Why Is Your Blog So Damn Positive?

We have been blogging for about five months now; in total, we have twenty-two posts about our experiences living in and traveling around Northern California wine country.  Aside from a post about a Napa Valley Golf course and one about a rare sighting in Napa (a brewery!), all of our posts are focused on wineries and restaurants.  Readers of our reviews will quickly conclude that we enjoyed every winery, restaurant, brewery and other activity written about in this blog.  In fact, we did enjoy them.  All of them.  Yes, 100% of our blogs reflect positive experiences with the establishments that we visited.

Grumpy Cat

The lack of any negative blog posts has led several readers to post questions in our comment section more or less on the same theme: “How is it possible that you like every place you visit?  Are you working for the companies that you profile?  Do you have some incentive to always be positive?  Wasn’t there something, anything that you didn’t like about the winery or restaurant?”  We love getting comments from readers, including these comments, as we believe feedback is a gift.  These reader questions helped us think more deeply about why we blog and what we are hoping to accomplish.

5-Star Reviews  …Everywhere?

What is the purpose of a blog like ours?  Is it to be a chronicle of everywhere we have been? Is it to present our opinions, both good and bad, on the wines and food that we taste?  Is it to provide a “fair and balanced” analysis of the places we go and the experiences that we have?

We would be curious to hear from other bloggers on this topic, as there are certainly reasonable opinions and different approaches.  When we started our blog, though, we had a very specific purpose in mind:  having a great time visiting new, out-of-the-way places and sharing them with people who may not have experienced them yet.  Living in Napa Valley, we have plenty of places to choose from, not only in Napa but also Sonoma County and the newer wine regions that are starting to gain notoriety for their wines (Mendocino, Lake County, Lodi, Sacramento-area wineries, Solano County, etc.).  Our goal was not to use our blog as a glorified Tripadvisor or Yelp review (although many people do, and we enjoy many of those blogs).  Do we sometimes leave a winery disappointed, either with the service, the quality of the wine, or the ambience? Yes, just as frequently as everyone else does.  Do we like every restaurant? Of course not!  Like everyone else, we sometimes have to ask for a new fork multiple times and it annoys the hell out of us. Or our server takes forever to take our order; or, our order takes forever to come out of the kitchen.  Every once in a while, the food just isn’t that good – or not good enough to justify the steep prices.  So why wouldn’t we blog about negative experiences and let people who read our blog know that we had a bad time?

Sometimes we hate our food too

For one thing, negative experiences have such a subjective quality to them; writing about them as fact, as many people do, does not feel right to us.  Was the food bad, or were we in a bad mood?  Was the waiter a jerk, or did we come into the restaurant with some baggage that caused us to obsess about the seconds ticking by as we waited for someone or something to come to the table?  If we have a bad experience, is that useful for someone considering going to that same restaurant or winery?  Does it make it any less likely that you will enjoy your time there?  No!  The best establishments in the world have Yelp reviews that make you wonder how their authors could have been at the same places as the authors that gave 5-stars.

How does my 1-star review help you?

When we have a negative experience somewhere, the first thing we do is discuss whether or not we want to address our concerns with the establishment when we are there.  Most people do not, and then write scathing reviews when they are in the comfort of their home and in the safety and anonymity of their computer keyboard.  Repeatedly, we have been told that the best way to help an establishment improve on bad food or service is to say something during the visit.  On some occasions, we do say something, but not if the problem seems isolated to our visit, or driven by specific circumstances on that day (packed restaurant that was caught understaffed, for instance).  Once we leave the winery or restaurant, we lose our interest in chronicling, in writing, the terrible time we had.

When we write a blog, it is not to tell you what places to avoid. As we have already established, we like to write about places at which we had a special time.  But we don’t tell you what to order, or what to drink; we just share what we had, our interactions with the business and its staff, try and tell a little about their unique story and their approach to food, or wine, or whatever they are selling. The fact that we liked the short rib is no guarantee that you will.  We may tell you that we liked it, in passing, but our interest is more in describing the food, the wine, the service, the decor, and the atmosphere.  One of the reasons we share so many pictures is that it enables the reader to see for themselves how the spaces are laid out, how the food was presented, etc.  Rather than talk about “like” or “don’t like,” we focus more on the establishment’s approach.  If we are blogging about a restaurant, what is it trying to achieve?  What genre of food is it trying to carve out (pun intended)?  Where do they get their ingredients?

If we are blogging about a winery, we want to emphasize their winemaking style – are they making big “California” or “Napa” wines or following a more European approach?  Is the wine sweet or acidic, or somewhere in between?  Those are the things we think people care about more than our ratings or personal opinions.  If you like a high-alcohol, super-fermented buttery Napa Chardonnay (think Rombauer), then you should know the place we are blogging about makes a crisp Chard with zero residual sugar.  If you like red wines that jump out of the glass and punch you in the face, it will be helpful for you to know that the wines we tasted were only 12-13% alcohol and had a more subtle flavor profile.

