The Wine Advocate speaks at $1,200 Antinori showcase

If [wine writers] are beholden to wine producers for the wines they taste, they are not likely to fault them…

While it is important to maintain a professional relationship with the trade, I believe the independent stance required of a consumer advocate, often not surprisingly, results in an adversarial relationship with the wine trade. It can be no other way. In order to pursue independence effectively, it is imperative to keep one’s distance from the trade. While this attitude may be interpreted as aloofness, such independence guarantees hard-hitting, candid, and uninfluenced commentary.

That’s from the boiler plate material on ethics that appears at the beginning of each edition of Parker’s Wine Buyer’s Guide, now in the seventh edition. Robert Parker set an admirable standard long ago.

Antonio Galloni, critic at the Wine Advocate, told us last year that he wanted to do more “educational events that bring consumers closer to wine.” Last year Antonio Galloni organized the Festa del Barolo, a 15-producer event, and a vertical of Massetto with the winemaker from Tenuta dell’Ornellaia attending at Eleven Madison Park. Galloni is speaking at a Zachys event, a $1,200/head dinner at EMP showcasing each vintage of Solaia from 1978 – 2009. The event is sold out and the owner and winemaker will also be in attendance. Antinori also owns wine properties in California; Galloni is the critic for California wines as well as Italian.

The big question for this dinner is how much distance is required at the dinner to be arm’s length, a different table or just one seat?

Maybe the eighth edition of Parker’s Wine Buyer’s Guide will revise the “role of the wine critic” section?

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56 Responses to “The Wine Advocate speaks at $1,200 Antinori showcase”

  1. To quote the middle school girls from the GEICO commercial….

    Ew. Seriously? So gross.

  2. Tyler,

    Has there been any respectable analysis doen by anyone that compares the ratings of WS, WA, Tanzer, WE, and others when evaluating the same wine? I would think that consistent outliers might highlight possible/likely bias. I think it is reasonable to expect and accept a 1-2 point difference (maybe even a 3 point spread), but any wider spread would raise a flag. At WineNabber, we evaluate each wine offer across all four raters noted above in order to give consumers a better sense of the wine.

  3. […] a separate post, Dr. Vino questions Antonio Galloni’s decision to speak at an upcoming, $1,200/head dinner at Eleven Madison Park showcasing the wines of […]

  4. Tyler,

    I can’t agree with you more. You are question “The big question for this dinner is how much distance is required at the dinner to be arm’s length, a different table or just one seat?”

    Is depends who we are talking about obviously some more than others……

    Peter, we’ve seen many times bigger than 5+ points on scores specially on the so called “heavy heaters” due to the way each wine critic sees it. A few years ago was Parker against Robinson.

    I think blogging is a great THING in our times, since it can be easily accessible to the masses and people can also start realizing……. a few things.

    No Oak, No Fruitbombs, No Parker-ization………..

    Long live Balance…….

  5. Giorgos,

    Good points for sure. There are always going to be differences due to the taste of the person doing the rating. I just saw an offer go through our system where WS=84 and WA=94! One wonders what’s up with that. But I would say that those kinds of wide differences are not the norm.

    My sense is you can detect bias, or simply a difference in taste by looking at the patterns of ratings by various individuals. If one had the time, I don’t, statistical analysis should indicate differences in taste versus differences due to plain old bias.

  6. Alright Doc:

    1. IMO ‘professional’ reviewers have lost more than credibility over the years they have lost an audience (younger generation). We find out about new ‘brands,’ regions, etc through other mediums (social media, tastings, wine bars, etc). Just look at the role of newspapers lately.
    a. I for one get more information about the happenings in wine from this blog than I have from an issue of Wine Spectator as much of what is written tends to be recycled.

    2. I would say that Parker still moves the needle in Bordeaux (though losing traction), Galloni in Piedmont (see notes on Parker), Laube in Cali (same), Molesworth in the Rhone and Meadows in Burgundy. Aside from that does Steiman throwing a big number up in WA, OR, or Oz really get people excited? Tanzer doing the same with Burgundy or Cali? I’m not saying they’re irrelevant but diminished.

    3. Does anyone really believe one said publication really tastes blind and is that a benefit? Likewise, do the ‘other’ reviewers hanging with wineries help their cause? I would say no to both. Watching the ‘100 point score’ video from Suckling makes me believe that it is the norm for many of them.

    4. There are incredible palates out there and many of them are in the current positions of professionally reviewing wines.

    To answer your question, I don’t believe that putting on events like this are a healthy thing. Think Galloni will ever score Antinori’s wines ‘low’ when he is getting a benefit from this event on many levels? When Bob started The Wine Advocate it was just him and as the publication has expanded along with readership and the world of wine, he has lost more and more control and focus.

    Laube gives large numbers to what has come to be known as ‘fruit bomb’ wines far more often than Josh Raynolds, but what is right/wrong?

  7. The Parker brand owes a lot to the impression that it was built as an independant customer ‘advocate’. So many instances and attitudes show that WA is just another commercial venture.

    It’s not that they shouldn’t do it – after all many companies ‘leverage’ the brand. It’s well overdue though that they drop the holier than thou pretence on their ethical position.

  8. Peter you are so right, I’m not talking about you or should I say WineNabber, I’m basically talking about the ones who have reasons to “give” points for reasons that are beyond human reasons or because they will gain certain “clientelle……….

    Think about this if you get the same “critics” and blind fold them the same wines……..


  9. I beg to disagree. Antonio Galloni started at WA as an Italian wines reviewer some I’m assuming he loves them…
    The wines of Solaia are some of the best in Italy. A 26 vintage vertical tasting of this great Tuscan wine will probably never happen again.
    Who better suited than him (and I’m sure he’s very excited at the prospect) to lead a full dining room through more than a quarter century of this World Class Vino?
    The paying crowd that evening gets to enjoy Mr Galloni’s first impressions and thoughts while tasting the wines in an intimate setting with amazing food.
    As for us, we will read about it in WA sometimes a month from now.
    That’s the difference between being at game 7 of an NBA Finals or reading about it in the papers the following day.
    The WA just scored an exclusive.
    Only their Man will have the only revised notes of this highly collectible wine. I have every reason to believe that Mr Galloni’s will review these wines as he sees them.
    The logistics of putting together such an event are pretty complicated and Mr Galloni decided to partner with Zachy’s. He could have done much worse. A classy operation if I know one.
    I don’t think WA or Mr Galloni makes a fortune on this and it doesn’t seem like the motivation. This is a “once-in-a-lifetime” event and out of my price range but I know that if I’d gotten and invitation, I’d have pondered the offer for a while ☺
    Antonio Galloni is taking more of a stance at WA and I like what I see. If they can put together event like this, they will a force to be reckoned with. The events have to stand out however…

  10. Tyler:

    Disregarding the boilerplate, do you take a position on whether this event crosses an ethical line? And if so, where is that line drawn?

