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The 2nd Anniversary of "The Art of Wine & Food" Series!

At last week's installment of "The Art of Wine & Food" at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale we celebrated the second anniversary of the series!

In addition to our featured wines we had lots of fun giveaways including a Family Membership to the Museum, free tickets to the "Shark" Exhibition accompanied by gorgeous Guy Harvey coffee table books, free tickets to the wine tasting of your choice as well as a free month of The Glamorous Gourmet Wine Club, complete with wines and recipes to pair with them. We also gave special recognition to two very special guests who have been with us since the beginning, Kathleen Van Schalkwyk and Jill Harris

Our official theme of the evening was "Take a Walk on the Wild Side with some Alternative Grape Varieties" and featured three wines selected specifically to indulge your inner wine geek! The wines were accompanied by the delicious cuisine of Hugh's Catering whom we have had the pleasure of working with on many of the events in the series. We also gave a big round of applause and heartfelt thank you to Republic National Distributing Company for their ongoing support over the past two years! 

In the spirit of wine geekiness, the evening's wines were made from grape varieties a little off the beaten path but delicious nonetheless and definitely worth experiencing:

2008 Pfaffl Grüner Veltliner Austrian Pepper 
The home of Mozart, Edelweiss and Riedel Crystal has a long, rich tradition of winemaking that dates back to approximately 700 B.C. Nowadays Austria is a dynamic wine region characterized by its white wines which account for approximately 65% of the country's total production.
More than one third of the vineyards are planted to Grüner Veltliner, a white grape which is indigenous to Austria and not found much outside its borders. Austria’s wine law, which is very similar to Germany’s, dictates grape variety and yields within delineated zones of production. This particular wine hails from Austria's largest wine-growing area, Niederösterreich which is located near the capital of Vienna.
This wine is 100% Grüner Veltliner fermented in stainless steel to preserve its fresh fruit flavors and acidity. It is bright green-yellow in color with hints of citrus, minerals and herbs on the nose. On the palate, flavors of lime zest, honeydew melon and white pepper follow through on a refreshing finish. This wine is a natural match for shellfish, grilled fish, chicken or Asian-inspired cuisine. Guests enjoyed this wine paired with deliciously refreshing Ceviche Shooters.

2010 Renato Ratti Barbera d'Alba  
Piedmont is one of Italy’s most revered wine regions and home to the majestic Barolos and Barbarescos made from the Nebbiolo grape. While lesser known, the Barbera grape provides the majority of the region’s everyday wines which are also capable of great style.
Unlike many producers, Renato Ratti entered the world of winemaking without a family tradition behind him. Free of any ancestral ties or responsibilities, he was able to face Barolo, "with neither pride nor prejudice, but with unfettered freedom." He was a true pioneer in the region, responsible for creating the first single-vineyard Barolos produced in the same tradition as Burgundy. Following his untimely death in 1988 his innovative wine-making philosophy lives on today thanks to the passion and commitment of his son Pietro.
This 100% Barbera is crafted from 20 year old vines located in the Torriglione vineyards situated in La Morra. The Tortonian soil creates wines that are approachable with marked fragrance, softness and elegance. This wine spent six months in French oak barriques creating a wine with an intense, ruby red color and aromas and flavors of ripe plum, cassis, violets and spice. This wine is perfect for pairing with heartier dishes such as aged cheeses, grilled or roasted meats and/or tomato based sauces. Guests enjoyed this lovely red paired with Hugh's Mediterranean Flatbreads.
2008 De Bortoli Deen Vat 4 Petit Verdot
Deen De Bortoli created his Vat Series with the idea of developing a range of delicious, full-flavored wines at an affordable price. Deen personally selected the blends and chalked the numbers on the vats to identify them. The Vat Series includes traditional varietal wines and also wines made from interesting varietals newer to Australia.
This wine hails from the Riverina wine region in New South Wales. Petit Verdot is one of Bordeaux’s classic black grape varieties which is currently enjoying a revival in Australia, where it performs exceptionally well. This late-ripening variety does well in the warmer climates of Australia and other New World wine regions compared to the cooler climes of France where it didn’t ripen as well due to climatic differences.

