Ten Questions for Madeline Puckette of Wine Folly Magnum Edition



When I recently received my review copy of Wine Folly Magnum Edition, I was taken aback by the sheer beauty of the book’s cover design. I know that you should not judge a book by its cover (or a wine by its label), but dang, this is a beautiful book. The good news is that it only gets better inside. This book is a plethora of outstanding content, a fantastic resource for the wine novice to expert. With the assumption that one does not know anything about wine, this book starts at the beginning, then breaks this wealth of information into manageable chunks, presenting it to the reader in an aesthetically pleasing, colorful, and easy-to-follow design. While I am thankful for my more formal wine certification program, I must confess that if the content had been presented the Wine Folly way, learning would have been much more fun.

This sample copy of the book left me wanting to know more about Wine Folly – the brand, the books, and the website – so I contacted Avery Books, a division of Penguin Random House, to schedule an interview with author and designer, Madeline Puckette. When you read Madeline’s answers, you will understand why Wine Folly is such a delight in every way, and why you need Wine Folly Magnum Edition in your book collection.

When did you fall in love with wine? Was there a wine moment and/or a special wine?

Wine found its way into my life in stages.  That said, I did have an “aha” wine.  It was a $13 bottle of Côtes du Rhône from the 2005 vintage. Not at all fancy. My boyfriend and I sat there sniffing it, trying to pick out fruit flavors and nothing fit.  Suddenly, he blurted out “olives!” and my mind was blown. Who knew wine could be savory?

I tried to buy more but the vintage sold out and the next vintage tasted gnarly. (and not in a good way.) That experience taught me about vintage variation, French “terroir,” and active wine tasting all in one fell swoop!

What other wine industry roles have you held prior to Wine Folly?

Prior to starting Wine Folly, I worked in restaurants including several steakhouses, a French restaurant, a wine bar with 50 wines by the glass, a cool chef-driven spot (Poppy in Seattle), and even at a large casino hotel. (You’ve never seen a hotel until you’ve seen their laundry!)

I absolutely love working the floor. It’s exhausting and exhilarating all at once. The people who work in hospitality are some of the coolest people to work alongside.

What made you decide to share your knowledge of wine with the world? Was there a void you wanted to fill regarding wine education?

When I became certified in 2010 I was at odds with my level of wine smarts versus other people. It’s like knowing how to speak another language but not having anyone to talk to. And, at certified level, you’re still trying to practice. So, I started Wine Folly to bridge my knowledge to others. To practice communicating. As a communicator, I’m not particularly adept with words, but if you ask me to draw something… This is where I shine.

 What is the history/story and philosophical approach behind Wine Folly both the website and books?

The philosophy behind Wine Folly is intricate, even the word “folly” is multi-layered.  Still, the modus operandi of Wine Folly easy to put words to:  To communicate wine as simply as humanly possible. And, to explore the human condition through the lens of wine.

Side Note: The funny thing about wine is that it deals with a lot of root human behaviors, from our desire to connect with others to our ability to recognize patterns (as a species.)

Why did you choose the name Wine Folly?

Oh, you ask!  Hahaha. This is my folly!  I should have read ahead…

So, the word “folly” has multiple meanings if you look it up. It’s a foolhardy mistake as well as an architectural element that has little purpose (other than just looking good from a distance.)  So, why “folly?”

For those just getting into wine, being interested in wine seems like pure folly because it’s just an alcoholic beverage. Why should anyone care? That said, once you’re inside, you come to realize that wine is an edifice with deep scientific and cultural implications. In short, wine is deep.  It will go as deep as you’re willing to dive.

So, we named it “folly” for that moment when you decide to take the plunge and see what’s out there.

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Pairing Wine Folly Magnum Edition with Domaine Carneros Le Rêve

Who is Wine Folly’s audience? 

At this moment, I love teaching wine beginners. That said, we will continue to develop our content past this level. It’s surprising how quickly people are absorbing and using the information with the visual approach!

Wine Folly Magnum Edition is the follow-up edition of your hugely successful first book, Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine? Why did you decide to create this new edition?

The Essential Guide was an MVP (minimum viable product) to use entrepreneurial jargon. I did it to test the model against the market. Sure enough, the model worked!  Hot cakes!

Of course, as soon as the book came out, I felt a burning desire to iterate on the model. Magnum Edition is the iteration.  I’m not sure where the burning desire comes from, but it’s there and it’s unavoidable.

