrddinGwin

            Are you a fan of cider, at all? The cider in Québec can be fantastic. Sadly, I haven't tried any grape-based wine from Québec just yet, but if I can afford it and my car doesn't die, I'd love to take a short trip there this summer.

            • 1WineDude

              MG – You know what, I can’t say that I’m a huge cider fan but that’s more because the basic cider you find in bars in the U.S. is mass-marketed, dull stuff. I’ve had some in FLX before that were very good (good enough that I drank way too much of it, in fact, and ended up… err… forwarding my calls to the bathroom…!). So I’d definitely be up for checking out that scene up in the Great White North, if I end up heading up to TasteCamp this year.

              • Todd - VT Wine Media

                Dude, you gotta do #TasteCamp, I have this feeling it is going to be great…am sure it will taste great.
                Echo MG in:re the Quebec cider plug, including ice cider, and "feu" cider.

              • 1WineDude

                Todd – yeah, I was just emailing Lenn to see what the latest was on TC…

        • @bigboldreds

          I would definitely love to make it up to Canada sometime soon

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