Becoming a Wine Influencer 101

In honor of the upcoming annual Wine Bloggers Conference , Delectable caught up with four wine lovers in the community. They are all influencers, bloggers and writers who have made a name for themselves in the industry through their words on wine. The Wine Bloggers Conference was one of the first niche blogging conferences in the world, the first-ever large gathering of wine bloggers, and is the only such gathering in existence today. If you are a wine blogger, writer or influencer or just want to meet wine bloggers, this is the event for you. Discounted registration available through September 15. --- Ellen Clifford is a WSET 3 and CMS 2 wine professional and comedic actress living in Los Angeles. Her musings on all things wine can be found on her blog Scrumptious Gruel and weekly podcast The Whine Situation . You can follow Ellen on Delectable and Instagram at @ellenclifford. Ellen is also a Delectable contributor. Look out for more great pieces from her in the months to come. Meg Herring lives in the quirky and cool city of Pittsburgh with her cat, Plato. After receiving her WSET Level 2 award with distinction, she was inspired to start her blog, Meg & Merlot, where she writes about her favorite bottles, regions, and pairings. Meg also contributes to The Vintner Project (TVP), a website dedicated to celebrating winemakers and their craft. For TVP, she profiles organic/biodynamic producers and writes educational articles. Meg is passionate about traveling, cooking, and furthering her wine knowledge. Her favorite wine is cru Beaujolais. For Saman H wine came later, but good food was an imperative early on. I was raised in an old-school Persian household and we had a home cooked family meal every night. There were no snacks in the pantry, so I learned rudimentary cooking techniques from watching the Food Network to cook myself food after school. I attended Architecture school in Brooklyn during the mid 2000s. This was before and during the financial crisis; there was no ‘natural wine’, but there was cheap Anglianco or whatnot at Trader Joe’s I remember fondly. Since then, I returned to the D.C., moonlighted in wine retail off and on, cooked more food, drank better wines. By day, I design housing for well funded millennials who consider themselves “edgy”. Off the clock, I am the Baguette Hunter. Greg Ballington started traveling when he was young, born in the Netherlands, then moved back to South Africa to live with family before coming to the United States. He attended university at Penn State ("WE ARE!!"), and is currently an Auditor working for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Northern Virginia. In his spare time he likes to focus on his true passion. From making furniture out of wine crates, to reviewing wines for wineries, to helping wineries reach consumers through his Millennial Drinkers blog, Greg loves all things wine. --- Delectable (D): What drove you to wine? Not in that sense but rather, what made you choose to dedicate much of your life to enjoying, learning about and telling people about wine? Ellen Clifford (EC): I found my way into wine via writing, which happened accidentally. I was keeping a food blog that led to a job writing for Blackboard Eats that led to a cooking column for Hello Giggles. It was hard to keep up writing about new recipes for both HG and my own blog so I started doing more cocktail recipes -- much faster experiments than baking! I became very obsessed with spirits ever so briefly but ultimately wine became my true love. So...laziness drove me? Ironic considering how much time I now devote to studying. Meg Herring (MH): Ever since childhood I've enjoyed history and maps. In fact, if you come to my apartment you'll find globes and maps in almost every room. As I started to develop a taste for wine, I learned that it has a rich history and that many of the places I've studied actually grow really great wine. This connection really elevated my love for wine. I realized there was an entire world of wine maps and regional wine histories to explore. That's how I started learning about wine. I decided to start telling people about it because I had a ton of cool information and ideas in my brain that I wanted to share! You could say that I was bursting at the seams and needed an outlet. Saman H (SH): I enjoyed cooking early on, and drinking wine followed soon after. It could be my architectural training, but I was compelled to better