  11. Aaron,

    Very well put, well done, Certainly social media but for me blogs are the THING!!!!!

    You mentioned about Parker in Bordeaux which Bordeaux the one which is currently they total went chemical & pesticides……. that Bordeaux!!!!! I’ll prefer not to have wines from people who sell their souls to anyone as such, if you know what I’m talking about.

    As far as Galloni goes I have to admit that I heart great things from producers that in the past WA wouldn’t give them the time…. and we are talking about serious people if you want reach me at and I can tell you.

    It is sick…. A SHAME…….. what I like to say and I don’t give a sh&t what people think th hell with all them scre#% them all we need to keep them out of our restaurants.

    fu$%k thm

  12. Jean Luc indeed Galloni, was the guy who indeed made things possible to producers (lets not mention names) that Mr. Parker would not even give them the benefit of the time…..

    Does Mr Galloni has the balls to say anything negative about the wine(s)n if he things so while the big bosses would be there…. Its yet to be seen.

    You are probably correct as far as who else could do it, no questions asked………

    On the other hand how credible is the WA. Don’t answer this question…… I don’t expect any one to do so, Jean Luc let me tell you as a friend says the three horse men…. HEAVY OAK, HIGH ALCOHOL, LOW ACIDITY……. where are we going? but that doesn’t have to do with the tasting, anyhow, the question is if Antonio, has the guts to say it as it is…….

  13. Peter – No, I haven’t seen such an analysis though I am sure they exist. I will check out what you have done.

    Thanks, Giorgros.

    Aaron – good points and thanks for the kind words. Of course, points are subjective tastes expressed as numbers. But they do provide a false pretense of precision and objectivity that is easy to get sucked into.

    IanS – Yes, it’s too bad.

    Jen-Luc – Well, we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one! I don’t see it as any sort of editorial scoop. Galloni is presumably being paid a fee to attend and speak; per the admirable ethics policy, that is not “independence.”

    Tom – In light of the existing ethics policy, I am surprised that the participation of WIne Advocate critics continues at events where producers are present.

  14. Jean Luc

    So, at what $ amount do you question the ethics of this?

    If Galloni profits $20k from this speaking arrangement, is it ethical?



    $1200 per person…lets say 30 people go…

    $36000 gross

    How much is dinner? $300 per person all in?
    Wine? Another $300 per person?

    Lets round up and say food and wine are $700 per person

    $500 leftover.

    Who is keeping it?


    It is time for the holier than thou attitude to stop at the WA. Just come out and tell us you are a for profit venture, not keeping an arm’s length from producers.

    As someone mentioned, will Galloni ever score a new Solaia with a low score? Not likely.

    Masseto? Probably not.

    How about all of the Barolo producers that flew over last year, to pour their wines at an event where Antonio took in some nice coin.

    How about the winemakers from California who attended the La Festa del Barolo and paid money directly to Galloni’s media company for the privilege of tasting those wines?

    Antonio will one day rewrite the ethical page of the WA. It will hopefully start with, “I am sorry that it has taken us 30 years to admit that we have not followed anything we have previously written here…” Till then, we all just sit back in dismay.

  15. Tyler et al:

    I really don’t see this as a big deal at all. Antonio is very well versed in Italian wines as well as the Solaia. There is no reason to believe that his attendance a this event is anything more than an authority speaking to a gathering and taking a fee for it. I don’t see the problem.

    In the old days, when Parker was just beginning, many of the well known wine writers around the world worked in retail, imported wines and promoted particular wines. None of this as far as I know has occurred with Mr. Parker or Mr. Galloni.

    The primary problem with questioning something this innocent is that it leaves the impression that the reviewer is bought. But of course there is no evidence of that here.

  16. Tom,

    Those well known wine writers that were importing wine were also disclosing of that fact. It was obvious.

    This is a “grey” area here. The Wine Advocate claims that they are not affiliated with Zachys. Well, duh. That is why these events have moved away from his media company and have been aligned with a retailer. Now, he is just a speaker.

    These events are great for everyone involved. The consumer, the winery, Antonio, etc. No one has a problem with the events taking place. Folks like me take issue with the repeated stance of the Wine Advocate that it believes in an arm’s length, etc etc etc.

    When you are reviewing wines, and not tasting them blind, then profitting off dinners with those wineries, ethically, you are doing something very wrong. You are doing a disservice to the wine industry, in general.

    Heck, everyone knows Marvin Shanken is cleaning up at his events for Wine Spectator, but I have never seen Marvin Shanken ever review a wine, either, and his critics taste blind. Clear line drawn. No gray.

  17. Peter, well put, I also find Daniel Posner’s point people who take advantage of situations.

    Anyway, Peter as far as the bias in tasting or as you put it “simply a difference in taste” is where, when and how certain critics want to move certain wines, the why they know…… we all have our favored lets say and one way or another we promote them more than others.

    It is one thing if we like it or not a wine and another, if we think certain wine(s) can stand…… or because in our times the fact high points will help a wine sells and the patterns show that not many consumer will cellar it for the time needed (possibly 5, 8, 10 years) we will not have the opportunity to taste it then and actually realize such a wine has nothing left in it.

    Anyhow it’s great to have this going on, as I said before blogging is a great thing since consumer can be a part of this, even by just reading it and can make their on mind on several issues.

    Drink balance…….. love acidity (it’s our friend)……. unfortunately many of us scared people with acidity……. appreciate what’s in the bottle & not what’s on the bottle (label)

    Be good yalllllllll

  18. I hope Dr. Vino readers don’t mind if I add a few comments. First of all, I appreciate the critiques and observations, both negative and positive, as they are a motivation to always do a better job.

    With regards to the Solaia event, people should be aware I am receiving no compensation from the winery.

