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Along the Bumpy Pinot Trail

Dear Loyal Subscribers:

It has become painfully evident to me that wine writing as a journalistic niche is in crisis at the present. Newspaper and magazine positions are being eliminated; print publications that include wine coverage are disappearing. Only a small number of critics are able to successfully charge for subscriptions.

There are many reasons for this trend but the ten major causes include the following. (1) The market for fee-based wine advice is tiny and shrinking. (2) A tremendous amount of free wine advice is available now online and people will take what they can get for free. (3) Consumers are becoming wine critics themselves. CellarTracker, for example, has a database of more than 1 million free tasting notes created by wine enthusiasts. (4) Everyday wine drinkers are becoming more trusting of their own palates. (5) Wine publications have not attracted younger readers. Bloggers appear to have the most chance to resonate with Generation Y, even though the expertise and accuracy of wine blogs is often suspect. (6) Inexpensive or free phone Apps with extensive wine ratings are widely available. (7) Becoming a wine writer is now financially a much more difficult proposition as wine prices have increased. Even Robert Parker, Jr., who at one time bought most of the wine he tasted, now admits that free samples make up by far the largest portion of the wines he tastes. (8) Creating, managing and maintaining a fee-based website is expensive and time consuming. (9) Wine publications from the Internet are easily passed around and shared among friends even though only one member of a friendly group is a paid subscriber. (10) The economic recession has severely affected fine wine sales. Retailers report that the market for over $40 Pinot Noir, the “dead zone,” which includes a majority of the wines I review, has vanished in the last year.

I have run into many headaches administering my website. PayPal has been difficult to deal with to say the least. A couple of months ago someone hacked into my website, diverting Googlebot from my site, and completely erasing my presence from Google search. I could go on about the many challenges I have confronted, but you get the idea.

Beginning January 1, 2010, the PinotFile will again become a free online wine newsletter. All past loyal subscribers will continue to receive notice immediately when a new issue is posted on the website, but the newsletter and the website will be available free to all wine enthusiasts. I will not e-mail a pdf copy of the newsletter as in years past when the newsletter was free. Monthly subscribers will have to visit the PayPal website to cancel their subscriptions (regretfully I cannot do this for you). Yearly subscribers who still have unexpired subscriptions need to do nothing unless a refund is desired. You can contact me at with your mailing address and I will honor your request.

Please understand that I am not unduly discouraged by the lack of a market for fee-based coverage of wines and in particular Pinot Noir. I will continue to keep my pulse on the world of Pinot Noir and chase down and report the stories that matter. I promise to continue to attempt to take wine journalism in new and important directions. You can still depend on the PinotFile to discover the best Pinot Noir and tell you how to get your hands on it. will continue to be the largest and most informative Pinot Noir database on the internet.

Thank you for your support and I hope your Holiday Season is celebrated with many bottles of princely Pinot Noir.


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