understand how the grapes, their growing conditions, their winemakers, and the foods consumed with these wines respond to each other. Kermit Lynch's 'Adventures on the Wine Route', perhaps more than any other book, got to the heart of this and told the story in a vivid and accessible way, and Jay McInerney's wine writing demonstrated how to contextualize wines with broader cultural references/metaphors that are more engaging than de rigeur tasting notes. Greg Ballington (GB): Since I was little I had always been around wine. When I first moved to the United States I remember helping my father organize his cellar and accidently broke a bottle of 2003 Ornellaia. That got me kicked out for a while but now I know his cellar better than him. My own personal interest in alcohol started with in college with craft beers, mainly the seasonal Sam Adams and Dog Fish Head. I only began to get into wine a year or so after college when my father would open up his older South African and American wines, this gave me a deeper insight into what can happen with wines with time. Then in October 2015 my fiancée, girlfriend at the time (India), visited Napa Valley and then Stellenbosch in December 2015. After that we decided to start Millennial Drinkers. That started as a platform to review wines but has grown since then to Social Media consulting and setting up our importation and distribution licenses. --- D: You're followed by a great many wine lovers and respected within the industry. What were some of the key steps to you getting there? EC: I hate to sound cliché but I think just being myself. I genuinely have so much love and respect for wine and the people in the industry I've met, and being truly passionate is contagious. People can tell when you are faking it, but fortunately or not I'm pretty obsessed with wine! I think that comes through. Also I still have so far to go, so knowing when to shut up and listen and learn to those who know more than me is key. MH: First, I read – a lot – and secured a WSET Level 2 certification with distinction. I feel that a strong foundation is important for credibility and respect. That doesn't mean everyone needs a certification, but reading and learning your topic is critical. Second, I defined my brand—something I am familiar with given my marketing background. My "new, wallet-friendly wine experiences" theme helps me stay focused and gives my readers/followers a digestible snapshot of what to expect from me. Third and most importantly, I put curiosity, openness, and integrity at the center of everything I do. I am happy to try any wine but I won't promote ones that I do not like. It's imperative to me that my followers trust and appreciate my sincerity. SH: Anyone with money to blow can post images of hip/trophy wines, or post inane pictures of oozy yolkporn, poke bowls and burrata, but do they have anything to say? Unlike say, a court sommelier candidate, I have the luxury to privilege the subjective experience and absurdist memory associations of tasting wines. In her written tasting notes, Marissa Ross excels at this, and perhaps no one better evokes the complete milieu of a given wine than Laura Jane Faulds (@winechild). Making an effort to do less obvious food pairings, high:low brow, and not trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Detailing your process within the confines of an instagram story, instead of a sprawling blog post. Being selective about which restaurants and bars you patronize; building loyalty to those and not spreading yourself across every new spot that opens. Going out on off-peak nights when you may have a conversation with those behind the bar and build rapport. Describing the atmosphere cultivated at restaurants and not just the decor, appreciating the details of service and technical execution of dishes, and not trying to form some numerical value judgment of the restaurant. GB: There are a few steps that got us to where we are today. The first key step was to try out as many different kinds of wine as possible. You see a new region, producer or varietal we would try it out or at least look into it. Next, we got hooked on researching what was going on in the industry and talking to people in the industry as well. Both of these steps helped us to gain insight into what was happening and what to expect. --- D: As an active user on Delectable, how has the app helped you to develop your position as a wine "influencer"? EC: I've had so many lovely