Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Four Wine Questions For: Gary Vaynerchuk

When I started this new blog feature “4WQ4", an article where I would feature four Q&A with a “celebrity” in the wine industry, of course Gary Vaynerchuk was one of the first I contacted. I was delighted when he responded with a "yes!" The following month I met Gary at Taste Washington in Seattle. I was pleasantly surprised to meet a very soft spoken, sweet natured man who greeted me with a warm hug and a kiss on the hand. Of course, I was expecting his webcast persona - - a persona that has developed into a following of countless fans and who indeed is changing how we look at wine.

Known as GaryVee, Vaynerchuk is the co-owner and host of Wine Library TV located in New Jersey. We are captivated by him as he "sniffy-sniffs," spills wine as he shoves the wine glass at the camera to show the color, spits in the dump bucket, plays with his action figures, shrieks with an unpretentious approach about wine and rants about his favorite team, the New York Jets. He's also developed a new, but very untraditional wine vocabulary when it comes to describing wines (Thomas Jefferson is rolling in his grave): "bringing the thunder," "oak monster," "blueberry scratch 'n sniff," and "poo." He'll even eat dirt and chew on grass to get the point across on how a particular wine tastes. GaryVee is encouraging and educating new generations (known as "Vayniacs") from educating the palate to understanding the technical side of wine. And his webcast isn't the only place he's been seen or heard: Wall Street Journal, New York Times, NPR, ABC Nightline, Ellen DeGeneres Show, and even Late Night with Conan O'Brien - - to name a few.

In May 2008, he released his first book, Gary Vaynerchuk’s 101 Wines Guaranteed to Inspire, Delight, and Bring Thunder to Your World. He reveals his favorite 101 wines that he has tasted around the world as well as bringing to the pages his unique voice about the subject - wine.

Shortly after we met, I discovered yet another side to GaryVee: his fans are very important to him, no matter where he is in the world and no matter how busy he gets. GaryVee goes out of his way to keep in touch (but really Gary, it was 4:00 am in India and you should have been resting to recover from jet lag...) and since we first met, we've been keeping in touch ever since. There is no doubt that other "Vayniacs" will share with you the same as I have - - Gary is loyal to his fans. And now on to "4WQ4:"

W5: Quite often on "The Thunder Show, AKA Wine Library TV, the Internet's most PASSIONATE wine show," you promote Washington wines over those of California, especially. Why are you so excited about Washington's wines and what do they have that California wines don't?

GV: When I was the primary wine buyer for Wine Library my career was often focused on searching for the next big thing and staying ahead of the curve, anticipating the next trend. So part of me is always going to be excited about a "changing of the guard" type of scenario. That being said, I've had a lot of great Washington wines that brought some serious thunder, both on and off camera, and I do feel like Washington has a more than a dark horse chance to become the premier wine growing region in the US.

W5: Washington State is famous as the home of Microsoft and grunge rock, of the Seahawks and the Space Needle. What's your favorite nerdy-but-rocking, losing-but-monumental "ridonculous" Washington wine and why?

GV: Well I've made no secret of the fact that I'm extremely fond of Rob Newsom's Boudreax Cellars Cabs. I had the great fortune to taste Rob's wine on Wine Library TV without knowing anything about him or the wine going in. I love to taste wines in that kind of a situation. The wine absolutely floored me... I called it a "transition wine", the kind of wine that changes the way you think about a region. He sent me the next vintage to try, and I made it the #10 wine in my book. So he's doing something awfully right, at least for my palate. And I wouldn't go so far as to call Rob nerdy, but he does blend wine from grapes sourced from about 14 different vineyards! We met last April at Taste Washington, and he's a piece of work. A displaced Southerner who quit everything to make world class wine in the middle of nowhere in Washington state? I'd say he and his wines fit the bill for your question.

W5: Do you see the Washington State wine industry developing a reputation for specific varietals like syrah or riesling in the same way "Ore-GON" is especially known for their pinot noir, or will Washington's reputation grow across the wine board?

GV: An interesting question. My hope is that growers in all different regions will experiment with different varietals to uncover what thrives in their unique terroir. It's certainly not written anywhere that one and only one grape must be the hallmark of a particular region, but it seems to speed up the recognition process when specific varietals take the lead. I'm honestly not sure how that will play for WA.

W5: Points, points, points. It's all about points, but more and more informed wine peeps say they hate them. Why can't we just get rid of wine scores and let people trust their own palates?

GV: Well you know how I feel about this, I am a total hypocrite. On the one hand I hate the way ratings impact people's thought process about wine. On the other hand I am a sports guy and competitive and I like to assign a number, and there is a demand out there for scores, whether we like it or not. The most important thing will always be tasting notes... if you read a description that talks about prominent mango flavors and you know you love mangoes, what difference does it make if the wine got 85 points or 91? It's possibly a wine you'd enjoy. Of course, you might try it and not taste Mangoes at all. It's so personal and subjective. If I have one mission with Wine Library TV it's to have people try different things and develop the ability to trust their own palate as you suggest. It takes time to learn about your own palate and trust it though, it really does.

(For a sample of GaryVee and Wine Library TV, check out Vay-ner-chuk on Washington State turf: WLTV Show #440 )

1 comment:

Joe Roberts, CSW said...

Cool - a voice of reason about wine scores.

Finally... :-P