Vote now! Wine Person of the Decade [the Naughties]

wine_person_decadeThanks to everyone for the fascinating discussion suggesting nominees for the Wine Person of the Decade. Now it’s voting time! To make the voting somewhat more manageable, a select committee (that may or may not have included more people than just me) has now chosen a list of finalists.

John Casella: CEO of Casella Wines, which launched the now ubiquitous [yellow tail] in June 2001.
Fred Franzia: The California-based creator of Two Buck Chuck, which debuted in 2002, believes that no wine should sell for more than $10 a bottle.
Paul Giamatti: played role of Miles in Sideways (2004); crushed the fortunes of Merlot with a single line while the film boosted interest in Pinot Noir
Shin & Yoko Kobayshi: authors of “The Drops of the Gods,” a Japanese comic started in 2004 that is, according to the NYT, “the most influential voice in Asia’s wine markets.”
Eric LeVine: Formerly of Microsoft, LeVine opened to the public in April 2004; now, it is the dominant site for user-generated tasting notes with over one million wine reviews.
Robert Parker: Critic who popularized the 100-point scoring system; as winemaker Randall Grahm put it in the comments: “His influence on winemaking styles world-over is massive, a bit like the light-bending properties of a ginormous black hole on nearby astral bodies.”
Terry Theise: wine importer who has championed “grower” champagnes, ones from those who grow the grapes as opposed to large houses
Gary Vaynerchuk: dynamic wine retailer; host of almost 800 episodes of Wine Library TV; internet phenom who is, in his words, changing the wine world.


Which wine person most epitomizes the decade of the Naughties (2000-2009)?

  • Eric LeVine ( (58%, 1,662 Votes)
  • Gary Vaynerchuk (wine retailer and internet phenom) (21%, 599 Votes)
  • Robert Parker (The Wine Advocate) (8%, 217 Votes)
  • Paul Giamatti (Sideways) (4%, 100 Votes)
  • Terry Theise (importer of grower Champagne & more) (3%, 80 Votes)
  • John Casella (Yellow Tail) (3%, 76 Votes)
  • Fred Franzia (Two Buck Chuck) (3%, 74 Votes)
  • Shin & Yoko Kobayashi (The Drops of the Gods) (1%, 34 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,842

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If you’d like to elaborate why you voted the way you did, hit the comments. Nominees appear alphabetically and from left to right in the images. You can only vote for one person. Voting ends with the decade on 12/31.

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101 Responses to “Vote now! Wine Person of the Decade [the Naughties]”

  1. My familiarity with six of the eight brought up many points and counter points for each. In the end, I had to go with the person who brought the most exposure to wine in the main stream. Gary’s internet presence, book deals, TV spots, getting Ellen Degeneres to taste dirt (sort of)have definitely given wine greater cool appeal. For all the good that may have come from Fred Franzia and John Casella there has been at least as much bad.


    Josh @nectarwine

  2. I love Gary like a brother, but he’s only been on the scene in a major way for three years or so. I’d call him the Rising Star of the Decade, but Wine Person of the Decade is a stretch.

  3. I’m guessing, this being an online wine poll that the fight will be between Robert Parker (for traditional wine types) and Gary V (for online folks).

    However, my vote is for Casella and YellowTail because Parker is really a pre-2000 phenomenon and we have yet to feel the real impact of @GaryVee (coming in next decade). YellowTail had a transformative effect on the structure and economics of the world wine business (opening doors for more international wine) and for branded wines, so on that basis, it seems clear.

  4. Robert Parker. I may not like all of the consequences of his influence, but as Randall Graham pointed out, his influence on winemaking is massive, and add to that, the way wines are sold down the supply chain, and how far the consumers have been informed on wine regions, grape varieties, wineries, and personalities.

  5. noticeably absent: Eric Asimov, NYT….

  6. @thirstforwine, well said! I was hoping Zane Lamprey would be on the list.

  7. alright, not even a token winelady nominee, what’s up with that? have women in wine simply not achieved anything outstanding during the naughties? I seriously doubt it…. please think this over, dr. vino….

  8. oups, sorry Yuko! I missed her since she’s part of a team….

  9. Parker’s influence is indeed powerful, but he started before this last decade and his monopoly on on that power is definitely waning. My vote is for the Sideways entry. This single movie not only toppled merlot as king of the reds but brought 100s of thousands to wine around the world. Many people wouldn’t even have bought a bottle of 2 Crap Chuck or Yellow Fail if it weren’t for this film.

  10. I am with all the voters who appreciate the service that Eric has provided the wine-loving world. CellarTracker rocks!

  11. Not a single winemaker on the list. I suppose there’s a reason, but it still kind of sucks. Ah well.

  12. Gary V is a novelty act, a peddler whose predeliction for hype has extended to his own personal brand, which helps to entice Gen Xers to try his products. He also happens to be a very sweet man.

    The Franzia brothers + cousin made table wine acceptable, bringing price points down so more people could enjoy their stay-at-home meals with wine rather than iced tea. Ditto John Casella.

    But I think the choice comes down to Robert Parker vs. Eric Levine, the inventor of These two epitomize the alternative ways that wine is rated, serving as guides for the more discriminating consumer, who, after all, makes up 90% of those who purchase wine.

    Parker remains THE dominant expert, still able to make or break releases as he did in the 90’s. LeVine, who came on the scene in the middle of this decade, doesn’t hold himself up as a Master Taster, indeed he is self effacing, which is the whole point of CellarTracker.

    As we read in the seminal VinTank white paper, CellarTracker, along with Snooth and Vinquire, represents the rise at the beginning of this century of the power of the consumer critic, all 90,000 of them who’ve uploaded over a million notes and scores. A vote for Eric LeVine acknowledges how the Internet, in its 2.0 phase, has undone all the old power structures, creating greater bonds of community in the bargain.

    This phenomenon has sparked a citizen revolution occurring in all sectors of business which our industry can’t avoid. Indeed it should celebrate it, and can do so by selecting CT founder Eric LeVine as Wine Person of the Decade (whom I have never met and know only through a few posts on various blogs).

