AN INTRODUCTION — AND A PROMISE OF PASSION
The Colorado Statesman
In 2003 I entered the fine wine business because I hated my profession and my wife Yaël said that I should find myself. It was classic. “You’re right, hon,” I said over my shoulder as I walked out of the den. I almost reached the kitchen before swiveling on my heel and returning to my beloved. “So what do you think I should do?”
“You always annoy our dinner guests with your wine fetish,” she said. “Whenever they leave they walk out with a case of open bottles and maybe even some literature they don’t want on the regions from which the bottles originated. Maybe you should do something with wine?”
And that’s how it started. As a J.D., M.B.A., in the field of high-net-worth finance, I was able to afford some of the finer things in life. A good wine cellar was one of them. I knew I would never make the same money in the wine business, but at least I could still drink the good stuff, right? So I went to the owners of Davidsons Liquors in Centennial, where I had bought most of my juice. I told them I was changing my life and asked to be put on the sales floor. It was the beginning of October, the first of three months that make or break most beverage establishments, and I was instantly the most knowledgeable floor monkey they’d ever had.
By February I had graduated to a small Italian importer, driving around my very own territory with a bag of wine samples. Six months later I was managing fine wine for Heritage Wine & Liquor, a large store in the suburbs south of Denver, a position I held for more than three years.
In 2007, one of Heritage’s owners asked me to pen a wine column in the Greenwood Villager, a local, local, local newspaper. She would then run sales ads (in a different typeface) for the same wines I recommended.
“Will you pay me more?” I asked.
“Okay… I assume I can write at work?”
Thus my second big break. Within a few weeks of the publication of my first column, hordes of customers were jamming into the store with the text torn from the paper, newsprint smudging their fingers as well as their chosen bottles.
I was ecstatic! I had finally found my calling. I trundled to the library, snagged a guide to periodicals, and spent an afternoon composing and sending about 40 emails to various newspapers around the country. I asked if they wanted a wine writer and enclosed a PDF of my published columns. Then I sat back and waited.
To my chagrin, not much happened. Half of the recipients didn’t respond and the other half said no, including what were at the time the two local Denver newspapers — the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News.
Crap, I thought. Guess I’ll have to try something else.
Six weeks later, I received an email from the editor of the Lifestyle section of the Rocky Mountain News. They had recently lost the services of their wine columnist and he vaguely remembered receiving my email. Could I please resend?
Why yes, I could. I ended up in a pot with several dozen applicants and was eventually chosen. Thus came Big Break Number Three closely followed by Number Four. Luckily, because the Rocky closed shop ten months later, I pitched to Sommelier Journal,/ at the time a new wine-focused magazine for beverage professionals, when they were seeking a stable of writers for regular contributions.
Fast forward four years and now I write for all sorts of beverage, food, travel and lifestyle publications, including the Daily Beast, Worth Magazine, Sommelier Journal, Wine Enthusiast, The World of Fine Wine, and Tasting Panel Magazine (where I’m the Rocky Mountain Editor), among others. I have almost 10,000 subscribers to my regular blog at unfilteredunfined.com, which started with less than 70 friends and family immediately after the Rocky closed. I regularly visit wine country all over the world and offer luxurious, behind-the-scenes tours via Wine On The Road (www.wineontheroad.com), my wine-focused, experiential travel company.
Why did I go through this timeline? You deserve to know the background and qualifications of any person who gives you advice. And, if I’m honest with myself, I suppose it’s also because when I look back at my path there’s a danger of supposing my journey to be preordained. But when it was happening it seemed anything but linear. At the time I was continually grasping at tiny handholds, constantly blown from perch to perch, at times sustained only by my passion for wine.
Over the ten years that I’ve followed my dream I’ve come to realize that passion in writing is similar to sugar in an alcoholic beverage. It covers a lot of flaws. Readers pay attention to those writers who thirst for their subject and will forgive much to experience true enthusiasm on the page. Whatever topics this column engages in over the time I write it, I guarantee that you’ll see my passion for wine, other adult beverages, and how they relate to our state and its citizens and businesses. Passion is how I’ve succeeded. I don’t know how to do it any other way.
Passion is my promise to you.
Certified sommelier and unfilteredunfined.com editor-in-chief Ben Weinberg, JD, MBA, pens Weinberg’s Wine Tech in Sommelier Journal and has written for the Daily Beast, Worth Magazine, The World of Fine Wine, Wine Enthusiast, and The Tasting Panel Magazine, where he is the Rocky Mountain Editor. He also leads luxurious, behind-the-scenes tours of the world’s most famous wine regions via WineOnTheRoad.com.