    One thing I have always said is that I am not willing to live the life of a hermit. Yes, the producer will be in the same room with me. What exactly is the big deal? I will spend the vast majority of this evening tasting the wines and gathering my thoughts, a daunting task considering the number of wines. The rest of the time will be spent with my readers, whom I always enjoy seeing. I spend much more time with a winemaker when I visit them at their estate, which is true with any other critic as well. Ironically, no one seems to have an issue with that.

    If you don’t think I can be objective about Solaia take a look at my review for the 2008, a wine I have never been crazy about. It is one of the lower scoring Solaias of recent years, and next to its peers, a pretty middle-of-the-road effort in a vintage that produced some truly great wines. Just look at our database.

    Let’s talk about La Festa del Barolo. Bruno Giacosa was one of the wineries that participated. Keep in mind Giacosa is one of my favorite producers. I have bottles from this iconic winery in my cellar going back to 1964. I urge those of you with serious concerns about La Festa del Barolo to compare my ratings of the Giacosa’s 2008s (released after the event) with those of the other major critics/publications. You will see that I am the only major critic who scored these very average wines where they belong. More importantly, though, I am the only critic who had the guts (another part of the male anatomy comes to mind) to call out the winery for their very disappointing showing in this vintage.

    When discussing the Festa here and elsewhere, the focus has always been on the producers who attended. What about those who didn’t attend? Were their ratings adversely affected? Hardly. A number of those wineries got very high scores from me following the event, and one got their highest rating ever.

    Anyone who doubts my ability or desire to take a strong stand may also want to consider the following:

    How many critics have had the guts to criticize Sea Smoke for their outrageous use of the words ‘California Grand Cru’ on their wines?

    What kind of conviction does it take to give the 2009 Scarecrow 93 points from bottle when Robert Parker gave the wine 96-100 from barrel?

    How about calling attention to a producer in Burgundy whose bottled wines capture none of the potential they had in barrel, as happened with Kellen Lignier’s 2009s?

    Tyler – I live under a constant amount of intense scrutiny you can’t even begin to imagine. Everything I say and do is endlessly dissected, analyzed and speculated upon. It comes with the territory. Since I am going to be responsible to my readers and the general public for everything I write for the next 20+ years, what exactly is my incentive to write anything that I don’t believe in 100%? Zero.

  19. Antonio

    I, for one, as usual, applaud you for coming to the party and joining our discussion, but allow me to mention a few things…

    You appear to have carefully chosed words…”With regards to the Solaia event, people should be aware I am receiving no compensation from the winery.”

    Did anyone suggest that you were?

    As is talked about in life, the mere fear of bias is always out there. No one here is asking you to be a hermit, however, full disclosure would be a nice welcome change to the policies of the Wine Advocate.

    So, while the winery is not compensating you for the privilege to taste through every vintage produced, clearly a good chunk of change from the $1200 entrance

  20. sorry, my 1 year old hit the return button too early…

    …fee is ending up in your pocket or the Wine Advocate? or something to that effect.

    And you know what, I have no issue with that. You have a family to feed. But, this sort of stuff should be disclosed to your readers as well as the wine trade.

    People ought to be able to form opinions on subject matter by having the full picture in front of them.

    Let’s tear up the Wine Advocate ethical page, and rewrite the script!

  21. A sommelier and a first time poster. I received the link to this forum in an e-mail from a friend who felt Antonio’s position was eloquently stated. Here is my response.


    Thanks for sharing. I think Antonio’s position is well stated and adequately defended. As you know, I agree that the obsession with blind tasting and obsessively avoiding any “conflict of interest” can be monstrously exaggerated. I think we need to honestly ask ourselves: What is the value of drinking wines blindly and thus divorced from context; and given the primal importance of context in how we experience beauty, who better to give context into Solaia than it’s maker?! What informs this whole insistence on objectivity? Do any of us drink wine objectively, anyway? I’ve never seen any value in divorcing myself from my subjective preferences, desires, and value judgements.

    Perhaps you’ll indulge my rant a bit further. What if we endeavored to “judge” other aesthetic creations in this manner? What if music lovers and critics were forced to correctly identify small bits of harmonic progressions to a certain composer, and, if incorrect, risked being flogged as being biased and their preferences thereby indefensible? Further, if a critic admitted (gasp!) to finding greater spiritual and emotional depth in Beethoven’s music because of the knowledge that he composed his later masterworks while completely deaf, what can we rightly call him other than utterly human?

    I always drink wine in context. And if I’m lucky, with those I love or those whose company I love. Isn’t that what this whole thing is about? Joe Davis’ Arcadian Pinots never tasted better than when I drank them with him…talking about how the birds sounded during harvest, how his children participated in their first crush in ’05, his own personal struggles that ironically coincided with the beautiful raw materials of ’07. This experience is not only valid experience, I think, but (both subjectively AND objectively) quite rare and actually beautiful.


  22. “Joe Davis’ Arcadian Pinots never tasted better than when I drank them with him…”

    Um, Jason, this is what we call bias. It happens to consumers all of the time when they visit wineries, or places.

    So, you trying to prove your point or other’s?

    Of course, I always go back to this…from Robert Parker…amended just last year…

    “Independence: For me only, it is imperative to pay my own way. Even more important is to refuse all advertising – from any source. This guarantees total independence. The Wine Advocate and are 100% subscriber funded and supported. We do not permit any advertising. With respect to gratuitous hospitality in the form of airline tickets, hotel rooms, guest houses, etc., I have never accepted these either abroad or in this country. And what about wine samples? I purchase more than 60% of the wines I taste, and though I do receive unsolicited samples at no cost, I do not feel it is unethical to accept samples that I did not request. Irrefutably, the target audience is the wine consumer, not the wine trade. While it is important to maintain a professional relationship with the trade, I believe the independent stance required of a consumer advocate often, not surprisingly, results in an adversarial relationship with the wine trade. It can be no other way. In order to pursue this independence effectively, it is imperative that I keep a distance from the trade. While this may be misinterpreted as aloofness, such independence guarantees hard‑hitting, candid, and uninfluenced commentary.”

    How anyone can read this and say, “ok, Antonio, on with your dinners,” is really beyond me.