  13. I don’t think it’s sexist at all. It would be sexist to simply include a woman for the sake of including one. Plenty of women are in the wine business or are winemakers, but that alone isn’t sufficient. Carole Meredith retired and much of her work was done in the 1990s, just as the work of people like Helen Turley with the cult CA wines was done in the 1990s.

    For the 2000s, Parker is as influential as ever but isn’t unique to the 2000s any more or less than the 1990s.

    Yellow Tail came from nowhere and became a multi-million case phenomenon, bringing in thousands of new wine drinkers. So did Two Buck Chuck on a lesser scale. Many people owe their first experience of wine to one of those two.

    Giamatti is a one-shot and it was really the film, not him, that had the influence on pinot noir.

    Terry is interesting but the whole idea of grower Champagne is fundamentally another marketing scam. Forever we’ve been told that the secret to great Champagne is the blending. Now we’re told that the secret is really terroir. “Oh by the way everybody, we have a new schtick so start hating the stuff you always liked before.”

    Kobayshi is really interesting. But in a way, that’s like Sideways – the impact on wine is an interesting side event but the point was primarily the story line. Still, it’s interesting because it doesn’t come from the usual places you’d look for wine impact and in that sense it’s perhaps typical of the 2000s.

    Gary on the other hand, is completely different from the others. He’s a retailer who’s overcome the suspicion people would normally have about someone hawking his own products. He’s also hawking in a different way than any other pitchmen have done in the past – instead of talking about low low prices, he’s evaluating the products in his store. He’s also the first major wine personality outside of print – the movie was a one-shot but he’s long term.

    And he’s built the brand of Gary V which is the most typical phenom of the 2000s. With the explosion of possible avenues to get your face out there, the talentless and the stupid have equal time with anyone else. So you have Hiltons, Lohans, and all kinds of others who have become brands along with guys like Trump and Gary V, who for better or worse, have actually accomplished something. I think he gets the nod.

    Long term, it goes to Eric. He’s fundamentally changed the way wine is collected and evaluated. Rather than rely on an expert, people will increasingly use CT. People are now going to their cellars to pick something out and while they’re there, they’re not only taking it out of their CT inventory, they’re checking on which wine to select based on current up to date evaluations by others.

    But the question wasn’t about who has the long-term impact, it was about who typifies the 2000s. So it’s gotta be Gary.

  14. Great poll! Everyone on the list is deserving.

    To me the biggest development of the decade has been the emergence of good value wines and the increased role of branding. These affected every winery and no one did it better or on a larger scale than Yellow Tail. So I’d say Casella.

  15. Eric has done a magnificent job. not only do i believe he’s the ‘wine guy’ of the decade.. if all things go well, he will be the wine guy of the next decade as well

  16. Very fun poll and great conversation in the comments between this and previous post. I agree with many of the points and I was undecisive between 3 or 4 folks – so many deserving. In the end I selected Paul G of Sideways more for his reach. It was more mainstream, IMO, even though Franzia did a lot to bring wine to the masses via 2 Buck Chuck. However, single-handedly Paul applied a stigma to Merlot and opined about the romance of Pinot Noir and its fickleness. In my experience more everyday wine-drinking Joe’s have heard of Sideways than Fred Franzia.

  17. I have to give it to Eric. With Cellartracker he has constructed the facebook of the wine world, a database of knowledge that is growing almost exponentially and will become only more important to the people that love wine with time. Gary V is a close second for me for being the face of 21st century wine drinking.

  18. Eric LeVine

    Gary Vee is changing internet retailing and “personal branding”; Eric has changed how we enjoy wine.

  19. Wow, I have to say, I am stunned, actually a little embarrassed. I just don’t feel deserving.

    CellarTracker is about its users and not about me. I will be the first to tell you that CellarTracker is very deep and very sticky for the 40,000-50,000 wine lovers who use it weekly to track their cellars. That said, it is still a very niche application. Maybe as the number of user reviews stretches from 1 million to 10 or 15 million you may see it emerge as a Yelp of wine for the coming decade. I still don’t see how that makes ME a wine personality for the past decade though.

    All that said, I am humbled by the comments both here and in the prior thread. Mostly, I am just so happy that my ability to invent some technology can in any way deepen wine appreciation for others.

    -Eric LeVine

  20. With the introduction of Yellow Tail in 2001 at a price point that was affordable, Casella is responsible for millions of new wine drinkers. His wines are easy to drink and ultimately lead those consumers to venture out of the “Yellow Tail Comfort Zone”. They will taste other more interesting wines at higher prices from other parts of the world.



  21. I voted for Eric LeVine and so far…he’s making it! Having people sharing tastnig notes like this is just key, that’s Web 2.0! For second I had Gary in mind because I think he’s great and making his job well…but it’s still only one opinion ; I think he should leverage his built buzz for even higher scopes ; maybe merge with LeVine to build the new century Wine hub?!

  22. This was a close call bewteen Gary and Eric. Eric’s software is true genius, allowing me to keep track of a nice size wine collection, letting me save countless hours searching for bottles, and letting me figure out what I own. Gary is a wonderful guy who I have had the pleasure of spending time with on a few occasions, including our dual passions – a wine dinner at a high end steakhouse and a tailgate party at a Jets game. My vote between them will remain a secret.

  23. Considering your name is “Bestjetsfan,” I think we know which way you’re leaning!

  24. I enjoyed reading this list of “tastemakers”, but I have to be honest, it seems very suspicious. I am surprised that you included Cellar Tracker. I have never heard of them until this posting. In fact, I only use Wine Searcher and Snooth. I am very digital savvy as I previously worked for a digital ad agency in Australia. The media industry is experiencing a prolific change. Old media – Wine Spectator, Enthusiast, etc – are becoming irrelevant to the true wine consumer – the consumer driving the marketplace. We consumed magazines because we wanted to hear the experts tell us something about wine (restaurants, travel destinations, etc), but now consumers/readers go online to Snooth (Facebook, Twitter, etc) to hear what we all think about the wine. Best of luck to all of the people listed…just throwing out my two cents.