What makes this edition different than the first? Why should purchasers of the first book buy this new edition?

Besides the fact that it has over two times the content and a stunningly beautiful cover, it does a better job of communicating the topic of wine. There is some repetition in the format (and I did save a couple of excellent infographics in book 2), but the added value well exceeds the cover price. It was also redesigned from the ground up so there’s lots of new stuff.

If anything, you can now pass down your last book to a well-deserving wine beginner!

Do you think anything has changed in the wine world, from the consumer and professional perspectives, during three years since the release of your first book? How do you address those changes in this edition?

I’ve observed enormous change since the first book launch.

These days, consumers care more about where wines come from, how they’re made, and what they contain versus the love story and hedonism that defined the past. Of course, the wine world has been very slow to adapt to this new mindset.

So, in this new book, we tried very hard to be information rich and answer the fundamental questions of wine that are often left out of the marketing story. In this way, the book helps consumers take a more pragmatic approach to exploring wine on their own. It’s more about how to think about wine and where to hunt for it than what to think and buy.

What is next for Wine Folly?

I was supposed to write out my five-year plan out today, but I thought answering your questions seemed way less intimidating.

Seriously though, we have the lighthouse vision built and it’s audacious.  We just need to figure out how to paddle there without killing the team or losing the passion. I promise it will be big, or the other option: you’ll find me washed out living by a vineyard in Oregon with a VW Vanagon and a Blue Heeler at my rear. One of the two.

#WIML: What’s in my library? The January 2014 Edition.

Yes, this is a travel and wine blog, but as a child I was an avid reader. My mom used to tell me my eyes would go bad from reading late at night in my dimly lit bedroom. I think she was right. I’ve worn glasses since sixth grade. At any rate, I’ve read a few interesting e-books lately, two of which relate to my personal journey to wine country, and I thought I would share my reviews with you in chronological order. My reviews were originally published at amazon.com and all photos are courtesy of amazon.com.

The Exes in My iPod
The Exes in My iPod (amazon.com)

The Exes in My iPod: A Playlist of the Men Who Rocked Me to Wine Country by Lisa Mattson, $3.99 at amazon.com. Reviewed December 6, 2013
*New Edition Book: The Exes in My Glass: How I Refined My Taste in Men & Alcohol

I just finished this book and although I am a little older than Harley and have had fewer relationships, I could completely relate to her coming of age relationship challenges coupled with finding herself and following her dreams, all set to music. I found myself in complete admiration of Harley as she grew to love and respect herself more and more after learning something from each relationship. I am on my own journey and haven’t yet found my Devon, but I, too, am headed to wine country soon, so maybe I’ll finally find what I’m missing. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey, the playlist, and the wines of Harley’s life.

The Match
The Match (amazon.com)

The Match by Quent Cordair, $.99 at amazon.com. Reviewed December 23, 2013

I read this short story during a 40-minute flight, so it was a very easy read and it quickly snagged and held my attention. It’s a romantic story involving a couple, a man and a woman, that takes place during dinner at a restaurant. However, it takes an sudden, unexpected turn and the reader finds oneself reliving an event from the past that impacts the relationship and future of the couple. In just a few pages, Cordair reeled me into the couple’s world and their unconventional connection. I highly recommend this short story for a quick escape into romanticism and intrigue.

Where I Want to Be (amazon.com)
Where I Want to Be (amazon.com)

Where I Want to Be (Wine Country Series) by Cortney Roudebush, $3.99 at amazon.com and iTunes. Reviewed January 5, 2014

A friend loaned me this book and I ended up with two Kindle copies, one gifted to me and one purchased by me, so it was a sign to read this book. My friend kept telling me I had to read it because the similarities between the main character, Olivia, and me were so similar. He was right. While this is a book about Napa Valley wine country culture and living, it’s also a book about learning to love yourself and learning to take risks in order to live a passionate, fulfilling life. Like me, Olivia had a passion for wine, but had not yet developed the confidence and self-esteem to pursue her passion until she decided to temporarily move to Napa Valley to take an intensive wine course. The wine course is not the focus of the book, but rather Olivia’s growth as a self-confident woman and wine professional. She steps out of her comfort zone many times and takes great risks to achieve her dreams and become a happier person. I am thankful that my friend recommended this book to me, as I have embarked on the same journey and am moving to Napa Valley in less than a week. If you are someone who has been hesitant about following your passion, then this is the book for you.