Each year this idea, this website, this property gets bigger and evolves. It grew out of an idea. An idea that there could be a wine for geeks. Not wine geeks, but a wine for geeks, nerds, etc. Wine geeks are a subset of that so, yes, for them too. Ever since that day in February – 2/10/09 to be exact 1337 Wine has become something winederful. I can remember being in Cost Plus World Market in Selma, TX looking for cheap wine with my parents. Seeing that bottle of 337 wine almost literally made my jump for joy that someone named a wine for geeks. Seeing that it was 337 and not 1337 shot me down. Seeing that it was about $15 I put it back on the shelf. Too expensive. Now it sells for around $10-12.
I can remember being in the checkout line deciding to buy 1337wine.com. I already had my own domain marz.me (I don’t post much on there anymore and it can be controversial), so like someone getting their first tattoo, I had to buy another domain. I ended up buying a few more variations later that year.
Shortly after buying the domain, my Father asked me what I was going to do with it. I had been thinking the same thing for a couple months. I had a Blogspot/Blogger site called Sommelier-in-Training a couple years earlier and never did anything with that. I was also a huge fan of Gary Vaynerchuk, a Vayniac even. Had the t-shirts and wristbands to prove it. Since I knew that making a wine named 1337 was going to take a long time (especially since 337’s branding is almost how I would do mine), I decided that I really should do something with it. So video wine reviews seemed natural.
The early days of this blog were new territory for me. I had followed a lot of people on the ‘net so I was able to observe what they did. But I didn’t follow a lot of wine bloggers. So my site was not from a wine blogger turned vlogger perspective but a technology geek turned wine geek. I winged a lot of it. I still do a little bit as is evident in the glitches that happen from time-to-time. From the beginning I wanted to emulate Gary in a few things and be myself in others.
- No edits. No retakes. I want my first impression to be real. Yes I’ve done a couple. And I do mean a couple in over 260 episodes. And those retakes were just redoing the intro and may first minute before any review happened.
- Review wine I’ve never had before. It frustrates those who know me when I tell them I won’t review a wine I had at dinner. I’ve still held to this except for maybe one exception from what I can remember. Like Gary, I may have had the wine before, but a different vintage. And even then it’s only been a few times that I’ve had a wine from a different vintage.
- Keep it real. If I don’t like it, say it. I try to be as nice as possible in panning a wine, but I won’t not say I don’t like something. I’ll also be honest if that style of wine isn’t a favorite and try to at least evaluate if the wine is well made and just not to my liking. I also don’t have any “lost” episodes where I hated a wine. If I didn’t like it, it got posted. I have one “lost” episode where the video from a Skype tasting never recorded from a Skype crash. All I have is the audio.
- Don’t take myself seriously. That may hurt my cred but it’s who I am. Stuffy wine reviewers are snobs. I’m not a snob. At least not when it comes to wine 😉
- Be selective with advertising. I don’t have too many ads now. The site used to have a ton of affiliate ads (never made a dime from those BTW), but none were from wineries. And that’s where I try to stick to that. I don’t want to feel obligated to give a wine a good review because they paid me. Now, I do have some Palate Press ads, so whatever contracts they have will show on my site. And I don’t keep track of the specific ads.
- While my show obviously is derived from Wine Library TV, it’s still my own. I do my own thing.
There are some other things about the site that I wanted to do. I wanted to be educational. Gary’s reviews, and other video wine reviewers out there made me feel like I was missing something. They “Rest of the Story” as Paul Harvey would say. Look him up you young whippersnappers. If I can find out more about the winery I try to give you something of that. Most reviewers seem to just say if they like the wine. People want to feel a connection with the wine so sharing something about the winery is important if I can. And not the bullshit marketing fluff. I try to avoid that or at least call them out on it.
That also lead me to Sommelier School. Part of the reason for the wine review videos was to get eyeballs to the site for Somm School. I don’t distribute Somm School so you have to come to the site to see it. This is the wine geeky part, and my video diary of my studying for the Intro Sommelier test. I was (and probably still) the only person out there putting out a 30-40 presentation and written report on wine regions. Every Week. For the most part. I got to 29 Lessons. Damn, that’s a lot of learning.
I had the year of no wine. 4/15/10-4/15/11. A year of no wine reviews for a wine review website is a death sentence. I kept it going. Sommelier School was the main vehicle. But even then, I started to fade. I stayed active on Twitter and Facebook. As my year was nearing an end I knew I needed to relaunch. So I changed things up. New look to the site, new intro, and a renewed passion. I came out swinging with new reviews. Rewarded someone who gave me support during that year with my first review in over a year – Sacre Bleu wine. I was afraid I wouldn’t like them, but I did.
