2022 August Featured Journalist of the Month: Ronald Kapon

Ron Kapon has over 55 years experience in the wine & spirit field, starting with his first drink (mixed with water) at age 3 having written (with help from his father) his first wine list at 12. His family’s business Acker, Merrall & Condit was established in 1820 and is the oldest wine merchant in the United States. He graduated from Columbia College & the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University and moved to Europe where he developed his love for wine. Returning to operate his family’s business he immediately knew his passion was teaching, writing & lecturing and so moved in that direction.

Ron began the wine programs at Queens College, New York Institute of Technology as well as C.W.Post. Traveling to the wine regions of the world and writing about them led him to his goal of visiting 150 countries ( he is at 147) by 2016. In 1995 he organized the new wine program at the International School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Fairleigh Dickinson University and has taught both wine & spirits since then at their Hackensack campus. In addition, he teaches the wine program at Hudson County Community College Culinary Arts in downtown Jersey City. He was recently honored by the James Beard Foundation for his educational efforts. He has established the Ron Kapon Wine Library at FDU with a donation of over 5,000 books, magazines, and articles.

Lecturing about wine & spirits came easy and Professor Kapon has conducted over 60 events both in the US and abroad for private and corporate clients. The Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Cyprus, and German governments have invited him to serve on panel discussions. Within the United States, he co-founded Les Amis du Vin & Tasters Guild NY and ran both organizations for 30 years. His family’s Acker Auctions is the largest wine auction company in the world.

You can read Ron’s articles in The Fifty Best, Cheese Connoisseur Magazine, Wine Country International, Real Travel Adventures, Everywhere Magazine, North American Travel Journalist Association, Travel World Magazine, AllWays Traveller, Local Wine Events, Tasters Guild Journal, Leisure Travel Report and Fabseniortravel.

He is the co-author and co-producer of the FDU On-Line Wine Course which was developed for the NY Times Knowledge Network.

“You will learn & have fun and have fun as you learn.”

1. What got you into travel writing?
I traveled a lot when I worked for The Sally Jessy Raphael Show as their travel correspondent. I was also a consultant for Pan American Airlines. I did wine tastings for their 1st class passengers. The airline provided me with a 1st class ticket roundtrip as well as 2 nights’ free stay in the hotels that Pan Am used for their employees. I chose flights to Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, etc. I then traveled on my own to the surrounding countries.

2. What’s the most challenging part of being a travel journalist for you?
Saying no to people who invite me to visit their destination or business when I don’t want to. If I have nothing to write about, why waste our time?

3. What is one thing [equipment or personal item] you can’t go without on the road?
No matter where I go, I need my sleep mask, or else I’ll wake up before 7 am. Many hotels don’t have blinds that completely close which bothers me in the early morning. Ear plugs are also nice to have.

4. What’s your most unusual and/or memorable travel experience?
Through sports, I was able to reach some inaccessible locations to the public like North Korea and East Germany before the fall. I wanted to see the people in East Germany and talk to them, so I went with an American basketball team and crossed over. While there, I realized that we had to be cautious not to attract too much attention. When I was pulled over, I knew that if I said the wrong thing, no one would have ever heard from me again.

5. How did you learn about NATJA and why did you join?
Before NATJA, I was part of another organization that ultimately fell apart. When the founding members reached out and told me about their vision, I was thrilled to be a part of it.

6. What is the best piece of advice you could give to a rookie travel journalist?
There are many people who want to become travel journalists that do not take the profession seriously and simply want a free trip. Don’t think that if you want to go somewhere, it needs to be free. If there is somewhere you want to go, then go, don’t wait. Write about it and improve your craft. If I get an invitation to somewhere I know I can’t write about, then I won’t go. I’d hardly improve my skill and it’d be a wasted opportunity when there is someone better suited for that trip.

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