  25. Dylan, just because you aren’t aware of CellarTracker doesn’t mean its creator isn’t worthy. I’m not a CellarTracker user, but I recognize its significance. Without it in the space first, there wouldn’t be a Snooth or Corkd or whatever.

  26. Dylan,

    how many “consumers/readers” go online to read Snooth?

    compare that to the 1.15 Million tasting notes WRITTEN (let alone read) on Cellar tracker?

    seriously.. a wine fan, who’s digitally savvy and never HEARD of cellar tracker? Even traditional old media have written articles on CT.

  27. Because I think of the decade of getting away from Critics to more of as Gary V trusting our own palate. There was really only two choices. Eric and Gary V.

    Gary V talking about trusting our Palate.

    But Eric has people score wines you can find and add who you trust to see scores, plus he has an added cellar function

    so my Vote goes to Eric.

    My “unvote” would go to Fred Franzia, but he seems to not care about making good quality wine, about making Cheap Alcohol, probably buying grapes that use chemicals, or use Illegal Immigrants, that and every time I see him interviewed I dislike him more and more

  28. I am happy to cast my vote for Eric LeVine, whose software has utterly transformed the way I select, buy, and think about wine. All the nominees are quite deserving in their way, but Cellar Tracker has opened wide the world of wine (fine and otherwise) to anyone with access to the Web. The site is as Web 2.0 as it gets and Eric, in my few e-mail exchanges with him, seems like a modest, unassuming, regular guy with a good idea (and the chops to make it happen) that has, in its own way, altered the universe, and much for the better.

  29. The list really has only two real candidates for me: Gary V and Eric Levine. I would marry Gary Vaynerchuk. Love the man, love the sense of humor, usually like the taste in wines, and would be very happy to help him convert–from Jets fan to Eagles fan, that is. (Some of you may have dirty minds, I was talking about football.)
    My vote, however, goes to Eric. I have a small collection and a modest ability to buy the wines I want to be drinking 20 years from now. Cellartracker multiplies my humble ability to understand and enjoy wine. I can’t imagine getting to the point of understanding my own tastes in the old pre-internet world. Now I’m psyched about the iPhone app that will let me check prices on the spot. Very cool. Sort of seems like Eric’s legacy.
    BTW, the greatest evidence that I’m not shallow: I love Donovan McNabb but don’t want to marry him. He needs to win a superbowl or two. And I’ll marry Brett Favre… 🙂

  30. I would’ve liked to see David Studdert (Wine Country Connect, Wine.Woot.Com). They have brought commerce and community to the public in ways that GaryVee and Parker have not.

    Having said that, I voted for the man who affects the most on a day to day basis and that person is Eric Levine @ CellarTracker. I could live without Parker, Gary, and “Sideways,” but I would be lost if you took my CellarTracker away!

  31. I’ll cast my vote for Eric LeVine, not because of his name, but because CellarTracker has had a greater influence on more wine enthusiasts than any winery, vintner, magazine or website in recent history.

  32. great idea to do this. interesting to see that eric is out ahead with cellar tracker. garyvee is up and coming, but not what i would call the most influential of the decade and robert parker is too well established.

    i would have liked to see “wine bloggers” be in the list. collectively, we have such a huge voice.

  33. I’d like to throw in a vote for the local proprieter. Local wines stores across the country have changed, grown, and evolved so much in the last decade. Proud owners have nutured and developed stores across the country. They embrace boutique wines. Emphasize low cost producers from “undiscovered” regions where very good wines can be found at bargain basement prices. They’ve educated their customers, held tastings, influences tastes… all while putting their entreprenurial spirits on the line. There is much to be said for the work of the independent proprietor with vision, dreams, and a good selection of wine.

    I know this isn’t as sexy as finding one person responsible for effecting the wine world over the last decade, but I think local entreprenurial store owners have had an enormous and under-valued influence on the wine world in this past decade.

  34. With 10 days to go, it now becomes a contest between which of the two top vote getters can turn out more members of their loyalists: Vayniacs vs. CellarTrackers. Close to ballot stuffing when the voting becomes so extended.

  35. I support Eric and cellartracker for this title. Not only has he provided a well thought out system for tracking one’s wine experiences, it can be free (if you choose not to donate), it records tasting notes from thousands of different palates (not just one, i.e. Gary), and it has changed the way I purchase old and new wines. No more can I say there are no notes on that esoteric 1962 Pomerol, because likely there will be a note on it on cellartracker.

    But the real significance for the future, in addition to an evergrowing database, is the possibility for research. Is the aging curve of a first growth really smooth, or does it go up and down over decades? Has a winemaker or winery greatly improved in quality over time? Is there any correlation between age of vines and quality? Which wines are really dogs? Which white burgs are having a problem with premox? The list goes on and on… You can’t find that info at any other venue.

  36. I am going to have to give the nod to Eric. Although Gary has a much larger personality and brand, I don’t believe that he has “changed” the way we look at wine. CellarTacker on the other hand is a game changer. I always enjoyed a glass of wine, but CellarTacker facilitated the growth from a 16 bottle rack in the dining room to a 350 bottle cellar. I can say unequivocally that I would not be the wine drinker I am today without CellarTracker.

  37. That’s a good point magnumgourmet. I’m embarassed to say that I just started using cellartracker about a month ago and it is way beyond the functionality of my prior tracking software. Not only that but it’s allowed me to drink the wine in my cellar when I should and not let the prime years of my wine pass me by. what I love best about CT is that it represents what’s right about the web – you’re not required to pay, but you should feel compelled to pay for the services. I paid radiohead $14.99 for their last album because as a musician I find them so talented that I think they deserve every penny for their hard work. Eric and CT take the hard work out of it for me in a way that makes me enjoy the “craft” of wine collecting a better and more “real” experience with the community tie-in. For me, he gets my vote.

    Unfortunately, for the mass wine audience, folks like yellow tail and two buck chuck have probably played a bigger role in reaching people with the power of wine. The unfortunate part about that is they’ve changed the composition and flavor of wine in the wring direction. Then again if they’re the gateway wine to getting people into wine, then there could be some good there.

