Mar 272012
 

Spanish wineJose asked me to be the translator for his seminar in San Francisco, and I was honored and delighted—the wines were all  “cepas raras:” rare vines from varietals that are only now getting discovered.  It was a real adventure tour through some of the lesser known regions of Spain, with vines that simply expanded our perceptions of what wine can be.

And we laughed. Jose is someone who loves a good story, and he knows how to tell one.  The trick was to try and capture his humor, while still staying true to the translation.  I am not sure I succeeded, but I sure had fun.

And in the end, Jose made a point of talking about wine in general.  He noted that there are lots of wines that are great for “tasting,” but those don’t always turn out to be wines that are great to drink.  So he has two classes of wines in his mind.  “Tasting” wines that show beautifully on their own, and impress everyone.   And wines for drinking, that he likes to drink with dinner.  While many of the wines in this tasting were not particularly perfect for the “tasting” category, they all offered some wonderful combinations with food.

After the tasting, we walked out to join the walk-around tasting, featuring more than seventy top Spanish wine producers all pouring their best wines. And I was able to talk a few of them into letting me take a bottle with me, so that I could teach about it the next day at the Culinary Institute of America.

The class?  The wines of Spain.  I figured that I’d done my homework on this one

Mar 122012
 
Joe Pollack

Photo Credit: Kevin A. Roberts

The wine business is all about relationships. For that matter, wine is about relationships. Nothing brings people together better than sitting down with them for a great meal and nice bottle. Over the years, I’ve met many people over a bottle or two. Which is why, when you hear the news of someone special passing, you feel like you’ve lost a close friend. Last week, long time St. Louis food and wine writer, Joe Pollack, passed away. He was 81 years young.

If anything can be said of Joe, it’s that he enjoyed life to its fullest. A tireless champion for good food and wine, Joe knew how to bring out the best in his writing. Doing all of this in a market like St. Louis, where big beer rules and beef is what’s for dinner, must have been a challenge at times. But, Joe brought it off elegantly.

I first met Joe when I was new to the business of wine PR. A mere neophyte, I brought one of my client winemakers to meet with Joe at a local restaurant. He’d officially retired from the newspaper at that time, but true to form, Joe kept on, keeping on. Now, if you’ve ever met Joe, you’ll know that he didn’t exactly look like someone you’d expect to know so much about food and wine. Bald on top, with hair on the sides that, I swear to god, stuck straight out from his head defying gravity, reminiscent of a famous clown. But, appearances aside, it was immediately apparent to me that I was in the presence of a legend. I marveled at how he and the winemaker chatted like old pals, though they’d never met. I will never forget it.

A few years later, when the Drink Local Wine conference kicked off in Texas, Joe was right there with the rest of us. He was a champion of local wine and food, and his presence at the conferences was a given. When the conference gathered in St. Louis last year, Joe and his wife Ann acted as unofficial hosts of the conference and showed us all what Missouri wines had to offer. He was a great ambassador for the region and its winemakers.

I’ll miss you Joe. So, I raise a glass to you, wherever you may be. Cheers!