This interview is syndicated from the bi-monthly column for Oregon Wine Press, and “turns the tables” on Oregon wine industry writers by asking them about their own profession. The Q&As are modeled on the Wine Industry Network Advisor series, which features national and regional writers and journalists. You can also read it on the Oregon Wine Press Website.
Culinary creative Marlynn Schotland wears several hats: cookbook author, food, photographer, wine, and travel blogger, and wine judge with a WSET Level 2 certification (with distinction). A member of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association and Society of American Travel Writers, she has published UrbanBlissLife.com since 2004. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube at @UrbanBlissLife.
How did you decide on wine and wine writing?
MS: I’ve always been a writer of some sort — broadcast journalist, freelance print journalist, ghostwriter, corporate writer. So, starting a blog in 2004 was a natural outlet for my personal writing. Over the years, the blog evolved to focusing on food and travel. And, living at the edge of Oregon wine country, wine became a natural companion subject. Around 2012, I started getting invited to food and wine events, and then to wineries, and that’s really when wine became a more prominent focus of my writing and photography. I also did some social media work for wineries for a few years, which prompted my interest in furthering my wine education. I am constantly wanting to learn more about wine, and writing about it fills my own personal curiosity as well as the needs of my readers.
What are your primary story interests?
MS: My main focus is writing timeless evergreen stories, such as wine pairings for recipes and entertaining, wine travel and wine tasting itineraries. I’m contacted regularly by readers and social media followers traveling to different wine regions and want itineraries that work with their schedules, with wineries that fit their style.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
MS: Well, before they meet me, most people are surprised to see that I’m less than five feet tall. I was a news anchor for a brief period, and the most common remark I would receive: “You look so much taller on TV.”
How did you decide to live and write in Oregon?
MS: I’ve spent most of my life in Oregon. I was born in Guam; my family moved here when I was two, and I grew up in Southeast Portland and Gresham. Then, I went to Boston for college, and lived briefly in Los Angeles before making my way back. I did some freelance writing for OregonLive, the Asian Reporter, and other now-defunct newspapers and magazines before going into broadcasting. It’s been an amazing place to raise a family, and as a writer, inspiration is everywhere in Oregon. We will always travel and we may live overseas for a bit, but Oregon will always be home.
What is something you’d like your readers to know about wine?
MS: Wine is for everyone, and no one should ever feel intimidated when wine tasting.
Can you describe your approach to writing?
MS: I do a lot of research, both online and in person. Then I edit, edit, edit. It can be challenging to condense wine information into blog-friendly and social media-friendly shorter formats. And much of the writing is driven by the type of photos and videos I’m able to capture.
What are you working on now for your own site?
MS: I’m working on completely revamping the wine section and the travel section of UrbanBlissLife.com. You’ll see changes being made here and there. … I’m also working on more wine travels in 2022 and 2023 to enhance the international wine region coverage on the blog.
Do you work on an editorial schedule and/or develop story ideas as they arise?
MS: Yes, I have a loose editorial schedule and work approximately three to four months out. I do cover time-sensitive stories occasionally as they arise (mostly for social media work but sometimes for the blog), but most of my blog is evergreen content, not quickly outdated content.
How often do you write articles, not your blog?
MS: I used to write for other publications more frequently, but I stopped a few years ago and write solely for the blog. I blog two to six times a week, produce two to three YouTube videos per week, and write and edit social media posts that go out on all platforms at least once a day.
What do you recommend to wineries when interacting with journalists?
MS: Go beyond the old-school press releases. Get super wine geeky with us — most of us love it! It’s our job to condense that info into easily understandable bites for our audience, and personally, I do a better job telling your unique story when I have more information. Also, think about visuals. Many of us nowadays need to take a LOT of photos and videos for our coverage throughout our time at the winery/vineyard.
If you take days off, how do you spend them?
MS: This may sound bad to most people, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I have taken a full day completely off from work. That’s not to say that I don’t take time off — it’s just more in spurts each day, which is one of the beautiful benefits of my job! I get to work and play every single day. When I’m with my family, we love to travel — or just hang out on the couch binge-watching British crime shows and cooking competitions. I also go out with my girlfriends as much as possible — often wine tasting!
What is your most memorable wine or wine tasting experience?
MS: During a press trip to Sonoma County, I had the chance to spend an entire morning with wine grapegrowers Audrey Bush and her husband, Chris Crispo of BushCrispo Vineyards. We walked their vineyards and beautiful property, then sat on their back deck tasting some of the Ramsgate Winery wines made with their grapes. Their son and daughter joined us. It was not just an educational experience; it was a heartwarming personal experience that exemplified the pride multi-generation grapegrowing families have for their vineyards. I think when you are able to truly soak up the land and its history, and meet the people who cared for the grapes that made the wine, then the wine always tastes even better.
What’s your favorite wine region in the world?
MS: Oregon! We’re all very spoiled living in this wine region. More than the greatness of the wine, I’m in love with the wine community here. I love knowing that my purchases are making a difference to local families and dollars that give back to local communities.
Do you have a favorite wine and food pairing? Favorite recipe/pairing?
MS: I will never say no to sparkling wine paired with fried chicken. I know, it’s so cliché, but it’s so good!
CARL GIAVANTI is a Winery Publicist with a DTC Marketing background. He’s celebrating his 12th 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, Walla Walla, Columbia Valley and the Columbia Gorge. (www.CarlGiavantiConsulting.