Jul 182013

“Whether I’m making a $100 bottle of wine or a $12 bottle of wine, I put just as much effort into each wine. All wines have to be balanced to be successful.” Charles Smith, winemaker

Charles Smith Charles Smith has been called everything from the Wildman of Walla Walla to Winemaker of the Year (2009 Food and Wine Magazine & 2010 Seattle Magazine). Looking more like rock star Sammy Hagar of Van Halen fame, than the stereotypical winemaker, Charles is a rock star in the winemaking world.

After years of managing rock bands across Europe, Charles landed in Walla Walla to follow his true passion; winemaking. His first vintage was a mere 330 cases of 1999 K Syrah. A self-taught winemaker, Smith created the House Wine label which he sold in 2006. Today his labels include K Vintners, Charles Smith Wines, Secco Italian Bubbles, Charles and Charles Project and Vino.

We met up with Charles on a beautiful spring morning in Austin, Texas in the courtyard of the trendy Hotel San Jose on South Congress. After the interview, we headed out for post-interview enchiladas at Guero’s Taco Bar, just up South Congress Avenue. While sitting at the bar, one fellow looked to his friend and pointed at Charles saying “look dude, this is cool thing about Austin, we’re sitting at a bar with Sammy Hagar.”

As you will see, Charles Smith is as unique an individual as are the wines he strives to create. He prides himself in creating high-quality value-priced wines that appeal to the consumer who might not reach for a glass of wine as their first beverage of choice as well as the budget conscious wine enthusiast. Continue reading »

Jun 082013

Mark Oldman

“I am going to make it (wine seminars) worth their while. I have a short attention span. I don’t want to be bored. I am going to do whatever I can to make them walk away and say, that over-delivered.” Mark Oldman

During the Austin Food and Wine Festival we had the chance to meet wine style guru Mark Oldman, two time winner of Georges Duboeuf Best Wine Book of the Year Award for: Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine: 108 Ingenious Shortcuts to Navigate the World of Wine with Confidence and Style and Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine: Pleasure, Value, and Adventure Beyond Wine’s Usual Suspects.

Oldman has a distinct style described by Bon Appètit magazine as “winespeak without the geek” and by Publishers Weekly as “the ideal mix of wine connoisseur, showman, and everyday dude.”

I didn’t know what to expect from Oldman, of Drink Bravely fame. He was very fun, engaging and frankly a blast to chat with. While in Austin he professed his love for the Lone Star State repeatedly, interesting for a Jersey guy. He even pulled out his Longhorn money clip in testament.

One of the funniest moments however, was during his last seminar when he pulled out a 3X5 foot blowup of his outstanding arrest warrant from the 2012 AFW festival and his newly minted “Free Oldman” t-shirt. It seems Mark was caught by the tireless (obviously with too much time on their hands) Austin police for ….drumroll… Jaywalking, which in Austin is, believe it or not, a criminal offense. The crowd rolled out of their chairs laughing. Continue reading »