  23. Aaron, I appreciate your skepticism when it comes to blind tasting evaluations by major publications. The fact is Wine & Spirits not only tastes all wines blind, they also invite local sommeliers and other professionals to taste along with the critic. Everyone has an equal vote on whether the wine makes the cut before moving on to phase 2 where the critic reevaluates the wine (still blind). And the critic cannot override the panel if they want a wine to be accepted. Tyler has participated on these panels and can comment. Full disclosure: I used to organize the tastings at W&S and was, along with my intern, the only person who knew the sequence of the tasting. I still use the mag as a trusted source.

  24. Daniel,

    My comment concerns the fundament of wine reviewing and how consumers digest that information, and not Antonio’s moral responsibilities as a critic nor his adherence to WA’s internal policies. These are important issues, but are clearly not the issues toward which my response was, uh, issued.

    I find absolutely no comfort or reassurance in wine reviews preceded with the statement, “…all wines for this article were tasted blind in our New York offices between August 2-7, between 10 A.M and 4 P.M. with moderate lighting, no background noise, and after eating only whole wheat breadsticks with sea-salt and a bottle of soda-water.” The “blind or biased” bifurcation is far too convenient, though rarely conducive in leading us in the direction of pleasurable and lovely wines.

    Bias is a word with multitudinous shades of meaning. Accepting cases of wine in exchange for favorable press, for example, connotes bias but would be more aptly termed “bribery.” Tasting and learning with our full human selves will absolutely always mean that things other than discreet flavors, aromas, and “aging potential” will influence our perceptions and value judgments. And this “bias” alone, those experiences entirely beyond the objective, are what makes wine drinking beautiful and meaningful.

  25. Daniel:

    Your and other’s issue appears to be with the use of the “arms distance” metaphor used in the Adocate’s description of ethics and how they work.

    The question is two fold: What does “Arms distance” mean and what should it mean.

    I know a few things that it should mean:

    1. You don’t get paid to review wine
    2. You don’t sell wine you review
    3. You don’t promote wines you review

    But does it really mean a critic should not provide the service of commentary and content on wines and wine regions at public events? Should it mean this? Should it mean a critic ought not accept a speaking fee from an organization about which it offers no reviews (Zachys)?

    I don’t think it could possibly mean that primarily because I dont’ think that doing so would in any way lead the critic to compromise their objectivity about the wines they review.

    And by the way, when I use the term “objectivity”, I don’t mean to say that wine reviewing is an objective operation. It is decided subjective. When I used the term “objective” I mean to say they treat Wine X the same as they treat Wine Y.

    Over the past 5 years there has been a pretty big uptick in the practice of questioning not just the credibility of wine critics, but also their usefulness and their ethics. This increase in questioning I don’t think is a result of anything the critics have done or due to any change in the way they do what they do. It’s a response to their being exponentially more voices able to weight in on these issues.

    And on this issue, what I’m looking for is a voice that explains how speaking to a group of consumers about the history of a wine impacts the future objectivity of the speaker when it comes to reviewing that same wine.

  26. “I find absolutely no comfort or reassurance in wine reviews preceded with the statement, ‘…all wines for this article were tasted blind in our New York offices between August 2-7, between 10 A.M and 4 P.M. with moderate lighting, no background noise, and after eating only whole wheat breadsticks with sea-salt and a bottle of soda-water.'”


    I find comfort in this because it gives me, whether me is the consumer, retailer, importer, whomever, a sense of what is going on. It lets me know how this critic tastes wine, and lets me make a judgement call based upon that.

    OTOH, we really have no idea how the WA tastes wine. Robert Parker has claimed for years that he purchased 90%, then 75%, and now 60% of all his wines that he reviews.

    Is there a bigger crock a shit than that?

    When Parker was covering Italy, Australia and Spain, he would lunch with importers from those regions, while sampling wines with them over a couple hour period. Nowhere is that mentioned in any dialog. He never bought those wines. Jay Miller did the same thing, until he started visiting Spain and Australia (first on paid trips with importers. Parker never went to Spain. He went to Australia once (with an importer, I think). I have no idea about Italy.

    In California, Parker utilized associations like NAPA Vintners, Sonoma Vintners, etc to take care of his tastings. Did he buy any of those samples? Galloni does the same thing. While Galloni visits many producers, as well, jsut as Parker used to do, is he buying any of those samples?

    So I guess my point to Jason, Tom and others, as I have said, if Galloni is profitting off these dinners, if he he is not tasting blind, if he is lunching with winemakers in Burgundy, Tuscany or Napa, good for him.

    But stop spewing the “holier than thou” propaganda that consumers have been listening to for the past 30 years.

    Why did Parker change the % of samples from 75% to 60% last year? It should be 0% and it has been 0% for years.


    An arm’s distance to me as it says now. An arm’s distance. That would mean no meals, no entertaining, no socializing, no doing events with, no nothing.

    That is an arm’s length.

    So, why not just remove the sentence and get off the pedestal?

  27. Antonio, I agree with Dan Posner. No one has suggested that you took money from the producer. That conflict of interest would be inexcusable for any critic who claims to be independent. The mere fact that you may have been paid to appear at this and many other such wine dinners of wines that you report on presents what is called “The Appearance or possibility of impropriety” It is not a statement of fact of partiality and indifference to critical independence, but the inference that impartiality “may exist” under a certain set of facts or circumstances.
    It is not merely a term used by Lawyers. It should also cover any major and sincere critic/writer or analyst that claims to live by a “Code of Ethics” that separate them from other such critics/writers. WA is the only Wine critical periodical that maintains a Code of Ethics. Were you paid for your appearance at this event by anyone?, If so, it is not a crime, but to me and many others, you owe a duty of disclosing those facts to your readers so that they can utilize that information to determine your true independence. How are you harmed by being tranparent. You are not. You are above the fray and would be admired and not scorned.
    Otherwise, as Dan suggested remain slent on these issues but revoke the WA Code of Ethics. a total lack of transparency and a Code of Ethics can not co-exist. Thank You.

