Those of you who have just been rescued from being stranded for decades in South American jungles and are now coming to grips with you strange new world that involves cellular telephones, 3D television and the Global Interwebs, might not have heard that influential wine personality and bestselling author Gary Vaynerchuk last week announced that he has retired from producing his frequent wine-critique videos.
It’s a move that, in impact to Gary’s fan base, is probably a bit like Howard Stern’s recent announcement that he’s scaling back the number of shows he will produce each week – which is to say, polorizing.
Gary’s latest move comes a little over 160 days after he retired WLTV in favor of his mobile device venture Daily Grape, and a little over seven months after he shut down Corkd. For those concerned that he might also shut down his best-selling books, please note that it’s a lot harder to do that once the printed copies are in your hands!
It wasn’t a great week for wine personalities sticking around – Mike Steinberger also left the scene (at least temporarily) when he had his excellent wine column axed from Slate (to which I say “F*ck Slate!”). Anyway… The wine world is, understandably, rife with speculation on the Whys behind Gary’s move. I think a (much) more interesting topic, though, is the What: as in, What does Gary’s wine retirement from wine criticism mean for the wine world in general?…
But before we get into those Whats, we need to talk a little bit about Gary’s motivations, so we don’t get caught up in the speculations behind all those “Why?!??” questions – because that, my friends, would out us squarely back into the intellectual equivalent of that thorny jungle from which some of you were recently rescued. Let’s get these out of they way:
Earlier this year, Gary and I were both speakers (he was the keynote) at an event in Napa, where we got to spend a little bit of time together. I asked about (what were then) his most recent retirements (Corkd.com and his day-to-day involvement in Wine Library). Gary’s answers about this stuff are almost always personal. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t fiscal reasons behind the decisions – there almost certainly are (if Gary and his dad are anything, they are shrewd businessmen); but it does mean that the personal reasons will probably be the foremost in Gary’s mind and will therefore be the stuff that he publicly talks about.
1) Why shut down Corkd.com? Likely Gary didn’t see a strong enough fiscal future in it, but the first thing he mentioned about when I asked him about Corkd’s closure (ha!… get it? cork… closure!… ok, you’re right, that’s terrible… sorry…) was his family. As it turns out, Gary had rebellious son’s remorse when it came to Corkd: “Corkd was mine, I got and grew it on my own, without my dad, and I didn’t want him involved in it because it was going to be 100% mine. But then I didn’t feel good about it being successful as a result.”
2) Why move away from Wine Library? It had a lot to do with the thoroughly sh*tty state of affairs in wine shipping and distribution laws in the U.S., actually. “I got tired of losing sleep over some decision in another state swinging my business by millions of dollars, practically overnight… I just didn’t want to deal with that anymore,” Gary told me when I asked him about splitting from the nitty-gritty of WL. Obviously, not being as involved in WL leads to not doing WLTV which leads to having more time to launch the venture he shut down last week, Daily Grape. My view of DG was that it was Gary’s all-in foray into mobile, which is not only the future of content consumption but is actually the present of content consumption. It’s also already a crowded field, and DG wasn’t the first out of the gate – and in the mobile app space, if you’re not first out of the gate when it comes to mobile,then you have a significant uphill battle in gaining ranking and market share for your app. So DG might not have been an successful as Gary had envisioned (though still successful by most measurements you or I would use- this is entirely speculation on my part, by the way).
3) For you recently-rescued-from-the-jungle folks, Gary has made a successful play into a world much bigger than wine already. He doesn’t need the wine biz, and he will very likely launch something big in the near future in the business consulting space (Vaynermedia has some very high-profile clients with rather deep pockets – if even a small fraction of them have Gary’s business on retainer, then financially-speaking he doesn’t “need” to work another day in his life). Producing daily content – content that is really good, and resonates with a lot of people – is f*cking hard work; Gary is probably a little burnt out, and when that happens you need to focus on the stuff that interests you and fire’s you up most – for Gary, that stuff isn’t wine reviews.
