Turning the Tables – Interviewing the Interviewers is a Q&A series profiling Wine Writers. I expect you’ll discover more about wine writers that you know, and learn about many others. The objective of this project is to understand and develop working relationships with journalists. They are after all, those that help tell our stories and review our wines. What better way to obtain media coverage than to learn their wine and writing backgrounds, story and personal interests, palate preferences, writing challenges and pet peeves. This is also part of an ongoing series that is being featured monthly by Wine Industry Network. Last month’s interview featured Michelle Williams, who writes for Forbes, Snooth, USA Today and may more consumer lifestyle publications.
MELANIE OFENLOCH is the founder and editor of Dallas Wine Chick, a blog focused on the experience of wine, which has been named in the top 100 global wine blogs by two separate entities. She also has been named LUX Magazine’s Top Wine Blog in Texas and is a guest contributor to Snooth.
How did you come to wine, and to wine writing?
It all comes down to a simple thing. I didn’t want to be known as “Sleepy Bill” at work. Back in the early days of my career, we had an executive vice president named Bill who sat in his office and read the Wall Street Journal. None of us ever saw him do work. Fast forward about 12 years, and I sat with the same title working for Weber Shandwick. With social media exploding. I knew I had to “get it to get it” and I signed up for a Twitter account (under the generic @melanie) and stumbled my way through using it. After 45 days of posting my random musings on marketing I realized I had only 60 followers, most of them worked for me, I decided to switch to writing about my passion – wine. I jokingly told my husband when I hit 1,600 followers on Twitter, I’d start a blog. That was 9 years ago in January.
What are your primary story interests?
When it comes down to it, it’s simply about telling my story of wine. I don’t consider myself a wine expert – just an everyday person with a love for the grape. I am not a sommelier, winery owner, wine marketer or wine expert. But I love to tell stories – so if it’s about a winemaker or a vineyard or a family or a special wine, that is in my wheelhouse.
What are your primary palate preferences?
That’s such an interesting question. Like with food and the seasons, my palate is constantly changing. It depends on the food I’m eating, where I am traveling and the shifting of the weather (especially in 100 degree Texas). I used to love big reds, but I’ve found that today I am leaning toward wines with higher acidity and lower alcohol content. I’m always on a journey to find new things from new regions.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I am the Fight of the Night recipient the first year that women could box in the Golden Gloves in 1994. I started boxing on a bet from my then fiancé (now husband) that told me that I was too much of a wimp to start boxing (he says he was joking) … and well, just don’t double dog dare me J
What is one thing you’d like your readers to learn from your wine writing?
Wine is fun. It’s a journey and experience. It’s about raising a glass with friends. It shouldn’t be intimidating. Just smile. Enjoy.
What’s the best story you have written? Please provide a link.
In 9 years, I’ve had the opportunity to interview some amazing people. While I’ve had several opportunities to interview Peter Mondavi, Jr., this year was special with it being the winery’s 75th anniversary where I was lucky enough to attend a retrospective tasting and then had a follow up visit to the winery, https://www.dallaswinechick.com/generations-in-a-glass-celebrating-the-75th-anniversary-of-charles-krug-winery/
How would you like the wine community to remember you?
With the recent passing of my friend and blogger (Brix Chicks Liza) Liza Swift, this is a question that weighs on my mind. I hope people remember me for my humor, my sense of fun and my ability to go rogue. I hope they remember my passion for wine, my loyalty to my friends and readers and how much fun I had in this journey. And, I hope they remember me for being a great mom and wife.
Can you describe your approach to wine writing and/or doing wine reviews?
My approach to wine writing is how can I tell a story differently. There are great critics out there – another one isn’t needed. While I do periodic sample reviews (about 6 per year), that isn’t my focus. I really want to give a close up, behind the scenes view in my stories.
Do you work on an editorial schedule or develop story ideas as they come up?
I develop story ideas as they come up. Dallas is a hotbed for winemaker visits and I usually see at least three a month. Throw in the Twitter and Snooth tastings, winery seminars and press trips and that gives me great base content.
Do you post your articles on social media? Why is that important?
Yes. I find that is a great driver of not only extending the reach of my articles but increasing engagement with a number of different audiences. I find all of my social channels – Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest have different audiences and there is not as much crossover as you would think.
What are your recommendations to wineries when working with journalists?
Please ask to send samples before sending them. I can’t tell you how many boxes just show up that I never expected to receive. Please check addresses when you are sending. I left my last job almost four years ago and samples are still coming to that address. And finally, please send spec sheets and your contact information. I contact every winery that sends me a sample to let them know if it will or will not be featured. It would be fantastic if I didn’t have to track down your information.
What advantages are there in working directly with winery publicists?
I love working with great winery publicists. They always ask about samples, they always include the spec sheets and I know how to contact them with questions. A good PR person is worth their weight in gold.
What frustrates you most about working on winery stories and/or wine reviews?
See question number 11. I’ll add not being able to get an answer to a question for a story that I’m working on in a timely fashion.
If you take days off, how do you spend them?
As someone that owns their own marketing consulting business, that’s a hard task. I love to travel, I work out daily and love to spend time with my family. You are likely to find me on a beach with a glass of wine in hand if I have my way.
What is your most memorable wine or wine tasting experience?
I would have to say my first solo winemaker sit down for the blog came over a casual Mexican lunch in Dallas. I set up lunch with the head of marketing of Mollydooker who I had been communicating with on Twitter. She told me there’d be some others attending and they’d meet me at Gloria’s. Naively, I didn’t ask who else would be coming and assumed it would be a larger team of PR and marketing folks from Mollydooker and maybe a few folks from the Texas distributor.
I was wrong. When I arrived at the restaurant, I noticed a team of three people in branded Mollydooker shirts bearing bottles of their top labels. As I got closer, I realized that aside from Krissy, none other than Sparky Marquis, co-owner and winemaker and his mum, Janet were joining us. He told me the story behind the story of the winery … being down to their last $17, asking the growers to forego payment and how Robert Parker almost missed the meeting that saved the winery. https://www.dallaswinechick.com/mollydooker-the-story-behind-the-story/
What’s your favorite wine region in the world?
Tuscany. Need I say more?
CARL GIAVANTI is a Winery Publicist with a DTC Marketing background. He’s going on his 10th year of winery consulting. Carl has been involved in business marketing and public relations for over 25 years; originally in technology, digital marketing and project management, and now as a winery media relations consultant. Clients are or have been in Napa Valley, Willamette Valley, and the Columbia Gorge. (www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.com/Media).