OK, I'm convinced. Jay Miller quit on his own, months before the scandal broke. Stipulated.
But ... why is the Wine Advocate working so hard to establish that? Because what it means is that the questions raised from the scandal about the Wine Advocate's involvement are still unanswered.
I understand why Miller wants to tell us he leaped without being pushed. I've been there. It's important.
But for the Wine Advocate, it's different. When Jim Budd broke the scandal, publisher Robert Parker's immediate response was nothing. No comment. No action. I called for him to respond, and a couple days later he did, on his bulletin board, by threatening to sue "these bloggers." Still, no public response.
The very next day, Miller's departure is announced, again on Parker's bulletin board. Both Parker and Miller say it was long-planned. Miller writes,
"Some may believe my stepping down is in response to my critics. Nothing could be further from the truth."David Schildknecht, who will be replacing Miller on most of his ex-turf, took pains to send an email string to Mike Steinberger proving that Miller's departure was long-planned. I believe Schildknecht.
Here's the problem:
Now the scandal doesn't go away.
Miller's leaving is not a response to the email string on Jim Budd's blog, which seems to show that an official representative of Miller and/or the Wine Advocate was charging for critics to visit a region, and even collecting VAT for such visits. How official is that?
The non-wine media is starting to pick up on it. The Wine Advocate runs a big risk of forever being associated with corruption in the public mind.
So Mr. Parker, now we still need answers to the following basic questions, and we need them publicly.
Was Jay Miller, as a representative of the Wine Advocate, charging for visits? Was a fee being asked for without his knowledge? Or did this not happen at all, despite the emails we've seen?
If there were payments, where did this money go? Did the Wine Advocate receive any of it?
How about Miller? Since the Wine Advocate was aware Miller was leaving, was it paying attention to additional money he may or may not have been collecting in his official capacity on his way out the door? Will the Wine Advocate investigate it now?
If the Wine Advocate was not aware of payments made to secure Miller's attendance -- and if it does not condone such practices -- will the Wine Advocate refund this money to regions or wineries that may have paid it?
Mr. Parker does not have a good history of responding to press queries. I'm just, as he puts it, a "middling blogger," or even a "blobber." He doesn't have to answer me. I'm beneath him. But is the public?
If he doesn't answer you -- the wine trade, wine consumers, the public who care about wine -- you've got to wonder what the truth is. I know I do.