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Books,PR Advice,Wine,Wine Writer

Paul Franson ~ Wine Writer #34

When it comes to PR, Paul Franson wrote the book… Literally… Paul and his friend (Napa Valley PR pro Harvey Posert) combined their PR expertise and together crafted Spinning the Bottle.

From flipcart.com: SPINNING THE BOTTLE is a collection of case studies and guidelines to promoting wine, wine companies and wine-related issues. In it, 50 experts tell how they conducted winning public relations campaigns and what they accomplished. The experts who contributed include long-time wine publicists and marketing experts as well as association officials.

The book is must reading for anyone involved in managing a winery or marketing wine. It’s as relevant to the student of wine and marketing as to the seasoned executive or winery owner, and a great source of ideas to even the most weathered PR professional.

What most amazes me about Paul has always been his generous spirit for sharing what he knows with those of less experience in the wine business. Perhaps it’s Paul’s example that has allowed me to look at this new generation of wine writers and PR professionals (many of whom today are known to us as wine bloggers), and felt that it’s also my responsibility to share my skills with this new generation. Paul is inspirational; and in his career, has segued from being a PR pro into a writer himself. In Napa, he’s an iconic figure, and worthy of high praise.

When Paul and I went back and forth about his helping me to craft a message about his being a wine writer, it was then that I learned he’s also got a New England background. I actually wasn’t surprised… There something just so “Yankee” about him; standing on solid ground and having such a sensible code of ethics.

In our Emails, Paul shared that he enjoyed a trip to Tuscany last summer with his granddaughter Denise. His subsequent story is entitled, Two for the Road: Visiting Tuscany with my granddaughter Denise. (Napa Valley Register)

[I’ve borrowed this image from the Napa Valley Register site.]

Paul Franson’s lead paragraph demonstrates that generous spirit I just mentioned. What’s even more captivating is his granddaughter’s love for her grandfather, which also caused a yearning in my heart.

“When my granddaughter, Denise, graduated from community college, I offered her a trip to Europe. I was a bit surprised when she wanted me to come along. I figured she’d just take the ticket!”

Paul has wine writer credentials with Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Wines & Vines, Napa Valley Register (where I’m most familiar his writings, besides his book), among others. The following are his answers to my set standard of questions, with some very insightful responses.

Paul Franson ~ writer profile questions:

[Q]  Many wine writers also have a day job. If wine isn’t your job, what is and for whom?

[Paul]  I don’t consider myself a wine writer but a writer. I certainly write about wine, but I also write about food, travel, life in wine country (including my paid insider newsletter NapaLife), wine business (and other business) and more. So that’s my day job. It’s a full time occupation at least.

[Q]  When did you start writing about wine?

My first articles on wine were in the early ‘80s for Wine World, a pioneering magazine published by Dick Sherwin, who also published a lot of adult magazines. The first articles were profiles of the late Hans Kornell and an interview with Cary Gott, then the top dog at Sterling Vineyards and now a consulting winemaker.

My late (and former) wife Teddy and I also published the Purple Thumb, a home winemaking magazine, for a bit. We were amateur winemakers for almost 30 years, starting with the world’s worst wine of Concord and Thompson seedless from vines growing in our yard in Texas. I made wine a few year after I moved to Napa, but I found I liken to try other wines and didn’t really drink mine much. I still have some 1997 high-alc, high sugar Zin from Chiles Valley around and a few more restrained wines including my Faux Bordeaux from subsequent years. They’re holding up surprisingly well.

[Q]  What prompted you to start writing about wine?

I started writing about wine after first discovering it as a drink, then making my own. I was fortunate to be working in public relations in Boston and Phoenix for large corporations that didn’t discourage our entertaining the media at nice restaurants with good wines. I still love those real Chablis with New England seafood. In fact, I don’t order lobster or scrod elsewhere, not to forget fried clams and bluefish, though I’ll accept beer with the clams.

Making wine led to learning a lot about it as I had a scientific background and bent. And my day jobs involved a lot of writing, including writing and editing business magazines and working as a publicist.

[Q]  What aspect(s) of wine do you most enjoy covering?

The travel to wine country overseas, technology and science of winemaking, the people, the history, finding great buys – and enjoying occasional great wines to give me something to write about. I also love debunking wine snobs and the BS of some writers.

[Q]  How has your job changed since you’ve started?

Tough times for magazines has made it harder for freelancers to get assignments. The magazines tend to use their paid staff as much as possible.

[Q]  What’s the most memorable wine you’ve ever tasted?

Not in a good way: a 17 percent alcohol Colorado Gewurztraminer aged in new oak three years.

Wines tasting with Miguel Torres, with Piero Antinori and his daughters, Champagne with Bruno Paillard at his home in Rheims, you get the idea.

A 1941 Inglenook Reserve Cabernet – twice, with Francis Coppola and once with Warren Winiarski. It was an incredible vintage (as well as mine).

[Q]  What’s your favorite variety?

Depends on the day, mood and whether I’m eating. I always love good sparklers, especially rose, whether from Champagne or Northern California.

I’m especially high on Albariño as well as Condrieu, though obviously with different food. Day to day, however, I drink mostly Napa Sauvignon Blanc as the white. In reds, fine Burgundy and restrained California Pinot Noir can’t be beat, though I can hardly think of a top Italian, French or Spanish wine I don’t love.

[Q]  Do you believe that there are better quality, lower priced wines today, than in past vintages?

Wine is far better than it used to be overall. Spain and Italy, for example, are making incredible wines at reasonable prices. I think better California wines are also getting better and better but California can’t seem to make good drinkable cheap daily wines like Europe does.

European climate warming is producing more consistent vintages in northern vineyards, though it could eventually degrade some in warmer climates.

Of course, temporarily (I think) really good California and other wines are often available at bargain prices – though I consider any wine over $40 only suitable for special occasions. I think many California wineries (especially in Napa) have priced themselves out of the market, perhaps permanently, and after buying expensive real estate, can’t win.

[Q]  What’s your favorite innovation in the wine industry over the past few years?

Decent wines in 3-liter boxes and screwcaps for most ordinary wines, even wines on tap. And of course, increasing availability of new treasures from unexpected places. I’m amazing at the fast-improving wines I’ve tasted from all over America, too..

[Q]  What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

I don’t eat much meat, and almost always choose fine seafood if I can. I love bubbly with shellfish, and crisp wines with most fin fish (though Pinot Noir with salmon and tuna and rose with hearty Med fish stews). I like lighter (less alcoholic, less ripe) Zin with a lot of red Italian food, a favorite, as well as Petite Sirah, which is also my first choice for many lamb dishes. Obviously, Cab with steak or roast beef.

[Q]  What are your interests outside of the wine business?

Food. I like to cook, I write about food and am in a gourmet group with some serious food nuts. Travel. Gardening. Music. My family. My six and eight-year old grand kids live here in Napa, and I see them a lot – including babysitting and fixing homemade pasta tonight. I took my 23-year-old granddaughter, a talented photographer (dsoden.deviantart.com, dsoden.daportfolio.com) to Italy last year.

[Q]  Who inspires you (wine business or outside of it, doesn’t matter)?

My family – and father time.

[Q]  For what would you like to be remembered?

Aside from my family, for having helped get people started in their careers as a school teacher, editor and PR agency head.

Paul Franson’s Napa Life is at www.NapaLife.com.

His Travel Tastes is at www.TravelTastes.com.

You can also Email Paul or (707) 258-0159.

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