Sunday Spotlight

Shedding some light on your favorite wine writers.

Stephanie Cain

Stephanie Cain is a journalist and content strategist in the lifestyle space, who has 14 years of experience as a magazine editor, digital producer, content marketer, and public speaker. She focuses on wine and weddings, having worked on staff at The Knot, Wine Spectator, and Elite Traveler. Her byline has appeared in The New York Times, Fortune, VinePair, Brides, Afar, PureWow, Esquire, PEOPLE, Hamptons, and Specialty Food, and she has been a featured expert on CNBC, Bloomberg, NPR, CBS Los Angeles, and MSN.com. Additionally, she is a 200-hour certified yoga instructor and Level 1 sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. She holds a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Columbia University and lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with her husband, Vik, and daughter, Phoenix.

1. What was your first job as a writer?

Well, the first person to pay me to write was Matt Kettman at the Santa Barbara Independent when I was in undergrad. I interviewed a local songwriter whose song was going to be performed by a Latvian pop group at Eurovision. I received a check for $90 for that story! Funnily enough, Matt now writes about wine too (for Wine Enthusiast) so publishing really is a small world.

2. What led you to becoming a wine writer?

A love of both journalism and wine! It’s probably an anomaly in the wine publishing industry that my journalism and wine experience has been a congruent journey for two decades. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a journalist in New York City, and I really started honing my skills in high school. At the time, my family lived in Davis, California, and I spent weekends tagging along with my dad to wineries in Napa Valley. I wasn’t drinking, but I took all the tours. I fell in love with the process. A few years later, I went to journalism school and found I most enjoyed my stories about the wine industry. I’m probably the only person at Columbia University that ever wrote my Master’s thesis on wine bars.

3. What kind of reader do you have in mind when you’re writing?

It depends on the publication, as they all have their own audiences, but if I have a dream reader it’s someone who cares about the stories and people behind wine, not just tasting notes and aging time. I like getting into the heads of winemakers and considering why and how I’d serve and drink their wine. I also appreciate the business of wine and thinking about how wine fits into life beyond the culinary world. Too many writers get hung up on flavors and aromas and forget this is a lifestyle product. There is a mood to Pinot Noir, not just dinner pairings.

4. Where is the most magical place your wine writing has brought you?

This is a tough question. I don’t think it’s a physical place, but rather a mental one. In so many ways, wine inspires creativity, both on the page and off. There is a joke that alcohol helps with writer’s block—which is true—but the way I’ve seen women power through the industry, underdogs make it big, families unite in business, and total nerds find success doing what they love is truly motivating. There are plenty of magical wine regions, and I’ve been to 29 of them. But if wine has brought me anywhere, it’s to a better version of myself and a better writer at that. I don’t think I’d be a freelance journalist if it weren’t for the entrepreneurs and free thinkers I saw blaze trails around me in the industry.

Learn more about Wine and Weddings from Stephanie:

Stephanie Cain

Stephanie Cain

Journalist and Content Strategist

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5. What was one of your favorite articles to write, and why?

One of my favorite wine articles was early in my career as an editor at Wine Spectator. I was going to Israel to visit a friend studying there, so I pitched to write about Israeli wine. I knew nothing about it nor had I ever been to Israel. It was the most fun trip, driving around the country with my friend in a rental car, trying to decode signs in Hebrew, and meeting with local winemakers. My reporting turned into a three-part series highlighting wines from the Judean Hills, a travel guide of how to taste through the Tuscan-like wine country, and profiles of emerging winemakers. It was one of the first times I felt like a real journalist, on the ground reporting with my notebook and recorder. So many stories now rely on press trips to experience a place that I truly treasure that opportunity to report a story in an old-school journalistic way. 

6. What is the best advice someone has given you on your writing?

This is a very common piece of advice for writers, and I come back to it often: you must learn “to kill your darlings.” It’s the idea that no matter how much you like a phrase, a paragraph, or a character, sometimes you have to let it go—it may not be the best fit for the final story to express what you want to say. I’ve sadly had to cut some great words, fantastic quotes, and even entire sources over the years, but every story was better because of it.

7. What would you be doing if you weren’t writing about wine?

I also write about weddings for The New York Times and Brides, so I’d probably be doing that—I’d definitely still be a journalist. There are a lot of passionate people in both wine and weddings, and luckily, they both involve Champagne.

Nominate someone for Sunday Spotlight:

Doug Frost MW MS

Doug Frost

Doug Frost is a Master of Wine and Master Sommelier as well as an author and wine consultant based in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1991, he passed the rigorous Master

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Wine expert and sommelier Bernie Sun

Bernie Sun

Bernard Sun — known to friends as “Bernie” — is one of the country’s most respected sommeliers, and with good reason. His wine knowledge and palate are the result of

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