Learn Our Ways


In October 2008, we have produced an advertisement for The Wine Spectator(1), "Doon to Earth,"(2) which treats of the recent history of the company. Now, this is a rather big deal(3), not the least because of my prior innings with the Wine Spec(4). In candor, the motivation for this initiative was partially to re-establish diplomatic relations with the magazine, but, more significantly, to tell the story of the great transformation that has occurred at Bonny Doon in the last two years.

I had imagined that there would be a difficult transition period in acquainting the public with the "new" Bonny Doon, but I honestly did not appreciate how challenging it has been for the public to assimilate this new information(5). Even die-hard Doonies were largely at sea(6).

So, my thought was to do some sort of informational ad, outlining the changes and really making my case that there has truly been a profound change. Initially, it was to take the form of a sincere letter. Then I remembered that people have generally stopped reading. There seemed but one course, which was to impart this verbal information in its most digestible form, to wit, the comic strip.

My first notion, despite the long odds, was to try to persuade Robert Crumb to draw the strip. I had perhaps rather too completely identified with Crumb's ironic, self-deprecating persona(7), and if I were advertising in the Wine Spec, I wanted to telegraph, as it were, some degree of ironic detachment. Crumb was of course not available, but we had the tremendous fortune to discover a young, brilliant cartoonist, Ed Piskor, who was hungry for the gig, and ended up doing an absolutely remarkable job.

Ed lives on the East Coast and seemingly never sleeps, at least not at night. We exchanged perhaps 300 e-mails over the course of a couple of months, typically very late at night (Pacific Standard Time), and invariably I would get a response back within picoseconds. Ed so pushed himself to do a great job that it inspired me to really put on my own Doonce cap and give him the most thoughtful language and design ideas I could possibly conceive. Whether the ad will be successful in the end is perhaps incalculable, but I have had the greatest time in working on it(8).


(1)An utterly unprecedented occurrence. I had previously imagined that I would advertise in the Spectator when the Vinferno froze over.

(2)Also formatted as a handsome poster, available for a very modest fee.

(3)The cost of advertising in the Wine Spec is a non-trivial expense for a smallish operation, such as ourselves.

(4)In the last episode of The Vinferno, "Satannin" was feasting on the eyeballs of Marvin Shanken, publisher of The Wine Spectator, as part of a "blind tasting."

(5)Consumers are utterly overwhelmed with the proliferation of new brands, not to mention the daunting ever-increasing complexity of ordinary life.

(6)In fairness, it is a very tricky bit of business, what with the splitting off of Pac Rim, divesture of Big House and Cardinal Zin, and the fact that 40% of the bottles on the shelf are seemingly derivative of some Bonny Doon package or another.

(7)Early drafts of the strip indeed were perhaps too ironic and self-deprecating and were subsequently "fixed."

(8)My partner, Chinshu and adorable daughter, Mélie, are visible in Panel 12, in a moment of contemplative repose.)

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