Steve Heimoff called to say, “Jo, Jackson Family Wines just offered a job to me that I can’t turn down.”
I said, “Oh my gawd, Steve… that’s so great!” That happened in February, and I was sworn to silence, as all things had to be organized properly.
I was born on December 21, a long time ago, in Lewiston, Maine. Exactly six months later, Steve Heimoff was born in New York City… Both of us were destined to be writers. He’s my astrological twin, we’ve bonded deeply. I adore Steve. I encouraged him to start blogging; and encouraged him to find a pet, I knew he needed to love and have that love unconditionally reciprocated back to him (Gus…). I introduced him to my Jose, because I knew Jose could help him to get going in the blogging world, and he did… We’ve just all naturally slipped into a very close bond.
So when he called me with a bit of concern… wondering if people might think he’s “sold out” in the journalism department… I told him that he need not worry about that at all.
Let me digress a bit here.
When I got into the wine business, I immediately found my niche. I knew I wasn’t going to be a wine critic. I wasn’t looking for perfection and/or flaws in wine, I was looking for the stories behind the wines. That’s my passion… I’m not a scoring kind of person.
So, I went about writing a story. I found that there were winery cats and dogs all over the place, as part of any natural farm’s integrated pest management system. I’m more of a cat person, so I went in that direction first. Once my story was published, the flood gates had been opened. I never got to the dog stories, because I had arrived. It was my winery cat story that proved I’ve worked hard to develop the writing talent.
Why I’ve told you this is to have you see the expense and return of a writing effort. I spent:
- Hundreds of hours (time is money) traveling to photograph cats (gas plus wear and tear on my car)
- Hours interviewing the owners to get the cat’s unique angle
- Bought film and had it developed
- Then wrote the story that I wanted to become a book
- Spent hours pitching it, including going to a San Francisco publisher that was very interested
Finally, I decided to send a letter to The Wine News magazine company in Coral Gables, Florida (which no longer exists), wanting one of my cats to be on the last page called “Grape Scapes.” I didn’t know that their editor Kathy Feuruson Sinnes was (and still is) a cat person. She wanted my images and story, and it was published as Cat O’ Wine Tales. I know it was the most oddball story in any wine magazines to that date in time… It had nothing to do with wine, per se. When I’d tell people I had a story published about “cats,” they’d invariably ask, “Cabs?” And I’d say, “No, cats…”
What did that story fetch?
- A lot of satisfaction
- It launched my wine writing career
- It gave me immediate creds as a writer in the wine business – even though I knew practically nothing about wine at the time
- And, I learned that writers don’t make much money for their art and work
For me, there’s nothing here that’s disparaging about The Wine News. They gave me a shot and launched my career… That has always been a invaluable turning point for me. I also learned one of my most important lessons in life… I came away with a complete understanding that if I wanted to make any money as a writer, it would have to be on staff with a company that valued my writing ability, as I wrote their stories… Not pitching to any publishing company.
I believe that Steve has just turned a that important corner; which is not to say that any magazines haven’t valued him… they have and they’ve built his career. It’s just time for him to get the “job of his life.”
Steve Heimoff is seen as one of the most highly regarded wine writers of today. When I read his book A Wine Journey along the Russian River, that’s when I realized… this man has a gift for digging deeper and telling the story in a way no one else can tell it. Steve can grasp and understands the most complex subjects. A Wine Journey along the Russian River has a good amount of geology in it, and that’s as digging deeper as one can get. His explanation of how the West Coast came into being to create its terroir from Pangaea on, is fascinating, complex, and very well researched. It was that book that made me want to get to know the man behind the pen. I went on a mission and succeeded, well beyond where I thought it would go. He’s become one of my dearest friends, because we balance each other so well.
Steve started his writing career as a journalist, laying the foundation for what he’s about to do. His general area of these modern times has been pretty much restricted to Northern California. With the proliferation of wine companies within the last 20 years, Steve’s circle of reviewing has been shrunken substantially. That was a natural progression, because he couldn’t handle the burden of what he was managing, and asked Wine Enthusiast for help. They gave him that relief, when Virginie Boone was brought on to also represent some of California’s wine regions. This was also great news for everyone, as Virginie is very capable of any task given to her.
But still, seeing Steve spread his wings in the great world of wine was something I wanted for him. He’s so good at what he does, he needs to get out and explore the rest of the world. He and Gus now have many grand adventures ahead of them.
The Jackson Family Wines company has a wine portfolio that’s global. That’s what I learned when I briefly worked for them.
From the time that I left being an employee to getting our first clients as Diaz Communications, KJ kindly let me have any hours I wanted or needed at their winery… That helped to launch me, and now they’re launching Steve into a magnificent world of exploration.
There’s a great quote that speaks to how Steve’s world is about to explode with new opportunities, taking him outward and away from how his concentric circles were closing in on him… It relates to travel, because the Jackson Family Wines parent company has wine investments all over the world…
“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It
This new position for Steve couldn’t have happened to a more deserving person… And, congratulations to KJ for recognizing that his talent will enrich all of their story lines. They simply made him that once-in-a-lifetime offer that he couldn’t refuse.
What a partnering!
JACKSON FAMILY WINES HIRES STEVE HEIMOFF AS COMMUNICATIONS & CONTENT EXPERT
Veteran wine writer, blogger and critic will specialize in communications and education for family’s expanding portfolio
Sonoma County, CA (MARCH 10, 2014) – Jackson Family Wines is pleased to announce the hiring of Steve Heimoff as Director, Wine Communications & Education.
Heimoff’s responsibilities will include working with the company’s communications, PR, digital/social media and brand marketing teams in all aspects of content generation, consumer engagement and trade support.
“I’m truly honored that Jackson Family Wines has entrusted me with this unique position,” Heimoff said. “I was a huge admirer of Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke, not only professionally for their tremendous accomplishments, but personally. Jackson Family Wines is, simply put, the most superb portfolio of high-end wineries in America and I’m thrilled to now work for the family business.”
Heimoff joins Jackson Family Wines after 22 years at Wine Enthusiast Magazine, most of them as California Editor. Previously, Heimoff wrote for Wine Spectator Magazine. Born in New York City, Heimoff moved to San Francisco in 1979 to attend graduate school and it was there that he discovered and nurtured his passion for wine.
Heimoff has written two books for University of California Press: A Wine Journey along the Russian River, and New Classic Winemakers of California: Conversations with Steve Heimoff. In addition, his daily wine blog, steveheimoff.com, is one of the most widely read in the country.
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