Ok, here’s the real meat on the discussion bones, I think: Now what? Now that Gary is gone, what will happen? Here’s my take – I don’t profess to be Nostradamus on these thoughts, but I consider them at least semi-educated opinions:
1) Some consumers will become less passionate about wine, and that will be bad for the wine biz. I hate to kick off this part on a down note, but I am sad to see Gary go from the wine world because he’s done what nobody before him was able to do – move wine consumers up the pyramid of wine appreciation. Gary has some ardent fans – and many of them could be more fans of Gary than they are of wine. Some of those people for whom Gary was their wine-appreciation catalyst will no longer give as much of a crap about wine now that Gary is less publicly visible in the wine sphere, and this might have a small but measurable negative impact on fine wine sales. Hey, stranger shizz has happened (like earthquakes and hurricanes in the East Coast on the same week… just sayin’…).
2) Wine Geeks will have to go somewhere else – but where will they go? I probably stand to gain a bit from Gary’s departure from wine criticism, because those who tuned in to enjoy his nearly daily take on wines and are geeky and passionate about wine generally will still want to consume info. about it and talk about it online. They will need new places to go to do that. That doesn’t for one second make me happy that Gary is going, but realistically the serious wine bloggers out there could see a readership bump in the wake of Gary’s semi-retirement. Look, I’m certainly not gonna turn anybody away from interacting here, and I’ll welcome anyone with open arms… But… well, this is a very different site than DG or WLTV, and while I’m a hyperactive, short, dark-haired East Coast guy, I’m very different from Gary. I’ve long admired him, but I’ve never intentionally copied Gary and I’ve no plans to start copying Gary now. I fear that other bloggers might try (and of course fail miserably) to copy Gary in order to try to gain exposure and readers in the wake of his semi-retirement (for lack of a better term) – I feel very sorry for those bloggers already, because it won’t end well.
3) We won’t see wine tasting vids that good again, at least not for a long while. Bottom line is this: while some wine video content out there is pretty damn good, very little of it can touch what Gary was doing especially when it comes to tasting notes done in front of the camera. Personal note: I do that from time to time, but it’s always with a twist and never in the context of trying to cop Gary’s style, and tasting wines is never the focal point of my vids (and it’s because I need those twists and want those twists to keep it interesting that I produce my vids at a fairly infrequent rate). I’d love nothing more than to see some charismatic, on-camera dynamo come out of nowhere and kick all our asses with amazing wine review video content, and fill the void that Gary will leave. But I’m not holding my breath.
Time to get all soppy on ya
On a personal note, while I wasn’t a hardcore fan of Gary’s vids, and certainly not a fan of his questionable taste in NFL franchises (sorry, Gary! :-), I’ve long been an admirer of Gary’s attitude, chops, and inspiring gumption. Gary has been a supporter of 1WD over the years, and for all that I will be grateful always. And I will miss having him as a visible figure – and potent, influential voice – in the on-line wine community, because being a long-time business guy myself I can tell you that his combination of knowledge, chops, charisma and willingness to tell it straight is very, very rare indeed.
As always, looking forward to hearing your thoughts – what will the post-Gary V. wine world will look like?
59 thoughts on “The First – And Last – 160 Days: What Does Gary Vaynerchuk’s Exit Mean For The Wine World?”
Interesting insight Joe, especially the part about Corkd. I appreciate your giving credit to Gary for the inspiration. I think he’s inspired a lot of people – and that’s huge.
I think he’s rightly recognized that in order to buy the Jets he needs a larger addressable market than just the wine world.
In terms of what the online wine discussion looks like post Gary V – I don’t think it changes much. Gary has always floated in a different space than everyone else. Everyone is aware of him but he’s put in a special class of his own.
There’s always been an opportunity for someone else to step up in the wine world – the barriers to entry are so low. People will always seek out and tell others about quality content that’s truly unique and valuable.
Thanks, Robert – if Gary wants the Jets, he's gonna need a lot more cash than most people would think at first; a transaction like that in reality is gonna cost 3-4 times the purchase price…
Having just a fleeting association with Gary–we emailed and commented online a few times, plus I briefly discussed working with his organization a few years ago–I can only guess that having to be "on" with self-promotion ultimately wore him down. It's not easy being "on" 24/7 and it's even more difficult to have to deal with the fall out of fools that follows success.
Then again, he could just as easily want more out of life than just success as an online wine personality…I know that I do ;)
Me, too, Thomas! :)
:) Joe thank you for a respectful piece and I am proud what I have done in wine, DG was doing slightly better than I thought it would, than I woke up and knew I was done, you pegged me right, I am more emotional and gutt than numbers and finical and when i knew I was done ( who stops at #89 ) I knew I was done, I want to buy the NY JETS, almost everyone knows that, I have other passions and I feel like it is time for me to exit stage left and let someone/others take it from here. I wont be far away from the wine world and a part of me wants to come back to Wine day to day in several years and cause trouble again ;)
also did u get my DM back to do the interview or am I having issues with DM's?
