Take us back to your earliest experience with wine - where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on?
Didn’t even have a drink. It was the introductory lecture given in my first wine course. Our sommelier said, “you either get bitten by the wine bug or you don’t”. I really think I caught it when he went on to describe the various countries, techniques, and applications for wine.
Considering all the places & cultures wine is found in, I honestly found the subject to have a powerful gravity about it – one that pulls in the soul (or the amygdala, to be less mystical). I still firmly love the subject of course but, looking back on it, I think you know you’re bitten when you continue to study it, being fully aware of how much information you actually have to learn.
What drew you to working in the wine industry?
After pursuing the field in subsequent classes & books, I came to see it (and alcohol in a broader sense) as a necessary lubricant to society. Wine lightens the mind and warms the soul. It elevates jokes, conversations, and intimacy.
Since we escape the stresses of work at the dinner table, it only makes sense to have a potion that brightens the mood and makes your food taste better on hand. If we didn’t have pleasures like that to look forward to, freeway traffic (no matter how many podcasts & audiobooks you have) would be a lot more miserable.
What do you see as the next trend in wine? Will it be overrated or underrated?
A trend I think I see coming up is a rise in popularity for more obscure countries like Portugal, Austria, and South Africa. The current heavy hitters like major French, Spanish, and Italian regions will only continue to rise in price & popularity. I predict audiences will, over time, fatigue from the current choices that saturate the market, and diffuse into countries/regions that offer better value.
However, the most immediate countries that I think will receive this effect are Argentina & Chile, as they are seeing plenty of foreign investment. Ratings from reviewers will be somewhat accurate, but how proportionate the market will react, I can’t say. All it takes is one overly exaggerated endorsement to set a craze in either direction.
Favorite varietal that is uncommon to find?
Although it's no secret to Somms, Austrian Gruner Veltliner is a fantastic find. I like to think of it like Sauvignon Blanc, but w/ a dash of spice and a fruit profile that isn’t as eccentric. Its mostly super easy to drink, and pairs w/ a broad range of seafoods, salads, and white meats. The serious examples deliver an amazing level of complexity and weight, and feature esoteric aromas/flavors of legume, watercress and white pepper.
What's your favorite type of wine experience? A certain kind of meal, visiting a winery, etc.?
When I had leftover orange chicken from Panda Express and Rias Baixas Albarino. Before then I’ve almost never experienced such a stark contrast from “ehh just ok” to amazing. For me it was the bit of tangible proof of how a much better drink & food can improve each other when they match just right.
What are your top 3 wine related books and/or blogs?
- Windows on the World by Kevin Zraly. The book introduced me to the wine world and not only gave me enough worldly depth, without becoming too dense, but also perfectly highlighted the aesthetic romance of wine that captured my imagination when I was just beginning. I consider it the perfect intro to wine book and its my first recommendation to newcomers.
- Perfect Pairings by Evan Goldstein. Wine is great. Food is great. Wine + food can be fantastic (or terrible) given the pairing. The foundational knowledge from this book has never left the corners of my mind, and I consider it a must, as the art & science of pairing yields the true potential of wine and food.
- The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson. My absolute go to for any wine question, no matter how obscure. The amount of information in it is dizzying and all-encompassing. Whenever I’ve needed to buckle down and study, this encyclopedia has never let me down.
Pick a favorite bottle of Burgundian Pinot. What band or musician do you pair it with?
Hmmm. Well, there’s a lot of choices when it comes down to Burgundian Pinots, but my top choice would have to be a bottle from the village of Gevrey-Chambertin (of course Premier or Grand Cru if given the opportunity, but can’t be too picky in this economy!). The Pinots there tend to be firmer, deeper in color, and age longer.
Music pairing for sensuality & elegance contrasted w/ power & depth? Definitely A Tribe Called Quest. Their samples are always jazzy and silky smooth, while their lyricism is the right mix of romance and vivacity - classy and full if soul, w/ a balanced hand of playful aggression (just like how I imagine good Pinot). And speaking on long aging regimens, Tribe’s music has definitely stood the test of time as well.