This wine is a vibrant, deep ruby-purple color with heady aromas of blackberries, cherries, and violets. On the palate, rich dark fruit, chocolate and spice predominate along with chewy tannins imparted by the oak aging. Enjoy this wine paired with smoked meats, roasted or grilled lamb, veal chops, and/or a big, juicy steak. This wine was paired very well with Hugh's Lamb Rounds with Grain Mustard Demi-Glaze.

Looking forward to our next event on Thursday, July 19th featuring "The
Rosé Lifestyle of St. Tropez with Chateau d'Esclans" with our Special Guest Paul Chevalier. We will have the pleasure of sampling the latest releases of some of the world's finest rosés. If you think you're not a fan of these delightfully pink dry wines, think again! To make reservations, please contact Gail Vilone at or (954) 262-0249. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

"Foods and Fine Wines of the Rich and Famous" with Ariane Daguin & Andrea Robinson at SoBe Wine & Food Festival!

Presenters Andrea Robinson & Ariane Daguin
Last weekend the 2012 South Beach Wine & Food Festival descended upon South Florida like a hurricane of deliciousness! In addition to all the wining and dining, the festival devotes a large portion of the weekend to educational seminars featuring many respected food and wine personalities. These seminars are usually my favorite part of the weekend and this year proved to be no exception. Driven by my penchant for all things glamorous, I was especially drawn to a seminar entitled "Food and Fine Wines of the Rich and Famous" presented by Ariane Daguin, proprietress of D'Artagnan Gourmet Foods and Andrea Robinson, Master Sommelier. Needless to say, I signed up immediately!

Ariane Daguin, Founder of D'Artagnan
Ariane Daguin is the founder of D'Artagnan Gourmet Foods, the leading purveyor of organic poultry, game, foie gras, pâtés, and wild mushrooms to the United States. Born into a world of good food, Daguin's father, André was chef-owner of the Hotel de France in Gascony, and is known throughout France for his artistry with foie gras and other Gascon specialties. In 1985, after pursuing a degree from Columbia University and working part-time for a New York pâté producer, Ariane launched D'Artagnan which, at the time, was the only purveyor of foie gras and game in the United States. She named her company after the character immortalized as the fourth Musketeer in Alexandre Dumas' novel "The Three Musketeers" who she described in her charming, thick Gascon accent as, "a good guy who did the right thing."

Co-hosting the seminar was one of my favorite women in the world of wine, the sprightly, energetic and imminently knowledgeable Andrea Robinson. Robinson is one of only 17 women in the world to have achieved the coveted title of Master Sommelier and also graduated with honors from the French Culinary Institute where she later served as Dean of Wine Studies. She was also the first woman ever chosen as Best Sommelier in the United States by the Sommelier Society of America, was named Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional by the James Beard Foundation in 2002, and was selected by Bon Appétit Magazine as Wine & Spirits Professional of The Year in 2004. Robinson has also authored many fabulous books and is a true master of food and wine pairings. Yet, despite all of her impressive credentials and accomplishments, Andrea is about as down to earth and approachable as they come. You gotta love that!

