Wine Writers Converse at Menlo’s Authors Roundtable Series

Wine Writers Converse at Menlo’s Authors Roundtable Series

Listening to the discussion on wine at Menlo College was a bit like eavesdropping on good conversation of a nearby table while you’re dining out. The conversation by nationally-known wine writers at Menlo’s Authors Roundtable series— fascinating, intriguing, and mysterious—offered listeners a drink for thought, and the chance to compose a list of recommended wines and terms to look up at home.

The wine experts included:

  • Frances Dinkelspiel, author of Tangled Vines: Greed, Murder, Obsession, and an Arsonist in the Vineyards of California
  • Charles Sullivan, author of Sonoma Wine and the Story of Buena Vista
  • Sheridan Warrick, author of The Way to Make Wine: How to Craft Superb Table Wines at Home
  • Liza Zimmerman, writer for Wine Business Monthly,, Beverage Media, and others
  • Alder Yarrow, founder and editor of Vinography: A Wine Blog

Richard Moran, President of Menlo College and owner of Moran Manor Vineyards moderated the evening.

Liza Zimmerman differentiated between being a wine journalist and a lover of wine as “wine lovers have a magical and mystical relationship with wine,” and Richard Moran teased “nobody writes about corn in the same way.”

Wine maker Sheridan Warrick, who has an admitted “soft spot for cabs [cabernet wine]” recalled how as an editor at Health Magazine he was beckoned into writing about wine. His interest was piqued when he saw France at the bottom of a chart of countries with heart disease. Already a seasoned wine-maker, he surmised it was good for the heart as well as the palate, and felt compelled to share the information with others.

As for rating wines, Alder Yarrow, a self-proclaimed “wine geek” has “gradually migrated all of my friends out of $10 bottles.” He teased the audience when he said that “Every 6 to 8 weeks I share 90 bottles of the remainder of my wine-tasting samples with 50 neighbors.”

Warrick’s appreciation of a useful chart surfaced before the audience at the round table when, as if drawing on a napkin, he sketched an inflection chart of how he views wine-ranking. His sketch depicted a straight surge up leading to a flattening out midway. He explained that there is a “fall-off at the $70-$100 per bottle range. The more you pay, the better the wine, but the payoff levels at the point where the curve flattens.”

Scarcity and location also factor into the price of a good bottle of wine. Charles Sullivan stated “Napa Valley, not Napa County is a description worth a ton of money, even if the wine isn’t all that good.”

Whether you’re drinking cheap wine such as Two-Buck Chuck, or Screaming Eagle, a California wine from Oakville, California considered to be a cult wine, the activity of drinking wine is a communal experience. “Sharing sets a tone in wine country that makes it a better place,” said Moran.

Frances Dinkelspiel summed it up, “People like the effect of it. Conversation changes and it brings people together. Known as the ‘intoxicated effect,’ it is not so much about getting drunk, but that inhibition drops and the mood of conviviality is enhanced.”