Uncorking the Story to the True Crime/Comedy Podcast Wine & Crime
Amanda Jacobson pairs vino reviews with different varietals of lawbreaking
Time was, you didn't want to make a big show about having read The Stranger Beside Me or binge-watched Forensic Files several glasses of Franzia in. You didn't want to look morbid or like you were trying to learn all the what-not-to-dos of murder. That's a ship that's largely turned around, thanks to an influx of women covering true crime, often via podcast and often with a wicked sense of humor.
Standouts in that arena are the hosts of Wine & Crime, a weekly podcast that cleverly pairs vino reviews with different varietals of lawbreaking. The riff-filled aforementioned Forensic Files marathon inspired childhood friends Lucy Fitzgerald, Kenyon Laing, and Amanda Jacobson to bring their irreverent love for true crime to the airwaves, and more than two years later, they continue to climb the podcast charts. Yet despite an expansive audience (each episode gets about 70,000 downloads, they say) and a polished sound (their set format from day one: Amanda talks wine, Lucy covers the background and psychology behind the episode theme – say, amusement park crimes – and then Kenyon and Amanda tell relevant case stories), there's still something down-home about Wine & Crime. Devoted podcast listeners themselves (especially Kenyon), the group seems interested in cultivating a warmth and proximity to their audience that goes beyond the inherent intimacy of the medium. Donate to their Patreon? You'll get a personal thank-you at the end of an episode. Want to make the experience interactive? You can look at the slideshows they upload to their website blog for every episode, drink the same wine they're drinking, and now, you can see them in person.
In advance of Wine & Crime's first live show in Austin, co-host Amanda Jacobson talked to the Chronicle about working with her friends, tackling the heavy stuff, and her vinous philosophy.
Austin Chronicle: I think one of the things that sets Wine & Crime apart from so many other true crime podcasts is just how long you, Kenyon, and Lucy have known each other. There's no element of y'all warming up to each other.
Amanda Jacobson: [Laughs] No. We're too warm.
AC: So I'm curious: What does it feel like to collaborate with your childhood friends?
AJ: Honestly, it's one of the most amazing experiences. We've known each other for so long – Kenyon and Lucy going on 25-plus years, and for me it's over 15 – and had such a solid dynamic before we were business partners. It's been really exciting, fascinating, challenging – but in such a positive way – to see how that dynamic changes in some ways but also becomes stronger as we lean into the things that we, as individuals, are so good at, and support each other in those roles. And then it's funny, because it is inevitable that you're at times at odds with each other. Sometimes we snap [at one another], and then we apologize, and then it's on to the next thing. It's like being sisters, you know? It's familial. We can be in the trenches with each other, and even when things get stressful and challenging, we always come out on the other end of it still loving what we're doing and loving this friendship. [Laughs] God willing, that continues.
AC: One thing I really appreciate about the show is how frankly y'all wrestle with topics like institutional racism and failures of the criminal justice system. Deciding to cover Philando Castile's murder and the episode on white male terrorists – were those moments where you felt like, "Oh, we want to do this because the moment suddenly calls for it," or was the possibility of doing that baked into the show from day one?
AJ: I think it's a little bit of both? The three of us in our individual ways are stubborn and pretty fearless, so we're willing to go anywhere. The white male terrorist episode, that was directly in response to a man by the name of Alan, who took it upon himself to continuously email us with his xenophobic, anti-Muslim, anti-immigration rhetoric, and we seized an opportunity to address him and many people who share a similar viewpoint, [and say that] it's not really immigrants who are causing trouble, especially with firearms, in this country; it's statistically mostly white men. So we were like, "You know what? Let's talk about that. Because we, as three white women, have had plenty of issues with white men, so we know exactly what we're talking about." [Laughs] And you know, we had fun with it, but it is important that we take a very hard look at our culture as white people and take some ownership of the abuse and the fearmongering and the anti-everything that lives within that culture and call it out.
AC: I know sometimes you have listeners suggest wines, but when you're in charge of a wine/episode pairing, what's that process? Can you give advice to listeners who might want to pair wines with podcast-listening?
AJ: [Laughs] Well, I gotta be fully honest in that I love to look at the name and label first. One of the things I will do if we have an episode coming up that isn't paired yet – you know, if a fan hasn't already chosen something – I will Google the topic of the episode with just the word "wine" and see what comes up. And [sometimes] I will have a list of upcoming episodes and go to the liquor store, and honestly, it's like a kid in a candy shop – I just wander up and down the halls of Total Wine [& More in] Bloomington while people are looking at me like I'm crazy, and just fill the cart and kind of make things match.
But something that I always tell everybody: Wine is moving from a snooty, upper-crust thing to [something] much more accessible. There's so much great wine out there that's not expensive, that's easy to find at your local store or order online – don't have any shame in what you like! If you like a juicy, sweet Moscato, go for it! Drink it! I always say, "What does wine pair best with? It pairs best with your taste buds." How do you know that the wine is good? If you like it.
But you know my standby – I'm always going to go for a Grenache rosé. Like, that's going to be my go-to for the rest of my life, and there's no shame in that whatsoever [laughs].
AC: The Texas Hill Country that surrounds Austin is having a winery boom right now. Is there anything you're specifically looking forward to trying while you're here?
AJ: I have not opened my Texas must-haves guide yet, but if anyone has recommendations, please send them our way because we're going to be in Austin, we're going to be in Dallas, and we're going to be in Houston, and we're very excited to be in your state! If there's anything you know we've gotta see, like bucket-list items, we wanna know about [them].
Amanda Jacobson will be co-hosting a live episode of Wine & Crime on Fri., July 12, 7pm @Stateside at the Paramount, 719 Congress. Send recommendations for local wines and sightseeing to @WineandCrimePod on Twitter.