For the seminar, Daguin provided an assortment of decadent specialties from D'Artagnan including:
1. Foie Gras Medallion with Black Truffles
2. Black Truffle Butter and Duck Prosciutto Tartine
3. Pâté de Campagne, Classic French Country Style Terrine with Cornichon
4. Venison and Dried Cherry Sausage (not pictured)
5. "French Kiss" - Armagnac-marinated prune filled with  creamy foie gras mousse

Robinson countered with an equally fabulous lineup of wines including:
1. Krug Grand Cuvée Brut Champagne NV
2. Veuve Clicquot Rosé Reserve 2004
3. Domaine Faiveley, Mercurey 1er Cru, Clos des Myglands 2009
4. Dela Frères Côte-Rôtie, Seigneur de Maugiron 2008 
5. Emilio Lustau East India Solera Sherry, Andalucia, Spain

Me & Andrea Robinson
After we were introduced to the food and wine, the pairing adventure began! Through a guided and extremely enjoyable trial and error process we came across some spectacular matches. The richness of the truffle mousse paired beautifully with the texture and acidity of the Krug Grand Cuvée as well as the sweet, nutty flavor of the Emilio Lustau East India Solera Sherry.

The Black Truffle Butter and Duck Prosciutto Tartine was a spot on match with the '08 Dela Frères Côte-Rôtie. The raspberry, smoke and spice notes created a beautiful synergy with the earthy black truffle and flavorful duck.

The Pâté de Campagne and the '04 Veuve Clicquot Rosé Reserve made a lovely couple. The red fruit notes and creaminess of the Champagne really complemented the flavor and texture of the pork beautifully. 

The Venison and Dried Cherry Sausage went remarkably well with the '09 Domaine Faiveley Burgundy. The synergy of the pinot noir, venison and dried cherries was a crowd favorite. The sausage, which also contained some pork, was also quite enjoyable with the Veuve Clicquot Rosé.
The pièce de résistance of the tasting involved the "French Kiss," a culinary gem the likes of which I had never tasted. Who knew a prune soaked in Armagnac and stuffed with truffle mousse could be so positively delicious? Paired with the sweet, caramel notes of the Emilio Lustau Sherry, this was definitely a "kiss" I will not soon forget.

A big thank you to Ariane Daguin and Andrea Robinson for such a fun and educational seminar. It was a lovely afternoon experiencing the "high-life" through food and wine and learning some deliciously decadent pairings as well!


Friday, November 11, 2011

Champagne "Haute Couture" with Krug President & CEO, Maggie Henriquez!

I recently had the distinct pleasure of attending a Champagne tasting with one of the most inspiring women in the wine world, Margareth "Maggie" Henriquez, President and CEO of one of the world's most revered Champagne Houses, Champagne Krug.

In addition to being the first non-French person to ever become President and CEO of a Champagne House, Venezuela-born Henriquez has held an array of influential positions during her 30 year career in wine and spirits. She also earned a Harvard degree in Advanced Management and, did I mention, she is also the epitome of style, incredibly charming and down to earth too? Yes, it's true!

The tasting was held at Cielo at the Boca Raton Resort & Club and the evening showcased three of the Krug cuvées; the Krug Grande Cuvée, Krug Vintage 1998 and the Krug Rosé. While sampling the divine lineup, guests enjoyed the gorgeous view of the sun setting over the Intracoastal Waterway and delicious hors d'oeuvres while the elegant and engaging Henriquez regaled us with stories of the legendary Champagne house's rich history and world renowned cuvées.

Delicious Hors d'Oeuvres
Krug is known for its unrelenting attention to detail in producing one of the finest Champagnes in the world. Henriquez likened the portfolio of cuvées to haute couture due to the meticulous attention to detail involved in their production, and rightly so: the Krug Grande Cuvée, the house's flagship multi-vintage bottling, is a blend of 120 hand-crafted reserve wines from over ten different vintages. The full-bodied Grande Cuvée delighted with enticing aromas of toasted brioche and marzipan, and complex flavors of citrus peel, hazelnuts and spice. Henriquez informed us the oldest vintage in the blend was 1988, meaning what was in our glass was over 20 years in the making. Take that, Karl Lagerfeld!