And I even changed my Avatar to make those untasted bottles front and center. All the bottles in that pic had yet to be reviewed. I also made sure I included Texas wine in the pic. The pose even. Not meant to be dominating over wine, but showing a confidence in myself. Granted the original idea was to have me standing over the wine, but logistically it wasn’t feasible. I like how it turned out.
From April 2011 until now, I’ve continued to mature the show, and myself in the process. I’ve spent a lot of time, effort, and money (for someone that really doesn’t earn more than a couple hundred dollars from this – hint, hint – donate!) to improve the show. I think about it much of my waking hours. Some things are just not possible since I do work a “real job” and am not independently wealthy or have major backers. I’ve upgraded my lighting and sound. I’ve upgraded my computers. I’ve incorporated Green Screen. I was also the only wine person out there doing Skype until recently, and even then that other person doesn’t do Skype tastings. I stream live occasionally too (not the first to do this). My last acquisition for the show is the Canon VIXIA HF M500 I recently got to finally have a “real” camera.
Now it’s about to get real. The original title of this post was 2013 – The year 1337 Wine Gets Real. Then I realized that this may have people think I’m finally creating the wine itself. Not yet. That’s a very long way off still. 2013 will be yet another year of growth. I’ve been planning and scheming for a few days on some things, weeks on others, and months on still other stuff. What’s in store for next year? Here is a partial list:
- Live tastings. As in, I’m somewhere with an audience doing a guided tasting while streaming live. I kind of did this last year with Ceci Barretto at her shop, but I really haven’t done it since. That was a great test to see how I would “perform” in front of people. Now it’s time to take it bigger.
- More interviews. Besides Skype, I plan on hitting some Texas wineries this coming year. Texas is beginning to produce better wines that can compete on the larger stage and I’d like to help feature that. A trip to another winemaking area in the U.S. is a possibility depending on my schedule.
- The return of Sommelier School. I don’t think I can do it weekly at first, but I can at least do it bi-weekly. I’m in a sommelier study group now. I feel like I’m about in the middle when it comes to knowledge. Some of the group definitely knows more than I do about a lot of things. Some are really knowledgeable about a few things but lack in other areas. So I feel like I’m in a good group. I’m not in over my head nor am I the smartest person in the room (which is how I typically view myself many times – sorry that’s my Ego).
- New look to the website. While the current look is OK, I want something better. I’ve looked at a few themes over the year and most really don’t fit exactly what I want; a magazine style layout. I did find one that seems to let me do what I want, but I think it may require a lot of custom design that I’m not well versed at.
- In the spirit of TWiT (This Week in Tech) and the other person to inspire me to do video, Leo Laporte, I’ll launch a regular internet video wine round table. The two names I’ve thought of are taken for URLs (I would have redirected them to here anyway). Earlier this year I had the grandiose idea of doing wine reviews for 24 hours straight. 4 wines from each time zone and review them when it’s between 1-2 PM local time. Well that idea faded for various reasons. But the idea of doing live tasting but not a regular review is still alive. I also would love to get various wine people (bloggers, writers, winemakers, importers, etc.) together on a regular basis and live stream it. Very much like TWiT. This really isn’t new for me, but I’ve mulled over this and with the new camera, I can finally do it right.
So there you have it. Pretty much what my plans are for 2013. Some these may actually happen, and other may prove to be impossible or no longer interest me. And not all of these are going to happen in the first few months but may be later in the year. The one thing I do know, is that I’m still pretty much the only one on the Internet doing a show like this. There are a few others that have “shows” that are nothing but overly produced fluff pieces with big money behind them hosted by out of work TV anchors or actors. And these people produce a few shows and then stop. They’re in it for the money. I’m in it for the passion. Only two people have more reviews than I do. And they stopped over a year ago. Last Man Tasting is what I call myself.
Yeah, I just whipped out my man parts for all the world to see there. And not to make light of Naked Wine Show or Wine Library TV. Gary has moved on. Not sure why the other show ended. And that’s annoying. It’s a friggin’ Internet video. You could at least make a goodbye video like Gary. Hate that with blogs that just stop too. No “final post.” The point is, everyone else ran away and hid when they didn’t become the next Gary Vaynerchuk. I’m still here doin’ my thang. And if they don’t like it? Then do it better. 😉