people reach out and connect with me--and connect me with their friends and it all forms a gorgeous web of wine nerdery. It's beautiful how sharing the wine world is. I'm so grateful for generous and interested the community has been. I never could have dreamt it. Actually that is one of the best things about wine: it is always better when shared. MH: I like to taste a lot of wines and pull from my tasting experiences to engage other users on social media. First rule of social media: give it a little to get a little! Which means commenting on other people's posts more than anything else. Influencers are always asking questions like "what's your favorite white Burgundy?" in order to engage followers. To participate in those conversations, I look at my Delectable log and find wines that I liked! Similarly, I often find myself scrolling through my feeds thinking, "wait, I recognize that label." I check Delectable to see what I thought of it, and then once again join the conversation on that bottle. Having a bank of tasting notes and grades is invaluable for these interactions! Delectable is helpful for logging wines but it's also a great tool to make connections and discover new wines. I like that I can often spot trends developing in my Delectable feed before I see them other places on social media. This aspect helps me to stay relevant with my followers. Lastly, my followers are very engaged with my "road to 100 varietals" campaign—a personal goal to try 100 grapes. Without Delectable there's no way I could keep track! SH: Delectable has always served as a required EDC tool for wine inquiry and tapping into what's trending among industry leaders and others who are plugged in. It's been clutch for me, not only for logging wine notes on the fly, but also determining what wines are worth the hype and how they are currently drinking, before I commit to a purchase or cellar raid. GB: We found Delectable to be a great platform to connect with wine lovers across the country and share your thoughts about new discoveries. There are a couple things we love about it. It has helped us to develop new friendships, new followers and helped us discover new wines. On a side note, we absolutely love to use Delectable to find what people think about wines before buying them. --- D: If you could travel back in time to when you were first starting your vinous journey, what advice would you give your younger self? EC: I'm still relatively new in my journey with wine, so not sure what I'd tell myself a few years ago. I suppose I might have told myself to relax—when I first started meeting people who worked in wine I was in so much awe that I would be really nervous interacting with them! Okay so even now when I meet master sommeliers and winemakers whose work I am into, I still get nerves. Something to work on! MH: I would tell myself not to doubt my knowledge and abilities. Everyone has a unique point of view—including your own. Find other people who have interesting perspectives, engage with them, and build real relationships! SH: If I could go far back enough, I would have taken the plunge early on and not remained a spectator. Or to the early days of the Baguette Hunter, I would have been more deliberate with photography: as soon as you step into a space, be it the bar, restaurant, or kitchen, assessing the interior lighting and how it will cast on the subject matter, how will the foreground material reflect light and contrast with the subject, and avoiding severe light sources from the background that compromise exposure… what was the line from Agassi's Canon ad, "image is everything"? GB: There are a couple things we would tell our younger selves. First thing is similar to our golden rule with wine, don’t be scared to try something new and check out what others tell you about. It’s fun and it shows you how much you truly don’t know about wine. Next would be to join a wine tasting group, especially a blind themed tasting good. There is no better way to learn about wine. --- Contact Ellen Clifford: Instagram: ellenclifford Twitter: ellenclifford Blog: Scrumptious Gruel Podcast: The Wine Situation Meg Herring: Delectable: megherring Blogger at MegandMerlot Instagram: megandmerlot Twitter: meganeherring Facebook: megandmerlot Saman H: Delectable: samanhosseini Instagram: thebaguettehunter Greg Ballington: Delectable: gregballington Website: MillennialDrinkers Instagram: MillennialDrinkers Twitter: drinkers92 Facebook: MillennialDrinkers