The View from Cielo!
Second was the Krug Vintage 1998, appointed by the house as an Hommage au Chardonnay due to the grape's predominance in the blend although all three Champagne varietals, including Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, are represented. As a vintage Champagne, all the grapes were harvested in the year marked on the bottle, 1998, a year characterized by the hottest August since 1962, followed by heavy rain in early September and dry, mild weather during the harvest. "Krug Vintage is not simply the selection of the best wines of a particular year, Krug 1998 is the way the House of Krug relates the story of that year." And what a story it was! This offering had divine notes of citrus, brioche, almond and a hint of gingerbread with a lovely precision and structure. It was incredibly elegant and refined.

Me & Maggie Henriquez
Our final Champagne of the evening was the Krug Rosé, a decadent expression of the three Champagne grape varieties crafted from a selection of several different vintages. Skin-fermented Pinot Noir is responsible for the enticing light salmon color and alluring spiciness of this sparkler. Heady aromatics and notes of wild strawberry, brioche and spice beckoned from the glass and this full-bodied brut rosé was delightfully rich and elegant. While sipping this sparkler, I couldn't help but wonder what delicious dish to pair it with - it was just begging for a roasted pork tenderloin or rack of lamb. I savored every drop while listening to Henriquez describe the fascinating details of Joseph Krug's journal written in 1848  that reveals his ultimate vision for the Champagne house. It was a great moment!

In addition to being one of the best Champagnes in the world, Krug is also one of the most expensive - the bottles sampled this evening ranged in price from $180-$320.
If you feel like celebrating the holidays in style this year - I highly recommend it! A big thank you to Cary Roman of for the invitation to this fabulous evening - be sure to check out his website for even more delightful local events.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Interview with Wine Spectator Executive Editor Thomas Matthews: Part 1!

Wine Spectator's New York Office
My pulse quickened as I emerged from the subway station a few blocks from the Manhattan home office of Wine Spectator Magazine. I was about to enter the inner sanctum of M. Shanken Communications, home to one of the wine world's most influential publications. A few weeks prior I had arranged an interview with the magazine's Executive Editor, Thomas Matthews. I was looking forward to hearing about his personal journey in the world of wine including his twenty-three years with the iconic magazine. As I fumbled with my iPhone, making sure to "check in" before silencing it, the elevator doors opened and I stepped out and approached the glass double doors. 

Tom Matthews & Me
Wine Spectator was founded in 1976 by Bill Morrisey as a San Diego-based tabloid newspaper at a time when the California wine industry was undergoing a period of exciting growth. The publication was purchased three years later by Marvin Shanken, the magazine's current publisher and editor, and has undergone many changes since that time. One man who has experienced many of those changes firsthand is Thomas Matthews, who joined the magazine in 1988 and has been with Wine Spectator and Shanken ever since. 

Matthews greeted me in the reception area and gave me a tour of the fabulous French vintage posters adorning the office walls. The posters represent part of an extensive collection of late-19th-century Belle Epoque lithographs Shanken has collected over the past thirty years. Following the enjoyable tour (the Art History Major in me was delighted), we settled into Matthews' office and he was kind enough to share his story: 
"Champagne De Rochegre" by Leonetto Cappiello
How did you first become interested in wine? 

I was your typical liberal arts major in the 70’s with no idea how he would turn his interest in literature and philosophy and writing into work. I went to graduate school for Political Science which didn’t suit me so I decided to move to Spain and write the "Great American Novel” and after about a year and a half in Granada…I had finished the manuscript but I had also run out of money. It was September and a friend suggested we go pick grapes in Bordeaux. When I asked him why we should consider doing that he explained, “First of all the food is great, secondly they give you all the wine you can drink and finally the work is easy.” So I said, “Sign me up!” We found work as pickers in a little vineyard in Entre-Deux-Mers and he was right about two things: the food was great and there was plenty of wine but the work was definitely not easy! Nonetheless there was something about the whole environment that really captivated me. This was a small family vineyard not pretentious in any way and they really lived in their culture: the buildings, the landscape, the day to day routines, the way that food and wine really all kind of seemed to fit made a lot of sense to me, so I decided to see if I could make wine a part of my writing life. 