Gary – I look forward to the day you cause more trouble in the wine world! I think you might be having some DM issues on twitter, or maybe I am, because I did get your msg about Skype but not any further details on how to get you on Skype :). Would still totally love to do that if you're game!
Great post Joe. Yes Robert, interesting insight on Cork'd I think as well – even from my point of view.
GV has certainly left a footprint in the wine world and people won't forget it, but I believe he will leave an even larger footprint in the business world.
Hey @ronga – always great to hear from you. and I agree that Gary's primed to make an even bigger mark.
Where will we go for quality wine videos? I just don't think there's that much out there. This is the real reason Gary's retirement is a bad thing for me.
Hi Brandon – I don't think there will be anywhere to go for those types of vids for a while.
Good article, I love Gary V's work! His books have inspired me to start my own adventures in the beer world. I am sorry he has moved on from wine but I am extremely interested to see what he has up his sleeve next.
Loved this write-up. I have watched a few videos of Gary and as you said, not a super fan of the videos, I am a huge fan of his authenticity, beliefs, and passion! I can't wait to see what he will do next.
Gary V has inspired thousands and brought many into the wine fold — kind of like the power of pulp fiction (at least they're reading, right?). I give him a lot of credit for passion and humor, a keen palate and smarts. I think his influence will live on, and that's a great thing, but people will also develop their own opinions and voices through their wine experiences. I have to say, the demise of GV catch phrases/terms like "oak monster", "pazzz", etc can't come soon enough for me. Gary himself worked hard against a homogeneous experience. My guess is he'd only want his following to expand and move on from here.
Jeff u are correct, but dude, the oak monster is Epic ;)
Thanks, Jeff – Appreciate you giving props to Gary's palate, I think for all of his accolades that one was often overlooked. Cheers!
i read you post and must confess that my first thought, while watching #89 DG was, oh s**t „BURN OUT!“ I was really inspired by Gary. So much, that i started my own VideoBlog http://www.pierosini.com. I decided to travell a lot across Europe to interview winemakers, because i was somehow scared about, that people should think: „F**k this copy of Gary V!“.
What i want to say is, that i can really understand (or try to) how hard it is to produce good content and he was doing it daily. Besides family etc.
Next week i will be in Tuscany to produce some VideoBlog with Ornellaia, Felsina and Monteverro and i must say, that on every single trip i do, i recognize how crazy and joyful it is to get around. I´m very thankful.
wish I understood German . . .
Thanks, Piero – appreciate you sharing that! Cheers!
Piero burn out after 5 1/2 years is tough ;) it is who I am, I just wont ever do anything forEVER
Gary – it really reminded me of something I heard on Howard Stern, where he was like "look, I gotta scale back, I've been getting up at 4 AM every day for dozens of years… I'm TIRED!" :)
I like what you do. At least your content is original and brings value. We can't say the same of much of the other copycats in Germany. I'm just thinking of Hendrik Thomas poor copies (the poor guy did not understood what Gary tried to achieve). We def' need more guys like you over in Germany and less poor copies.
WOW and thank u…
Great article and love the guess work on the why and whats. Who knows, you might be Nostradamus after all :)
Thanks, AndersN. Well, not all of it was guesswork, I did get some of the Whys right from the horse's mouth. :)
It was a classy last video. Gary's living out loud in front of us takes a lot of courage. To do that and stay genuine is just one of his amazing capacities. Just when I would decide to tune out from the over-done emphasis and the relentless self-promotion cloaked as populism that sometimes characterized video-Gary, I really listen and see a genuine guy whose talent and courage inspire me as a person and in business. Wine or not.
Gary pioneered the video wine tasting and no, there is nobody even close to filling those shoes. Inimitable. Best luck to him in his future endeavors. I believe video is his best medium and I wish he wouldn't turn down tv show options / ideas so categorically.
Thank u Nick
Yeah, totally bummed DG is gone. GV did a lot to promote wine and wine education for all of the "masses" out there. And yes, i agree with you Joe, I don't see anyone coming out with something as "watchable" as DG or WLTV for some time. I hope I'm wrong. So for hard core wine geeks such as myself, GV will be missed. FIN
Thanks, Jerry. Gary did show that there's a market for wine tasting vids, if they're done *really* well and charismatically.
