I was delighted this year to not only see Jameson not just once but twice this year. We both attended the Wine Bloggers Conference 2016 in Lodi. I appreciate the panel that Jameson was on and his responses. His responses were candid and honest and something I could relate to.
I was on a press tour of the Champagne Harvest Tour this year. Jameson had a lot of wit and it was actually the best press trip I had ever been on–my fellow journalists are exceptional.
I had been interviewed before by Jameson and my intent here is to not repay that interview with one of my own but to capture his great experience. I too came from an off-premise background and loved his experience and of course enjoy reading the wit and knowledge from his articles on his blog and Wine Enthusiast.
I love doing these interviews because I can focus on people that I know and those that I don’t. Even if I ‘know’ someone well I always learn more about them and of course I love sharing the great people I have meet.
Q: You have had a great set of experiences with wine—how did you get involved in the wine trade?
A: Taking classes with the International Sommelier Guild while I was living in Chicago. (Early 2000s.) A fellow student was the manager at a wine shop, Randolph Wine Cellars. She was looking for weekend help and, even though I had a full-time job, I decided to jump at the chance.
Q. Why did you start writing about wine?
A. Right around the same time I started working at Randolph Wine Cellars, in 2004. Someone, and I wish I could remember who it was so I could thank them, was listening to me talk about wine and segueing back-and-forth between multiple random subjects. S/he said, “You should start a wine blog.”
Naturally, my first question was, “What’s a blog?”
Q. What was your first wine region you fell in love with?
A. The Loire Valley. My first love was Vouvray. The second iteration of my blog’s name was “Sparkling Vouvray.” In the mid 2000s you could probably access every online account I had by guessing “Vouvray” was the password. (I have since moved on to more secure passwords.)
The region is such an embarrassment of wine riches, from Muscadet to Sancerre and everything in between. Loire Cab Franc is my favorite red. Oh, and legendary sweet wines. Going there in 2011 was definitely like someone took a page/pages out of my wish book.
Q. Do you have favourite varieties that you keep going back to?
A. For whites I would say Sauvignon Blanc because it’s so available and reliable. Every time I drink a great Sancerre or a zesty Chilean Sauv Blanc I’m reminded of the grape’s memorable and lively pleasures.
For reds the aforementioned Cab Franc. And Frappato, which makes my favorite still red wine for pizza.
Q. What are you favourite wine regions?
A. Besides the Loire Valley, my love of Frappato is a great segway into mentioning Sicily. There’s a perfectly titled book by Bill Nesto and Frances Di Savino, The World of Sicilian Wine. Perfect because the variety of indigenous grapes, the climate, geography, food, history (and more) make Sicily seem like a world unto its own.
Q. What is a wine grape variety that deserves more recognition?
A. Gamay, particularly grown in Beaujolais. The wines can be everything from a bistro delight served cool out of an earthenware pitcher to serious Cru Beaujolais that scratches a Burgundy-esque itch for a lot less money.
Q. You have travelled extensively—any particular highlights? Favourite regions to travel to?
A. In addition to Sicily and the Loire Valley, a couple of islands: Santorini and Tasmania.
Santorini, it’s just so damn blue contrasted with the bright white buildings. Looking out at the caldera and thinking about all kinds of volcanic and Atlantis shit while drinking Assyrtiko is a distinctly mystical pleasure.
And Tasmania, just look at its Instagram account and try not to book a flight ASAP. Unmatched beaches plus mountains and so much more. Also great sparkling wine, Pinot Noir, and aromatic whites. I was only there a few days but I’m excited to be going back for a week in March.
Q. What are your next travel destinations?
A. Well I went to Provincetown, Lodi, and Champagne over the summer and fall. Right now things are a little on the quiet side travel-wise. But work is really ramping up and with the upcoming holidays there are like a billon wine events in New York City.
The biggest trip is my aforementioned Tasmanian adventure where I’ll be spending a week with my mom. (She lives in Reno, not Tasmania. I would not, however, be opposed to her buying a second home in Tassie. Mom, are you reading this?)
Q. What is your favourite restaurant town?
A. Wildair lays claim to best food I’ve eaten (so far) in the city. I want everything on the menu. Even though I’m very old man about restaurants (noise, crowds, boo!) its cramped, raucous atmosphere is entirely appropriate and encouraged.
I don’t think I’ve gone to a restaurant in the city more than Marta. I mean, Champagne and pizza, ok?
