In 2004, Jameson Fink’s IT job ruled his Monday to Friday, but his weekends were full of wine. No, he wasn’t drowning his sorrows in Thunderbird, he was exploring the wine regions of France, Italy, and America, all inside Randolph Wine Cellars and the Tasting Room in Chicago’s West Loop. He started blogging that year, and since then his writing has taken him all over the world, to vineyards on five out of seven continents (One of those unvisited being the very-grapeless Antarctica). He has written for Dabble Magazine and became Wine Editor at Foodista in 2010. Jameson’s writing is direct and accessible, even when he ventures into more complex discussions of growing, aging, and food pairings, and though he’s clearly an expert in wine, he resists holding himself up as one. In his own words, Jameson is less concerned with right and wrong, and more interested in “enthusiasm, excitement, and discovery.” His current blog, Wine Without Worry, articulates this attitude perfectly. Wine in Jameson’s mind ought to be simple, easy, and, above all, pleasurable. Most recently, Jameson came off a month living and working at Finnriver Farm in Chimacum, Washington, where he helped with their cider making operation. The writings from Finnriver are heady and excitable and remind us of the indefatigable sense of adventure that pulled Jameson into wine writing in the first place.
1. White Burgundy and potato chips; French champagne and t-shirts. You’ve said this sums up your attitude toward wine. Tell us a little about what this means. Do you think there are many misconceptions about wine drinking?
I think when you start talking about wine and bring potato chips and t-shirts into the conversation, it puts people at ease. My goal is to keep things approachable and fun. Wine can be part of simple, everyday pleasures. Like an inexpensive and delicious Spanish Garnacha (Grenache) with a cheeseburger hot off the grill. And even the fanciest of wines, like Champagne, pair fantastically with the humblest of foods, like popcorn.
As far as misconceptions about wine drinking, I think people don’t give themselves enough credit about what they already know. Some of the most interesting comments and feedback I’ve heard about wine have come from people who are a bit self-deprecating about their purported lack of knowledge. They will preface a statement with “I really don’t know a lot about wine but…” and then they’ll say something totally fresh and perceptive. Trust what you’re tasting.
Also, it pays to remain curious and open-minded. I recall quivering with self-imposed fear about being “wrong” about something, but quickly realized the way to learn is to ask questions and show genuine interest. And if anyone who reads my blog wonders why I have “Wine Without Worry” next to my name, it’s because I think first and foremost, wine is a beverage of pleasure. So let’s try and keep stress levels to a minimum.
2. What were you doing in 2004 when you began writing about wine?
I was working an IT job in Chicago (which now seems like a lifetime ago) and spending my Sundays at a wine shop in Chicago, Randolph Wine Cellars. I am eternally grateful to the staff there and next door at The Tasting Room for introducing me to wines and regions I never knew existed. Rieslings and Gruner Veltliners from Austrian producer Weingut Prager really opened the floodgates for me. But I don’t want to give the impression that my wine-drinking began so auspiciously. A lot of cheap California Chardonnay and (quite tasty) Zinfandel paved the way.
3. You’ve been all over the world tasting wine and visiting vineyards. If you had to choose one experience to share, which would it be?
I’ve been thinking a lot about Mozia lately. It’s an island off the coast of Sicily. You take a slow boat over, passing by windmills and giant piles of sea salt. A delightful dry white wine is produced from the Grillo grapes grown on the island. Mozia has an extensive and fascinating history that you can appreciate by visiting the museum on the island. I mention Mozia because when I think about drinking that wine, I think about heat, water, salt, sun, boats, windmills. A truly transportive wine that captures a moment and a memory. (See the post here).
If my hard drive hadn’t tragically crashed and robbed me of images to share, I would say Tasmania. Great food and wine (excellent sparkling, Pinot Noir, and dry white wines) and the most gorgeous beaches I’ve ever seen. (Google “Bay of Fires.”) I badly want to return.
4. Tell me about your involvement with Foodista.com and Dabble.
I have been so lucky to be the Wine Editor for Foodista for the past two years; I can’t say enough about Barnaby and Sheri and everything they have done for me. They are my biggest supporters and I admire them greatly both personally and professionally. Writing for Foodista has opened a lot of doors for me. And I like being involved with the food world; I’ve met some wonderful people in the food blogging community through Foodista at the International Food Bloggers Conference who are now my friends. And I’m not sure how this t-shirt and jeans slob got to be a part of the team at Dabble Magazine, but I am truly flattered to be among such amazing talents in the world of design, food, and travel.
5. Let’s talk about beer. Where does that fit into your drinking (and writing) repertoire?
Most winemakers will say that it takes a lot of beer to make wine. (Just check the fridge in any winery.) I have fond memories of being a beer buyer at a grocery store in my neighborhood of Capitol Hill in Seattle. I was astonished by the adventurous spirit of experimentation in the industry. The fun, informal atmosphere surrounding the beer world was a draw, too. I’d definitely like to talk more beer on the blog! And after a day of tasting palate-crushing, tannic red wines, nothing beats a cold beer.
6. You recently spent a month at Finnriver Farm, a small sustainable farming operation, making hard cider. What did you learn about farm life?
I learned that there are no days off, especially when you have animals! It really takes a group effort and a supportive community to make a family farm a success; you need to be willing to do (or learn how to do) whatever is necessary on a daily basis. There is no job too big or small. The dedication and commitment it takes is daunting, but it’s how you earn the considerable rewards of a beautiful life in a scenic spot, filled with great food and drink, and peaceful days passing into night.
7. What was your most memorable experience at Finnriver?
Spending time with the inspirational people there who make it all possible, whether working side by side on the farm and in the cidery, sharing a meal, or unwinding with (naturally) a glass of cider in the evening. Beautiful sunrises and dramatic cloud formations. My little cabin home. A snowstorm that transformed the look of the farm, with the blueberry bushes gorgeously holding onto the new fallen snow. And this may sound a little silly, but holding a chicken was a really special experience for me. I really enjoyed feeding the chickens and collecting their eggs. They are beautiful, fascinating animals. (For more on Jameson’s time at Finnriver, click here).
8. Where are you going next?
This is a shocking confession, but after living in Seattle for 8 years I have yet to visit the Oregon wine country. I’m finally going to the Willamette Valley next month. And in May I am headed to Portugal. I think my goals are the same for both trips: discovering diversity beyond the iconic wines of each place, meeting people, and absorbing the culture and history.
Neysa King is the Blogger in Chief at Key Ingredient. You can reach her at neysa AT keyingredient DOT com. All photos used with permission by Jameson Fink. Introductory photo of Jameson taken by Jackie Baisa: http://www.studiobaisa.com/