Running with our retro theme, I’d like to share some highlights from our nine-plus years of publishing. Some names have been omitted due to legal issues; some kept due to stupidity issues. Strap yourself in, baby. Here we go...
Best Endorsement: Coming in a close second to Ron Loutherback’s endorsement (see The Insider, page 40 in this issue) is an endorsement by Wine Spectator. We learned in 1999 that they (mainly their publisher) call us “The Dark Side.” Not quite sure why. You’d think they’d figure out that the more young adults we turn on to wine now, the more subscribers they’ll have in about 10 years. But then again, it’s Wine Spectator.
Best Brokest Moment: In 2000, Random House published our first edition of the Wine X-Rated Guide to Wine. They were flying me to LA for the Festival of Books at UCLA to have me speak on a panel with other wine/food authors. Sounded great. ‘Cept I had absolutely no money. I mean NO money. Nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada. And I had no one to sponge off. Luckily I had gas in my car, so all I really needed was $6 to pay for airport parking (when I returned). So here was my plan: I had some foreign currency (from press trips abroad). I figured I’d fly down to LA, do the festival, then get dropped back at LAX early so I could go to the International terminal to cash in the currency. These best-laid plans were going great until I found the foreign-currency exchange booth. Closed. After running through the terminal in near panic, I found another that was open. I cashed in my currency and made it back home with a whopping $11.52 in my pocket.
Best Catch-22: After a year of dogged persistence, former Wine X ad sales director Dan Eliason and I finally snagged a meeting with a brand manager for a big Italian wine company. For an hour we did the ol’ dog and pony show, covering all the details on why the brand (which retailed for $11) would appeal to our readers. Their response? “We don’t think your readers will spend $11 on a bottle of wine.” I could tell (from so many other meetings with middle-aged brand managers who think young adults don’t have any money) that arguing with them was futile. So I said we’d forward the results of our recent reader survey, which included the average price our readers were paying per bottle. Upon receiving this information, which indicated our readers were spending about $16.50 retail for a bottle, we received an email back saying that if our readers are spending that much on wine, they’d never buy an $11 bottle. D’Oh!
Best Cover: To this day, despite all the great celebs we’ve had grace our cover, I think the best cover we’ve ever published is the first. Not because it shocked so many old farts in the industry (which it did). And not because the design of the cover alone cost me more than the design of the following 63 pages (which it did). I think it’s the best cover we’ve done because it did exactly what it was supposed to do: it alienated the “old guard” (as intended); it attracted young adults to a magazine about wine (as intended); it paved the way for a new era of wine magazine appealing to the other 35 million U.S. wine consumers who weren’t reading Wine Spectator or Robert Parker. If you have a copy of our first issue, Vol. 2.1, hold on to it. Trust me. It’s worth more than the paper it’s printed on. Wanna see the intricate detail that our then-cover designer Glen Martinez achieved on that first cover? Look at the button on the jeans. (No, Wine X wasn’t making jeans at that time.) Or examine the tattoo. One by one Glen painstakingly placed each hair that seemingly comes through the tattoo ink. Yes, the tattoo was Photoshopped in. But the belly ring was real.
More next issue.