How did you end up finding your way into the wine industry from there? 

Ultimately, I moved back to New York and started trying to freelance and got a job as a bartender and when the wine guy quit I said, “I can do that!” so they let me take over the wine list. I spent four years as a wine buyer in New York City restaurants which was a great education...and at the same time I was slowly building a freelance career writing about wine, but about a lot of other things too. After a while my back started to hurt from lifting all the cases and my girlfriend at the time, now wife…felt sort of stifled so we decided to go back to Europe. We moved back to France in 1986 to write a book about life in the kind of wine village where I had picked grapes years before and it was great. We found a small town that was just right, they were welcoming, they were real and most of the town lived on growing grapes and making wine. Sarah’s a photographer and she started a photography career illustrating my articles. I was writing for Progressive Architecture…and I was writing for food and wine books but really Wine Spectator was my main market and they were looking for someone to work in their London office at the time. So Marvin [Shanken] interviewed me and offered me the job and I thought I’ve pretty much finished the research on the book, I’ve never lived in London, I might like it, and you know what, if it doesn’t work out I can always quit…well, that was 1988.

How did you feel about writing exclusively about wine at that point?

I think if you’d asked me if I wanted to be a wine writer I would have said wine was a pretty small subject, but in fact it embraces the whole world. You’ve got architecture, you’ve got agriculture, you’ve got science, you’ve got history, you’ve got people-incredible amazing people and you’ve got generosity and hospitality and good living and so, there you are.

How did you first meet Marvin and what was your initial impression?

I started working with his editors and then I interviewed with him for this position. He happened to be in Paris and he called me up. Marvin is a very visionary, passionate, driven person and you get the sense that he’s going to get where he wants to go and if you have an idea that you might want to go there it kind of makes sense to tag along.

You certainly moved around a bit! How did you finally make the move from London back to New York?

After a year and a half in London, Marvin wanted someone in New York because he’s always been in New York. The main offices of Wine Spectator at that time were in San Francisco and I would have liked to live in San Francisco but nobody on the staff wanted to come to New York and I can’t really blame them. So I thought if you’re going to work for the Sun King you might as well move to Versailles and I’d already lived in New York and loved it so I said I’d come. Then after a few years he shut down the operations in California and moved all of the editing and production here to New York, so they joined me after all.

What is a typical day like for you here at Wine Spectator?

The good thing about being the Editor is that you have so many different fields that you’re overseeing and trying to guide forward so I have about thirty-five people on our staff between the editorial people, the tasting people, the art people, the web people and on any given day I’m interacting with all of those different departments. I’m editing copy, looking at layouts, going over web ideas, I’m tasting or I’m looking at tasting results so my goal is really to help motivate and direct the talent of the people who work for me and on any day I’m talking with all thirty of them plus you or anyone else that calls or comes in, so the diversity of tasks is one of the things I like best about the job.

As Executive Editor, do you travel a lot or are you mostly based in New York?

In the old days when I was really more of a writer and a taster I would travel for good chunks of time to the wine regions I was covering. So I might spend a week in Rioja just in the cellars and vineyards tramping around and tasting and talking with people, or in the Rhone, and unfortunately I don’t do that as much, which I miss a lot. But we have events, our Grand Tour Tastings and our Wine Experience. We support events like the South Beach Wine & Food Festival or Vinexpo or Vinitaly and that keeps me traveling quite a bit so it’s not as much the boots in the vineyard stuff as it is schmoozing and talking and tasting, but it's still pretty fascinating to meet the wide range of people and get to explore the different places.

What is your current favorite wine region?

I’ve always been more of a radio listener than an album buyer. I like to be open to what’s happening out in the world and try new things. I’m not really a collector myself, I’m more of an explorer. Really what I want is to experience a wide variety of wines and understand those wines as much as possible. That said, that time in Bordeaux really helped form my palate so my idea of a great red wine is still kind of based around what a mature Bordeaux tastes like: balance, elegance, complexity, length and so that’s what I’m looking for when I’m tasting wines whether they’re from Spain, California or Australia.