    Gary V is the showman and only to a few of us. He entertains me sometimes, but I keep waiting for him to move beyond wine, like Amazon eventually moved beyond just books. Although, Amazon did radically transform my thinking about the web…Gary has not changed my way of thinking about wine.

  38. Sorry about any typos in my last post – working from my mobile phone.

  39. Obviously, all of the candidates have reasons to be commended. However, my vote is for Eric LeVine. I use Cellar Tracker every day. It provides a technological support system for wine collectors that has revolutionized the hobby.

  40. Most influencial has to be Paul G. A guy having basically nothing to do with wine, utters one movie line and radically alters the way the general consumer viewed what at the time was their favorite red varietal and Merlot still hasn’t fully recovered. Not based on what he knew obviously, with his Cheval Blanc. And tens of millions of people watched the movie! (Okay, that’s a guess, but I’ll bet I’m close.)
    I don’t know Eric’s blog but I would guess it is more wine-centric consumers, not the standard guy or girl purchasing their weeks wine at grocery (where outside of the Northeast, most wine is purchased).
    Next most influential has to be Fred F. You may not like what he has to say, but again, radically altered the way the everyday consumer drinks wine, not only in Trader Joe’s markets, but every grocery chain including Wal*Mart has their version of Two Buck Chuck.

  41. I can’t claim to know everyone on the list, so I appreciate the descriptions that were included and the highly significant contributions of each to the wine world. For me it came down to three, Robert, Eric, and Gary. In the case of Parker, though I respect what he has done as a leading critic, I believe his impact was greatest from ’85 to 2000, and less so amid a bevy of other critics on the scene in the last 10 years. I know Gary personally, as Wine Library is nearby where I live. Although I heartily enjoy his unique style and what he has achieved in about 4 years (and nearly 800 episodes of WLTV), more recently efforts seem to be concentrated on building a personal brand and the promotion of “Crush It” (his most recent book) while preparing for the next book. Nothing wrong with that and may he reach the goals to which he aspires.
    My vote ultimately was for Eric Levine, because CellarTracker as an innovative informational internet tool (and with each passing year so much more, including a forum, commerce, etc) that has burgeoned to over 1 million wine reviews since its inception is both astounding and far-reaching. Membership continues to grow in the tens of thousands, including people from many different countries. Although I have never met Eric, on a personal note I can say that whenever I had a technical problem with CT, Eric himself responded to me, and with impressive speed the same day. More than a humble inventor (as per his comment above), I have also appreciated his participation, where he writes his own notes on wines.

    Bravo Eric. I hope you take the prize. And long live CT.

  42. Do we not know how the wine world works?

    I said this once before – none of the above – Richard Sands, by a huge margin, Chairman of Constellation, has been a larger influence than all of the “nominees” combined.

    Do the math, folks.

  43. CellarTracker changes the way wine is stored, appreciated, reviewed when it first appears, and reviewed as it ages. Eric gets my vote.

  44. I voted for Eric 🙂

  45. Gary Vaynerchuk has done more for the wine industry in the past 3 years than anyone else has in the past 20 – Billy

  46. I use Cellar Tracker faithfully and would be lost with out it. I watch Wine Library TV with Gary V. and enjoy his show. However, I think most of us that are voting here and also frequent either or both those websites are in the significant minority of wine consumers.

    If we are really trying to determine who has had the largest impact on the wine purchasing public, of the choices offered, it has to be John Casella. He markets a consistant, quality wine at an affordable price for the other 90% of the wine buying public. Those of you reading this are in the other 10% minority.

    Cellar Tracker has been a huge help inventorying my wine and following the tasting notes of others like me. But how about the vast majority of consumers that purchase their wine one bottle at a time on the way home from work? They could care less about Cellar Tracker. My friends laugh at me when I show them my inventory on Cellar Tracker.

    Gary V., while attempting to “change the wine world”, doesn’t touch nearly as many consumers on a day to day basis as John Casella of Yellow Tail.


  47. I still say Joe Dressner… A true revolutionary.

  48. I really like Gary VAY NUR Chuck and his Thundershow…very entertaining. But Eric get’s my vote because he put my cellar, and every possible report I could think of, at my finger tips. CT’s made my hobby a lot easier to control and manage.

  49. I absolutely detest Robert Parker, and think his influence has been almost entirely pernicious, but none of the other nominees comes close.

    After him, it would have to be Fred Franzia – who has brought drinkable decent to the masses this decade the same way the Gallos did 30+ years ago – or Casella, whose yellow tail dreck has captured the mass market.

    I love Gary V, but he’s a newbie.

  50. I get akick out of Gary V. and enjoy watching his show on occasion, but cellar tracker has had a huge impact on my love of wine. As a recent arrival on the wine collecting scene, the people and tools available through CT have been amazing in helping me understand wine and build an awesome cellar. Eric has my vote.

  51. I voted for Eric because ever since I converted my Excel sheet in 2006 I have been hooked. I have watched in amazement how CellarTracker has grown and my grown kid’s laugh because the site is my “home” page. I check it 4-5 times a day to see new tasting notes on the wines that I own. I also notice an interesting phenomenon. When a wine that you own and kind of forget about gets consumed by a fellow CT member, it sets of a chain reaction of folks who dig into their cellars to drink the same bottle. I have done it a number of times.

    I would vote Gary V for 2nd if possible. His personality and passion for wine are infectious and am glad he is an ambassador for us wine lovers.

  52. How utterly lame!

    Clearly only one person here is even aware he has been nominated.


  53. Estan muy locos en la cabeza. Clearly Paul Giamatti, well the movie really is the wine person or movie or whatever of the decade. This movie helped fuel the entire industry, promote Pinot Noir, and put central coast California on the map. Plus seriously how many of us don’t have a little Miles In us. Hands down. No questions asked. Paul Giamatti is the winner here.

  54. Gary V? Amusing, but while I would compare him to what Jim Cramer (“Mad Money” guy) has become to the world of investments, that is not saying a lot, and I don’t think he beats even that marker by much.

