Phoenix Cartoonist Doug Pike Finds Wine World Funny and Profitable

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He's not a grape geek per se, but local cartoonist Doug Pike knows a hell of a lot more about wine than the average recreational drinker. You might say he makes wine his business, given that he earns a nice chunk of change creating wine-centric cartoons for the likes of The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, CNBC, McGraw-Hill, The French Wine Society, and Robert Parker's online version of The Wine Advocate.

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He even put together a book called Gone with the Wine (a collection of 100 cartoons previously featured on Parker's website), which earned him the U.S. Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Wine Illustration in 2009. And in 2011, he penned a cartoon eBook called The Grapes of Laugh. What does a guy who creates wine cartoons do all day? Well, he's not sitting around sipping Malbec, that's for sure.

Pike says he spends about three days a week at the library, keeping up on wine news and steeping himself in wine lore. He also makes a point to hit Barnes & Noble on a regular basis. But all of this reading and research is just the intellectual matter he chews on before creating wine-y cartoons that not only possess mass appeal but also earn a chuckle from wonkier readers.

Talk about finding a niche! Although he'd been a sketcher and doodler his entire life and a working cartoonist (as well as a member of the National Cartoonist's Society) for 19 years, he only picked up on the wine angle about seven years ago, proudly admitting he hit a Grand Slam his first at-bat. When he had compiled about 10 wine-centric cartoons, he sent them off to wine guru Robert Parker, who immediately expressed interest and asked if Pike could produce one wine cartoon a week. At first, Pike was daunted by the prospect, but now, 632 wine cartoons in, he's confident there's more where that came from. He says a word or phrase might trigger something, but he's never precisely sure what the inspiration is going to be.

He's quick to credit our most famous local cartoonist Bil Keane (who chronicled family life for 50 years via the comic strip Family Circus, passing away in 2011) for writing the recommendation that gave Pike his first big break. And of course, as a full-time cartoonist, he doesn't limit himself to wine cartoons but rather tackles business, finance, travel, gambling and sports -- collaborating with other cartoonists when the field really isn't his bailiwick.

Nevertheless, the wine shtick has been very, very good to him. These days, Cafe Press, an online gift shop at cafepress.com sells about 100 products (trivets, coasters and the like) with his cartoons on them. He also has a licensing agreement with Stoney Creek Wine Press, which specializes in custom wine labels for weddings, corporate events and special occasions.

In short, Pike is a man who has very little to wine about.

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