One of the things I love about this crazy planet we call home is that our ancestors learned how to cultivate grapes and create wine. For thousands of years, vines growing in some of the most beautiful (and not so beautiful, in some cases) places in the world have mystified, confounded, pleased, nourished, and sustained multitudes of people: farmers, winemakers, drinkers royal and low, and all sorts of others in between have been changed by the grape. Those small orbs are miracles, worshipped by characters hailing from all walks of life.
I’ve been partaking of those miracles for a long time, since I was a high school student in the Rheinland Pfalz, home to, among other things, my favorite grape and wine, Riesling, and my Fußball team, 1. FC Kaiserslautern. I was introduced to both of them at around the same time, and though the team has been going through a period of crisis for too long now, a mere shadow of its Glory Days version, Riesling and her companions shine on.
When I open a bottle of wine, I almost always think of the individuals who produced what’s in it. My mind wanders to the land on which the vines are growing and I mentally draw a picture of the harvest, imagine the tractors and baskets and weather and calloused hands. Without people, the wine would be nothing. Never forget that.
People. Beginning with the man — hand deformed on a battlefield in Germany — who sold me my first wine book (I recall still how he would hold the ink stamp he used to mark books purchased at his store), to Terry Theise and the woman who poured me a revelatory Crianza in a small tasting room in Rioja, people are the unifying factor in my journey with wine. There was the high school teacher with the cellar in the Pfalz who let me taste with him, and the restaurant owner in Florence who slipped a bottle into my backpack (he was, I guess, paying me back for the kindness I showed his elderly mother during my meal on that evening). Wine has been the common denominator in some of my most satisfying experiences and graceful memories, and I look forward to that continuing. That first book? “The Companion to Wine,” by Frank J. Prial.
Wine Talk, a series I started several years ago, is still going strong, and, similar to the world of wine, it has few limits. In it, I’ve introduced readers to scores of people and vintages, and I’ve made some friends. Their insights and recommendations and passions are laid down for the record, and I’m happy to put some of them (plus a few pieces on bottles I’ve enjoyed) in one place for your approval.
Below you’ll find Chris Nishiwaki, Donald Patz, Gerry Dawes, Vanessa Treviño Boyd, and David Keck, to name but a few. You’ll also, I hope, find the inspiration to go out and buy a few bottles based on what you read. Please create some graceful memories of your own. (And stay tuned for more Wine Talk.)
Wine Talk: From Paris to Houston and many other places, the goodness flows
A Merlot That Your Snob Friend Will Love
French Couple Make a Sauvignon Blanc in California
A Perfect Afternoon Chardonnay
Terry Theise Talks Reisling
A New Wine Wonderland
Paris Wine Goddess Tells All
Rice Village Wine Bar Has a Cleveland Touch
A Texas White Blend for Your Table
A Pinot Noir Full of Flavor
This Pinot Gris From Oregon Pairs Well With Cheese
A Value Rioja
Underbelly Veteran Goes for Grenache
A Man of Letters and Wine
Ms. Champagne Wants a Nebuchadnezzar
The Wine Artist Goes for Chardonnay
This American Loves Spain and Its Wines
Houston’s Wine Whisperer Has a Soft Touch
Blackberry Farm’s Somm Pours in Splendor
Mr. Pinot Noir: Donald Patz of Patz & Hall
A Cork Dork Wants to Spend More Time in Tuscany
Sommelier Turned Restaurateur Daringly Goes Greek
Texas Master Sommelier Debunks Wine Geeks
A Bottle From Gigondas Changed This Houston Man’s Life
Oil Man Falls in Love, and the Rest is Good-Taste History
Ryan Cooper of Camerata is a Riesling Man
Mixing It Up With Jeremy Parzen, an Ambassador of Italy
Sommelier at One of Houston’s Top Wine Bars Loves Underdogs