Alder Yarrow and I had lunch together today at Taylor’s Automatic Refresher at San Francisco’s Ferry Building. After noting the $100-plus bottles of Shafer Hillside Select, Quintessa, and Blackbird Vineyards wines on offer at a take-out place that serves $8.99 burgers and $3.99 hotdogs wrapped in paper, Alder modestly mentioned that he’d just heard that morning that his brainchild, Vinography, had been named the best overall wine blog in 2008 by Tom Wark’s American Wine Blog Awards.Suggested wine pairing? Ask the go-to guy.
Photo by justinsomnia.org
I started reading Vinography a few years ago after meeting Alder at the very first Symposium for Professional Wine Writers in 2006. We were both participants then; Alder has gone on to be one of the most generous and well-liked speakers at the 2007 and 2008 Symposiums. A corporate web designer and consultant during the day, Alder started Vinography in 2004 after realizing he had become the “go-to guy” for his friends who wanted wine or restaurant recommendations in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Sitting outside Taylor’s sipping from a bottle of Juice Squeeze, Alder recalled the beginnings of what would become his passionate hobby. He’d typed “wine blog” into Google in December of 2004 and come up with nothing. That looked promising, so he came up with the name of a possible blog, Vinography, with the same result. So he trademarked the name and began posting.
“When I first started, I had the fantasy that someone might send me some free wine,” Alder says. Now, he gets about seven or eight cases a month – leading him to host and donate his bottles to a monthly neighborhood party he calls “Bernaling Man”; the name alludes to the Burning Man gathering in the desert each year, but this version instead takes place in his San Francisco neighborhood of Bernal Heights.
Vinography also won the award for best wine blog writing. Here’s an example on Alder’s blog that I enjoyed:
“Messages In A Bottle: The Better Half of My Palate
I heard my wife say something unbelievable last week. It just sort of popped out, casually, as we were putting the final touches on a simple Tuesday night pasta dinner.
'Honey, I’m worried that we’re not buying enough good red wine to lay down for the long term.'
I nearly dropped my plate. This was the wine lover’s equivalent to any number of preposterous fantasies: the sports fan whose wife requests a much bigger TV and matching tattoos of his favorite team; the meat lover’s vegan girlfriend who suddenly offers to make prime rib at home; or the oversexed Woody Allen type whose wife suggests they start swinging with supermodels.
I’m the luckiest man alive.”
You can read the entire posting on Alder’s blog. As he admits, his writing has come a long way since his earliest posts more than three years ago. Likewise, the world of wine blogging has matured: there are now more than 700 wine blogs on the internet, according to Tom Wark, himself the author of the blog Fermentation: The Daily Wine Blog. I must admit that I couldn’t resist asking Alder to recommend his favorite Sonoma pinots to me for a gift to bring a friend in New York I’ll see later this week.