Wine experts are a breed unto their own. They examine, study and breathe wine. In my quest to find more writers who can touch the Luxe Beat Magazine audience, I stumbled upon a collection of oenophiles who share their wine knowledge via the Grape Collective. I sat down to talk with their Editor, Michael Woodsmall, and here I share our discussion.Tell us about the history behind Grape Collective.
So I didn’t start Grape Collective; a friend of mine, Christopher Barnes, did. I actually worked for him back at The New York Observer, where he was President and I was Managing Editor under my long-time mentor, Elizabeth Spiers. We connected on many levels, and he reached out to me when I was transitioning away from The Observer, and asked if I would be interested in joining him on a new project. After hearing what he had in mind, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind.
As for him starting Grape Collective — It is my understanding that Christopher, forever the businessman, started GC for a rather simple reason: he saw an opportunity. Living in New York, wine is everywhere; yet he felt, as many do, that there wasn’t an accessible conversation, well, anywhere. Wine, in many ways, had evolved into a flat scale of sorts. Sure, there are a lot of complexities accounted for in determining where it belongs on that scale, but it is a linear scale. The final number that is presented in the way of telling the drinker whether it is good or not — without drinking and deciding that for themselves, mind you — is flat. Furthermore, these numbers were the only insights a wine drinker would receive when buying a bottle, unless they had a wine expert at a local shop they trusted. Alternatively, they may have organized internet findings with bookmarks on their search engines and kept notes of all the wines they read about in magazines.
Anyway, Christopher saw this opportunity and seized it. He wanted a place where you might experience wine through features and opinion pieces and personal narratives. In this way, you would gain a true understanding of how the wine was produced and what it was intended for and where it had succeeded before. Then, purchase whatever bottles your were inspired or otherwise inclined to buy — all from one, singular place.
What is unique about Grape Collective’s view on wine?
As mentioned above, Grape Collective is about more than those scales and numbers that came to consume most of the wine conversation. In fact, GC is first and foremost not about those numbers. The current tag line is: Points of views, not points. And we really believe that. While we’ll offer our opinions on whether the wines are good or not, they’re not limited to a singular rating that merely takes into account these predetermined “attributes.” Wine isn’t only the fermented fruits in the glass in front of you, but the experiences it brings and offers. It’s about the people, process, and, ultimately, perception of each individual who is enjoying (or not enjoying) their experience. We want to provide a backdrop for their own personal experiences, not define it.
GC also sells wine. It allows for a comprehensive experience. Of course, there are questions about editorial integrity and journalistic ethics, but we feel and believe that we are simply sharing our experiences with readers in the hopes that they’ll come away from the article with strong incentive to have their own experiences. After all, if anything, wine is about exploration.
Lastly, we approach wine differently in that, rather than merely focusing on regions or grapes, we like to keep the lens on people and techniques as well, both traditional and innovative. Without these people — from all walks — there wouldn’t be such a robust space.
Tell us about your writers?
Our writers are what make the Grape Collective — from respected columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter,David White, and Barbara Fairchild to the lesser-known but equally substantive Amy Tsaykel, Emily Kate, Colin West, and Christopher Watkins. One of our strongest regulars would be in-house editor Jameson Fink. Given his personal brand and experience, he brings industry insights that are invaluable, coupled with a candidness and wittiness that lends to a refreshingly honest voice.
I myself come from an investigative journalism and men’s/active lifestyle background. I feel that this provides me with an incredibly untainted point of view that brings an accessible yet informative voice to our table.
To view a more comprehensive roster, go to https://grapecollective.com/about-us. We are always adding, though, in hopes of providing readers with an ever-changing, ever-engaging conversation. With that in mind, we love when readers want to contribute. If they have a strong opinion and are able to articulate it well, they are welcome on the site. Simply reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line “Contributor” and we’ll do our best to respond as quickly as possible!
Where does your passion for wine come from?
My passion for wine comes from a long time ago. I started drinking with my family, when I was still in high school. By sophomore year of college, I had a decanter in my dorm room. Through the years, I’ve ebbed and flowed with the intensity with which I explore wine, but have always loved it — wine seems to have this profound, ethereal effect of slowing everything around me down and allowing me to breathe in the moment. Given my rather anxious and eager personality, it is a perfect complement that still encourages a sort of exciting, yet slowed-down and thereby more appreciative curiosity.
Favorite glass of wine…ever?
My favorite glass of wine ever would have to be one from a tasting room down in Argentina, at Bodega la Azul. The young couple running the winery were intoxicating themselves! Every person in my family (two fathers, two mothers, three sisters, and two brothers) had a crush… on each of them! The young man had recently come from a boar-hunting trip and had the scar on his forearm to prove it — which was particularly intriguing to a family from Kansas. The young woman had a way about her (at least to me) that made you want to quit your job and move to Mendoza in hopes of meeting anyone like her. And their wine… their wine! It was definitely time for a long siesta after that particular tasting, where the spittoons were left relatively unscathed.
It also happened to be one of the last trips that my family shared before my uncle passed — and in that, it carries an emotional weight that feels both heavy and light, as there were so many happy cheers to our love for each other.
Wine on your “to drink” list?
All wines I haven’t had yet, by producers I haven’t met.
Your secret to finding a good bottle of wine?
That aforementioned curiosity — ask questions, sleuth around. I previously made the mistake of feeling embarrassed when I didn’t know exactly what I was tasting, or specifics to a technique/process, and allowed others to intimidate me into staying quiet. That wasn’t fun. Wine is supposed to be fun. Letting it all hang out lends to that.