    Eric has stuck his neck WAAAAY out on a continual basis for years now, starting this CellarTracker thing from its humble beginnings and actively building on it until the present. Maybe the 90K users (so far) are a minority, but there are many many who have found “CT” to be a real functional and philosophical breakthrough, on many levels.

    I think Terry Theise deserves many more kudos than he seems to have gotten here. He has had a large impact in at least a segment of the market. In my mind he is definitely in the running.

    Yellow Tail probably has made the biggest difference in terms of raw count of people affected, but I don’t think that earns a “wine person of the decade” title as I don’t personally think it led to any breakthroughs (I guess that depends on what you count as a breakthrough!!). Same for Two Buck Chuck (or Three Buck Chuck around here).

    “Sideways?” Please.

    In the end, my vote goes to Eric LeVine.

  55. Eric has started something significant in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I struggle to put into words what CT means to me personally. It is a way for me to connect my tastes with wines on the marketplace with reference points from people whose views I trust. It create a way for people to really trust their palates and compare their experience with others. In the end it is about the wine and there is no place like CellarTracker, especially when you consider that paying for it is optional.

  56. I’ll spare everyone my usual rant about how nasty 2-buck “up” chuck is; Fred Franzia has done more HARM this decade than anyone else perhaps. And via articles I’ve read about him, his personality seems even worse than his insipid, ubiquitous sorry-excuse-for-a-wine.

    Paul Giamatti’s influence is profound, yet ironic: Americans adopted his character’s taste for Pinot Noir despite his character being a pill-popping pathetic neurotic.

    Yellow Tail…at least it’s not 2 Buck Chuck.

    Terry Theise is the only one I’ve met of the bunch, but I must resist the emotional tug and cast another write-in vote for Eric Asimov.

    Peace to all…Tyler, keep up the great work!


  57. I agree with CH – Eric Asimov is no light weight.

    And why aren’t there any women on the list?

    Who made this list exactly?

    The comment… “…a select committee (that may or may not have included more people than just me…” is a bomb.

    Gary Vee (who happens to be on the list) says it all the time – honesty rules bro! Say what you mean and mean what you say!

    Happy holidays,

  58. Eric LeVine & CellarTracker – the most amazing thing to happen to wine this millenium. Go Eric!

  59. really interesting commentary on this post. as i was reading through these comments, it occurred to me that maybe there are two categories – one for someone who has influenced most of us, the wine devotees, and another for someone who has most influenced the masses. for the first, i still believe that’s eric levine – in how he’s influenced how we collect, how we talk to each other and how he has enabled our thoughts to be shared so seamlessly with each other. gary v has also done a great job of connecting with all of us, but, in the end, it’s more a cult of personality, whereas eric had a good idea and built something that allowed all of us to tap into what’s most important – the experience of wine.

    for influence on the masses, i’d say casella. i don’t like yellow tail, never have, but he has opened wine up to everyone in such a massive scale. and, if he can capture the hearts and minds of even a few in that process, then so be it.

  60. Nice survey and while I appreciate all that the nominees did this decade, Eric has changed the way that people connect and collect wines. A great example of the power of the internet, a new business model and social media. Bravo

  61. If for no other reason that I spend time nearly every night of the week on his website and would be lost if it ever crashes, I have to go with Levine. The data base, even given its limitations and some of the non-tasting notes certain users enter, is still invaluable in tracking my wine and deciding what and when to drink it. Others, on and off the list, are certainly deserving, but for the every day wine drinker with more than a few hundred bottles, Eric’s contributions may be the most impactful on a daily basis.

  62. Isn’t it supposed to be “noughties”? “nought == zero”, gettit?

  63. Surprised that Paul Giamatti is in their since he has gone numerous times on record indicating that wine connaiseurs and winos are fluff and a waste of time. Hardly an ambassador of wine, IMHO.

  64. RE: Paul Giamatti. As Mimik pointed out, the “person” we’re voting on should have been “Miles.” It could have been Kevin Spacey or Jim Carrey playing that role and the line would have still been memorable and had the safe effect.

    I would have an easier time giving some support to the fictional character “Miles” as having a substantial effect on wine in the past decade.

  65. Reading through these final notes, one gets the impression that Eric was nominated for his skills in crafting a web based program for organizing wines collected by wine enthusiasts. While this is an important service, alone it wouldn’t deserve placing him on this list.

    As the person who first placed his name into nomination, I want to reinforce the role CellarTracker plays in guiding wine buyers, particularly non CT members, on the strengths and weaknesses of current releases, plus tracking the aging potential of earlier releases. CT provides the “wisdom of crowds” at its best. It has the critical mass of users so that a great number of wines receive sufficient notes and scores to arrive at a group rating, the median, that reflects a broad array of tastes (soon to also include standard deviations to account for this array).

    We’ll always have the advice of the “experts”, but they possess only one palate, no matter how refined. A major trend of the first decade of this century is about accessing via the Web the opinions of more thoughtful users not just critics. And while Snooth is coming on strong, CT now has the member base to provide this bottoms-up information. Eric has truly bestowed “Power to the People.”

  66. Cellar Tracker epitomizes wine and therefore, Eric LeVine wins. I believe that we are heading away from critics like Parker. Drinking what tastes good to the individual, not what tastes good to the market is what I think Cellar Tracker represents.

  67. I find cellartracker to be very informative and easy to use. I vote for Eric

  68. I can thank Terry Theise for providing some amazing grower champagnes that I would never have known about witout the wonderful Gary V introducing them to me. However the decision to ‘purchase untasted’ is always preceded by logging into Cellartracker to see what the community I love have to say about it. Eric has done an amazing job with Cellartracker and this tool has been the most instrumental influence in improving my enjoyment of, knowledge of and collection of wines. Thus hands down my vote goes to Eric.

  69. Eric has certainly changed the way _I_ approach wine.

  70. CellarTracker changed the way I view and think about wine. It is a populist site for all kinds of wine drinkers. Eric’s efforts have brought wine information to a friendly level. Not to mention tracking my purchases, storage, and consumption is a whole lot easier! Thanks Eric!

