Posts Filed Under interviews
Many, many wine personalities talk about wanting to make wine more accessible and simple for consumers; few deliver in the manner that today’s interview guest, Andrea Robinson, has. She’s practically raised the task of simplifying wine to an art form.
After ditching a 9-to-5 day job (“surely there is a special place in Heaven for the person who lured me off Wall Street (Remi Krug, in fact)” she noted), Andrea became a Master Sommelier and (to put it mildly), never looked back.
Andrea’s list of accomplishments since her days on Wall Street is long and storied enough to turn the most stalwart over-achiever greener than a bottle of Vinho Verde:
She was the first woman ever chosen Best Sommelier in the U.S. by the Sommelier Society of America; she was the first appointed Dean of Wine Studies for COPIA; she was appointed Master Sommelier for Delta Air Lines (overseeing all of the in-flight wine choices for its Business Elite cabin); she received the Wine Literary Award for ‘Exceptional Contribution to the Literature of Wine’ and in one year (2004) was inducted into the James Beard Foundation‘s “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America,” selected as ‘Wine & Spirits Professional of The Year’ by Bon Appetit Magazine, and received the ‘M.F.K. Fisher Award’ by Les Dames d’Escoffier International; No, we’re not done yet – in 2002, the James Beard Foundation named Andrea ‘Outstanding Wine & Spirits Professional’.
We’re still not done: I didn’t mention the two TV shows she has hosted, or the fact that she’s written eight books (with her first, Great Wine Made Simple, garnering a James Beard Award nomination). Normally, you’d be justified in already being sick of her, but in Andrea’s case her engaging personality can soften even the most jaded temperament – an aspect of her successful approach that comes shining through in the interview that follows.
Presumably, Andrea isn’t busy enough, and so has decided to launch a new website, a new line of stemware, a wine DVD / video series, and is making a push behind her on-line brand by running a contest to incent wine lovers to connect with her on twitter and Facebook. She (somehow) found time to answer my questions, in which she provides her thoughts on wine education, Sesame Street sing-alongs, and reveals some of her favorite wines.
Andrea told me “I like dry wine (and sweet, and everything in between), but not dry interviews!” – but as you’ll see below, suffering a dry interview isn’t a likely possibility when she’s involved. In fact, Andrea is not shy in voicing her views on wine education, winemaking styles, and wine critics – all of which you’ll get a glimpse of in our interview.
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For our latest 1WineDude.com interview, I’m tasked with the difficult job of introducing someone who requires no introduction (at least, not when it comes to the world of fine wine).
Today’s interview guest, Robert Parker, is arguably the most famous wine critic on the planet; what is beyond argument is that he is the most influential wine critic on the planet – his scores are capable of sending a wine’s market value into the stratosphere. He is the founder of the consumer wine review publication The Wine Advocate, which, not unlike a blog, began as a self-published journal – it now has tens of thousands of subscribers in dozens of countries. Parker is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on the wines of Bordeaux, and his ability to taste (and recall past tastings of) wines is the stuff of legend.
Parker’s influence and fame at times makes him a polarizing figure (you knew this part was coming, right?). He established the “love-it-or-loathe-it” 100-point wine scoring review scale. His preference for wines with bold, fruit-forward profiles has, some have argued, divided the wine world into fractions of those who religiously follow Parker’s palate, and those who religiously avoid it. The divisive effects of his influence have been chronicled in both books and in film.
He has been described as a great equalizer of wine, liberating it from an era of poor quality offerings pushed onto the market at unfairly high prices; he has also been vilified as creating a market of “international style” wines crafted by winemakers attempting to solicit high scores from his reviews, at the expense of regional uniqueness and a sense of place in their wines.
Mr. Parker was a gracious interviewee, so much so that he has tied author Kathryn Borel for the quickest response to interview questions that I’ve ever received. He even expressed concern that his responses might be a bit dull for the 1WD readers – “thanks for giving me an opportunity to respond to your questions. I’ll try and keep my answers as succinct as possible so your readers don’t nod off while reading them.”
