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Au Revoir to Slate, Plus A Word About Gary V

2011 August 26
by Mike

I learned this week that after a nine-year run, my Slate column was being discontinued. It was disappointing news, of course, if not entirely surprising. Wine coverage was always a luxury at Slate, never a necessity, and with the weak economy and the ongoing financial difficulties at the Washington Post, Slate’s parent company, it seemed inevitable that the budget axe would swing again. This time, my column was among the casualties. I posted the news on Twitter yesterday, and was deeply touched by the outpouring and generosity of the comments. Sure, it felt a little bit like reading my own obituary—I’m not dead, I just lost a byline!—but to know that people valued my work enough to say so, and to express their sadness and dismay at the column’s demise, was gratifying. Sharing those tweets last night with my wife and kids was the best consolation imaginable.

The Slate column was a terrific gig. From the start, we wanted to create a very different sort of wine column—a column that was punchy and polemical, that drew back the curtain on the wine world while also making it invitingly accessible to the uninitiated. We wanted it to inform, but also to entertain, and I think we succeeded. There’s no greater satisfaction for a writer than having people remember things that you wrote—specific articles, particular turns of phrase—and over the years, I’ve had a number of people tell me that they loved this or that column, or the way that I phrased something. Did I become jaded by all the kind words? Hell, no: I remember in vivid detail every one of those conversations, and I can happily live off the fumes for years to come.

I loved being associated with Slate. It is such an intelligent and engaging publication, and being on a masthead that included the likes of Christopher Hitchens, Jack Shafer, Dahlia Lithwick, Tim Noah, Jacob Weisberg, David Plotz, and so many other formidable talents was an honor. If you write for Slate, you get to work with some of the brightest and nicest people in the business, and I had four wonderful editors during my time with the magazine: Jodi Kantor, Amanda Fortini, Julia Turner, and Juliet Lapidos. I also had the pleasure of working occasionally with the fabulous June Thomas. In addition to giving you great colleagues, Slate gives you the latitude to go wherever your interests take you, to pursue any idea no matter how quirky. For a journalist, that kind of freedom is just heaven. Thanks to Slate, I found my voice as a writer and found a subject on which I could build a career, and for that, I am grateful.

Alright, enough with the valedictory stuff. Forgive the cliché, but I think change can be a good thing, even when it is forced on you (or especially when it is forced on you). I’ve been very fortunate as a journalist never to lack for work, and despite the grim state of our business, I’m hopeful that this will remain the case. New opportunities may be just around the bend. In the meantime, I intend to devote more time to this site. I’ve been thrilled and flattered by the response to the blog, and am very appreciative of the readership that it has attracted. My desire to post more content may be briefly thwarted by the storm heading our way. I know the media have a need to spread panic (damn journalists!), but Hurricane Irene sounds pretty menacing. My neighborhood seems to lose power if someone sneezes, so I suspect we are going to be without electricity for a few days. I’ll be back here as soon as the lights are back on.

Before signing off, though, I also want to say a word about Gary Vaynerchuk, who announced earlier this week that he will no longer be doing wine videos.  I was a big fan of Gary’s work, and wrote a glowing profile of him for Slate back in 2007. I had the pleasure of appearing on Wine Library TV two years ago. We had a terrific conversation about wine before derailing ourselves with some spirited reminiscing about our favorite boxing matches. Gary paid me a very generous compliment during the show, and I can tell you that the admiration was mutual. I hope it doesn’t sound presumptuous when I say that I think he and I were working towards the same end—to find new ways of communicating about wine. In both format and tone, Gary did just that, and while there’s no way of calculating how many people he won over to the pleasures of fermented grape juice, the number is surely vast. He was great for wine, and I look forward to seeing what comes next for him.

Off to figure out what to drink during the hurricane. Priorities, you understand….

30 Responses leave one →
  1. September 14, 2011

    I concur with Alder!….. your blog is only one of two that I have beeped in daily!…

  2. September 14, 2011

    Mike,

    It’s a measure of how overwhelming my day job has been recently that I’m only now finding out about your departure. I’ve said it before: you’re one of my favorite wine writers. I’m glad you started your blog so that I can continue to read your stuff.

    Best,

    Alder

  3. September 7, 2011

    Mike – I have long been a fan of your work and will miss it in Slate – but look forward to keeping up with you on your website. Thanks for lighting a brighter path for other wine columnists and giving us a higher journalistic bar to reach for. Your writing is simply incredible.

    Cheers,

    Scott Greenberg
    The Vine Guy

  4. Amy permalink
    August 29, 2011

    In my opinion, your Slate column was some of the best contemporary wine writing out there. Very sorry to see it go. Will certainly frequent this blog whenever I am in need of an intelligent and engaging shot of wine journalism.

  5. Vinnie Di Tavola permalink
    August 29, 2011

    Dear Slate Magazine,

    I understand that you’ve decided to discontinue Mr. Steinberger’s wine column.
    To that, all I can say is:
    You bastards! You vicious, heartless bastards! Look what you’ve done to him! He’s worked his fingers to the bone to make this place what it is, and you come in with your petty feeble quibbling and you grind him into the dirt, this fine, honorable man, whose boots you are not worthy to kiss. Oh, it makes me mad. Mad!

    Sincerely,
    A dis-satisfied reader

  6. Bill Klapp permalink
    August 29, 2011

    A radical idea: how about the pithy Slate topics turn up…HERE, as they already seem to have? Maybe not with the length and depth that the Slate format permitted (and paid for!), and certainly not with the longer Slate history going for it, but the posts on this blog have stirred the juice on more than one occasion, even shaking retailers like Posner and McCallum out of their customary catatonic states!

