SpeakEasy: Madeline Puckette, Wine Folly

Our SpeakEasy series of blogger interviews rolls on with Madeline Puckette of Wine Folly. Madeline talks about the meaning of "folly," Wes Anderson's bathoom, and where to eat and drink in Seattle. We also appreciate her advocacy for drinking white wine in the snow.

When coming up with a name for your blog, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you’d want “Wine” in there somewhere. But how did you come up with “Folly” and why was that word significant for what you wanted to accomplish?

Folly is an awesome word because it has two very distinct meanings. One is to be foolish—to lack sense—and the other use is to describe these opulent but useless architectural buildings that were popular in England and France during the 18th century. The implication is that wine is a folly. The more you drink, the more you folly. Also, we humans don't really need wine to live, but for many of us, wine adds deeper meaning and adventure to life. Similar to walking along and discovering a Folly structure in the woods. It's profound, useless, silly and a delight all at once. Learning about wine should feel the same way. So the name was pretty deliberate.  

As a graphic designer, your infographics, posters, and maps are what really put your site on the, uh, map. What was the first image you created that really caught fire and did you foresee that this way of helping people learn about wine beyond words would resonate so greatly?

The best way to learn (and have it stick) is through multiple mediums: words, pictures, audio, video and finally 'hands on'. So we used visuals on the site ever since the site launched. Our first infographic that became popular was 'How to Choose Wine'. Within 8 hours of release, we decided to presell it. We hadn't even thought of printing it! Justin decided to try contacting Matthew Inman who runs The Oatmeal about what printer he used, since he lives in Seattle. He wrote back with a recommendation and we were off and running!   
wine folly how to choose wine

Original Source: How to Choose Wine

Almost every wine blogger dreams of it becoming successful on a large scale and, of course, making money from it. What advice would you give those with visions of monetization dancing in their heads?

Ads do not make you money unless you're already successfully pulling a ton of visits per month, so don't rely on this to make ends meet.  It's just gravy. So you have to ask yourself what else can you do with those eyeballs without disrupting your core vision? Really focus on your core vision, because it will get challenged all the time. (Especially if you're popular!). What do your followers love from you and how can you give them more?

Once you find this out, you'll to test if they're willing to pay you. If not, find out what they are willing to pay for. These are really tough questions to ask, and chances are you monetization method will change at least 3-4 times before something sticks. We've had at least 3 iterations of Wine Folly and believe it or not, there will be more! Also, you need to be moderately tech savvy in order to 'win' on the internet. Smarten up, it's not hard, it's just a little tedious to learn. You can do it!  

Finally, don't do this alone. Teams are nearly always better. Build a team that complements your skills and figure out an agreement early so no one gets hurt when y'all make it big.

Have you ever walked into a place and seen you posters on display, someplace unexpected or unusual? If you could have your posters hanging in three places anywhere in the world, where would you choose?

I've heard that our posters are in the Bellagio in the kitchen at Michael Mina!

Three places: in the White House's residence kitchen, maybe a few wine maps in Wes Anderson's bathroom, and perhaps somewhere in Francois Pinault's office. (He is the French tycoon who owns Puma and Château Latour). I can dream right?

Hey, can we let people know about your awesome partner, Justin? Please enlighten us about what he does for Wine Folly.

Justin is the CEO of Wine Folly and he is also a developer.  It's through his vision, planning, and careful feedback analysis that we've been able to grow as quickly as we have. Besides Justin there is a third founder, Chad Wasser, who handles our products and is our photographer/cinematographer. So, two full-timers, a part-timer and several amazing contributors, editors, and advisors make Wine Folly happen. We couldn't do it without each and every one of them!  

We both live in Seattle and I am horribly biased about my favorite spots to drink wine. What restaurants and wine bars get the Wine Folly seal of approval?

I love so many places in Seattle, it's hard to pick.  I'm really fond of Mkt., The Whale Wins, Sitka & Spruce, Bar Sajor, Poppy, Il Corvo, I also love to hit Pete's Market for great prices on bottles; I drink a lot at home.

Did your passion for wine really start in Reno, Nevada? Tell us how and who inspired you on this journey, and who continues to do so.

My grandfather and my dad were the source of my passion for wine. My dad got me a wine subscription when I turned 21, which helped develop my palate. My grandfather read about Burgundy and Bordeaux all the time. When he passed away, my grandmother sent me his books. I found a bottle of 1990 Château Haut Brion in his basement, perfectly stored at 52 degrees.  

When I moved to Reno I started working at a wine bar for fun. The owner, Rick Martinez, encouraged me to invest more into my passion and make it something more. I took the Certified Sommelier exam in 2010 here in Seattle.

I'm currently inspired by Ellen Degeneres, Gary Vaynerchuk, Jay-Z, and a designer named Martin Oberhäuser. Actually, I'm inspired by anyone who is killing it who I can learn from.