For quick eats, I’m obsessed with two places in a couple neighborhoods I did a stint in: Four Tacos (East Village) and Schaller’s Stube Sausage Bar (Yorkville). Important: both have beer.
Q. You have moved from West Coast to East Coast US – what is the most positive aspects of being based in New York?
A. I’ve been vagabonding between Manhattan and White Plains (I work up in the boonies in Westchester) while I figure out where in NYC I want to settle more long-term. Here are two of the most positive things I’ve noticed:
The vast majority of people I encounter are open, friendly, and inquisitive. It has been a delight to go into random places where you don’t know anyone and striking up a conversation.
People are very no-nonsense. One thing I’ve learned navigating the streets and the subway: Always. Keep. Moving. You have to be decisive and fast-paced or you’ll get trampled and/or receive a few choice words. Don’t stop and gawk or dilly-dally.
Q. What do you miss about West Coast?
A. Particular to Seattle: Lack of soul-crushing heat and humidity. Especially the latter. Roasting on subway platforms is one of the circles of hell. The coffee scene. Certain familiar spots in Capitol Hill. Many people.
Q. How is the wine assortment varied east to west coast? More import wines East Coast? Etc.
A. New York is the center of the wine world, period. There is no better city in which to be an enthusiastic drinker of wine. Cult wines, classics, back vintages, weird esoteric shit? It’s all here. Not to mention a constant stream of winemakers coming through town, crazy dinners, loads of atmospheric wine bars, and funky wine shops. (The latter are especially choice since grocery stores cannot sell wine.)
One thing that strikes me as funny is I’ve drank way more California wine since moving clear across the country. (Lieu-Dit Melon would be a good example of this, tip of the iceberg.)
Q. How is online wine writing changing?
A. This isn’t about writing per se, but most of my online wine discoveries come through Instagram. Things are very scroll-driven when it comes to finding new things.
As a reader rather than a scroller, I am more drawn to personality-driven, narrative, longer-form wine writing. And, in general, the pendulum now seems to be swinging back towards featuring content like that online. It’s important to look at the time people spend on a post and if they stick around to explore.
In the realm of food writing, what Eater is doing with “Life in Chains” is something I really admire and is a good example of how food writing can be a platform for all kinds of expression.
Along those lines, I was really thrilled with an online piece in Wine Enthusiast written by Ashley Rodriguez about sommeliers who compete in marathons. It’s really a work/life balance, health and fitness story. (Sidebar: reading this piece makes my excuses for not working out extremely lame.) The more recent post by Lauren Mowery comparing her personal journey to become a lawyer versus a Master of Wine was excellent and really resonated with people.
Q. What in addition to writing is important with respect to wine? Podcast? Video? Instantaneous video – Periscope, etc?
A. I was on a panel at the Wine Bloggers Conference and one of the things I mentioned regretting was not jumping on video earlier. I mean I can still do it.. There’s polished, produced, and professional content to more DIY stuff via Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, Snapchat. I enjoy the informal reviews, the in-the-moment content you can do on your phone. But to have someone operating the camera and providing direction would be sweet.
Podcasting is great because you can digest information anywhere: gym, car, airplane, etc.
Really, I need to take my own advice more on this stuff. You are causing me to look in the mirror, James.
Q. What is the most difficult thing about writing about wine today? (more labels, more to write about-less time to write?)
A. Keeping it fresh and not repeating yourself. Even with the mind-blowing number of grapes, bottles, and labels available at your fingertips, it’s sometimes a challenge not to feel a bit robotic. But, then again, I’d never get tired reading about pizza and tacos, so if it’s something people feel really passionate about (food, cars, wine) you have to accept the challenge as a writer to constantly reinvent the wheel.
It really depends on what your goal is. I’ve actually morphed into more of an editor than a writer, specifically over the last year. (Though I’ve written a bunch of pieces for the magazine and online, and will continue to do so.) It’s given me perspective, from the nitty-gritty of copy editing to framing and expanding pitch ideas. That makes me a better writer. Sometimes it’s good to step back from your own words and absorb, critique, and contemplate what other folks are doing. Though, at some point, you do have to pick up your pen and get cracking.
Biography: Jameson Fink is Senior Digital Editor at Wine Enthusiast. A two-time SAVEUR Blog Award finalist, Fink launched his wine blog and began a retail wine career in 2004. Fink has been a wine editor at Foodista, Grape Collective, and msn.com. He relocated from Seattle to New York in 2015 and is passionate about enjoying Champagne with popcorn.
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