Stay tuned for the second installment of my three-part interview with Thomas Matthews where he discusses some of the magazine's most memorable milestones, explains how they taste and document all those wines and gives valuable advice to aspiring wine writers.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Interview with Wine Spectator Executive Editor Thomas Matthews: Part 2!

Thomas Matthews
Do you think credentials are important for pursuing a career in the wine industry?  

I think my generation came into the wine market when there were no credentials. I mean, I don’t have a journalism degree, I never trained as a wine buyer or sommelier, I kind of picked it up as I went along through experience and apprenticeship and I think for most people that sort of passion driving an apprenticeship is still the most common path. That said, I am all in favor of education. I think whether you take a wine tasting course with your local Society of Wine Educators person or take it with our [Wine Spectator] website online or do one of the certifications, all that’s very helpful, but for me when I look at a resume, I’m looking for experience and then in the person I’m looking for passion. Usually people who’ve got those things already have a credential, but it’s not crucial or sufficient. 

Did you have a mentor or someone who influenced your career along the way? 

Well, I had a literature professor when I was at [Bennington] college, Claude Fredericks, who really was a bon vivant. He was a great cook, well-traveled. He had a wine cellar and he sort of gave me a taste for the good life. He was a playwright in New York in the 60’s kind of an avant-garde kind of guy and a good friend of Jimmy Merrill, the poet. He was a very unique and creative guy and he deserved more recognition than he got. He also always encouraged my writing so that I would say is the person who sort of set me on the path, but I stumbled along pretty much on my own from college graduation until thirty-five when I got hired by Wine Spectator. Once I got here, Marvin [Shanken] has been the person who’s kind of brought me along and has helped me develop as a person.

What advice would you give someone interested in pursuing a career as a wine writer?

These days I think writing a blog is an excellent way in because that forces you to write and allows you to build a body of writing you can share with whomever might want to hire you. There’s not that many outlets for wine writing left; it used to be that more newspapers and more general magazines had wine columns or at least used freelance wine work and that’s a hard road right now. Writing on your own and of course learning and traveling and experiencing and interviewing people so that what you write has weight and heft is a way to build your own portfolio of clips. Ultimately, it’s the clips that count for anyone that’s considering hiring you as a writer.

Also, certification is not a bad route to take and working in some industry whether you’re writing or in a restaurant or working for a distributor or whatever just to gain more of the skills. I would say that most of our magazine is staffers and most of our staff writers have come young and inexperienced and have grown with us. So they started doing routine news reporting or writing small pieces and as they learned they got bigger assignments. The freelancers that I use tend to be based in wine regions so that they have their fingers on the pulse of someplace important to us. They tend to have some wine experience whether they’re former salesman or former winemakers or something like that so we know that they know the subject. 

How has the advent of the Internet and its increasing popularity affected the magazine? 

Marvin likes to say that Wine Spectator Magazine is by far the world’s largest circulation of a wine magazine, we have audited circulation of over 400,000, and that Wine Spectator online is the second largest. So really they have been built as separate entities, publications, businesses although they share a lot of content. Everything we put on the web is original to the web and is aimed at a slightly younger user to be a little brighter, a little easier to digest. Our [magazine] readers tend to be a little older, they’re still attached to print and we feel like people like to hold that in their hand, but I think we’re creating something on the web that’s more flexible, more diverse and hopefully will help us draw the younger generation more into our world of wine. 

Tell me more about the creation of the Wine Spectator website. It is incredibly comprehensive! 

Well, it’s a big effort. We launched in 1996 and we’ve been building ever since. We have some very talented people both on the content side and the design side and the fact that it accesses more than 250,000 tasting notes, which is really the world's biggest library of professional tasting notes, that alone makes it unique and I think very useful for people who are interested in learning. 

