Ever taste a gooseberry? How about a quince? Guava?
Can’t find those in the grocery store produce section.
Yet gooseberries, quinces and guavas pop up a lot in the descriptions wine critics write about the wines they evaluate.
Renowned wine critic Robert Parker says one white wine has notes of “acacia blossom, wet stone and lemon zest.” In another review, he says a red wine has “crushed currant and blackberry on the nose.”
Melanie Ofenloch doesn’t write about wine that way. Her mantra is “no wine snobs allowed.”
Her wine blog, Dallas Wine Chick, melds a desire to explore social media while teaching herself about wine.
Ofenloch, 49, has not always been a wine drinker — her fascination with the grape hit her after a post-college trip to Napa Valley. She has, however, always been in the marketing business.
She hatched the idea for a blog about a decade ago.
“I told my husband if I ever got to 1,600 followers on Twitter, I’d start taking it seriously,” she says.
That took six months.
She now has 14,000 Twitter followers, and 36,000 people read her blog.
Wineries started sending Ofenloch freebies, hoping their juice would make print. In today’s social media environment, with her number of followers, the Wine Chick is known as a “micro-influencer,” more influential than the average person but far from Kim Kardashian.
“I never write about a wine I don’t believe in,” she says.
If a wine doesn’t make her blog, Ofenloch didn’t like it, a fact she notifies each winery of when she tastes their product. Only she and the winemaker know it didn’t make the cut.
Willing to take the chance for the cost of a bottle of wine, more than five hundred wineries a year send her samples.
She does not bestow numerical ratings. Instead she simply writes what strikes her, and perhaps a group of friends, after a sip or two.
“I tasted red apple, cranberry, stone fruit, raspberry and rose petals. It was an easy to drink, aromatic sparkler,” she said of a rosé sparkling wine.
“Tasted notes of cranberry, cherry cola, mushrooms, cinnamon, herbs, baking spices and cassis,” she wrote of a pinot noir.
That may sound similar to what the wine snobs would write, but Ofenloch says she doesn't consider herself a wine expert but "an everyday person with a love for the grape."
She says her blog opens doors for a few wine pilgrimages every year but that the result is "an ugly Visa summary" at the end of each year.
The Wine Chick writes one column a week, sometimes about individual wines, winemakers visiting Dallas or visits she makes to vineyards when her schedule permits. She still maintains a day job as a marketing executive.
Ofenloch's reviews landed her a mention as one of the Top 90 wine blogs in the world from the Amsterdam Diary, a travel site.
The recognition put her in the company of Robert Parker, the world’s best-known wine scribe, as well as James Suckling, who charges nearly $150 a year for his opinions. Ofenloch's blog is free.
Her most treasured award though came not from Amsterdam but from her local grocery, where a man recently asked her if she was the Dallas Wine Chick.
“He said he just wanted to thank me. And I was shocked. And that’s why I do it…you’re sitting here and you’re cracking away, and you’re working hard and people are actually reading it,” Ofenloch said.