"Blogs often are throw-up writing," author Karen MacNeil declared, eliciting hoots and hollers from the audience at a recent Wine Writers' Symposium in Napa Valley. Among those chuckling was Alder Yarrow, who happened to be at the panelists' table with MacNeil and who happens to be perhaps the most respected wine blogger around.

Yarrow actually agreed, acknowledging that the now-tired cliché about bloggers being guys in their underwear tapping away in their parents' basement became a cliché for a reason: It's often true. But Yarrow also could afford to chuckle because he's secure in the knowledge that blogs have become an irresistible force, if not an immovable object, in the wine world. Yarrow's blog (www.vinography.com) just captured a pair of prizes, for best writing and best overall blog, at the American Wine Blog Awards.

Yarrow's Vinography is thoughtful and wide-ranging, with thorough coverage of California wines (Yarrow is based there). He's a serious sort, but with a wry sense of humor and an uncommon amount of common sense. He's also able to grade 200 or so wines at a single tasting, and I can't decide whether to be jealous or thankful that I lack that gift.

Also garnering a pair of American Wine Blog Awards (out of a total of eight) -- for best single-subject blog and best wine-review blog -- was the more populist Good Wine Under $20 (goodwineunder20.blogspot.com). The site fulfills its title, but is much broader than that, living up to its mission "to celebrate and foster an everyday wine culture."

But the site that's having the most profound effect on the wine world is Wine Library TV (tv.winelibrary.com), where merchant Gary Vaynerchuk posts smart, funny, thoroughly New Joy-sey videos almost daily. He's selling wine, of course, but he's hardly gushing about everything he's drinking.

More serious, but hardly self-important given his employer, is the Pour by the New York Times' Eric Asimov (http://thepour.blogs. nytimes.com/?th&emc=th), who had an especially insightful and provocative recent post on whether parents should serve wine to children.

I also regularly enjoy Alice Feiring (www.alicefeiring.com), Tyler Coleman (drvino.com), Tom Wark (www.fermentation.typepad.com), Jamie Goode (www.wineanorak.com/blog) and Lyle Fass (http://rockssand fruit.blogspot.com).

There are a gazillion more out there, and some of them are "throw-up." But a lot of them are thought-provoking and/or fun.

And you know that an entity has reached critical mass when it gets spoofed, a la the hilarious Wine-ing 2.0 (http:// wine-ing20.blogspot.com). Like all good satire, it targets anything and everyone, with both gentle and sharp barbs. Recent headlines include "Vinography's Alder Yarrow sprains tongue at Rhone Rangers tasting" and "Dr. Vino is NOT a doctor, and he doesn't like wine." The site's subtitle: "Wine blogging is for losers."

Easy for them to say.

Bill Ward • bill.ward@startribune.com