  28. I, for one, have lost interest in watching this dead horse being beaten. There is more than adequate evidence that Parker has not always upheld his lofty espoused ethical standards, and nobody else has really bothered to establish any. Parker loves wine, loves his job, loves his wife’s crab cakes (even though there is no such thing as “jumbo lump back fin crabmeat”, “jumbo lump” being lumps and “back fin” being flakes that come from multiple grades of crabmeat), loves the sound of his own self-important, self-righteous voice, blah, blah, blah, but at the end of the day, he made a shitpot of money slinging numbers and penning trite, often incoherent tasting notes, and also repackaging them in what he passed off as books. Give him his due for popularizing wine in America or whatever else you like. Find relevance in his numbers and tasting notes or not. Love him or hate him. But the bottom line is that his race is run. Antonio is not likely to be able to put his children through college with what he can make slinging words and numbers for a wine journal. He is not alone in that. It is not a growth business for anybody. It seems a curious domain dominated by those who seemed unable to make livings in their chosen professions. I am not sure what or how Tanzer is doing in this regard, but Shanken and his gang, Meadows and now Galloni make money via event-driven activities, not numbers and tasting notes. Ascribe personal passion, desire to educate or whatever other motives you want to it, none of which I am inclined to deny necessarily, but it is still about making a living, and making money ain’t going to happen in an ethically pristine environment, any more than it does in any other business. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Lesser influence corrupts incrementally. Perks and freebies abound for those with any degree of privilege. Nobody turns them all down. My best guess is that Bob Parker did not always understand when and how he violated his own ethical standards. He is human. He rationalizes his own behaviors as we all do. It seems to me a waste of time to insist upon ethical standards that will be observed mainly in the breach. It makes more sense to ask why the hell anybody cares what wine critics, amateurs all, have to say about wines, especially when one realizes the absurd, palate-killing tasting regimens that give rise to their opinions. Frankly, it makes more sense for somebody to go to a Solaia tasting if it is cheaper than the dubious pursuit of trying to amass a complete vertical of Solaia. (That Solaia is at the bottom rung of the greatest Tuscan wines, and that verticals of any wine contain more losers than winners, raise another question about the utility of such events, but hey, it’s not my money…)

  29. It’s reached a point where WA is simply a joke.
    End. Of. Story.

    What’s odd is that, wineries still don’t feel confident enough to avoid this slimy sucker. Really it’s sad.

  30. “With regards to the Solaia event, people should be aware I am receiving no compensation from the winery.”
    Does anybody find this statement disingenuous? How about simply stating “…I am receiving no compensation whatsoever from anyone”, if that’s actually the case, as he is implying? Is there compensation coming from the importer? The wholesaler? The restaurant? His statement has a weasly feel to it and reads like it was written by a lawyer, with a slow, sideways wink.

  31. Wino,

    Carefully chosen words, as I, and others have commented. He is being compensated…that much is obvious.

    And if anyone thinks that him profitting off a dinner, with a producer present, in the room, on a wine region that he reviews for a very important wine publication, does not cross the Wine Advocate ethical guidelines, you are kidding yourself.

    Their ethical code is a joke and appears to broken nearly everyday by one of their critics.

    Free trips. Free meals. Free hotel stays. For profit events. All at the expense of the consumer, who reads page 1 of the Wine Advocate and thinks that ethics actually means something to them.

  32. I am now agreeing with Bill Klapp. Why keep beating this dead horse. Neither Parker, Miller (ex writer) nor Galloni will ever change.
    The WA Ethics Statement is at best outdated and at worst a joke. Just ignore these “critics”. What do they really provide to a person with a palate anyway? They help to sell wines for the trade to wine buyers who have not formed their own palates. Some subscribers will learn that they have been had one day just like many other FORMER WA subscribers.
    The others? Well let the buyer beware.

  33. Jack wrote:

    “What do they really provide to a person with a palate anyway?”

    This is an easy one. They provide a personal assessment of numerous new wines. This might be hugely valuable to some. Maybe not so much to others. But, if I choose to buy a wine that is given a great review, and I like this wine, and upon drinking it recognize the characteristics that the reviewer identified, then it’s likely I have a new friend to help guide me in my pursuit of new wines.

    Put another way, a wine critic is useful in the same way that a restaurant, film, music, etc critic is useful.

  34. Tom, I have to disagree. You are in the trade. Selling wine is important to you and all the retailers that you represent. I am a wine buyer. I bought wines from the early eighties until 2001 based strictly on my own tastings and notes from winemakers I trusted. After becoming a father late in my life, I had to end my regular trips to France, Italy and Napa.
    I bought wine on tasting notes of the “trusted critics”. A big mistake. I now own hundreds if not thousands of bottles of wine that is neither my style, nor fully enjoyable to me.
    Critics may be useful for some as I have said. It has been a fiasco for me and many others that I know whose opinion I value. Trust of a critic should be earned and not simply a useful tool. As I said, let the buyers beware.

  35. I would have liked to respond sooner, but we are putting the finishing touches on the new issue.

    I think the record will show that I have always been transparent. I always take the time to respectfully face my critics and answer questions here and on other blogs/sites. I have been extremely generous with my time in speaking with reporters, writers, bloggers etc., even those who have taken very strong anti-Parker/WA views in the past.

    Specifically, with respect to compensation, yes, I am being paid to speak at this event. My fee is being paid by the attendees. The reason I specifically mentioned I wasn’t being paid by the winery was not to be disingenuous, but rather to be clear, because the overwhelming majority of wine events/tastings are sponsored by wineries who pay to present their wines. Pure pay to play, and it is the overwhelming way things are done in the wine business. That is not the case here, nor will it ever be the case with anything I am associated with.

    The Antinori dinner happens to be sold out, which tells you something about the demand for once-in-a-lifetime tastings such as this one. Personally, I think it is a great opportunity to experience something that is not likely to be repeated, at least not anytime soon. That is not to say things can’t be done better. They can, and will be. I find it interesting that this tasting draws so much attention while my monthly Italian wine class at Tarry Wine, which costs $75/person, doesn’t draw any comments. I guess it isn’t sexy enough. And of course I never see any mention of the considerable charity work I do each and every year. For example, in 2011 my wife and I raised nearly $250K for a variety of causes.

    Let me be clear. My focus and priority is tasting and reviewing wines. Since joining the Advocate full time last year I have:

    1. Successfully taken over the reviews of California wines from Robert Parker
    2. Expanded our coverage of California, and generally brought a more regional approach to our coverage
    3. Expanded our coverage in Italy
    4. Gotten the Advocate caught up in Burgundy, something that has not happened in many, many years.
    5. Continued to introduce small, artisan Champagne producers. Just as importantly, I am the ONLY critic, well-known or not, who has pushed Champagne producers to list disgorgement dates on their bottles and to generally be much more open and transparent with consumers
    6. Introduced video

    So far in 2012, I have written 40% of the reviews in the Advocate. It is a 24/7 job in every way. From time to time, and when the occasion is truly special, I will speak at one of these events, but over the course of a year, tastings or dinners such as this one account for a small percentage of my time – and income – for anyone who cares. I spent 14 years on Wall Street. I went to one of the top business schools in the world, a program I probably wasn’t qualified to attend, but that I somehow got into. All I can say is I have never worked harder in my life than now. Not even close. I give our readers 110% effort each and every day.

