Gary Vaynerchuk, the outspoken and sometimes outrageous media wine guru, is someone who is not easily overshadowed. But it happened last week. On Tuesday, August 23, Gary produced his last daily wine video on Daily Grape, episode #89. How could he have known that a 5.8 magnitude earthquake would shake the east coast that same day, or that Steve Jobs would announce his stepping down as CEO the next day (on August 24). Gary tweeted, "Wait... did my retirement just cause an Earthquake." Hmmm, along with Hurricane Irene, maybe the wine gods are trying to tell him something.
He is clear about one thing. "I am not leaving u wine :) Just Daily wine videos."
This is not Gary's first retirement from video. If you are a Vayniac (a serious fan) you know Gary stopped doing Wine Library TV, aka "The Thunder Show," which launched his career as a wine and social media mogul. The first episode aired in February 2006. Five years later Gary ended the series with episode #1000 on March 14, 2011. This was a no production value regular vlog from his family's wine store in New Jersey, where he tasted and spit hundreds of wines.
I remember the first time I saw Gary on video. He was licking stones to demonstrate minerality and flintiness in a white wine. He ate dirt to talk about an earthy red. But he was getting 40,000 views per month. We certainly admired that. While his approach is wacky, it's exactly what the wine worlds needs -- someone to loosen things up a lot. Gary's approach sure resonated with a lot of people.
Being a wine TV and video producer myself, I know how much influence Gary has had on the wine video world -- just look at all the copycat wine videos out there now. Will someone step in and fill the void Gary leaves behind? Those are big shoes to fill. Here's what I will miss the most.
1. His passion. It's hard to find someone as passionate about wine and sharing it with others as Gary. His energy is off the charts. His love of wine is equaled, if not exceeded by his passion for Vaniac fan, all part of the Vayner Nation. On Daily Grape episode #88 (the last one before the retirement announcement) Gary had a longtime fan Gary Mele on as a guest. Don't think Gary Mele knew that was the second to last episode.
2. Vaynerisms: Gary created a new vocabulary for the world of wine. You could never call someone who says, "Let's give it a little sniffy sniff" when tasting a wine snob. The most fun part of his shows was his immediate reaction to the wine in the glass. "Super duper califragilistic color" and "let's give it a whirl." You knew when he loved a wine, but the best reactions were the faces he made when he didn't like it: "laughable nose," "the flavor of campbell's tomato soup" and "fake as half of Hollywood." Gary wasn't afraid to pan a wine, and also proves that talking about wine doesn't have to be stiff, snooty or condescending.
This is a great video compilation of Gary's utterly original wine vocabulary.
3. Spitting on video. Spitting wine is not a pretty thing, but a necessity when you're tasting wine. I've produced videos where the people don't want to spit on camera. Kudos to Gary for being a responsible drinker and showing us that it's OK to spit on video. Of course his spit bucket was not just a prop, it was part of Gary's whole persona. An avid Jets fan, his first spit bucket, a very basic model, had Jets stickers all over it. By the time Gary got to his last Daily Grape episode, that spit bucket had been upgrade to a modified Jets helmet, embellished with Gary's Wine Library bottle logo. Along with spitting, Gary also took big sips and really swished it around, chewing on the wine. It was noisy, but entertaining.
4. The local cable access look of his set. Gary has shown us that production values don't matter when the content is really good. His early set was just him at a table, a spit bucket, one glass and several wine bottles. The camera never moved or zoomed in. As a producer I look at that and think, how boring. But it worked for Gary. I loved his white dry erase board and it was always fun to see what was on it. It could be "trust your nose," or "ugly" with an arrow pointing right at Gary. That set stayed pretty much the same for all 1089 episodes of Wine Library TV and Daily Grape. On the last episode the camera does pan around to show us Gary's production crew, and you also see that they're taping this in his office at the wine store.
5. Devotion to the Jets. I don't care about the New York Jets and I don't follow professional football. But I found myself rooting for them last year in the playoffs and disappointed when they didn't win. Why? GaryVee is the biggest Jets fan ever. From day one you know that his goal in life is to buy the team. Maybe that's why he's leaving his anchor position in front of the camera. He's being vague about what's next in his life. I do hope that one day he'll own the Jets. I wonder if he'd make as big an impact on pro football as he has made in the wine world. Whatever it is, it will be fun to watch.