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Where are John & Dottie?

January 10, 2010

My reasons for reading the Wall Street Journal are dwindling.

First Eric Felten’s “How’s Your Drink” column was suspended.  He was among my favorite cocktail and spirits writers.  And every Saturday I would look forward to opening the paper to find out the cocktail of the week.

Then recently John & Dottie said goodbye after their final “Tastings” column.   To make matters worse, it appears their departure was a business decision from the management of the paper.  So after twelve years, they are gone.  Just like that.  And so far as I can tell, nobody knows what they will be up to next.

For years I looked forward to reading the findings from their most recent blind tasting every week.  John & Dottie had a unique method for writing about wine.  Instead of focusing on individual bottles or producers, they would taste a broad selection of a certain type of wine, and report on your chances of finding a good wine from among that type.  Their readers knew to avoid California chardonnay, look for value in Bordeaux, and that vintage port makes a good gift.

Over the past few months, as I have started writing about wine, I have referred to John & Dottie several times.

When I wrote about what is generally wrong with Beaujolais Nouveau, they had just recently found a good mass-produced example of the wine.

After reading their column about eating in Saratoga Springs, I was probably more excited to learn about their love for a local restaurant than I was about the value wine they rediscovered there.  And I love a value.

Other journalists have noted that John & Dottie’s legacy will be their invention of Open That Bottle Night.  I have mentioned this event in three previous posts:

First Pull the Cork
The Great Wine Lies: Peaking
One Universal Wine N0-No

But here is a quick synopsis of OTBN:
Almost everyone has a very special bottle of wine that they are saving for a special occasion. Yet somehow no occasion seems special enough, and these bottles remain unopened year after year.  So OTBN was created to serve as that special occasion.  It is always scheduled for the last Saturday in February.  This year, that would be February 27.  Mark your calendars.

I believe their legacy extends well beyond Open That Bottle Night.  Certainly the event will go on despite the couple’s departure from the paper.  It has developed a life of its own.  But it will feel different.

The thing I have personally taken away from reading their columns is a desire to search for interesting wines.  This involves looking for lesser-known varietals and developing wine regions and diving head first into the unknown.  John and Dottie have written that if a winemaker is going to produce a wine knowing full well it will not be a commercial success, there is likely a personal passion behind the effort.  And often that passion translates into very good wine.  Or perhaps a certain grape is native to an emerging wine region, and an intrepid producer is growing something ideal for the climate instead of trying to force production of yet another Merlot.

I will miss them very much, but hope to continue their legacy in my own little way.

Yesterday there was a new wine writer in the paper.  And while it was an interesting article about unusual varietals, it wasn’t the same.  Luckily I have John & Dottie’s book, and have some of their insights on wine at my fingertips.

Maybe until they turn up someplace else, I will read a chapter every week, and pretend they are still writing.  That gives them 21 weeks to find a new job.

I hope it involves writing about wine.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2010 9:19 pm

    I missed this in the post holiday rush and was traveling so didn’t see yesterday’s WSJ. So your column is the first time I have heard about John and Dottie’s departure, and I’m sad. I didn’t actually agree with J&D much of the time, and when I lived in CA I found it hard to find the wines they wrote about, but I liked the mix of tasting and lifestyle. If there’s a place for Robert Parker (as there would seem to be) there’s a place for J&D.

    I hope they’ll start a blog and get wealthy, like us other bloggers. Or actually (some will sneer because they don’t realize what a shrewd marketer she is) they could become the inhouse wine experts for Martha Stewart Living.

  2. John permalink
    January 16, 2010 2:56 pm

    I also read their columns faithfully and am sorry to see them go. As far as I can tell, they have not made any announcement about future plans. I think that probably means they got a deal from the ever-declining WSJ that includes a non-compete, or non-write about wine, for some period of time. I hope they resurface.

  3. Cameron permalink
    February 20, 2010 12:17 am

    Their column was a highlight of our weekend — and the only reason we subscribed to WSJ. If you hear where they turn up, please let me know. Thanks for your blog.

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