    There are people who eventually move past wanting to read wine publications. I view this as a huge positive. If the readership is more educated, then we have a real opportunity to write articles of a higher level. At the same time, I believe there will always be people who want to be more educated. I never want our readers to drink the wines I like, but rather I want to help our readers find wines that they like.

    Ethics are absolutely central to everything we do. Free trips to exotic islands, the finest in handmade Italian silk ties, all sorts of free tickets to high-end sporting/music events, lavish dinners and winery-sponsored speaking events. These are just some of the things I am offered virtually every day of the week and never accept. The best, though, was the time I returned to my hotel in Piedmont after a long day to find two huge, grapefruit-sized white truffles waiting for me. They were amazing. I had never seen truffles this big, much less two of them together. I gave them away…

  36. […] will be tasted. After Dr. Vine (Tyler Colman), an excellent writer, blogger and tenacious reporter, wrote about the upcoming event with Mr. Galloni, some have accused the wine critic of violating journalistic and Wine Advocate ethics, exposing his […]

  37. I’m really enjoying Antonio’s comments, especially his second one. It’s a refreshing, candid, mature and measured approach.

  38. “I find it interesting that this tasting draws so much attention while my monthly Italian wine class at Tarry Wine, which costs $75/person, doesn’t draw any comments. I guess it isn’t sexy enough.”

    Are those Tarry Wine classes done in conjunction with a single producer, like this one, or in conjunction with producers at all? If so then they’re worthy of the scrutiny that a for-profit event with Antinori would get. Nothing sexy or un-sexy about it.

  39. “I think the record will show that I have always been transparent. I always take the time to respectfully face my critics and answer questions here and on other blogs/sites. I have been extremely generous with my time in speaking with reporters, writers, bloggers etc., even those who have taken very strong anti-Parker/WA views in the past.

    Specifically, with respect to compensation, yes, I am being paid to speak at this event. My fee is being paid by the attendees. The reason I specifically mentioned I wasn’t being paid by the winery was not to be disingenuous, but rather to be clear, because the overwhelming majority of wine events/tastings are sponsored by wineries who pay to present their wines. Pure pay to play, and it is the overwhelming way things are done in the wine business. That is not the case here, nor will it ever be the case with anything I am associated with.

    Antonio, I for one appreciate your response. This comment is more transparent than you have been. We all understand that you are being paid for your appearance at these dinners and are not appearing at them simply as a lover of great wine. Not everyone sees things like ethics the same and never will. The more transparnt that you are, to more different you will prove to be from most other wine writers.

  40. Lots of chest pumping going on this room. No reason to extol your greatness on us. Over time, others will ultimately decide your fate.

    Where do I begin…

    Let’s try here…

    “Disgorgement dates and bottle codes. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to figure out what blend, or cuvee, is lurking in the bottle. Even vintage-dated Champagnes can be released over an extended period and disgorged at multiple times. While it is by no means automatically true that later-disgorged bottles are better wines, they will certainly be different. All things considered, I’d prefer to purchase a recently disgorged Champagne than an earlier release that has been kicking around the U.S. market for two or three years.
    The problem is that few Champagne houses show disgorgement dates on their labels. But some of them, even the Grandes Marques, are now providing this information; Mumm, for example, is trying it out even on some of their non-vintage cuvees. This is a positive first step toward providing consumers with a good idea of how long a particular bottle has been moldering in a warehouse or on the shelf of a retail shop. It will be interesting to see how many of the large houses follow this lead. Most producers place a lot number on the bottle, label (front, back or neck) or capsule, but these often arcane codes, which are frequently almost impossible to find and read, are clearly not intended for the education of the consumer. Still, this information may enable you to purchase bottles from the same batch that I tasted: where I found disgorgement dates or lot numbers on my bottles, I have included these in my tasting notes.
    The bottles that I worked through are the most current releases in the U.S. market. As production levels at the large houses can be astonishingly high, and each producer offers multiple cuvees and disgorgements, it’s quite possible that the bottlings available at a given time in different markets will vary. Sometimes a wholesaler on our West Coast will be working with a cuvee different from the one being sold in the East.
    The best policy is to ask your merchant when he or she received the Champagne that you are considering. Many Champagnes will be better to drink a year or three after their disgorgement dates, but I’d much rather have these bottles aging peacefully in my own cellar in the meantime than knocking around on retailers’ shelves. It would be nice to put a positive spin on the difficulty consumers face in knowing whether Champagnes in the retail market are fresh, but it’s a cold fact that this may remain a problem as long as we’re dealing with production levels that often go into the millions of bottles. But if Anheuser-Busch can put “Born On” dates on every single one of the hundreds of millions of cans and bottles of beer that they produce, there is surely hope that the Champagne houses will eventually follow this lead.”

    This excerpt was written in 2005, and not by Antonio Galloni, but by Josh Raynolds, of Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar. In 2005, Josh started listing the disgorgement dates at this time, as well.

    Antonio, maybe you ought to give a little more credit to other wine critics?

    As for the compensation for this dinner, contrary to what Jack Bulkin has said, Antonio’s compensation is not OBVIOUS nor is it TRANSPARENT to folks. Page 1 of the Wine Advocate forbids such activity and association with producers and events, as such. We could talk about pay for play all day long…La Festa del Barolo was kinda that, wasn’t it? Producers flew to New York, donated cases of wine to pour for consumers, while Antonio took a handsome profit for the weekend. He ahs been asked, ad nauseum, how much he profitted, but all we are ever told is that the lighting cost $5000 extra for the weekend, which came out of the profits.

    This could all go away if there was some acknowledgement by the Wine Advocate that these type of events cross the line of what Robert Parker meant when he said, “an arm’s length from the trade.”

    Doing a dinner, in conjunction with a major retailer, and a wine producer, where the wine critic is making a profit (we can call it a speaking fee) is hardly “ethical” according to the Wine Advocate.

