Sunday, August 23, 2020

Follow Up Thoughts on the WMC Travel and Wine Writing Panel

Zephyr did a great job hosting a virtual online conference. But by not being in person, it was difficult to get a bead on the immediate needs of the audience by a quick “show of hands’ type poll to determine how to best tailor the content.

We never did mention that what our panel was really discussing-- wine tourism.
Wine + Travel = Wine Tourism. 

I think it’s important to think about your travel writing from wine tourism perspective because it will help focus your pitches and how you approach a story, be it for outside media or your blog. I actually have a Wine Tourism tab on my blog. Please Note—I have not updated this blog regularly (or at all really) in the last several years because paying work is my priority. Some posts are courtesy posts about trips for stories I could not place out.

One thing I wanted to say on the panel is it helps to know what your goals are. What do you want to achieve by adding travel content into your wine writing?

* Do you want to be published in high profile print media (National newspapers or glossy magazines) or online media?

* Are you looking to start a freelance career? Or transition into full-time freelance writing? (Spoiler alert: It’s not easy or profitable.)

* Do you just want to augment your wine blog with travel writing?

* Do you want wine samples and press trips?

You must know what you want before you can get it. I believe once you truly know what you want—nothing can stop you.

The Pursuit of a Published By-Line
Some people are obsessed with getting published because they think it gives them legitimacy. Yes, in many respects it does, but your work is worthy regardless of whether it is published or not. You don’t need anyone else to confer status upon you. Own it for yourself first.

I have travel writer friends who have “by-line fever” they just want to see their name in print. That’s their motivation. (The only place I want to see my name is on the check!)

Unfortunately “by-line fever” can lead to the dreaded “work for exposure” trap.  Meaning no pay, work for free. You may feel it’s a quick ramp up to publishing riches but it’s not. It just serves to drive down quality and pay rates across the board and hurts all writers. Don’t work for free or “per click” rates.  That’s what your blog is for!

Blogs are back again. I see more and more PR’s happy to see work published on blogs as they too are faced with the disruption and collapse of the traditional print industry as they try to get their message out.

Your voice and opinion is worthy and you will find an audience and attract notice if you bring a fresh perspective to the topic and inject it with your personality and sensibilities.
—Be yourself but have a point.
—Inform and entertain.

NOTE—do not publish anything on your blog that you think you might want to pitch out. If it’s been published, even on your blog, it will not be considered.
These days more and more work is assigned in house. So it’s difficult to pitch unless your story is newsworthy, you have a special knowledge in some way, or the pretty much guaranteed to be accepted—it’s about a celebrity and you have secured an interview.

To break in to print try pitching the personal page or the essay portion of the magazine.
Always read several issues of the periodical you are pitching to get a feel for the tone and style before you pitch.

Think beyond the standard glossy Wine and Travel periodicals —affinity group periodicals often have money and budget. Look to alternative print outlets in travel such as: 

—Airline magazines although these are budgets are shrinking and the wonderful Southwest Air magazine folded recently.

—Regional AAA publications.

—Lifestyle publications in which feature wine/travel content
            Golf, Boating, Etc.

—Professional Trade Organization Magazines
            Doctors, Dentists, Insurance, Realtors, etc.
The “I” in Travel Writing

In the panel discussion I said that historically there was no “I” in travel writing, but I think that’s no longer the case—what I meant is I do think it is acceptable to inject some of your personal experience into a story—but not at the expense of the subject matter. 

There are instances where you may be you the lynchpin or conduit through which the story or an element of the story is told or illuminated. This type of storytelling is normally only in the personal essay, although I see it happening more in other types of articles.

But I do agree with Per that the tedious regurgitation of a trip in the form of a travel diary entry such as —I did XXX, and then we went to XXX —is always to be avoided.

Editor Feedback and Improving Your Writing
Getting feedback from an editor on your work is valuable and important. But these days you may not get much more than a few minor changes.

Anthologies are a good way to break into travel writing and editors do spend considerable time with you to shape your story. It’s a great learning experience, you will get paid (usually just an honorarium $100 and a few copies of the book) but you are published and now have a good credit/example of your work.

There are many annual Travel Writing Anthologies that have open submissions throughout the year. Just Google calls for submissions. Unfortunately there are not really any Wine Writing Anthologies—but someone should get right on that! ;-)

I totally agree with Per that you must READ.
If you want to be a writer you must first be a reader.

