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Vine Talk?

I didn't see an existing thread about this, so: Has anyone seen Vine Talk on PBS? I don't think they've made more than a dozen or so episodes, but I could be mistaken.

The setup is simple: actor Stanley Tucci and a couple of wine experts sit around with 3 people, usually a couple of actors, singers or entertainers of some sort, and a renowned chef and they drink 5 wines (same varietal, same area) blindly and pick their favorites, as does the audience. I find it to be a fun show with good conversation and lots of interesting wine tidbits.

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  1. I watched about half of the show on California Zinfindals and fell asleep. Conversations seemed to geared to showing off as opposed to enlightening. As much as I like Stanley Tucci, I found him rather pompous and off putting. The guests seem to have more fun than I, the viewer. But that is just me.

    I prefer the smart guy - dumb guy vibe of James May's Road Trip on BBC America. Much of the same information without as much wine geek speak. And tho Oz Clark can be pompous also, somehow it feels right for a Brit. And there is only one of him.

    1. I think they had a few of these strung together last week, I watched one on Napa cabs and 1/2 of the next one...Syrahs from Oz I believe. Couldn't make it through the whole 2nd episode. I agree with a lot of what budnball says but still enjoyed it (hard to find anything about wine on TV).

      1. I, too, am a Tucci fan but I agree he is a bit smug on this show all the way to his toasts at the end. But as a budding oenophile I enjoy the historical, technical and descriptive banter about the wine. The food the chefs bring in always looks good as well.

        1. I confess I've not seen it -- it's broadcast at 1:30 on Saturday afternoons in San Francisco -- but I've yet to see a television show about wine that didn't come across to me as *either* pompous and stuffy, *or* talked down to viewers, *or* just seemed so contrived as to be unbelievable.

          In the latter category is where I'd place "James May's Road Trip" -- the premise of James May and Oz Clarke hanging out together is . . . well, let's just say it doesn't work for me, and leave it at that.

          Karen MacNeil has a short-lived program a couple of years ago, that -- as memory serves -- seemed to promote the idea that Napa Valley is one big upscale social party after another . . . it just wasn't real. Then again, someone once tried to do a "reality" show based at a Central Coast winery with "contestants" trying to make wine, and one being sent home each week a la Top Chef or the Next Food Network Star . . . yeah, THAT was believable, all right . . . ;^)

          4 Replies
          1. re: zin1953


            Did you ever see "Spencer Christian's Wine Cellar," though it might have had other, similar names? Wife knew Spencer Christian, but I did not. Seems that he did weather on some "network morning program?"

            When I caught it, the show as on PBS, but quickly moved to the Food Channel. When they became the Food Network (NBC?), it was gone. For an instant, the shows were on the Fine Living Network, but that morphed to something else.

            Christian had guests on each show, and they did most of the commentary. Christian only asked the questions, which were applicable to the subject of each show.

            I'd buy a DVD set, though obviously the shows were from last decade.


            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Bill, just as an FYI and to help you follow the bouncing programming, EW Scripps owns Food Network, The Cooking Channel, HGTV, and DIY channels. Before it became The Cooking Channel, that channel was called Fine Living Network. The wine show aired from 1995 to 1999, and apparently bounced around a bit among the Scripps channels. Spencer Christian was the weather guy on ABC's Good Morning America for quite a while, and he's been at the ABC affiliate in San Francisco for the past 10 years or so. Jason should know who he is if he watches TV up there in the Bay Area.

              I do remember the show as being very good, though I spend most of the late 90's on airplanes, so I didn't get to see it often.

              1. re: Midlife

                This presumes I watch TV news . . . Yes, Spencer is the local weatherman on KGO, Channel 7, the ABC affiliate in San Francisco.

                At the time he did his wine program, I did not have cable, but somehow managed to catch it one or two times. It wasn't bad, IIRC, but I remember having a hard time with the WEATHER guy from Good Morning America doing a WINE program!?!?!? Turns out he's a big wine lover, so . . .