How does the Wine Spectator tasting department work?

We have eight people whose sole job is to handle the wines and the wine database. We take it very seriously and we have, I believe, the strictest and most objective and fair methodology for tasting of any wine critic I know. It starts with receiving the wines which come either as solicited samples from producers or importers or unsolicited samples...or purchases of wines for one reason or another that we can’t get submitted but feel we have to taste, that’s thousands of dollars every year. So the wines come in and they have to be unpacked and the first, and key step, is putting them into the database. Wine names are complicated and the database is huge and if you make a keystroke slip that wine could get lost forever so the tasting coordinators have to be incredibly orderly and conscientious to make sure they enter the wines in correctly. Then the bottles go into our cellars. We’ve got three cellars here in the building and they have probably 6,000 bottles at any given time because we're tasting about 10,000-12,000 wines a year here in this office. 

So then the tasting coordinator will pick the wines to set up into a flight of 15-25 wines based on some coherent theme. I might get 20 Riojas: ’09, ’08, and ’07 or maybe 20 Riojas ’08 depending on what’s in for tasting. Then they’ll all go into bags, the bags will all be coded, the codes will be entered into the database and I’ll sit down at a table with 20 bottles in the bags and the computer screen that has the codes on it and take the notes. After I’m done they have to bring those notes into the database, clean up after the tasting and set up another tasting. They’re also in charge of exporting those notes to the magazine for the buying guide, to the web for all of our web online features, and whatever other form we need. The tasting department also takes care of our Restaurant Awards Program which is about 4,000 restaurants. They also take care of our auction database where we track 10,000-15,000 wines at auction and probably 20-30 auctions every year. We then have to enter all that data, so it’s a very multifarious and technically oriented job but most of our senior editors have actually come through the tasting department. While they were in that tasting department tasting, they joined our apprenticeship program and passed, and became official tasters and started writing about the wines they were tasting and ultimately they’re in Bordeaux like James Molesworth visiting Chateau Latour. 

What are some of of the biggest changes that have happened at Wine Spectator during your tenure? 

I think the two biggest things that have happened since I’ve been with the magazine are in 1993 when we took the magazine from newsprint to a glossy, lifestyle magazine, and then the other thing was launching the website in 1996. It’s a team effort but I have to give most of the credit to Marvin. He’s really the visionary, he’s the guy that sets the pace and the goals and pushes everybody to get there. If I’ve done anything it’s nurture talent and set high standards for the quality of the content and the ethical integrity of the publication. I mean as we’ve seen recently, wine writing and ethics is a big question and hard to nail down but we have a clear set of policies and guidelines that I hope will keep us journalists first. That will give us trust and credibility with our readers, and that’s what makes a magazine successful. I would say quality content and quality people, those are my goals.
Stay tuned for the third and final installment of my interview with Thomas Matthews as he discusses his thoughts on social media, wine bloggers, and favorite food and wine pairings.


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Interview with Wine Spectator Executive Editor Thomas Matthews: Part 3!

What are your thoughts on social media and how it has affected the wine industry? 

It seems right now that’s its still kind of a tempest in a teapot. I mean, there’s definitely a tempest, but it seems like it’s still kind of a small teapot. I’m sure as it develops it will have a broader and broader impact on culture as a whole and will be a more and more important part of a publication or media company that wants to get its message out and retain and interact with its readers. Wine Spectator has a Facebook Page and we're on Twitter, a few of our editors tweet but it's still kind of limited as we understand how people are using it. I would say our magazine readers are still not really social media people, and my guess is that most of our website users are not active either, but we do need to find a way to engage with the people who are engaged. I think the bottom line is real engagement with real people and how to really maximize that through social networks and we’re still experimenting.

Generally speaking, what are your thoughts on wine bloggers? 

