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Wine Personal questionnaire - Richard Shaffer (8/25/2009)

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Wine Personal questionnaire:

• What is the best wine you ever tasted?
Answer: This is a tough question for me. I have a hard time with “bests” since I am fortunate enough to try so many different wines and, if I am honest with you, I can be a fickle friend when I find a new “favorite”. Last night I drank a wine from Bandol in France – made of course mostly from mourvedre. The wine made me smile right away. I described it as “leafy forest floor” to my wife. It contained what I look for in reds I like to drink – a balanced combination of fruit AND dirt. I like dirt and herbs in red wines along with my fruit. And in whites I appreciate mostly unoaked laser-like minerally wines that taste like they have some sunshine inside of them.

• What was your best experience related to wine?
Answer: I also have had a lot of “best wine experiences” in my life. I think there are best wines for certain contexts – people, place, and time – and that a “great” wine might be lousy in the wrong setting. One of my favorite wine experiences was sitting with Yair Margalit on the porch of his lovely home in Cesarea. We’d opened a bottle of Margalit Cabernet Sauvignon and after a short while the entire porch started to smell like wild strawberries from this amazing wine. I can still smell it.

• What was your worst experience related to wine?
Answer: Honestly, even when I taste a wine I dislike – and even one I don’t/can’t continue to drink – I still feel I have learned something more about wine, my palate, what I like, what other people like…

• When did you feel/discovered your attraction to wine?
Answer: I did not start to even drink wine, I must admit, until I was 32 years old. I instantly fell in love with the mystery of it, the way it can taste like things that are not really even inside of it (smoke, fruit, dirt, honey, rocks, leather etc). While I realize my kids are more important than even the best wines (right?) every time I open a wine I have never experienced I feel the same way I did at the birth of my 4 amazing kids…this is something new I have yet to discover…what will this wine be like? How will it announce itself to the world? What will it bring out in me?

• Five autobiography sentences.
Answer: I am the son of an Air Force officer. I have moved almost 20 times in my 40 years. I am the father of 4 kids – Noah, Micah, Hannah and Zeke. I’m a jeans and flip-flops kind of guy. I live in Chicago but cannot stand the weather here – way too cold!!

• New world or old world?
Answer: Depends on my mood but if I have to pick one, I’ll say Old World. I like subtle, coy, clever wines from a particular place over wines that take their clothes off dramatically and then give you a knock-out punch.

• From many of the wine world taboos or myths, which do you think can be relinquished
Answer: I think that while there may be some very general food & wine pairing principles to follow, for the most part people should drink whatever the heck they like to drink with whatever they like to eat.

• Israel wine industry, where to?
Answer: I think that while there may be some consolidation of the Israeli wine industry (like so many other industries in this tough economy) the premium Israeli boutiques are the future of the Israeli wine industry, re-setting the way the world thinks about “Israeli wine”, discovering the right place for the right grapes, experimenting constantly and performing an amazing job in the way of broadening peoples understanding of what Israel is all about. The boutiques are producing wines we can all be proud to pour and proud to share. We are about to see an explosion of consumer and trade interest in a handful of the best boutiques. Watch. I am honored to be even a very tiny part of this.

• Where do you want to be five years from now?
Answer: Playing with my kids in the backyard, sharing some wine with friends.

• What do you think of wine journalism and wine criticism in the media?
Answer: I think Americans especially have over-focused on the quick fix we think we can get by shrinking the mystery of a wine to a simple score. Wine is poetry, the world’s original alchemy, and it’s hard to capture that in a finite number. I also think that the ability for literally anyone to host a blog can mean that we now have a situation where anyone can say “I’m a wine writer” and this concerns me since as I learn more about wine I realize how little I really know about wine at all. While we should all drink whatever we like and we should no longer should tolerate snobby wine people, we should respect experts in the wine field (winemakers, critics, writers, sommeliers, etc).

• What's your dream considering the wine world?
Answer: Wine has an amazing way of bringing people together across countries and cultures and backgrounds. Wine is a great way to give a culture and geography lesson. We are moving closer and closer to a system where consumers can easily learn about and then purchase and taste wines from big and even very small wineries all over the world, bringing people of all backgrounds ever closer together.

• If you were not in your profession, what would have been your alternative profession?
Answer: : I always wished (and still do!) I could have been a chef. I love to cook for my family and friends, to experiment with food combinations and to bring people pleasure with food and wine – some of the best tools for bringing people together!

• In your eyes, what is good winemaking?
Answer: Good winemaking is winemaking that plants the grapes in their right place and then stays out of the way as much as possible, adding as little as possible to the grapes.

> Wine Personal questionnaire - oded shoham (7/23/2009)
> Introduction to the Wine Personal questionnaire
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