    So, let’s just stop the chest pumping and the cheerleading. Antonio, you do a great job at the Wine Advocate. It is a job for you. You get paid for it. Like everyone else here, who is employed, it is a job, but no one is going to feel sorry for you about that, much like no one will further question you, if you just change the “standards” at the Wine Advocate.

    You do not taste blind.
    You do not pay for your samples.
    You are taking trips with trade associations.
    You are staying at producer’s homes on wine trips.
    You are accepting their meals.
    You are profitting off of their events.

    When I say “you,” I refer to the Wine Advocate, in general, and not necessarily, you, personally.

    THe Wine Advocate has become arrogant, smug, and dishonest, not only with the wine trade, but with themselves.

    It has gotten so bad, that you can come here, and justify profiting off of a “once in a lifetime” Solaia dinner, because Antinori is not cutting you a check directly, for the privilege.

    Over and out.

  41. You mean that Galloni isn’t really “the ONLY critic, well-known or not, who has pushed Champagne producers to list disgorgement dates on their bottles and to generally be much more open and transparent with consumers”?
    That somebody else was talking and writing about it three years before he took up the subject?
    Not the ONLY ONLY ONLY? Shout it out! ONLY!
    Say it ain’t so!

  42. Dan Posner stated:
    “As for the compensation for this dinner, contrary to what Jack Bulkin has said, Antonio’s compensation is not OBVIOUS nor is it TRANSPARENT to folks. Page 1 of the Wine Advocate forbids such activity and association with producers and events…”
    My comment was addressed to those who regularly comment on wine blogs such as this Dan. Not to the EBOB usual lemmings or the uneducated wine masses. Amongst those groups, I would agree with your comment that I have restated above.

  43. Dan-

    Re: Champagne. You are right. That is an oversight on my part. I should have been more specific in explaining my policy, because it is actually much more stringent than I state above. The strictest in the business. I am big fan of Josh (whom I also consider a friend) and the entire team at IWC. Other critics, including Josh and Jancis, have taken a stance on disgorgement dates and general disclosure on Champagne bottles in the past. I am the only critic who has taken a truly firm view, in my opinion of course, by stating that I will not review NV wines that don’t have a disgorgement date or a code that is simple to understand on the bottle.

    For example:

    Wine Advocate Dec 2010

    “Last year I wrote that I would no longer review NV wines without lot numbers and/or disgorgement dates. The reason is simple. Late in 2009, at the end of what had been a horrible market for high-end wine, and Champagne in particular, something interesting happened. I started to see the trade circulating Wine Advocate reviews before the December issue had been published. How could that be? It turned out that the trade was using reviews from the previous year’s Champagne issue to sell the then-current crop of NV releases. But there was more to it than that. Because of the slowdown in sales, some – but not all – of the NV wines in the market were actually the same exact wines and disgorgements I had tasted the year before! Of course, there was no way to be sure which wines were being offered because so many NV wines carry no identification whatsoever for the consumer. I made the difficult but necessary decision to only review NV wines with disgorgement dates and/or lot numbers so readers can easily match my review to the wines that are actually in the market.”

    Wine Advocate October 2011

    “Beginning next year, in 2012, The Wine Advocate will no longer review NV Champagnes that do not have disgorgement dates on their back labels. Obscure codes and/or lot numbers that hold no value to the consumer will no longer be sufficient. If I can’t figure out what I am tasting, I can hardly expect readers to do so. Champagne producers must become just a little more consumer-friendly. How is it possible that a carton of milk is more descriptive than a $100 bottle of Champagne? Unfortunately, today that is too often the reality.”

    That goes for big houses and small alike. Two years ago I stopped reviewing Krug’s NV Champagnes. All of my peers continued to review the wines. Earlier this year, Krug announced that they were adding ID codes to their bottles. Why? Largely because I have been going there every year for the last five years sharing with them my opinion on why listing disgorgement dates (and other information) is critically important. Another major house will follow shortly with something similar, directly in response to my criticisms of them. Alfred Gratien added disgorgement dates this year and Camille Saves will follow in 2013. I am sorry if that comes across as chest thumping to you, but I like to support everything I say with facts.

    Look at any wine publication’s database (including ours) and their reviews of NV Champagnes from producers such as Delamotte, Saves and Paul Bara. You will see multiple listings for what looks like the same wine, year after year. Let me be clear – I am not picking on those producers – but rather pointing out the dilemma consumers, the trade and critics find themselves in dealing with Champagne. Trying to wade through all the information on labels and bottles, including long codes that only the houses understand – usually hidden as well as possible – is a daunting task for anyone.

    Festa del Barolo. The fact is producers received free seats to the formal seated tasting and gala dinner (both of which obviously have value) in exchange for one case of wine and one magnum, not ‘cases’ of wine. Regardless, I know this is an issue for some people, so we are buying all of the wine for next year’s Festa. It’s part of the learning process once you have an idea of how things work and what the demand might be for an event like this. The first year, all I know is we took a huge risk and it could have equally been a disaster or a success, with the risks much more heavily skewed towards the downside, given that a poorly run event would have resulted in 1) financial loss, 2) damage to my reputation, 3) damage to the WA and 4) an inability to host future similar events. Like most things in life, when everything goes well, people tend to just assume it was easy and expected. It sure didn’t feel that way at the time.

    La Festa del Barolo remains an event focused on education. For example, next year we will host a closed-door tasting seminar for all the sommeliers who are working the event. I am committed to making La Festa work while addressing issues that may arise concerning ethics.

    It is clear you have bigger issues with the WA. Nothing I can do or say will change that. I do not own the Wine Advocate nor do I set its policies.

  44. Antonio,

    It is great that you have elected to not taste Champagnes without disgorgement dates, as I am sure, Champagne drinkers, all over the world, are pleased. But, you were pretty clear in all of your previous posts that you seemed to “pioneer” this movement. Now, to your point, Jancis and Josh were ahead of you. Maybe not to the extremes you have taken, but certainly there.

    Nevertheless, I fear much of my points here and as I have said elsewhere, get overlooked.

    The bottom line is that you are familiar with the “ethical standards” of the Wine Advocate, as you are a wine critic for them.

    You are profiting off of events with producers, a complete violation of the “code” as far as I can tell.

    In the end, everyone knows Marvin Shanken profits off the WS Wine Experience…it is as clear as day. Everyone knows he profits off the advertising in the magazine…it is clear as day.

