Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Back Story: Second Acts

I was getting ready to taste some Lagreins from Alto Adige a couple of days ago with my friend Anthony Vietri, winemaker/owner of Va La Vineyards in Pennsylvania, when he whipped out an almost-yellow newspaper clipping and started talking about how this writer was going on about Zinfandels from Amador County in California. He handed it over to me to take a look.

It was dated Nov. 4, 1979, and was from the Wilmington NewsJournal. It was headlined "California Zinfandels with zing." The byline was by Roger Morris. "My grandmother had saved a recipe from that page," Tony said, "and it fell out of a book she had. She said, 'That's Roger!'"

Despite what Fitzgerald wrote about there being no second acts in American life, I'm having one.

Back in 1978, I started writing a weekly wine column for The Washington Star because I had worked before for the editor, she liked my writing, and she needed a wine columnist. As wine was my passion de jour, I volunteered to write it. An editor for the NewsJournal saw one of the columns in the Star's Sunday magazine and said he could just re-run the Star column three weeks a month if I would write something local one week a month. Although at the time there were no area wineries, I did not let that deter a perfectly good opportunity.

Unfortunately, the Star was an evening newspaper six days a week, and evening newspapers were even then an endangered species as network news was eating their dinners. When the Star folded in the early '80s, I was without an outlet in the days when there were no blogs. But I was able to transfer allegiance to a weird new national newspaper called USA Today and became their first wine columnist. Alas, we had a friendly parting of the ways a year later because their Wednesday sections were often cut to 4 pages, and my column was on the other four pages.

Although I had a healthy day job throughout all this, I soon realized I wanted to get back into wine writing. But it was not until 1998 - more than 25 years later - that I again began writing a weekly column for the NewsJournal. Then came an opportunity to also write for Colman Andrews at Saveur magazine. Year by year since then, I've added print and online magazines for which I write chiefly about wine, food and travel.

Today, my byline appears in more than 15 publications, including international print outlets such Wine Enthusiast, Robb Report, Beverage Media, Drinks Business, Town & Country, Sommelier Journal, Intermezzo and - yes - USA Today magazines. Then there are online publications such as iSante, Sommelier Journal and The Daily Meal (again with Colman) and a handful of regional magazines, although I no longer write for the NewsJournal.

It's been a good Second Act. I hope there is no necessity for a third one.

Until next time...

Roger Morris

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