Gourmet Traveller Wine: Interview

Gourmet Traveller Wine, February/March Edition

Australia’s Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine interviewed me for their just-released current edition. It’s the February/March 2018 issue. The appears in both their print and digital editions. I have to admit seeing myself in a wine app – the magazine’s digital edition – on my own phone is a little bit of a trip. It’s a total honor and life is also just full of surprises.

If you download their digital edition, you can read the interview there for free. You can find the link to their app here.

Here’s the interview in full. Thank you to Kylie Imeson for taking the time to include me.

Have you been to Australia and which wines do you like? 

In 2013, I was able to attend the first Rootstock Festival in Sydney, visit a number of wine bars there, and then tour Victoria. The wines there, especially the Syrah, are among my favorourite. I am also a long-time lover of Pinot Meunier so to be able to spend a day at Best’s Great Western and drink older vintages of their Old Vine Meunier was a treat.

What interests you about the Australian wine scene? 

Australia has such a great combination of iconic world wines, such as Hunter Valley Semillon, long-standing premium classic, such as Penfolds Grange, and then this incredible energy from newer producers. There is a camaraderie that can be seen in the Australian wine community that is inspiring – it seems to give a lot of room for experimenting, supporting each other, and sharing insight and information on grape growing and winemaking. That isn’t true everywhere. It’s refreshing.

What is your most memorable wine moment? 

Before I had ever started working in wine my dream had been to someday enjoy one bottle of Salon Champagne. It seemed an unlikely goal as I was living on a graduate student stipend while raising a child on my own at the time. Years later I took a huge risk and left my academic career, even though I’d put so much work into it, and ended up working in wine. A couple years in I was invited to take part in a Salon Champagne vertical across four decades. I’d tasted Salon in passing a few times by then, but the transition from academia into wine wasn’t easy. I worked pretty hard to make it happen and the change in career meant my daughter and I had no spending money for a long time. Then, there I was, not only drinking Salon, but tasting every vintage back to the 1960s. It was overwhelming. What a total surprise it was to change my life completely and inadvertently fulfil a dream I’d had in my previous life.

Can you explain the part your drawings play in your writing and tasting notes? 

My entree into wine was actually via the illustrations I do of wine. When I was leaving philosophy I needed something utterly different to focus on. My life had been entirely verbal and intellectual for a long time and I wanted to reactivate other aspects of my thinking so I started drawing. Drawing turned out to be far better for me than I ever expected. It made my entire brain go quiet, which was incredibly relaxing. When I realised how much I liked it I came up with the idea of drawing my tasting notes instead of writing them. When I published my first illustrated tasting notes it was something that had never been done before. That was what originally brought attention to my work and started my career in wine, but writing and speaking is what gave my career legs. I still do illustration work, but treat it more as genuine art compared to the more casual line drawings I originally did. Today I mostly draw wall-size art pieces that are interpretations of wine I love. At the same time, some wines are so moving or overwhelming for me when I taste them that words fail me so when I’m trying to record a description of them I’ll draw them in my note-book to bring words to later.

What does it mean to you to be writing for Jancis Robinson MW? 

Jancis has served as a mentor for me. I have a lot of respect for the career she has built and the work she does. Now having access to her global network of wine experts is really incredible. On a wine trip when I first started working with her, I ended up stopping in at a vineyard on a mountain top in the Central Coast of California and emailing Jancis, Julia Harding, and a couple other MWs in Europe in order to problem solve a question I had about how vineyard treatments can impact flavour in wine in a particular way. No one of us had the answer on our own but together we were able to sort out what it was I was seeing within a matter of minutes. Being part of a global network of wine experts all helping each other to build greater understanding and insight in that kind of way is incredible.

You can find out more about Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine here:  http://gourmettravellerwine.com/homepage/

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