  71. While all the nominees have had an impact, it seems to me that Parker’s influence has been the strongest and most ubiquitous. It’s also had both a positive and a negative impact. On the positive side he’s contributed a lot to popularizing wine and to exposing a number of sacred cows in the wine world. On the negative side, as many have commented, because his tastes have come to define the wine world, there’s been a huge homogenization to wines that are overly fruity, overly ripe, overly extracted, overly alcoholic, and overly sweet. Fortunately there are an increasing number of voices complaining about this state of affairs, so hopefully we’ll be in for an increase in variety of style.

  72. CellarTracker is amazing. The fact that the users have essentially created an instantly database of every wine under the sun is astonishing. The value and power of it will only increase as more people use it.

    I propose CellarTracker introduces some Netflix-like software that recommends wines based on your ratings as compared to other users similar preferences for the same wines. That would make professional reviews nearly obsolete.

  73. Eric Levine has enabled me to improve the quality of my purchases and my enjoyment of wine. He is also the only person on the list who causes me to have zero negative reactions to what he has done. GV is a distant second… His approach is very interesting, but sometimes his retailing hat weighs too much.

  74. i get something out of erics site almost every day; great collective knowledge and a functionality that is still improving and has a great upside; i am now part of the borg; i have not been influenced by any of the others so there is no close second place for me

  75. All this voting is a year early. The decade (10 years) began in 2001 and this is only the end of 2009. That’s 9 years. Not 10.
    Relax everyone. You have a whole year to vote.

  76. Seems like a rather partisan crowd out there. I think that all Paul (Miles) G did was expose American wine consumers as the fickle mob that they are, further validating the vacuousness and self important Parkerist approach to wine: if someone tells me its good then it must be good. (A bit like using 100 point scores to impress one’s friends)

    Gary V is a pompous and shallow version of the same phenomenon, keen to hand down scores and keen to impress upon everyone how important his view is (never mind his trust your own palate mantra: its obviously not to be taken seriously). Never mind his consistently and strongly anti Australian bias. (Never heard him provide a positive review of an Australian wine: they can’t all be bad surely?). But then he is probably just on the same bandwagon as so many other critics.

    Pretty much leaves John Casella. And he has touched more wine drinkers than all the others combined.

  77. If we are talking about who typifies the naughties it would have to be Gary. He employed the burgeoning trends of using web-media to establish his brand and change the way we perceive wine today. I think it can be argued that Levine had a much more tangible effect on the wine industry during this time, and it can also be argued that Casella and Franzia made their wines household names. Gary’s persona and brand typify the naughties.

  78. I’m sorry, Eric LeVine, but this looks like ballot box stuffing by cellartracker users, and also a function of where this poll is being taken.

    I grant you that LeVine is a legitimate candidate. But is he 8 times more influential than Robert Parker? Or 25 times more influential than Fred Franzia (who I voted for, because he put more wine on more dinner tables than anyone else)?

    The size of LeVine’s victory undermines its legitimacy.

  79. I actually totally agree with Blake. It appears that everyone who voted likes to spend a lot of time online. I’m not sure if this all means much to me.

    Gary V. is entertaining (I love watching his show)…but isn’t really changing anything.

    I think Yellow Tail and Bronco Wine products (Two Buck Chuck) had more of an effect in this decade than anything else. They exposed many people to wine. Not to mention the fact that they will some day be sort of popular icons of this time. I don’t drink these wines, but a hell of a lot of people do (needless to say, more than use cellartracker or ever will)

  80. Sorry guys (Blake, Rob)but but your analysis is off base. First, the poll focus is straight-forward: “Who most epitomizes the decade?” So first you must decide what the decade is about from a wine perspective. For me, it’s logical that the collapse of ivory tower experts and influencers everywhere was pervasive- not just in the wine world. Whether in politics, economics, entertainment or other fields, the “common man” is pushing aside those who deign to speak for us. It’s true in the wine corner of the universe as well.

    One could reasonably argue that Gary and others who’ve made good wine affordable are absolutely part of that trend. But nothing has done more to enable the overall trend than the internet and CT has clearly become king of the internet wine world for the common man.

    90,000 registered; 50,000 regular users; 15.6 million bottles tracked; 1.2 million tasting notes …1.2 million! This combined with the integrated functionality with related sites, growing use of CT scores in advertising; and the sites growth trend 50%)makes CT the perfect choice to represent the explosion of consumer-directed decisions that for me epitomizes the 90’s. Have more people drunk Yellow Tail? Depends on how you measure it. How many page hits or log-ins have there been on CT? I’d bet that number dwarfs sales of any single wine. And all this with only a donation requested!

    Yes, it is a popularity contest. But that doesn’t make it automatically invalid. It is fair to say that any on-line poll favors internet users but, again, isn’t that really the story of the decade to begin with? Outside of terrorism of course.) Wine Library/Gary V. would be nowhere without the internet. Got nothing against him, buy from there all the time. But he’s just another discounter.

    CT has empowered individual wine drinkers across the world and will continue to do so. One of a kind and in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. Game over.

  81. Blake –

    Thanks for stopping by.

    There has been nothing untoward about Eric’s votes. He has been leading since the first hours this poll opened when threads started in two wine forums urging readers to vote for Eric. Those threads could just as easily been for one of the other candidates (indeed, one of them was on Selection bias because this is an internet poll? Campaigning? Sure. But “ballot box stuffing”? No.

    Also, please note as Peter points out that the award is for the person who most epitomizes the last ten years, not who necessarily had the most influence.



  82. Thanks Tyler.

    Actually last night I sent out my end of year recap to 80,000 people. I chose not to mention this poll at all for fear of really skewing things.

    As I said very early on in the replies above, I am humbled and feel unworthy. CellarTracker is about its users and not about me. That said, I am honored to read so many thoughtful comments on so many of the candidates. And I am especially excited about the decade ahead, as that’s there I think the fun REALLY starts.

    Thanks, Eric

  83. Yellow Tail brand put Australia on the (wine) map as something other than Foster’s or croc wrestling and really popularized wine to the masses. I am personally no fan of Yellow Tail, but respect its presence as bringing wine into the living rooms more than any other choice above. Methinks it may have made the popularity of CellarTracker etc come of age much sooner than without the marketing genius of Casella.

