We'll Be Right Back
This website taught me about wine. I started it on a whim after walking home from an impromptu wine tasting that I was only invited to because someone else had canceled. I'd never, to that point, had a great bottle of wine. I was still trying to remember the difference between cabernet and merlot. But I was inspired (and honored) during that event. And on my walk home, drunker than I'd ever been in my life yet still completely--frighteningly--self-aware, I resolved to write whatever I was feeling down. And so, on a balmy July evening in 2004, I launched 750 mL with these few words:
94 Luce della Vite, Toscana Luce
This Super Tuscan flexes its muscles proudly. Complex, spicy, dark fruit nose. Deep earth -- raw soil -- from an assertive sangiovese presence, with elegant blackberries behind it. Hints of oak, but never overpowering. Long, developing finish.
I never told a soul. For one, this was boring as shit writing (can you tell who'd I'd been reading?). I'd just graduated college with a degree in creative writing and modern American lit. This isn't exactly the sort of language that swept me off my feet. But I was starting to learn a new language, a new literature, and trying to keep things simple.
Second, I really had no idea what I was talking about. I didn't know what a Super Tuscan was. I still wasn't clear what "oak" actually did to a wine. But writing these things down helped me pace myself through an understanding of wine. I was teaching myself. Testing myself. I was in love, and wanted to make sure I never forgot a moment of it.
After a few weeks, though, this stuff started getting around on the internet. I apparently had an incredible knack for SEO. And the criticism I was getting was that, well, my notes weren't exactly on point. If I'm going to say oak, I need to say whether I'm tasting French or American. Is it tannic? And you told us what it smelled like and how it finished, but what about the midpalate?
I jumped ship. This is how everyone talked about wine, and it drove me nuts because it never meant a damn thing to my customers (I was working at a boutique wine store at the time). They didn't care about the technicals of a wine. They wanted to know if I liked it. They wanted to know if it would go well with dinner. They wanted to know what their grandfather would think, who inexplicably three years ago flew over to the states from Sardegna to retire with his family in a West Town Chicago two-flat. It will remind him of when you were young.
That was the website I wanted to read. So, over the years, 750 mL developed into the site it sort-of is today. A lyrical and open conversation about the experience of drinking wine. I told myself I would never sell anything on the site. I would never make recommendations. And, above all, I would never "rate" a wine. Short of a few misinformed months of advertising on the blog (I was experimenting), I held true to these principles and just wrote whatever the hell I wanted to.
You guys kept on reading.
But I don't think about wine the same way I did in 2004, or even last year for that matter. 750 mL is no longer the website that I want to read.
I've had the great fortune of meeting a lot of wonderful winemakers, retailers, writers, and distributors over the years, and what I've found is that this is really their story to tell--not mine. That's the story I want to read. The judgment on their work--well, that's just not up to me. Who really cares what I think? Or, for godsake, what Parker thinks? Maybe a decade or two ago, it did matter. But you guys aren't who you were back then. Drinkers today are smart.
That's why I'm relaunching 750 mL in 2012. The new website will be completely redesigned (thank God) from scratch. And since my CSS skills are pretty rudimentary, it will be refreshingly simple. I hope to bring some of these personalities to life and start revising the story of wine through their eyes. To that end, 750 mL will soon feature interviews with some of my favorite winemakers, spotlights on some off-the-beaten path grapes, and--well--probably more. I don't know. I'm kind of making it up as I type this, but it's getting me really excited.
Follow me on twitter @750_mL and email me at 750mL.firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for my newsletter. I appreciate all your support through the years, and I need you guys to stick with me. So please stay tuned. We'll be right back.