What We're Doing with Your Wine Samples
Nobody invites me to dinner anymore, but my local crafts store is beaming. Until last October, I didn't know people actually made "wine bottle lamp kits," but as soon as I discovered it, I realized that the many generous distributors, winemakers, and PR-professionals ("Hey, we *love* your blog and would *be honored* to send you a free sample of our most *prestigious* wines!") were killing two birds with one stone. I will never be without beef burgundy, coq au vin, or a quick dinner gift for my neighbor's bi-monthly, we're-accepting-that-we're-30 "gatherings." Industry, you've turned me into a re-gifter. And I guess lamps are better than a cinammon babka. But your highly allocated single block South Latvian A9 clone cab (aged six months in French oak only, of course) has become my labelmaker. Hello, my name is Tim Whatley. I made this for you out of garbage. Sometimes it's a lamp. Sometimes I'll bring the wine itself. Especially the Kosher wines, which make me look considerably more expert and thoughtful than anything I would've picked up on my own at the liquor store. Welcome to the secret life of wine blogger samples. I thought it fair to finally tell you, we hardly ever drink what you send us. We want it--oh we absolutely want your free wine. But we probably won't write about it. Ethics aside, the truth is I'm almost never in the mindset to criticize a free bottle. Much of what I like about wine is choosing the bottle for myself. Sifting through the 20-page-too-long (i.e. 21-page) wine list to find a bottle of Rasteau you know isn't marked up beyond standard retail. Asking a store clerk for some help--only to realize he's clearly shilling a quota wine--and immediately picking up the bottle next to his recommendation just to crap on his commission (try helping me find what I really need next time). If there is one absolute truth amongst us bloggers, it's that we really enjoy what we do. We enjoy wine as much as waking up in the morning. We feel the same about food. Our sustenance is a wanting for everything to be an "experience." It's how we get away with so often making close to no sense. A hundred, 10,000, eight. The pageviews will vary, and I genuinely don't care. I don't have a boss. I'm not on a "roadmap to excellence." I don't have to get better or worse. There is no masthead. I'm allowed to be biased. I can change my mind. And I can sit in the dark with my feet up listening to Cold Cave and drinking your wine with a Domino's pizza and cookies. Cut-out cookies I rolled myself, mind you, with an empty bottle of that cab (for finer pastries like croissants or dough that has to be rolled individually like flatbread and kolaches, I prefer the precision of a riesling or Trimbach pinot gris). But, like any gift no matter how bad, I do remember each one of these. And if it's the thought that counts, I count a new friend every time the doorman leaves a tag on my box and I find a small shipper of wines from someone I've never met. I take care to let them settle for a few days. I store them in my Eurocave. And the next time I'm at my local wine shop, I'll perk up if I see your bottle on the shelf. If it's any good, I'll buy some. I'm not a critic; I write about wine, which is really just a symptom of needing to talk about it too much. I don't have a point system. I'm not a judge. Trust that your samples are, however, going to a good place. That they litter my living room, scattering the moonlight that trickles in between the blinds. That they're in my periphery every time I write a new post. A part of everything I do. And if it never helps you sell a bottle, know at least that you've sold me.