The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2018

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Page 67 of 100

september 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  67 I f anything is certain in today's world beyond death and taxes, it's ideological division and inflamed rhetoric. This political divide, evidenced every day on TV and social media, proves we live in contentious times—but is the wine and spirits industry above the fray? Driven by this question, we asked writers, distributors, and winemakers if the political leanings of their fellow industry members influence their impres- sions of a given brand, producer, or organization. Many chose not to respond given the sticky subject matter, but some willingly shared their thoughts. "I don't consider political views with my reviews," Joe Roberts, creator of wine blog 1WineDude, tells The Tasting Panel. "I've spoken out against winemakers when I thought they were out of line per- sonally, but their political bent has never entered into it. I've noticed that when I do debate politics, those in the wine business tend to be among the most balanced, respectful, and level-headed." Personal views and causes also don't influence the wines Mike Dunne, former wine critic for The Sacramento Bee, chooses to pub- licize. "I've written [about] wines that benefit animal shelters, theater companies, heart research, [and more], but only if they measure up to my standards of quality and value," he says. On Facebook, one writer who wished to remain anonymous said that "as journalists, we must be objective and work with those who don't share our political beliefs." But are they partial to those they agree with? "Perhaps," they wrote before mentioning a Northern California winery owner and politi- cal commentator on cable news shows. "I don't agree with them, but their wines are great, and what they have done for the industry has been fantastic." For San Diego–based sommelier Ben Silver, the political affiliations of a winery owner, winemaker, distiller, or supplier have no bearing on his decisions as wine director. "I want a great product with streamlined distribution. I'm more concerned about the qual- ity of my wine program and my customers' experience than if the person who made it or sold it leans right or left," he explains. Others still opt to bridge the divide in lieu of avoiding it out- right. Gary Eberle of Paso Robles' Eberle Wines, formerly a self- proclaimed "Kennedy Democrat" before embracing conservatism, recently hired an industry veteran who leans decidedly to the left: Tim McDonald of PR agency Wine & Spirits Spoken Here. Eberle claims that he's been criticized and shunned by some wine reviewers for his conserva- tive political beliefs. "I don't cling to my Bible or my guns—come talk to my people and get to know me," Eberle says. And while McDonald acknowledges that they're on near-opposite ends of the political spectrum, he says "friendship rules and quality of wine is paramount" when it comes to their relationship. While we certainly won't always agree politically or even philosophically, wine proves far more unifying than it is divisive. Fortunately, that's a 6,000-year precedent unlikely to change anytime soon . . . that is, at least until the next election. COMMENTARY The Political Wedges— or Lack Thereof— in Wine by Michael Cervin

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