Well said (written), Joe. I appreciate your insights. Although I wasn't a huge fan of WLTV, I have mad respect for what Gary has accomplished and the 'light' he has brought to the world of wine. He certainly shook the foundation (to what extent is debatable). Obviously the wine world is bigger than just one person – even an outsized personality (in a good way) like Gary – so I'm not sure 'some' wine consumers will be less passionate about wine. I have a hard time buying this. Perhaps I'm clueless as to his 'real' reach with consumers.
Agreed that some wine bloggers may realize a bump due to GV's departure, but not so sure that bump will be realized by more than a couple. Any bump you receive is a direct result of the excellent content you keep pumping out here more than from someone's retirement. I look forward to seeing who fills (part of) the void Gary leaves. The wine world is certainly better for having Gary, and will be even better as someone with newer/fresher ideas/approach steps in. Cheers!
Thanks, Frank. I appreciate what you're saying, and that you really "got" what I was going for in this post. Also appreciate the props ;-).
Dude – you and Gary are both what the future of the wine community can be: fun, love, business and passion – all with a grain of salt. Gary, like you, has left a mark and the impact is a positive one.
Hey Tim – great hearing from you, as always. Thanks for that, I appreciate the nod and even comparing what I am doing to what Gary has done – I am fond of saying that depending on the day, Gary's site was literally 100 to 1000 times bigger in terms of reach than mine (and that's being very generous in measuring my reach!). So if I ever get that to 50 or 10 times, I'll be doing *incredibly* well in the wine biz. :-). Cheers!
Joe- your last reply is what really distinguishes Gary. I regularly read a number of wine blogs — yours, Alder, Tyler, Tom Wark, Terroirist — and it is truly unusual for the comments on most posts to go a dozen, heavy traffic might get to 50 or 60. Gary could regularly count on 200 to 300 people answering his Question of the Day (granted, the first 10 people just posted to be one of the first ten, but still).
That passion and community is what will be as hard to recreate as the content — which, of course, do go hand in hand, the content drew the community.
I hope that your readership will grow from people looking for a new source of wine knowledge. I would consider watching WLTV to have been an entry point for me into searching out other blogs, including yours.
But I also hope that someone can figure out a way — with video or not — to build that sense of community. (BTW, I applaud you for getting in the comments and responding regularly. It certainly make me want to post more often.)
Michael – thanks for that; I'll try to live up to it!
I started watching WLTV in late 2006 as I started our sangria business. I have to admit I watched Gary's for his energy, passion and business hustle. I did learn about wine along the way but seeing and hearing how his business was evolving excited me more.
I was fortunate to meet Gary prior to the rollout of our brand in NJ and definitely received some words of encouragement that fired me up. But I do have to address this whole "Burn Out" thing going on in this thread… As a fellow entrepreneur (and hopefully serial entrepreneur) you put everything you have into what you do. Many people look at the term "Burn Out" and think negatively… But as an entrepreneur you sometimes get yourself envolved in many businesses (either directly or indirectly) because of your passion for challenge and desire to shake things up. Along the way you learn a sh*t ton. Sometime there comes a time that you have to take a step back and reevaluate what's going on (to keep yourself sane) and that does mean stepping away from certain things. But by no means does that passion ever get reduced.
So to Gary, congrats on everything you have done thus far… and I look forward to seeing/hearing what's next for you. Your passion for family/life/business is infectious.
p.s. I can't see you staying away from video and sharing your views on stuff for too long… Good Luck!!!!
Rick – "Along the way you learn a sh*t ton." WELL SAID!!!
Hi Joe, Gary has been a driving force in the wine world so I think it's very relevant to write about his departure. Thanks for doing that.
Corkd was created around the time that I was developing the first version of Adegga.com. A few months later I was truly thrilled to hear that Gary had become the owner of Corkd. For many years he was pushing wine online and convincing new wine consumers to think for themselves like no one had done before. Despite doing stuff in the same area I always looked up to Gary for inspiration.
I met him personally a few years ago and my respect for him grew even more. Passionate, dedicated and a true human being. Those are hard to replace personality traits and it makes almost impossible for anyone to create a follow up on what he has been doing with wine online.