As the Wayne’s World guys might put it – As if!
Below, you will find a fairly intimate glimpse into Mr. Parker’s views on wine blogging, Bordeaux en primeur prices, my friends Gary Vaynerchuk and Tyler Colman, the booming Asian wine consumer market, the Big Lebowski (yes, seriously), and his own influence and professional legacy. It is very likely a side of Robert Parker that few in the on-line wine world have yet seen.
I’m grateful to Mr. Parker for taking the time and opportunity for what might be his first-ever wine blog interview. I’m equally grateful to Jeff Lefevere of GoodGrape.com, who acted as contributing editor on the interview questions.
Ok – appetizers are over; let’s get to the meat-and-potatoes!…
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I first met Master Sommelier George Miliotes during a press dinner at the Cherry Hill, NJ location for Seasons 52 (for whom George holds the beverage director chair).
George is a down-to-earth, affable guy with a clear passion for sharing the joys of our favorite beverage, and he has a wry smile that came out whenever I talked with him about wine; it’s the kind of smile that suggests that he knows some great insider information, the kind of smile that says “yeah, well, just wait until you hear about this…”
During the press dinner, I sat at the far right-hand corner of a table filled with a handful of journalists and “seasoned” Seasons 52 frequent customers. George, directly on my right at the head of the table, picked up on my intense wine geekiness during the dinner and for a while I more or less monopolized his attention as our serious wine geek antennae came out and we spoke the enthusiastic but often obfuscated language of those for whom wine knowledge has become a borderline obsession.
In other words, it was great, and I instantly liked George.
I thought it would be fun to pick George’s brain about the life of an M.S., what it’s like to put together a wine list that has to pair successfully with a menu that changes frequently and incorporates different local ingredients by location, get his insights on blending wines for Seasons 52 and see what he thinks of important trends in the industry.
Hope you all agree about the fun part – and enjoy!…
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Here’s something that you probably didn’t know:
Asia is now such a powerfully driving force in the marketplace for fine wine, that American collectors have lately been forced to bid bid in Hong Kong for the wines they they really want. Which means that more and more rare fine wine is on the move (and therefore vulnerable), both from Europe and California to Hong Kong, then back to the U.S. when (or if) those American collectors score the winning bid.
That’s just one of the insights that you might glean from our latest interview, which comes to us from an area of the wine world that, like some kind of mysterious dark matter, is seldom-if-ever-seen but exerts a potentially huge influence on the universe of wine wine world. This strange influencer? The world of fine wine collection and investment.
Few people know how to navigate this mysterious world as well as today’s interview guest: Katja Zigerlig, who is AVP of Fine Arts, Wine and Jewelry Insurance for the Private Client Group division of Chartis. In her role, she oversees the strategic growth of the “private collections” insurance portfolio for Private Client Group. Much of her time is spent advising those clients on shipping wine around the world, inventory management and proper cellar management – exposing her to what are likely some of the largest and most expensive private wine collections on Earth.
Ms. Zigerlig has almost two decades of professional experience in the world of collectible art and wine. Prior to joining Private Client Group in 2004, she insured private art and wine collections, museums, galleries and exhibitions for AXA Art Insurance Company. She has a B.A. and M.A. in art history, specializing in twentieth century art (Dude’s personal favorite period), but her experience with fine wine comes via viticulture study at UCLA, and extensively touring Napa and Sonoma wineries. Ms. Zigerlig has gone on to teach courses on wine collecting, and you can find her quoted in recent CNBC and New York Times articles on art and wine collecting.
Ms. Zigerlig is also a good sport, as you’ll soon see in her answers to some of the more colorful questions that I posed to her (you know me… can’t take me anywhere, really…), and she has a thing or two to tell you about protecting your own budding collections.
Anyway, enjoy this rare glimpse into the world of rare wines!…
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