In September 1974 I married Lou, a microbiologist. She decided she wanted a PhD. from Cornell in Ithaca NY, and in January 1978 we moved there, with my printing press and home-made copy machines. I planned to print books of my photographs for a living.
But fate took me down another path. While I was a grad student , I paid the bills by working as the wine consultant with the Foremost Liquor Stores chain. I created a newsletter for them, and, in 1978, the Chicago Tribune invited me to write a weekly column for them. How could I turn down an opportunity to travel the world eating, drinking, and photographing? It was a dirty job, I thought, but somebody had to do it...
But the life of a free-lance writer and photographer didn't pay well. My father taught me that the best job was the one you invent, so I started a business. I thought I had a fairer way to review wines, so I created the Beverage Testing Institute (BTI) in 1981. I incorporated, raised capital, and launched a magazine. BTI occupied all my attention, and the only photography I did was in the vineyards. Like good wine, I tired to make my pictures elegant and well-composed, with a clear theme.
In 1983 an exhibit of my vineyard photos debuted at the Robert Mondavi Winery and travelled to several wineries over the following two years. The title photo, below, shows a fountain whose spout is a cherub in front of a sign that translates "Never Drink Water."
But I had followed the Peter Principle and promoted myself to my level of incompetence. I was a manager, not a writer and photographer. The best part of the job was my involvement with the internet. In 1989 I began publishing BTI reviews on LA Online, and moved them to AOL in 1990. For the next nine years I ran the Food & Drink Network on AOL. I built BTI's website (Tastings.com) in 1995, and had a ball doing it. Then, in 1998, I sold a majority of the company to two investors, and within a year I resigned as President and CEO to take over as Internet Director.