I read about wine every day. Though we all try and craft our wine story in a distinct voice, the language and tone tend to read the same. A couple of years ago, I kept running across a voice on Twitter that stood out. It was R.H. Drexel, who produces her own wine culture zine, Loam Baby. Each issue of is focused on a specific wine region and “shines a light on the personalities and culture that are driving winemaking today,” says her web intro. The five issues to date have centered on California wine regions: Santa Cruz Mountains, Paso Robles, Sonoma, Napa Valley, and Santa Barbara County. Loam Baby isn’t sponsored by anyone or any company, it’s free to read online via rhdrexel.com, and is written Freebird-style with the texture and tone of Rolling Stone, MAD Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Utne Reader mulled together into technicolor words and visuals. I’m captivated by the voice of Loam Baby and asked R.H. Drexel a few questions so I could learn more about her wine perspective:
Your focus for Loam Baby, is all U.S. wine-centric. Why the lack of lure towards the romanticism and history of the Old World or burgeoning areas of the New World such as Argentina?
I was born in the Azores Islands, about 800 miles off the coast of Portugal. I came to the New Country as a child and I’ve been in love with the United States ever since. This country has been very good to me and to my family, and so my tiny way of giving back is to support the efforts of those making wines stateside. As much as I love old-world wines—I’ve been fortunate to taste many of the great benchmark wines of the world many times over—I just personally prefer to give my energy over to supporting farmers, vineyard workers, and winegrowers living in this land, which has really shaped who I am today.
To much of the world, Orange County is about housewives and “Cougar Crack” like Rombauer chardonnay. However, there are also many talented wine professionals, from retailers and restaurateurs to vineyard owners and media.
You know, I never did get that whole “Cougar juice” or ” Cougar crack” or whatever, and Rombauer chardonnay. I suspect it started in the Napa Valley, where jealous winery owners didn’t like that Rombauer wines were outselling their more expensive, presumably more “sophisticated” wines. That feels elitist to me and it makes me uncomfortable. Wine is just a beverage that hopefully softens the edges of life, which can be hard sometimes. So, I don’t subscribe to that line of thinking.
As I mentioned, I was in the wine industry for over half my life. I owned a successful wine marketing and public relations firm. So, I write under a pen name so that I can have the anonymity and freedom to create without worrying about being judged by colleagues…or really, anyone at all. It’s vital that I have the privacy to do it, as I suspect writing helps to keep me sane, to put it very bluntly.
As a captivating storyteller, you could write about any subject. Why is wine your chosen muse?
I started working in the wine business when I was 21 years old, and I’m 52 now. I’ve never worked in any other industry. Although I also write poetry, songs, and fiction, I very much enjoy writing about people who make wine because it’s one of the few art forms wherein nature meets the hand of man (and women!) and the resultant creation brings about conviviality and relaxation to a lot of people. People who pursue a career path in winegrowing and winemaking are often very interesting and willing to take immense risks to pursue their passion.