Robyn Tinsley’s Got the Skinny on it All…

In 1999, I had organized a wine trip into Houston, Texas for Ironstone Vineyards, bringing in my boss, Stephen Kautz to meet with wine influencers. I connected with Dick Dace, The Epicurean Publicist, who kindly set up a Houston wine media and winemaker dinner at one of his client’s restaurants. Dick invited all of Houston’s wine writing royalty, and they showed. He made me look great in front of my boss, as we got to meet some really wonderful people who shared their similar wine passions over a great meal with Ironstone’s wines.

[Sometimes you just get lucky and find someone who’s capable of hitting a home run for you… Dick was the batter for this one.]

Within the group that he assembled was Robyn Tinsley, a gorgeous woman who’s completely devoted to learning all she can about wine, and then sharing that knowledge. It was kismet at first sight, and it’s been a vibrant relationship that we’ve shared ever since.

Robyn just reviewed the Shady Lane Cellars 2006 Sparkling Riesling Leelanau Peninsula, and as I read the review, I was reminded that I’d like to include her in my wine writer questions and answers category. Her answers are very enlightening and enjoyable.

Before the Q&A, though, here’s a bit about… The Wine Skinny started in 1998 as an experiment in internet publishing, and it had the commitment to making wine fun and accessible to everyone – novice and expert alike – from the beginning. The idea behind this site is that wine is an essential part of life and food and time with friends and family. Robyn admits that you won’t find wine snobbery or intimidation there. Just information and descriptions about wine, food pairings, and ways to happily incorporate wine into your daily lifestyle. In its eleventh year, traffic for this site: 462,000 page views per month from a worldwide audience, with 75 percent of those numbers being from the  U.S., and 85,000 unique visitors per month. She’s established a very strong audience, and I believe her experiment has been a huge success.

Robyn Tinsley…

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

[A] I run a public relations and marketing firm called Tinsley PR. We work with clients in all kinds of industries, from finance to healthcare to technology, on branding, communications, collateral materials, website development and tradeshow support. It’s totally non-wine and non-food related, so I always have a wide range of projects to work on – and don’t have to worry about conflicts of interest when I’m writing about wine and food!

[Q]  When did you start writing about wine?

[A] 1998

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

[A] It was a couple of things… I needed to learn about website design and development for some Tinsley PR projects. And I also happened to be, amongst my friends, the person who knew the most about wine. So as a learning project, I started It’s been a great lesson in grassroots marketing, and it’s also been a fantastic springboard into the world of wine.

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

[A] Oh, I think ultimately it’s connecting the dots between the people who make the wine and the finished product. There are times when you really get to experience – in the wine – the personality and unique history of the land and winemakers, and that’s just a wonderful moment.

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

[A] Well, the internet has completely transformed in the last eleven years, and I’m reminded every single day of how far-reaching a website can be. As I’ve said about a million times, “The internet is a strange place to live.”

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

[A] For me, “most memorable” wines have as much to do with the setting – food, friends, vista – as the actual wine. Buckets of cheap Frascati at Rome’s Pantheon piazza. Claret – in this case a 1999 Beau-Séjour Bécot St.-Emilion – along with a proper British holiday feast one snowy winter in London. Robert Craig’s 2005 Mount Veeder Cabernet at an impromptu block party after Hurricane Ike wiped out electricity in Houston – gratefully sipped in the darkness along with all manner of “clean out the freezer” goodies grilled over carefully-lit gas stoves.

[Q]  What’s your favorite variety?

[A] If absolutely forced to choose: Cabernet Sauvignon

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

[A] Absolutely. Winemaking standards and improved technology have elevated quality, worldwide, at all price points.

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

[A] As much as I am a proponent of screwcaps, I’m also really happy that the cork industry has made major advancements in technology and quality. With companies like Amorim and its Rosa system leading the way, the cork industry is making up for lost time, and I’m happy about that because I think it’s an important winemaking tradition and also a vital element for properly aging some wines.

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

[A] There are so many… But again, if forced to choose, I’d have to say a ribeye steak – well-seared on the outside, rare on the inside – with a really good, aged Cabernet. Creamed spinach. Hot, crusty bread with good quality butter. Heaven.

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

[A] Cooking. Traveling. Puttering around in my little garden. Baseball – especially the Yankees, but really anytime I get to go to a live game, I’m happy – from my niece’s softball games to MLB games. Live music in small venues. And lately, I’m loathe to admit, Dancing with the Stars.

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

[A] My parents. My 92-year-old grandmother. People who put themselves at risk to help others – police officers, firefighters, aid workers in war zones or infectious disease areas. Underdogs, generally speaking…