You know people blog for so many different reasons from so many different angles that I think it's impossible to generalize. You have the trade people who are talking about the trade, you’ve got the explorers who are kind of learning and their blog mirrors their progress as they’re learning and that’s useful. Then there’s a few that are trying to be aggregators or pot stirrers so I don’t think you can really generalize, but it’s clear that some people are creating brands for themselves which they may or may not be able to monetize. I think, bottom line, the ones that I tend to go back to have a clear personal voice and point of view. They have a knowledge and a passion about wine you can see, and their content is educational enough so that there’s a reason to read it.
Was there one particular bottle of wine that sparked your love of wine? 

Many people have that epiphany bottle, but that never really happened to me. I mean really for me, I had drunk wine in college and after college and I thought I was learning about wine because I knew the difference between Margaux and Chateau Margaux but I had never really drunk any ‘great’ wine or nothing that really stuck in my mind. Just drinking the wine at the property [in Bordeaux] with the food that the woman cooked with the workers under the sun, that was enough. Since then of course I’ve had the great good fortune of drinking incredible wines and many of them have marked me in indelible ways but I wouldn’t say it was because of a bottle of wine that I fell in love with wine, it was really more the people and the place. 

What’s your favorite everyday wine?

A $15, 88-pointer from anywhere around the world. I mean I buy most of the wine that I drink. I have some very good retail shops in my neighborhood that I have good relationships with, so I’ll go in and ask them what they’ve tried that’s interesting, or I’ll read about something in a magazine that I’ll want to try, or I’ll just pick a wine because it’s from a place that I don’t know about. But on the other hand, my mother-in-law lives on our ground floor and she is a great cook and a real wine lover and unfortunately she’s developed a taste for Burgundy. So when I go down to her place for dinner, I have to take a Burgundy. I mean she’s ok with a Macon, but if I take a Chassagne she’s really happy, and if I take a Corton-Charlemagne she’ll cook me a Blanquette de Veaux

What are some of your favorite food and wine pairings? 

I like the classic pairings because I like the classic dishes and the classic wines like a Barolo with a Brasato, or a Burgundy with a Coq au Vin, or Bordeaux with lamb those are kind of where my tendencies go but I don’t feel like we should be that strict with ourselves most of the time. It’s fun to try to engineer a perfect match and it’s thrilling when it happens but I think random serendipity is also fun to try and some things happen that you wouldn’t really expect. When I was in Bordeaux I stayed for a night with my friends I met back in 1986 when I was living in the little village. He cooked fresh Brittany scallops that he does with a black pepper and bitter chocolate sauce and he served a 2007 Saumur Blanc. I mean that’s not a wine I would pick up off a wine shelf, and yet there was something about the mellowness of the Saumur that kind of nestled in with the sauce that was kind of hauntingly almost sweet and then there was the acidity that Chenin Blanc always has that picked up on the scallops so it just kind of "whoa"!

What would you like more people to know about Wine Spectator?

At Wine Spectator we’re critics yes, but we are educators first and foremost. Our goal is to help people understand the world of wine and find their way into it in a way that suits themselves. We’re not trying to lead anybody by the nose, we’re trying to encourage people to learn and engage and develop their own sense of joy and wonder and pleasure in wine.

Secondly, we’re trying to be very professional about what we do. We have a big staff that takes a lot of resources, but we want to be fair and objective and authoritative in our wine reviews and balanced and authoritative in our stories. Really, it’s a mission of ours to be credible so that people will trust us as guides as they follow their own journey into wine. I think sometimes people see us as too commercial or as heavy-handed authorities, but we’re just a bunch of people who are passionate about wine who are trying to bring other people and ignite their passions for wine as well. I mean that’s been my journey, it was all serendipitous, it was kind of accidental and driven by passion and hope and risk and luck.

A big thank you to Thomas Matthews for sharing his fascinating story and helpful advice for those who are passionate about wine or interested in pursuing a career in the wine industry. To read the previous installments of this interview, please check out Part 1 and Part 2 here on The Glamorous Gourmet.

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