Art+Farm Wine

St. Mayhem Hückfest Red Blend

This wine was made for fireside fun and cool temps yet it is real hot and this is cold so is this the Switzerland of wine coolers?! I think so. Summer or winter it is fucking catnip for my tastebuds. Were I to analyze technically? It is all the damn baking spices—cinnamon allspice nutmeg and a hint of clove but not obnoxiously so—and it has all been hanging out with an orange and with, say, a sta Rita hills pinot. A red wine with a backbone but it’s light. I feel guilty sometimes endorsing wine coolers but you know what? Some coolers are art. And I’d say this is. Summer and winter art. If Guernica and something from Picasso’s rose period had a love child it would be this. — a month ago

David, Jason and 8 others liked this

Au Bon Climat

Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir 2016

Really into this. Raspberries and just enough earthiness to remind you it is Pinot. Very juicy and smooth. — a month ago

Mike, Jeff and 3 others liked this

Gravner

Venezia Giulia Ribolla Gialla 2005

Saman Hosseini
9.3

Fermented in massive buried clay amphoras, given frequent daily punchdowns before going trough malo, then remains on the lees well into the spring, then racked off and put back into amphoras until fall, then matured in Slovenian oak foudres for 6+ years. 13 years after harvest, the wine is formidable and complex. Pours a luminous copper-orange color with lots of flaky sediments. Tastes of peach skins, sultanas and savory caramel, some turkish bay leaf and fresh brined persian walnuts, with monumental tannic grip. Plays well with the salty, sour, herbal, fish fat flavors of Doi Moi’s crisp fried whole snapper. — a month ago

Kyle, Keith and 4 others liked this
Kyle Groombridge

Kyle Groombridge Influencer Badge

Epic description. I’ve had the ‘07 and was blown away
Saman Hosseini

Saman Hosseini Influencer Badge Premium Badge

@Kyle Groombridge Yeah this wine is madness

Dragonette Cellars

Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara Rosé Blend 2017

Will I never not obsess on Dragonette dranks? The rosé was my entry drug. And being as such several years later their rosé continues to entrance me. It’s like strawberries, raspberries and a straw basket lined with mini stones hung out. Not super acid but not super alcohol. It’s just a juicy friend I’d drink straight from the bottle. Just...need another bottle whoops — a month ago

Aaron, Severn and 14 others liked this

August Kesseler

Pfalz Pinot Noir 2014

A little bit grapey at first. 🍇 Once it starts to open up there are forest berry notes. Very light style. — a month ago

Sharon, Isaac and 2 others liked this

Cuauhtémoc-Moctezuma Brewery

Original Sol Cerveza

Saman Hosseini
8.6

Crisp and fresh, good clarity.
Live Más.
— a month ago

Ted, Maria and 1 other liked this

Stone Brewing Co.

Neopolitan Dynamite Imperial Stout 2017

Greg Ballington
8.6

#VABeerMonth

This is the 2017 Stone Collaboration where they partner with other craft breweries (Abnormal Beer Co - Derek Gallanosa) and homebrewers (Paul Bischeri and Paul Martinez - winners of the Stone Homebrew Competition) through the American Homebrewers Association. This Imperial Stout is conditioned with coffee, chocolate, vanilla and fresh strawberries. Drank out of a 22oz bottle and 8.5% Alc/Vol.

Insanely dark blackish brown with a brown head. Killer strawberries on the nose with dark coffee grinds and cocoa. A bit of tartness on the attack of the palate with chocolate, strawberries, mocha and vanilla. Medium length finish.

$$$ - $8.46 a bottle.
— a month ago

Phil, Isaac and 6 others liked this
Phil A

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@Greg Ballington Greg I enjoyed reading about you in the Delectable. You are a talented and interesting wine connoisseur. Cheers 🍷🍷

Alessandro Viola

Note di Bianco Grillo 2017

At first blush I got a hit of Brett but a vigorous decant aired it out and it’s drinking quite deftly. A new natural wine shop opened in my hood: Psychic Wines. So I had to chat the owner up on what he was into. This Sicilian elixir is a gentle beast. Grilled melon, a bit of sea salt, and an animal undercurrent of pleasant funk. Feels like summer love: sharp, poignant, and a bit sweaty. The first two sips I did not love. The more decant time the more I’m relishing. Very sexy wine. — a month ago

Stan, Trixie and 17 others liked this

Le Ragose

Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Corvina Blend 2007

Very dark and dense. Honestly not something I typically but from a technical standpoint it’s a very good wine. In terms of age it has moved well beyond the primary flavors already. Probably could stand many more years but I think it’s showing cool now. — a month ago

Paul, Mike and 6 others liked this

Paltrinieri

Radice Lambrusco di Sorbara DOC Lambrusco 2015

Saman Hosseini
8.8


100% Sorbara, methode ancestrale. Yeasty and mineral, tannic peach and salted lemon fruit. Grab a slice.
— a month ago