A Conversation with Jancis Robinson and Alder Yarrow

A Conversation with Jancis Robinson and Alder Yarrow

Last night UC Davis hosted a conversation between Jancis Robinson and Alder Yarrow in celebration of her donating her papers, tasting notes, notebooks, photographs, etc from across her wine writing career back to 1976 to their wine library. Warren Winiarski helped fund work with the acquisition. Alder was invited to interview Jancis about her work, her various preferences (she likes skim milk while her husband Nick prefers whole, for example), and how the wine industry has changed.

The hour long conversation was followed by Q&A from the audience, which included one of my favorite moments from the evening as it showed Jancis’s brilliant, quick, dry wit.

An audience member asked her jokingly what wine would best pair with meatloaf, and she quickly responded, “Do you mean audible or edible?” Once he figured out her joke and confirmed he meant edible meatloaf rather than that he was having the (overly dramatic) rockstar to dinner, she suggested that a good California Zinfandel (and then again confirmed a good one) would do the job nicely.

The entire conversation was more than engaging as she is a natural on stage with a talent for making the whole room feel as if they are hanging out with her, and Alder did an excellent job at using their easy rapport to guide the conversation, though in truth Jancis needs little guiding. She readily answered questions with complexity and depth. Alder would then bring her to a new level of inquiry while also helping us to see her more personal side along the way.

Esther Mobley wrote up the celebration in today’s SF Chronicle so I don’t want to give away too much more detail about the conversation itself. Esther did an excellent job sharing many of those insights. I’ll include the link below. What I do want to say though is how much I appreciated the ways the conversation showed Jancis’s thoughtfulness. She’s a reflective and curious thinker and the audience was given glimpse of that through Alder’s interview.

During the Q&A, she answered a question from the audience asking what she looks for in selecting the writers on her website. He wanted to know what she believes they all have in common as, the audience member pointed out, her columnists have quite distinct voices from each other yet all work together in contribution to her site. She thought for a moment. Then said she believed everyone that works for JancisRobinson.com are rather independent thinkers, not easily swayed by trends, and also a bit inclined to bend over backwards for the undiscovered. Traits I admire in anyone. It also highlights how much her work is about supporting that sort of genuine curiosity.

Her support for it goes beyond her own website. I have seen Jancis go out of her way to encourage other writers as well. When Esther Mobley first debuted at the SF Chronicle, for example, Jancis made sure to reshare Esther’s first article online and welcome her to her new position. It appears perhaps a small boost but one that at the same time has important significance. She’s a supporter of hard workers comparatively earlier in their careers.

Esther’s article on Jancis’s contribution to the UC Davis Wine Library is well worth reading and hits on many of the interesting points from yesterday’s conversation I have not mentioned here. Here’s the link.

http://www.sfchronicle.com/wine/article/British-wine-critic-Jancis-Robinson-donates-her-10938893.php?t=ce7dae6304&cmpid=twitter-premium

[Incidentally, that is likely behind paywall.]

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