10 June 2013

Interview with Jameson Fink

One of the many bloggers I met in NYC was Jameson Fink, a Seattle based wine blogger and host of the Wine Without Worry podcast. He's been blogging about wine since 2004, beating me by a year, and was kind enough to answer a few questions for my latest interview.

BWR: I'm impressed with your podcast interviews. How do you line up guests for those, and do you use Skype or something else for the conversation?

Jameson: I have been choosing my guests by dipping into my personal Rolodex of friends, at least for the first ten or so shows. As someone who is still fairly green in the podcast game I wanted to make sure that I already had a rapport with each guest that would naturally come through, mitigate any nerves, as well as show some real chemistry. And I know a lot of really cool people.

It's also important for me to use wine as a jumping off point to get to know someone better...even someone I already know. How is it I've been friends with Leah Waaramaki, Assitant Winemaker at Whidbey Island Winery, for years and somehow forgot she was a zoology major? I know, zoology majors who become winemakers are a dime a dozen, right?

And I really want to get people who are not involved in wine per se, outside of the drinking of it, on the show. Like making a White Port and Pear Conserve with Brook Hurst Stephens, who is a Certified Master Food Preserver and the enthusiastic, charming creator of Learn to Preserve. (She also worked in the wine business for years.) Or getting grilled about wine by Author/Cook/Urban Farmer Amy Pennington.

Now I am venturing out into the world of guests who I've never met before as well. So they will be sprinkled in amidst people who I find engaging, fascinating, and probably have some dirt on me. As far as recording each show goes, if I'm face-to-face with someone I just use the microphone on my HP Pavillion laptop, I set it up between me and my guest. If I'm speaking with someone remotely I call them over Skype and use G-Recorder Professional to put it all on an mp3 file.

BWR: Can you remember the first wine you ever sipped, and your impressions of it?

Jameson: I wish I could! Does a California Cooler count? I can, however, share a couple early wine memories with you. One is from my days at Grinnell College, where at an off-campus house I drank a lot of Alsatian Gewurztraminer while eating spicy vegetarian cuisine. (Note: I also drank an ocean of Milwaukee's Best Light out of Hardee’s cups.) I recall reading somewhere that wines with a little sweetness would balance out spicy cuisine, put that theory to the test, and found out that it was a success.

A second recollection is living in the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago and drinking a lot of Turning Leaf and Meridian Chardonnay that I bought from my local convenience store. This was at a  time I had my first corporate job, working at a consulting firm that companies would pay to handle their benefits administration. (AKA "outsourcing") Spending money on wine with regularity became more of a reality and this was a good launching pad. I'm confident that Ravenswood Zinfandel was part of my regular repertoire as well.

BWR: You've done quite a bit of travel as a wine blogger.  What was your favorite trip and why was it special?

Jameson: Is this where I decline to give you a straight answer and say all my trips were equally outstanding? Well, they all were fantastic, educational, delicious, thirst-slaking, and informative. As someone who loves to travel, I consider myself extremely fortunate to be a part of each and every one. I would like to note one  of the biggest highlights of each trip is meeting new people and travelling with them for a week. You get a lot of time to chat and bond in the van and over meals.

But if you turned the screws on me, I’d say my trip to the Loire Valley was particularly memorable because I am such a fanboy of the wines, from Muscadet to Sancerre, and everything in between. What a thrill!

BWR:Given your home town and your current residence, I'd like to hear a perfect Chicago food/wine pairing and a perfect Seattle food/wine pairing.  No need to restrict yourself to Illinois and Washington wines.

Jameson: One of the things I miss most about Chicago is eating steak tacos at La Pasadita at all hours of the day. They have three locations on the same block, each with a different feel and loyal fans. (I prefer the one on the west side of Ashland, closest to Division.) I’d like to get those steak tacos with cheese, cilantro, and chopped onions. Then drown them in fiery green salsa. I’d get them to-go and find a place where I could wash them down with a sparkling rosé of some sweetness, like a Bugey Cerdon.