As for Corkd I have to agree that wine social wine recommendations services can be very challenging for a number of reasons. Lots of barriers are in place when in comes to wine. It is specially challenging regarding monetization (I know that part pretty well by now). However I believe there's room to create value to the wine consumer (and to the winery) and lots of innovation waiting to be explored. Just not really sure there's money to be made doing that. :)
Andre! How are things!??? Glad to hear from you.
Hi Joe. Things are going well. Lots of new things coming up on Adegga (including the vinpass badges) and a few new products. AVIN is doing great and we now have more than 45 million labels in circulation with an AVIN code printed. Thanks for asking.
When are you coming back to Portugal?
Andre – great to hear that! No immediate plans to come back to Portugal but I have got time next year, so if you are offering to host me :)… then I think we could make it happen!
Definitely would love to host you around here. :) Lets talk beginning of the year.
Andre – will do!
There's lots of room for fresh voices! Thanks Gary V for opening the door, now let's applaud all those talented people coming through it.
@girlwithaglass – Amen!
It's always been clear to me that wine was only a vehicle for Gary, never a grand passion. He was born into the business and took advantage of it, brilliantly to be sure. Something to be respected. However he was never deep into wine and just used it as a tool. This was hammered home to me during his keynote to the Wine Bloggers Conference several years ago as his comments were about hustle, not wine. Outside of his brutally superficial reviews he never talked wine, he talked hustle: sold hustle. Hustle is his product and brand. He may be a tremendous speaker and writer on motivation and social media, but wine was only a means to an end. Now that he's reached that end he can leave wine – and us – behind.
Personally I like Gary and respect and applaud his accomplishments. He is a mover and shaker in motivation and social media, but the role that wine played in his success is a side show not the main event.
Hey Craig – I don't think Gary will be leaving wine behind, at least not totally. Not sure I understand about him not being deep into wine… I mean, the potentially was there for sure, he tasted a sh*tload of wines for WL…
The industry is full of gatekeepers – mostly retailers and wholesalers – who taste a SL of wines for years and never make an real emotional connection to wine. It's boxes to be moved nothing more and nothing less. Unfortunately, these are the people that control what gets to market, which explains why industrial brands with fat wallets dominate the business.
Craig – good point, there are those for whom it is strictly a job. Not sure I would lump GV into that group, at least not exclusively into that group.
Gary will be greatly missed. I was always puzzled by the great contradiction of Wine Library vs WLTV: WLTV taught to consumersto think for themselves, try new wines / regions, etc… while Wine Library (the store and site) preached WA, WS and WE ratings. (And I'm not criticizing that, it sells wine, and a lot of it in Gary's case)
The Cinderella experiment with running commentary from the masses showed that while the free and open exchange of ideas is a noble idea, it doesn't always mix well with business.
I always found it odd that people focused so much on Gary's "social" success, while ignoring his earlier work in building a great store and website.
PA – I think the social focus probably had to do with the fact that Gary used it as one of the primary vehicles to drive the retail and web store success. I think it proved that there is fire to go with that smoke, though obviously only if the media are used correctly and of course no one is guaranteed that kind of growth (it's very likely an exception) but at the core it showed growth was possible by fostering that kind of community.
But Dude, Wine Library was already a huge, long term success by 2006, when WLTV started. Not to get into a chicken or egg debate, but wasn't the existing success of the store/site what gave Gary the large viewing base from day one? (from which he then exploded)
PA – true, but WL got a lot bigger as Gary built up and cultivated the WLTV audience and his personal brand became more well-known.
A lot bigger? From 2006 to 2011? I wouldn't expect Gary to reveal sales numbers, but the industry impression was that was not the case. Not a knock on Gary, becasue that time period coincided with a huge increase in competition for Wine Library.
PA – I could have it wrong, as you say would need to see the numbers. But it certainly made GARY bigger if not WL…
GV, WLTV, and DG were inspirational for me. Saw the third episode of WLTV accidentally and was hooked. I was devastated when GV decided to hang it up. Wine Library for me was a great source of product when I live in the boonies and can't often find that latest and greatest. Met GV on his one and only wine cruise and spent nearly a week with him including losing a lot of ping pong games and always felt that he was a fascinating guy who could make it to the top of whatever but I will miss his wine commentary as he was spot on about the wines and the industry.
Thanks, Larry – for sure, we miss his voice in wine!
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