                By and large, the history of wine programs on television has been abysmal. There have been shows by any number of highly respected and knowledgable people, and none have really caught on. Off the top of my head, these include (In random order), Andrea Immer Robinson, Karen MacNeil, John Cleese, Spencer Christian . . . and now, Oz Clarke (with James May). Then, there is that "lifestyle" program called "In Wine Country"; there was that weird reality series called, "The Wine Makers"; there's "Vine Talk"; and the "On Demand" feature on my cable offers something called "Wine TV."

                I don't know why, but it's hopeless . . .

                1. re: zin1953

                  Somehow I thought my disclaimer about TV should be broader than just the news. ;o))))) In my world Berkeley (including a cousin in Albany) is either TV or No TV, not much selective TV.

          2. I like the idea/premise of it, but the execution is dreadful. Half the time they talk about other things, completely unrelated to wine.

            1 Reply
            1. re: MidCoastMaineiac

              I've watched a couple of episodes and agree about the execution the talk wanders off in all directions. I tend to watch the beginning and then drift off and come back at the end to see what they like best.

              One the good side, I wouldn't call it pompous it's kind of like a late night talk show with wine. The premise is not that bad either, they blind taste six wines in a category and then rate them. At the end the "celebrity" panel winner is announced along with the studio audience's favorite pick. Kind of like they do on the taste test segment on America's Test Kitchen.

              The chit chat is probably there to pad out the half hour.

              That also reminds me of a very short-lived wine show that was on the Cooking Channel in the past year with the Three Thieves guys. I only remember a couple of episodes of that and then it seemed to disappear. I remember one episode in Chile.

            2. I've watched a few episodes hoping to find something worthwhile, but it's largely a waste of time. One wonders how the celebrity guests are chosen...they usually know nothing about wine, sometimes don't even particularly like it, and they end up babbling about unrelated trivia or hamming it up (Nathan Lane was insufferable in this respect). And unless you are a complete neophyte, I find the experts don't tell you anything you won't already know.

              1. IMHO....... this is TUT (Totally Useless Television). I tuned in because I like Stanley Tucci and thought it would be interesting. Well, apparently Tucci isn't on all the shows, the guy from Food & Wine (Ray Isle) parrots a bunch of basic wine BS, and try as I may I can't seem to figure out who's pouring what or when for the celeb panel (probably lost in editing). As said above, the celebs have very little to offer of any wine value either. It all comes down to a 'winner reveal' much like the product reviews on America's Test Kitchen............ so the good part is in the last minute or so. Ummmmm, did I say I didn't think much of the show???

                1 Reply
                1. re: Midlife


                  It almost sounds like they are doing a "man-on-the-street" in Iowa, regarding how they like fine wines for CA, or Bordeaux, or _____. Cannot imagine that I would care, but maybe I am wrong.


                2. I have not seen this.

                  Going back, and probably too many years, Spencer Christian did a wine series, but then the Food Channel became the Food Network, and Spencer's series went elsewhere, but was killed.

                  The Fine Living Network had similar, but then was bought out, and became something else, and not that has morphed into something else, again.


                  1. I think the problem is wine is not visually interesting. Watching people drinking is inherently boring and that's why these show's don't work. No one wants to tune into a college lecture and that's what most wine shows become. We see the conflicts on these boards between those of us with a casual interest and those with more of an oenophile attitude. Producing a TV program that would satisfy both groups plus pick up curious non wine fans seems pretty unlikely.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: budnball

                      I'm not sure about the visual thing but I would agree that the vast majority of viewers (90%+?) aren't much interested in a whole lot of details. Here in California there seems to be a higher proportion of people who have physical access to wineries, really like wine, and get interested in learning more about wine and the people who make it. But across the nation that's much less the case I would think.

                      Producing TV programming for niche markets is now much more possible with all the cable channels out there, but keeping the same show on the air for a long time is difficult because the subject of wine gets repetitive over time. For Spencer Christian to have been on the air for 5 years was, I think, quite unusual.