For Seattle, I'd want to sit at the counter in front of the open kitchen at La Bete. I love watching the chefs put together each dish from start to finish; it is fascinating, understated theater, and you’ve got a front row seat. The last time I was there I had a great André Neveu Sancerre, which I would happily drink no matter if I had salad,  seafood, or steak in front of me.

BWR: We met each other during Snooth PVA but didn't hang out that much. Which was your favorite tasting and why?

Jameson: The Gruner Veltliner tasting. Aldo Sohm had the presence, knowledge, and humor to probably reach non-wine geeks and make them believers. Also, it was good to recall that there's more to Gruner than just the 1 liter chug-a-lug jugs sealed with a bottle cap. I so enjoy those, but rich, powerful, age-worthy Gruners deserve big love, too.

BWR: I've found that the more time I spend writing about wine and engaging in social media, I don't get to read as much about it, even the posts written by my close friends.  How do you balance content consumption and content creation?  Do you find yourself consuming more music or movies just to focus on alternate subjects?

Jameson: Ben, with your questioning you are peeling back my layers like I was an onion on your cutting board.

I certainly am cognisant (mostly in my deepest, darkest thoughts) of the danger of becoming so wine-focused that others may think you have nothing else to offer, whether in the world of blogging or how you relate to people in the real world. And being a more well-rounded person makes you a better writer, and one more likely to attract readers who find you interesting. Not just your interest in wine. So, yes, I try to vary my consumption of what I feed my brain. Sometimes it’s Graham Greene, other times it’s Pawn Stars. As far as other blogs, I always carve out time to read posts, especially content that inspires me. The best way to become a good writer is to be a great reader.

BWR: While a lot of people think that wine blogging is just a pleasant hobby, it can be a lot of work. What's the toughest part about blogging about wine?

Jameson: For many people it is a pleasant hobby, and that’s the great thing about blogging. It can be a casual, fun outlet for your thoughts. And that’s what my blog is at the core. The tough part is trying to turn your blog into something that can offer a halfway (tenthway) decent living. I have no illusions about making any significant money from my blog. But it’s opened a lot of doors for travel, freelancing, print articles, and consulting gigs. I look at it as a résumé that I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time on for the past 9 years. Geez, that sound a little grim.

BWR: How much engagement do you have with local bloggers who write about other subjects (e.g. food, music, art, local news, etc.)? Do you get together for local Seattle blogger events?

Jameson: A lot! Besides a couple local wine bloggers who I'm in regular contact with (Sean Sullivan of Washington Wine Report and Clive Pursehouse
of Northwest Wine Anthem), I spend a lot of
time hanging out with food bloggers. Much of this has to do with being the Wine Editor for Foodista and being part of the International Food Blogger Conference. And attending Foodportunity in Seattle, organized by Keren Brown. Between those two events I’ve met so many local food bloggers, as well as ones from around the country. I’m also part of a Facebook group, Seattle Bloggers Unite, that meets monthly. (I regrettably have not been able to attend many events.)

I love to collaborate with food bloggers. I've been interviewed by Denise Sakaki of Wasabi Prime for Honest Cooking (also by Jackie Dodd of Domestic Fits in Honest Cooking), and Greg Henry of Sippity Sup for Key Ingredient. (I’ve been their Featured Foodie as well.) Additionally, you can find me on My Man's Belly, John and Elana Talk About Food, The Art of Gluten Free Baking, My Custard Pie, and the magical Cake Spy.

I’ve got a couple more food bloggers I hope to be working with, but right now it would require top secret clearance for me to discuss any details. I am a huge believer in the reciprocity  that comes from showing genuine interest in, and enthusiasm for, what other people do.

Many thanks to Jameson for participating in this interview, and be sure to follow him at Jameson Fink, @jamesonfink, and on iTunes at Wine Without Worry.

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