Take a class or attend a writing conference. There is very little that you can learn in a one hour panel talk or workshop on writing. You really need to spend the time and money on qualified instruction.

Some Conference Examples:

Consider taking a local writing workshop or online travel writing class.

Final Thoughts

Wine or Travel Writing as a full-time career is not impossible—just improbable given the shrinking of outlets, reduced staff and continual pay cuts.

That being said —this pandemic will eventually end, and while the virus might linger forever, preventative methods and vaccines will allow for resumption of travel. But what remains to be seen is what the travel and wine tourism industry will look like—what will change, what will end and what new ideas and modes will emerge? What types of destinations will rebound first. What about the cruise industry—winemaker cruises have been popular in the past, how may that change?

As you consider what topics you want to write about, seek to observe and note what’s changing, what’s just beyond the topic, the story hidden within the story.

There’s a thing astronomers call averted vision—it’s how when you look at a star or bright object you need to look slightly away to the edge to see it clearly —and I think that’s the same technique you need to find a good story, be aware of what’s happening on the periphery.

Additional Resources:

Per Karlsson’s notes on the panel


Good luck!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Pinot Noir --Varietal of the Month

Pinot Noir can be finicky and difficult to grow, but when the conditions are right it creates one of the world’s most popular wines. Here in Sonoma County, in the Russian River Valley and along the Sonoma Coast, we have some of world’s best vineyards and growing conditions for producing classic Pinot Noir of elegance and complexity.

Here are capsule reviews of Pinot Noir wines you may find along the Wine Road.

Balletto 2017 Pinot Noir Estate Grown RRV  
Oh yes, it has the unmistakable scent of Russian River Valley—loamy and earthy with complex notes of cigar box, dusty rose, black cherry, licorice and a whiff of bacon. Medium bodied with taut yet well-integrated tannins, the 2017 Balletto Pinot Noir Estate Grown RRV, is full of bright acidity with flavors of black cherry, cranberry, all spice and white pepper. A classic Pinot from a classic region.

D & L Carinalli Vineyards 2018 Estate Pinot Noir RRV
Light and floral this 2018 D & L Carinalli Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley opens with a distinct notes of sage and chamomile. The bright juicy red fruit flavors of raspberry and black cherry are tempered by a grounding undertone of vanilla and cedar that deliver great texture and knit into a bright yet silky finish. Elegant and structured it’s well suited for aging or enjoy now with friends from a distance or over Zoom.      

Furthermore 2015 Pinot Noir La Encantada Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills
Pale garnet in color, the Furthermore 2015 Pinot Noir La Encantda Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills opens with notes of baking spice, a hint of thyme and a floral scent of crushed rose petals. This Pinot hails from the central coast and is full of juicy black fruits, cherry and a touch of fig preserves with a long and lingering finish that floats softly on the palate. Good structure and balance make this age-worthy if you have the self-control not to drink it immediately.

Papapietro Perry 2016 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
This Papapietro 2016 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n roll— and by that I mean it hits all the right notes to create a symphony of flavor. On the nose it displays classic notes of dark berry fruit, brambles and allspice. The rich flavors offer a back beat of juicy tart pomegranate, black cherry and licorice with great balance and racy acidity. Each sip takes you deeper into a concentrated melody of pure Pinot pleasure.

Sonoma-Cutrer 2016 Pinot Noir Vine Hill Vineyard Russian River Valley 
Bold and spicy this 2016 Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir is grown in the famed loamy Goldridge soils of the Russian River Valley. Dark garnet in color it presents a rich and multifaceted flavor profile full of ripe raspberry, dark plum, and blackberry with a lift of earthy sage and notes of cinnamon and black pepper. Texture abounds with round firm tannins and juicy acidity that carries through the lengthy finish.

Woodenhead 2015 Pinot Noir RRV
This brilliant ruby red Woodenhead 2015 Pinot Noir RRV has a pretty nose of dusty lavender and sagebrush. The palate presents a dichotomy of flavors—from ripe sweet blueberry and raspberry jam notes to tart bright cherry, strawberry and rose hips. Then, just when you think you’ve got it pegged, it opens up with surprising savory notes of leather, juniper and clove. It’s a complex kid that strikes a balance of soft tannin and zesty acidity as it continually evolves in the glass. A boost of French oak gives it a round and toasty warm finish.

This post was first published on Along the Wine Road here.

Wine Road Podcast --Mercury WInes with Brad Beard



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