  84. Oh and a nother thing…decades end in 9’s and begin on the 0’s. You know, this decade/century began in 2000, right? Your first decade begins at birth, not age 1, right? So tarry, tarry your vote!

  85. “Methinks it may have made the popularity of CellarTracker etc come of age much sooner than without the marketing genius of Casella.”

    Not so sure about that…there are easily more than 300 individual wines that have more bottles in CT than all the Yellowtail bottlings put together.

  86. It worries me somewhat that, based on the candidates nominated, the wine world is largely assumed to start and end in the USA. Shouldn’t the poll be rephrased along the lines of who most epitomises the recent decade in the USA?

    I mean, with the exception of the Manga comic writers, all the others have had an impact on the wine business purely in the US. (Hell winemakers even made wine specifically designed to score high Parker points so that it would sell well in the US!). Two Buck Chuck and Yellowtail are US phenomena. Terry Thiese imports grower champagne into the US. Gary Vaynerchuck is a US centric critic trying to sell wine in the US. Even Eric LeVine, RPJ and Giamatti (read Miles) are all US centric.

    Are you seriously suggesting therefore that there are no potential nominees from Europe, from the UK, from China or India or Africa?

    Or is this another example of what we, who do not live in the US, have come to recognise and expect? We have learned that “Americans” be they tourists, politicians, bankers or indeed wine writers are unable to accept that there is a world beyond their borders.

    Lets get real here: It astounded me (and continues to do so) when, in a movie (yes a movie) a wine geek could comment negatively about Merlot and positively about Pinot, and all of a sudden the (“American”?) market for Merlot collapsed and the market for Pinot surged. I mean how grounded in unreality (or how fickle) are these people? Have they no capacity for independant thought at all? It is in the same vane that RPJ could singlehandedly cause a run on a particular wine by awarding it a high score. People rushed out and bought it (for the boasting rights?) without ever actually trying it themselves. Are Americans so weak minded and incapable of independant thought that they have to be be told what to think?

    So a very long rant: In summary: Come on, Alder, surely you recognise that the wine world stretches beyond the shores of the USA? I mean, you have travelled outside of the US havent you? And seen a world that does exist out there?

  87. “decades end in 9’s and begin on the 0’s. You know, this decade/century began in 2000, right? Your first decade begins at birth, not age 1, right?”

    But we’re not talking about a person’s age in decades (as people do have a year when they are age 0 as you say), but rather the calendar decades. As there was no “year zero” (the end of 1 BC/BCE was followed by 1 AD/CE, not by “0”), decades for the last ~2000 years would start on 1 and end on 0 (1AD-10AD), decades prior to that start on 0 and end on 1 (10BC-1BC).

    Similarly, the 21st century technically began at year 2001, since the 1st century began at year 1.

    I realize that the “decade” bit is largely ignored by society (or rather that most simply have not considered it and automatically think of calendar decades like personal age decades), but that doesn’t make it right.

    Oh wait, we were supposed to discuss WINE? I thought it was “WHINE”, sorry! 😉

  88. David,

    There’s no doubt that many Americans experience difficulty in appreciating the world beyond our borders but actually it appears that your bias is showing as much as any American-centric bias that may exist in this poll. First, other than being in English and begun by an American, how is CT American-centric? Outside of the language, there’s absolutely nothing about the site that promotes, favors, or in any way advantages Americans or American wines. In fact, some of the most active forum participants are from outside of the states (and Europe). The vast majority of the most popular bottles held and ratings are for French wines. With regard to Parker, sure he is American but obviously his impact and what he epitomizes (the advent of widely accepted ratings to help consumers through a very complex environment) extend well beyond America. Just ask the French producers who’ve pocketed all that extra profit.

    Second, relative to your insult of American drinking habits, could it be that the move toward pinot noir, while made possible by a comment in a blockbuster movie, simply reflects greater awareness and preference for a varietal many had not tried? Malbec may be the fastest growing varietal now and I don’t recall it being mentioned in a movie so that would suggest to me that American consumers are just open to new experiences and values. (Yellowtail wasn’t mentioned in a movie either though I realize it’s popularity here may cause you to look further down your nose at us uneducated, unworthy slobs.) If anything, taken together, these examples show the kind of independent thought you demand. Should I be critical of the French for having such a lack of independent thought that they can barely stock American wines in their stores? No, there are a myriad of other factors in play that one can accept if you move beyond your biases.

    So, take a look in the mirror. Yes, for better or worse we are a huge portion of the market and, therefore, at times the influence of American’s in virtually anything can seem out of whack. But to call it a bias is a knee-jerk reaction that reeks of the lack of thoughtfulness that you yourself bemoan.

    Last, help me out. Which non-Americans would you nominate as epitomizing the decade? Maybe you have a valid point and I just can’t see it because of my perception of your bias.

  89. Peter Grant wrote: “Not so sure about that…there are easily more than 300 individual wines that have more bottles in CT than all the Yellow Tail bottlings put together.”

    But understand, most of the people that are drinking Yellow Tail don’t track their wine with Cellar Tracker. The consumers of Yellow Tail buy their wine to drink it with dinner that night.

    That’s why I find it absurd that Eric and Cellar Tracker are leading this poll. Cellar Tracker touches me and you which is a very small minority of wine consumers. Don’t, for a minute, think that those who are reading and voting here or using Cellar Tracker are purchasing more than 1% of the wine sold around the world. We are the minority and it’s arrogant (snobbish maybe) to think otherwise.


  90. Parker is certainly the most influential, but Eric LeVine epitomizes the decade because he is bringing the technology of communication to the wine community. Cellartracker is much more than a cellar management tool, it is a forum for exchanging information about millions of wines. Perhaps in the future, Cellartracker’s users’ ratings will matter just as much as Parker does today.

  91. Bob W.,

    It’s only absurd that CT is leading if you continue to forget that the contest is about “epitomizing” the decade, not necessarily influencing or touching the most people. If cheap, mostly inferior wine epitomizes the decade for you, then Yellowtail is the obvious choice. And that’s not a slam, one can’t dismiss the value movement — especially these last couple of years.