  7. August 29, 2011

    Just to ass my voice to the others here, I will miss your Slate column, hopefully it will turn up in another guise somehere else soon. It certainly deserves to.

    In the meantime, it’s a good thing we can hang out here…

  8. Wilfred permalink
    August 28, 2011

    I see The New Yorker and Vanity Fair pieces in your future.

  9. August 28, 2011

    Sorry to hear you have lost your gig at Slate. Another loss for mainstream journalism!

    Unfortunately, wine lovers now have to turn to specialist wine blogs and subscription-based wine publications for quality wine related information. Makes it just a bit harder to attract and educate newcomers about the wonderfully dynamic world of wine!

    Best of luck with the Wine Diarist.

  10. August 27, 2011

    I like Slate as well but they’ve just lost a regular reader in me. Best of luck in your next move. A toast to enjoying the ride. I hope you’re bunkered down with a brilliant old bottle just at its peak.

    Sincerely, Mandy

  11. August 27, 2011

    Thanks, everyone, for the very kind words; I deeply appreciate it.

    The first band of rain has hit here, so the fun has begun. If you are in Irene’s path, be safe, and have the bottle of wine handy!

  12. mauss permalink
    August 27, 2011

    Feel free, anytime you want, to write on my blog, in english, for european amateurs and I am sure some US will come to read your comments too.

    Keep in touch !

  13. August 27, 2011

    While I’m very disappointed you will no longer have a column with Slate, I’m thrilled that you will continue to write, since honestly, you are one of the few wine writers whose columns I look forward to reading! Scratch that – the ONLY one! I look forward to many more funny, informative, engaging, and unique posts to come!!

  14. Tom Maresca permalink
    August 27, 2011

    Mike: I am truly sorry that your Slate pieces will be no more. You are one of the few wine writers of whom I can honestly say that, whatever you write, I learn from it. Best of luck in anything you now undertake. Tom

  15. Phil M'Glassup permalink
    August 27, 2011

    Congratulations on your long run at Slate and on producing a body of work that wine lovers can continue to profit from referring to. Yours is a clear, insightful, distinctive voice in the world of wine. I’ll look forward to more of your writing here and best of luck to you wherever you light.

  16. JPH permalink
    August 26, 2011

    That is a damn shame and the wine world is the poorer for it. Love Slate, loved your column. Will continue to follow your blog and hope to see your byline elsewhere. Favorite Steinberger columns from Slate:

    1) Quest and victory with ’96 Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne
    2) The long piece on the Rodenstock affair, or Koch affair, whatever one calls it
    3) The memorial to Jean-Claude Vrinat, of Taillevent

    Honorable mention to the Nossiter takedown.

    Maybe this at least means no more Thanksgiving pairing articles? All the best for the future.

    Jay

  17. Jack Bulkin permalink
    August 26, 2011

    Mike, as I have conveyed to by PM. I am truly saddened to see you leave Slate. Your articles have been truly educational. You have taken on the big and small in wine and exposed those that truly needed to be without fear of reprisal. I am a more educated wine lover simply due to your measured thoughts. We still have you here thank G_D and I for one look forward to continuing to read your blog.

  18. August 26, 2011

    Loved your articles, Loved your book. I’ll certainly follow you wherever you end up. Good Luck.

  19. August 26, 2011

    Mike,
    Your Slate pieces will be sorely missed by me. I do, however, trust that your deftness of prose will be recognized by someone and we will see the rise of a regular column in the future. Thank you for the past observations… cheers

  20. August 26, 2011

    Mike, you describe a wonderous ride- I regret that I’ve been so late to climb on board with you. I do have to say that I’d opt for Hitchen’s company over Gary V, with whom I’ve had certain vendorological differences! But from you, it is all so rich and balanced, and I’ll join the many others anticipating your next era. Best wishes / Dan

  21. August 26, 2011

    Mike,

    A shame, Mike, but good luck to you…maybe start up some wine vids?

  22. Chuck Hayward permalink
    August 26, 2011

    That is a severe bummer and sad news to hear. However, for me, your new blog has already become a “go-to” source of the same thought provoking writing that you presented to us in Slate so I am cool with that. Now if you could just get some money out of it…..

  23. August 26, 2011

    On to new beginnings! Best of luck Mike!

  24. August 26, 2011

    Here’s to new adventures.
    Cheers to you, Mike!

    Best wishes,

    Nannette Eaton

  25. August 26, 2011

    Longtime, first time.

    I have long appreciated your work and found Au Revoir to be a particularly compelling read.

    While sad to see Slate axe the column (particularly for the implications on paid wine writing), I’m sure you’ll continue to have abundant opportunities.

    Godspeed for what’s next.

  26. August 26, 2011

    Mike,
    I’ve enjoyed reading your Slate pieces on wine and was reminded of some of the highlights through Dr Vino’s well-done summary of your columns:
    http://www.drvino.com/2011/08/25/mike-steinberger-slate-wine/
    I look forward to seeing more of your work on WineDiarist.

  27. August 26, 2011

    Mike, what a touching blog, both for your reflections on yourself and former co-workers, and also for the kinds words about GV. Of course I am sorry for all of the wine journalism changes this week, but I greatly look forward to see what is next for each you and Gary.

    Best of luck, and I look forward to being in touch.

    Sincerely, Eric

  28. August 26, 2011

    Yesterday’s news was disappointing but, like you said, shouldn’t serve as an obituary for you as a wine writer. I know we haven’t heard the last of you in the world of wine journalism. We’ll be ready for your next piece… as soon as the lights are back on.

    Cheers to new beginnings!

  29. ben permalink
    August 26, 2011

    Will you change twitter accounts?

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