    But the last time I checked, Marvin has never reviewed any of those wines for the publication. And his critics taste blind. Heck, they seem to sign and follow a very strict ethical guideline, that is there for the world to see on their website. It is all black and white. People can make their own judgements of whether what he does is right or wrong, but they can see the full picture, before forming the opinion.

    The WA, OTOH, is the exact opposite, posting ethical standards that are never upheld. Posting strict tasting guidelines that are never followed.

    So, when people post, thanks for the transparency, Antonio, I have to chuckle. It is great that you come here and post the “truth” but this is a blog not read by many wine consumers, and certainly not read by your subscriber base. No, your subscriber base reads page 1 of the Wine Advocate, where it talks, ad nauseum, about the ethics of the critics and writers there. They read, where the code of ethics might as well be used for cyber space toilet paper. So, while you correct things here, for this limited audience, you seem to refuse to correct things where it counts…with your customers!

    That is where I take issue with the WA.

    How many subscribers know how much money you are making on the Solaia dinnre? How much know you are making anything at all? La Festa? Masseto dinner? All of the other events you seem to be running these days.

    I think it is great that you are out there., I think it is great you are doing these events for consumers. But, who are we kidding? You are also doing these events to feed your family. This is not some charitable venture. Nor is the Wine Advocate…it is all for profit…that is why no samples are purchased…no wines are tasted blind…and Solaia costs $1200 for a dinner that is probably more like $750 per person, assuming my math is right.

    I think your paid subscribers deserve the truth. Wine Consumers deserve the truth. Then, when all of the cards are on the table, people can make an educated decision. Till then, it is an ignorant public singing the praises of the Wine Advocate.

    And till page 1 is rewritten, and till the ethical page is rewritten, t reflect the truth, I will continue to ask for that change, as I have for 4 years, now…after my first trip to Argentina (paid for out of my own pocket, FYI) where I learned that the wineries down there paid for Jay Miller to visit and wined and dined him, on a few occasions.

    Before that time, I will confess to being an ignorant subscriber, assuming that Robert Parker’s written word was the truth. So, you owe it to people like me, and all wine consumers out there, to actually inform us what is really going on. Transparency is the key. And while you are being transparent here, this is a limited audience.

    But your subscriber base is not. You and Bob are doing all of these videos, perhaps a video about how all of you conduct your tastings. How samples are retrieved. How wine is tasted and reviewed How Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley Vintners organize most of your tastings in California. How you do your trips to Italy, Champagne and Burgundy. How Neal Martin is able to travel around the world to taste all of these great wines he writes about. What David Schildknecht does in his travels.

    An arm’s length from the trade was not my decision, it was Bob Parker’s.

    The truth is in order.

  45. extremely respectful that Antonio Galloni responded 3 times….. he seems that he is not hitting.

    Only time will show if he follows what’s correct for the consumers, been their advocate, or follows what some of the previous reviewers of the WA did.

    As someone said above he has to put food on the table and since he is on the spot it’s easy to judge him, have we seen the ones who judge us and what have we done about it….. most time ignore them at least he answered with facts.

    Antonio good luck!!!!

  46. Antonio –

    Thanks for joining the discussion.

    As I said in my original post, Parker laid down impressive standards for ethics in wine writing decades ago including “it is imperative to keep one’s distance from the trade,” adding “it can be no other way.” Are those standards still on the masthead of the publication? Yes.

    Parker never sold tickets to verticals of Rayas or Pavie with the winemakers and/or vintners.

    If you feel that times have changed and the WA standards are no longer valid or workable, then adjusting the ethics statement as necessary seems the best way to go. Then there would be not only greater transparency but also no discrepancy betweens policy and practice.

    That’s the long and the short of it.

  47. Daniel, dear;

    where did you learn such an awful word as “heck…?”

  48. James

    I am a potty mouthed NYer.

  49. I’m surprised people really care anymore. Aren’t we in the “post-pro critic” phase? I mean, people look to CellarTracker and other wine drinker generated fora for information and input. People don’t, en masse, go to “the god” critic anymore.

    Yes, its clear: Antonio violates the ethical standards of TWA. No discussion about it.

    But….does anyone care? They are losing subscribers like crazy, and sites like CT are growing exponentially.

  50. Skeptic

    I do not believe the masses are “embracing” Cellartracker. A very small populous certainly is, no doubt.

    When CT shelftalkers start becoming more prevolent, then it will attract the masses. Till then, just walk into your local liquor stores, and talk to me about shelftalkers.

    I was at a lunch today, where the producer handed out a catalog, littered with scores from International Wine Cellar and Robert Parker.

    Only issue is that the winery is in Chile. Robert Parker never reviewed their wines. The winemaker kinda shrugged when I said that they should write in the Wine Advocate instead.

  51. So how long until Galloni starts shaking down Burgundy and Champagne producers to “help” with future events similar to what he did with Barolo and California Syrah? And by just doing Barolo he leaves the door open for every other region of Italy.

  52. If money could be made, why wouldn’t he?

    He just needs retailers and restaurants to continue to play “front man.”

  53. “How about calling attention to a producer in Burgundy whose bottled wines capture none of the potential they had in barrel, as happened with Kellen Lignier’s 2009s?”

    The problem is you did not state it that way in your review. You stated the wines were deeply flawed. There is a vast difference between not living up to an earlier potential, and being deeply flawed. I have tasted these same wines on several ocasions – whatever flaws you found were either limited to a few bottles, phantoms of your imagination, or derived from some external motivation. There have been several other reviews calling into question your notes on these wines – it’s time for you to revisit this issue, re-taste these wines and either 1. stand by your original opinion (which would put you in a class by yourself), or revise your notes to accurately reflect the wines.

    With so many calling into question your notes on these wines, you owe it to yourself, your readers, and Lignier to make sure you get it right – one way or the other.

  54. I would be happy to taste them with Antonio, as I do own them, and have not yet tasted.

  55. […] Antonio Galloni hosted a tasting of Solaia at Eleven Madison Park, it caused quite a kerfuffle, as many analysts believed it ran counter to the Wine Advocate’s pledge to keep an “independent […]

  56. […] that is in the form of “masterclasses” involving Jay Miller or the Festa del Barolo or Solaia events of Antonio Galloni. So it is particularly interesting to see that the “wine education […]


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