About Norm Roby & This Guide

My career as a wine journalist/critic began in 1975 when my article about California Petite Sirah was published a few weeks after I left the Media Department of The Wine Institute.

With that, I became a wine writer with no idea that I would actually write about wine over the following years. I have retained an interest in subjects other writers ignore and prefer focusing on wines offering great value for the money.


Here is a brief overview:

Wine Writer:

The Wine Spectator: author regular columns and articles & tasting panel (9 years)
Decanter Magazine: regular column, feature articles of US & French wines (15 years)
New York Times, Winetoday.com, member tasting panel (2 years)
Connoisseurs Guide to California Wines, Co-author. Alfred A. Knopf, 4 editions
Vintage Magazine, Editor and author of Feature articles and columns (5 years)
Freelance Writing: Webster’s Contributing Editor, Penthouse Magazine, San Francisco Examiner, San Jose Mercury News, Better Homes & Garden, Wine News Magazine, Wine Review Online

Charity Wine Auction Director:

Winesong, Mendocino Coast Hospital Fundraiser, 19 years until 2010

Wine Educator:

Dean, California Culinary Academy, San Francisco (3 years)
Wine Educator:  California Culinary Academy, (8 years)
Wine Educator: San Francisco State University (3 years)
Wine Educator: California Sommelier Academy (3 years)

Wine Judge:

San Francisco Annual Wine Competition
Sonoma County Annual Wine Competition
Mendocino County Annual Wine Judging
Oregon Annual Wine Judging
Decanter Magazine: Decanter Wine Awards


After The Spectator I became  the U.S. Correspondent for Decanter Magazine, writing mostly about California wine, but also expanding into Washington State and Oregon.  My Decanter years began in 1992 and  after buying a summer home in France in 2000, I traveled throughout France and eventually published articles in Decanter about St. Emilion, Castillon, Bergerac, Minervois, Roussillon, Luberon, Provence, and Alsace.  

I was a judge for Decanter’s annual wine awards event in London, and it was a useful experience to taste wines with the likes of Stephen Spurrier and other Brits after my years as a member of The Spectator’s tasting panel.

Also, around 1998, my wife, Ginny, began working for Cousino-Macul in Chile, so we tasted and traveled our way through Chile and, of course, managed to fly over the Andes and explore and taste our way through Argentina. We have also spent many interesting days visiting the wine regions of Spain, Italy, Portugal, Sicily, Greece, and New Zealand.

About this Guide:

In the Beginning...

This Guide kind of just happened. It all started when after years of receiving free and unsolicited wine samples, I reduced my writing projects and, not surprisingly, the samples began to slow down.

As a writer, I never totally relied on freebies as so many wine critics do. (The inner dealings of a wine critic is a detour here, but will be addressed along the way.)

Shopping for wine was not a totally new thing as I always bought a few wines to fill out reports. And when living in France, I really got into shopping for wine, either in giant supermarkets or the local wine shops. 

Then my daughter became interested in wine, joined a few wine clubs, and began firing off questions. Many, many questions.
My research into wine clubs expanded and before long, I was checking out a dozen or more sites.

My criticisms initially consisted of remarks like, "I'd stock up on that wine at that price," or, "what a rip-off, and who are they kidding?  

Wines were bought online, and I was getting into this project.

And I plodded on, expanded my notes and comments, and before long, I was organizing my research to share with others.

As I see it, this Guide is a cross between a website and a newsletter. Given the fast-changing nature of the subject, it will be regularly revised and updated.

New sites will be reviewed each month.

About My Philosophy:

Online wine buying fits into my overview of wine because first of all it is definitely a trend, it expands consumer choices and options and finally it makes the enjoyment of wine easier.

More expensive wines are not necessarily better than cheaper wines.

Older wines are not better than young wines. Actually, enjoying older or mature wines is an acquired taste, not a required taste.

And there never has been any system, French or American, devised that can guarantee wine quality.

Wine after all is made by people. Some people are better at winemaking than others, and even the best have their bad days or years.

And I still tend to focus on finding values, bang for the buck.