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The Prince Retires (this time for good)

On August 1, 2019, I retired, saying, “The Prince retires, but his spirit lives on in a good bottle of Pinot Noir.” Six months later, I was back in the saddle again, publishing the PinotFile online with renewed eagerness. This time I am honestly retiring for good after leaving a legacy of 576 issues of the PinotFile. Although I will no longer write about Pinot Noir and review Pinot Noir wines, my website,, will remain available to pinotphiles in perpetuity.

The inspiration and derivation of the name of my online wine newsletter, the PinotFile, came about because of my pent-up urge to share my passion for Pinot Noir with others and a desire to pursue a second career after retiring from the private practice of ophthalmology.

I sat down on a Sunday evening, April 22, 2001, to be exact, and began to type a one-page missive on Pinot Noir that I intended to send out by email to the twenty members of my wine-tasting club, Le Grand Crew, and a few other friends. I alerted my inaugural readers as follows. “Every Sunday night I am going to email a short newsletter titled the PinotFile to keep you apprised of news in the pinotphile world.” I felt like an evangelist who needed to spread the gospel of Pinot Noir. After finishing the single page, I hit the send box, and the PinotFile was off and running.

With Volume 7, Issue 1, of the PinotFile, in June 2002, the PinotFile took on a four-page weekly format and was published on the prince of pinot website. By 2008, I was amazed at how quickly changes had occurred in the world of Pinot Noir since the PinotFile began seven years prior. The internet had become a powerful medium for sending to the world the compelling stories behind every good bottle of Pinot Noir. The PinotFile became a joyous pursuit, a redeeming pleasure that coincided with the rise in popularity of Pinot Noir domestically after the movie ‘Sideways’ debuted in 2004.

As the years and issues rolled by, I infused the PinotFile with a purpose. I chose to circumvent the many wine publications of the time that centered primarily around lengthy lists of wine-tasting notes and scores. My intent was to find and report the compelling stories behind every good bottle of Pinot Noir. I strove to provide a truthful judgment and only feature and recommend Pinot Noir wines that I deemed worthy of reader interest. I always emphasized that every wine drinker possessed a different palate so the recommended wines were meant to be only a starting point for the reader’s own exploration of Pinot Noir.

Eventually, the PinotFile offered much more. It presented first-hand colorful interviews of domestic Pinot Noir winegrowers and winemakers including periodic appellation and regional profiles of pinotcentric wine regions, including photographs and maps, and offered extensive tasting notes that included winery verticals, regionals horizontals, barrels samples, and older vintages. On-the-ground reports from wineries were included as well as reports from the many post-Sideways Pinot Noir festivals and celebrations in California and Oregon.

I did not believe in assigning scores to wines initially, only reporting the scores of other wine critics. I discarded this practice by 2008 upon the urging of my readers and began to accompany my reviews of Pinot Noir wines with scores based on the popular 100-point system.

I like the style of Pinot Noir that is in front of me. I am not a slave to any one ironclad Pinot Noir mystique. I recommend embracing all styles of Pinot Noir, finding purpose and charm in them all, without insisting that Pinot Noir adamantly adhere to traditional roles.

Soon I was inspired by many testimonials from grateful readers who seemed happy with my unpretentious and humorous approach to reviewing Pinot Noir, and I was truly appreciative of each and every one. I particularly enjoyed one feedback from a reader. “If I drank over 1,200 wines during the year, my wife would accuse me of having a drinking problem. You do it, call it research, brag about it, and gain respect among your friends. Way to go!”

Along the way, I have weathered boxed, bagged and canned Pinot Noir, reduced alcohol Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir Blanc, Trader Joe’s Pinot Noir, Meiomi Pinot Noir, and the onslaught of mediocre Napa Valley winery Pinot Noir. I have seen the emergence of screw cap closure and glass closure for Pinot Noir, both of which have stalled in popularity in part due to the reduction in frequency (but not the complete elimination) of cork taint.

When I began publishing the PinotFile in 2001, there were a total of 23,046 acres of Pinot Noir planted in California, a minuscule percentage of grapevine plantings. Pinot Noir plantings doubled by 2021 with California’s total Pinot Noir acreage at 47,245 acres second in total acreage only to Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, California is the leading domestic producer of Pinot Noir. The increase in plantings of Pinot Noir is even more dramatic in Oregon. In 2001, there were only 4,834 acres. Today, Pinot Noir is by far the leading planted variety in Oregon with 41,899 acres of vines, accounting for 60% of all planted acreage.

The legacy of the PinotFile newsletter and Prince of Pinot website:

    1) The first wine newsletter exclusively devoted to domestic Pinot Noir and one group of wine lovers known as pinotphiles.
    2) The only significant wine newsletter offered free as a noble and thoroughly redeeming accomplishment possible because of the financial base of my previous career in medicine.
    3) The first wine publication to include chemistry details as part of informative wine reviews including ABV, pH, TA and RS.
    4) A unique Winery Directory with nearly 2,900 winery profiles of primarily domestic wineries focusing on Pinot Noir. This is the largest Pinot Noir winery directory on the internet. There is also a very large Vineyard Directory. Wine reviews can be searched by winery or vineyard name.
    5) The latest news of the Pinot Noir community was included in each issue in the Pinot Briefs section.
    6) Multiple terms were added to the Pinot Noir lexicon known as pinotcabulary including pinotphile, pinotology, pinotosity, pinotspeak, pinotholicism, pinot geek, pinotcentric, pinotaficionado, pinoteer, pinot pimp, and noiriste.
    7) Updates and the newest information on the relationship between wine in moderation and health were periodically detailed and included summaries of peer-reviewed scientific research. No similar cataloguing of this wine and health information is available online.
    8) An innovative and highly useful marketing tool was the availability of links between winery write-ups and wine reviews in the PinotFile and wineries' websites.
    9) Grape Radio podcasts that were Pinot Noir-related and involved the Prince were accessible on the Prince of Pinot website. These wine podcasts were groundbreaking at a time when podcasts were in their infancy.
    10) Comprehensive coverage of every Pinot Noir festival and celebration in California and Oregon including the World of Pinot Noir, Pinot Days, Pinot Paradise, Wine & Fire, Pinot & Paella, Pinot Noir Summit, West of West Festival, International Pinot Noir Celebration, and more.

There are so many people to thank for their expertise and support to compose the PinotFile over the past 21 years. Steve Muller designed my first website and logo, and David Isaacs managed my website in the early years with dedication and a smile. Peter Rowell, as a result of his technical know-how and Wendy Coy, because of her graphic design abilities, created and helped maintain the modern version of the Prince of Pinot website. Michael McDonald, another computer techie, assisted me over the past several years in keeping the website running as well as trolling the immense amount of data therein to provide me with valuable information. My son, Dane, the current COO of Ashes & Diamonds Winery in Napa, taught me everything I know about computers and faithfully posted every issue of the PinotFile online for the past 14 years. Master Sommelier Rene Chazottes encouraged me and taught me integrity. My spouse, Patti, somehow had the patience to put up with my wacky devotion to a grape and has stuck with me for 45 years. And finally, my mother Dorothy, who always said when I was a youngster that I would become a doctor or a writer. Bless her heart, she was wrong. I became both.

The “team” - Rusty, Dane and Patti celebrating my retirement at Healdsburg’s Troubadour Bread & Bistro November 2022

**Notice to wineries, winemakers, and public relations agencies: I no longer accept Pinot Noir wines for review! All past published online wine reviews will remain available online on my website.

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