Last week, I had the pleasure of taking part in a Google+ video hangout chat hosted by Master Sommelier (and general dynamo/spitfire) Andrea Immer Robinson. Andrea asked me to participate in the hangout as part of select group to taste through wines that she had picked for the in-flight business class selection one of Delta Airlines’ cross-country routes (apparently I’m to get a free trip on that route as part of the deal to test the wines in flight myself, so this was a promotional chat sponsored by Delta).
More on Andrea’s picks in a minute; first, I want to talk about something that Andrea brought up in the context of the hangout discussion (a video recap of which you can watch below after the jump). That event got my wine brain juices flowing, and not only because I was treading water, trying not to look like a complete hack in front of a group of mostly Master Somms, many of whom have individual taste buds on their tongues with more collective wine tasting experience than I possess.
What intrigued me was something that Andrea mentioned about plane travel that impacted her choices of wines to include for the biz class long-haul journey: we (as in all of us, not just those banished to coach class) taste food differently in-flight versus when we’re on terra firma.
Specifically, she wanted to pick wines that had big aromatic, textural, and flavor profiles because wines and food taste duller in the air. At first I thought that Andrea was just going on common sense borne from personal experience (she flies the routes to taste how the potential wine picks fare in-flight), but it turns out there’s some potentially solid science behind that approach. And I care because, like probably many of you reading this, I’m a wine lover who’s also put in a butt-numbing amount of miles and hours sitting in an airplane seat this year…
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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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