Pictured above is of one free sample that DID NOT suck—down home: downtown “Seasonal Recipes from Two Sonoma Wine Country Restaurants.” In fact, it’s a pretty cool publication, presented like an art-photo book. Many of the dishes are too fleshy for my liking, but there’s some sweet recipes for pescatarians, including “Josh’s Crab Cakes with Sherry Mayonnaise”, for which the suggested pairing is “Carneros or Russian River Valley Chardonnay.” Not my preference. But it’s about Sonoma, and so the wines must be local. Anyway, this is a sample that I like, and so it’s easy for me to write about it. However, when I receive free wine that provokes ire, should I dump it down the drain and keep my mouth shut, or be blunt as hell about how I felt I’d just been poisoned?
It’s an odd situation, one that I haven’t quite come to terms with. While I am grateful to those who send me anything, like wine or free passes to wine events, I also feel that it’s impossible to have integrity without shining the light from time to time, on what’s just plain bad. Because many of these invites broaden my experience, I’m most often happy to write about these events (or wines, if they’re good). I do not aim to make enemies, or to piss people off. But, a big part of me feels that I must be true to my real voice, which often in real life, doesn’t let sh*t fly.
Of course, such posts of honesty can inspire dialogue. After visiting the Beer Garden at the Standard, I hadn’t planned on blogging about the experience, I’d just dropped in with a friend. But, days later, the more I thought about the wines on offer, the less I could bite my tongue. And to a post like this, a handful of folks responded.
(The above photo has nothing to do with the post. It’s from a wine shop in Bulgaria on the Black Sea.)
What does the reader want? Does she want to read my review of a 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon that has aromas of cement glue? Does he care that I think a certain Chardonnay smells like an artificial refrozen banana cream pie, or that Suzanne thinks the same wine is made for suburban housewives? Are these descriptions really going to help anyone? I suppose they could be funny. But at whose expense?
As a writer and a photographer, I must have a critical eye. As a wine drinker, my palate becomes more discerning every day. As these forces come together, its impossible to not address the things that I don’t like. I have no problems writing about a wine’s nastiness when it’s something I’ve paid for. And I am happy to reject a majority of the wines at a tasting, because there’s bound to be a few that I like. But when someone…a real person with a product…takes the time to contact me to see if I want to taste and write about the wines that s/he represents, it’s a little harder for me to be so brutally honest.