We are not sure that our approach is correct, but for us, it just feels right.  If we blog about a place, that means we think it’s worth visiting.  If we go somewhere we hate, it’s not worth blogging about.  We do have opinions, of course, and if you ask us “hey what about XX Winery,” we’ll tell you what we think if we’ve been there. Even if we hated it.

Let us know how you think about blogging and if your approach is different.

John & Irene Ingersoll

October 5, 2016


21 thoughts on “Why Is Your Blog So Damn Positive?

  1. John and Irene,

    There is far too much negativity in the world today. Anger, hate, and a general lack of civility pervade our airwaves and even water cooler conversations. Reading wine blogs is one way I escape all this and find refuge in the storm. Your blog is especially uplifting and refreshing.

    Let’s start with some basics. You live in Napa. NAPA! How can you not be positive living in such a beautiful place surrounded by world-class wineries? You are surrounded by world-class wineries! I don’t see any negatives there. You both have the health and energy to get out and enjoy all that is around you. Another positive.

    Like you, I want my blog to be a happy place. I avoid negatives, but if I feel it is relevant, I will at least look for a positive slant. “This wine may not be for me, but if you like this style, you’ll love it!” I subscribe to the Thumper school of blogging: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”

    Stay positive, please. It’s contagious!

  2. Exactly! We’re not yelp. If you want yelp. Go to yelp. With that said if there is something wrong with the experience there is always a tactful way of saying it. It’s a small valley and you don’t really want to be ticking people off.
    Cheers! The Wine Ho http://thewineho.net

  3. I have been enjoying your blog entries for a couple of months now and I wouldn’t have you change a thing. As an infrequent visitor to Napa and Sonoma, we want leads on places to go, not places to avoid. The last time we visited, we went to our local winery and asked the vintner (a Napa transplant) where to visit. He was happy to help and got us to some smaller wineries with great wines. Your blog goes down this same avenue. Keep going.

    1. Thanks for the feedback! We are about to embark on a 2 1/2 week trip to the Balkans, and I have been really overwhelmed by all of the crazy, negative things people post on social media. You would think going to visit a country like Croatia is akin to visiting Columbia during cocaine cartel wars. The warnings of dire danger and imminent death are rampant, and laughable. If you read all of the negative comments about anything, you would never visit a winery, restaurant, or even leave your house.

      1. Keep your positive attitude out front and it will serve you well where ever you travel. Good luck and have a great time. I look forward to your posts.

  4. I aggree! I feel like I lose interest when the experience isn’t so great and I don’t have a lot to say. On the contrary, when i had a great time I want to share it and remember forever!

  5. I totally agree with your approach. Mine is quite similar when I review wines. If I don’t like a wine, I won’t review it. My primary aim is to make a record of wines I do enjoy, and the occasion that made it so enjoyable (seeing as the circumstances you are in, such as the people you are with, can often change your perception of a wine). I don’t see any point in trying to remember a wine I didn’t like!
    Have a great trip!

  6. Well said, totally agree. My focus is Spanish wine rather than food but my approach is pretty much the same. There are already numerous wine competitions and guides that review everything, if you’re looking to decide what to buy / where to visit. In my case I’m enthusiastic about Spanish wine and trying to build my profile on this subject. Of course there are wines I don’t like, but I choose not to write about them or gloss over them if they’re in the middle of a flight at an interesting producer.

    I think it would be arrogant of me to dismiss a producer’s efforts – somebody who has been all year in the vineyard / winery – just because I didn’t like it on the day and your point about the baggage we arrive with is a good one. And as a consultant winemaker it would also be very stupid of me to criticise a potential client’s wines in public.

    Spanish wine needs a push, it doesn’t need a brake. There are so many wild and wonderful producers that to me it makes sense to write about them, rather than seek out the under-performers.


  7. Well said! We are working with a couple of producers in Spain now (one in Rioja and one in Bilbao that makes txakoli) to bring their label to the US. Spanish wines have come a long way but there’s so much upside still. And education needed that it’s not just Tempranillo from Rioja.

  8. I fully agree with you. I always try to stay positive, and sometimes what one omits to say can be like thunder to those that can pick it up. Enjoy your trip and I look forward to more of your posts.

  9. Here is my thoughts.. I feel like we should be honest. After all how can the business learn if it doesn’t know it has an issue? We try to have a balanced approach to things. If the restaurant is pretty I say so. I talk about all aspects of the meal so readers can decide for themselves. But having said that, it is their livelihood.. and that needs to be taken into consideration. We try to be positive. I have had restaurant owners thank me for pointing out problems. One publicized my review heavily even with my small comments. If all you say is.. yumm..it’s not realistic or helpful. IMHO

  10. I completely agree with your approach. I also want to promote the good experiences and move on from the ones that are less than impressive. I love the Okanagan Valley and want my blog to reflect that at all times. You’re doing a great job. Keep it up!!

  11. I saw this a couple of weeks ago on Twitter and had been meaning to respond. I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve had a bad winery experience or a bad meal and I just choose not to include it. My blog is my happy place. There is enough negativity in the world. And as someone pointed out, if it’s something I don’t like but happens to be in the middle of a group of wines, I just say that it’s not my preference but could be for someone else.

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