    My comment regarding Yellowtail vs CT was only made in response to the implication that Yellowtail led to the explosion of wine connoisseurs in the US and therefore to CT. If that were the case, Yellowtail would be more prevalent on CT. IMHO CT’s popularity has everything to do with the tens of thousands of us who cursed eBob’s crappy tracking offerings and found excel inefficient long before Yellowtail came on the scene. There was the classic case of a market just waiting for a solution.

  92. My first car was a used 1970 Pontiac Executive (my college roomate, God rest his soul, called it the Executioner, and driving around Boston, I felt like Moses parting the Red Sea when I entered those traffic circles). I now drive a new BMW 335. So we all got our start somewhere. I tried Yellow Tail, I am no connoiseur but don’t like it for my own reasons, and the whole world is now exporting wine. I still prefer Italian and Californian over Australian and Chilean (Older vines are better?) And believe it or not, I never heard of Cellar Tracker until yesterday. Going to the site, it is absolutely kaleidoscopic to me, chock full of info and opinions. I can envision the joy it brings to many. But I can’t imagine so many thousands of wine connoiseurs really exist, if that is what one is dubbed upon joining. How low is this connoiseur bar? Can I drive my new car under it? My old car through it?

    Ahhhh, well, I guess the connoiseurs among this group greatly outnumber the rest in this contest. I will “try” CT (like Yellow Tail) to see if I like it.

    DaveN, you are correct on decades. I now recall through the murky mist of my mind we “century snobs” had our ringing in of the 21st on Dec 31 2000. No whine before its time?

  93. Eric,

    You aren’t being quite straight with your comment. While I continue to support the use of CT to inform wine buying decisions for the public (not just for its members), you most certainly did solicit votes from CellarTrackers, which I don’t think GV did of Veyniacs (I think all the static he’s received of late might be making him pull in his horns a bit). You placed a boldfaced headline across your homepage indicating that there was a balloting occurring on Dr. Vino’s site tantamount soliciting votes, which is really OK. But it does support Blake’s comment that your forum gave you a distinct advantage in tabulating votes.

    Love the new UI and the 10 minute video overview. I know we’ll see it in 2010. 😉


  94. I can’t believe we’re all taking this so seriously. It’s not like this is a poll to see who gets the Nobel Peace Prize or who gets raptured up.

  95. Tom, you are correct, I did have a link on CT. Please see my comments on the WS discussion thread on this topic.

    Gary had Tweets and forum threads from all of his employees, one example on his own board:

    And GV probably can win with a single Tweet to his nearly 900,000 followers, but he opted not to.

    Of course Gary and I have a clear advantage in any Internet driven poll somewhat by definition.


  96. cheers, dale. i’ve been thinking the same thing.

  97. If other nominees didn’t know (or didn’t care) about this contest and alert their fan base, should Eric be chastised for doing that? He certainly wasn’t obnoxious about this and spamming his “LeViniacs” to vote for him.

    Eric is absolutely correct that GaryVee could have won this with 90% of the vote with a single ‘tweet’ or mention on his show. I’m not sure why he didn’t, especially since his Cork’d product is still attempting to compete with CellarTracker.

    Playing Devil’s Advocate, the past decade has seen the explosion of the internet as a marketplace and, more recently, as a medium for social interaction and collaboration. I have no problem seeing the honor go to the person who has done the most to bring the world of wine together with the internet.

    Eric has donated CellarTracker, its million+ reviews, its database 700,000+ wines, its wiki, its forums, and all its functionality to the world. I have never seen CellarTracker be about Eric himself, and for me, that’s what sold me on Eric vs. Gary or Bob who seem determined to make their name a household word.

    “Miles” (Giamatti) and Theise have, IMHO, too narrow an influence and probably lack any long-term impact.

    If the Wine Person of the Decade should be someone who advanced the culture of wine, voting in Casella or Franzia would have been like the voting in August Busch IV as “Beer Person of the Decade.” Pedaling a passable, mass-produced product doesn’t do a damn thing to expanding palates and growing the industry when everything that comes is just a slight variation on “red table wine.” At least with Tiger Woods being named Athlete of the Decade by ESPN, it acknowledged how he raised the GAME of golf and brought it mainstream. Golf is better because of Tiger; I wouldn’t say that Wine is better because of John or Fred.

    For Shin & Yoko, the voting currently shows them with -1% of the vote cast. Clearly the math is a little wonky, but they don’t appear to be as well known outside of their market.

  98. Thanks to everyone for responding and voting! I think it was a good discussion in the end.

    Voting is now closed and major congratulations to Eric LeVine for taking home the trophy! I will post in the next day or three (given the holiday weekend) letting readers know.

    On a related note, I was also glad that Paul Krugman referred to the 2000-2009 period as The Naughties! (Even if he opted for The Big Zero in the end–and based on his description, one might not exactly want to epitomize that decade.)

  99. Erin,

    You incorrectly discount the impact of the Franzia Bros + cousin on the wine world. Any reference to beer and Augie Busch is misplaced. You really should turn the beer/wine comparison on its head.

    What Bronco did for expanding the reach of wine, Boston Lager did for microbrews. Brewsters needed to appreciate the difference between the King Kong of Beers and craft beers.

    Conversely, the potential wine consumer needed to appreciate that decent vin ordinaire/vin de table could be produced in the U.S. that was a definite improvement on Inglenook and Almaden.

    The Bronco stable of brands–couldn’t resist the pun–of under $10 wines, and especially two dollar wines, offers a tremendous value and has contributed significantly to boosting the appeal of vino to a beer drinking, tea drinking and booze drinking public.

  100. […] decade, the Naughties.) Wine lovers had an optimistic analysis for the decade as they chose from eight finalists who personified different story lines. And in the end, after 2,842 votes were cast, the winner was […]

  101. […] has been impressive–so much so that he was named the Wine Person of the Naughties by voting on  But, you have to wonder if it’s really going to be possible for one person to run the most […]


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