Which wine regions, grapes and styles are under-valued and worth trying? Should you be skeptical about celebrity-endorsed wines? How do you choose a good wine club? What simple strategy can you use to improve your tasting vocabulary?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m chatting with Paul K, host of the podcast Wine Talks with Paul K.
You can find the wines we discussed here.
Join me for the debut Watch Party of the video of this conversation that I’ll be live-streaming for the very first time on Zoom on Wednesday, April 14th at 7 pm eastern.
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- How did an encounter with sulphur dioxide trigger the worst moment of Paul’s career?
- What’s the most exciting part of being in the wine business?
- Why is your local wine shop your best bet for getting out of a wine rut?
- How has Paul been able to blend his creative side with his wine business?
- Which bottles of wine did Paul recently sell for a whopping $13,000?
- Why does Paul mostly focus on affordable wines?
- What’s Paul’s system for tasting and scoring wines?
- How do you choose a good wine club?
- What might surprise you about wineries and estate bottling?
- Which simple tips does Paul have for developing your tasting vocabulary?
- Why should the Canary Islands be on your radar?
- How does volcanic soil impact wine?
- How has COVID dramatically changed the wine business?
- What has changed over the years about celebrity wines?
- Why was Paul disappointed by an SNL-branded wine?
- Which undervalued regions should you check out next?
- How do Georgian and Armenian wines differ?
- What’s Paul’s take on organic and biodynamic wines?
- Paul offered some great tips on how to choose a wine club, as well as a good local wine retailer. Both can help you with the curation process and get to know your palate.
- I agree with Paul on how to develop your wine vocabulary – smell and taste everything, well almost everything.
- It’s interesting to hear how COVID has dramatically changed the wine business, from the volume of business done online now to the popular styles, regions and price points. I also liked his suggestions for undervalued regions and vintages.
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About Paul Kalemkiarian
Paul Kalemkiarian is the host of the podcast Wine Talks with Paul K on which he interviews wine industry royalty as well as Michelin starred chefs. He’s also the owner of America’s oldest wine club, the Original Wine of the Month Club. His expertise in the wine industry spans over 30 years. His father invented the idea of wine in the mail in 1972 and they have been serving wine enthusiasts ever since.
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Paul K 0:00
My specialty is 15 to $25. That’s where most wine is particularly now during COVID. There’s so many wines coming in at that price range. The way we taste is not like the spectator or the way one enthuses might taste. I’m the guy that’s going into the wine shop with your into the supermarket. I see 20 $20 Cabernets, but I’ve tasted them all. And I can tell you that this one’s really worth 40 bucks based on the other things that are $40. And the one over here is really like 10. There’s a lot of those and our job is to weed those out. Yeah, so
Natalie MacLean 0:30
you kiss a lot of Venus frogs to find that. So what would you say is your sort of ratio for tasting like, rejects like I taste 10 and I pick one or whatever. I know it’ll vary, but on average, how many are you tasting versus how many do you offer to your wine club members?
Paul K 0:48
If I taste 300 wines at a month, I will probably reject 250 of them.
Natalie MacLean 0:53
Natalie MacLean 1:01
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine, the love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places and amusingly awkward social situations. Or that’s the blend here on the unreserved wine talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie MacLean. And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here. Now pass me that bottle please. And let’s get started. Welcome to Episode 124. Which regions greats and styles are undervalued and worth trying? Should you be sceptical of celebrity endorsed wines? How can you choose a good wine club? What simple strategy can you use to improve your tasting vocabulary? Our guest this week has answers for you plus lots of great wine tips and stories. And I’ve got a bonus for you in addition to this podcast, I’d love for you to join me for the premiere watch party of the video of this conversation that I’ll be live streaming for the very first time on zoom, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube tonight at 7pm. Eastern. I’ll include a link where you can sign up for this zoom tasting, and future zoom tastings and chats for free in the show notes at Natalie maclean.com forward slash 124. The video will show you the pictures and other visual elements that we discussed in the podcast. I’ll also be jumping into the comments on all four platforms as we watch it together so I can answer your questions in real time. It’s like the Netflix version of the podcast. Plus, you can talk to me and ask me questions as we watch together. You can also see what other people thought of this conversation and get the answers to their questions. Plus, you can win a personally signed copy of Rex pickets novel sideways, which was made into the hit movie, as well as a bottle of sideways Pinot Noir. All you need to do is comment on the social media post that I create about the contest. Just pick your favourite platform, Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, and comment on the post I created before 7pm on April 21. in the show notes, you’ll find a link to these posts a full transcript of our conversation, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class and where you can find me on zoom, Insta, Facebook and YouTube live on video every Wednesday at 7pm. That’s all in the show notes. At Natalie MacLean comm forward slash one to four. Now, on a personal note, before we dive into the show, mom shared a story with me from when I was about a year and a half old. She used to take me for walks in my stroller every day. And we followed the same route often that passed by a small toy store in the window was a little plastic dog on wheels. And I point to it every time and we’d stop and we’d look at it. And so for Christmas that year she got me that little dog, but apparently I didn’t play with it much I wasn’t even interested in it. However, on our next walk as we were approaching the store, I started pointing at the window and looking at her. She says puzzle disappointed apparently I wanted that doggy in the window to stay right where he was. You know this really reminds me Now the difference between wanting and getting. Whether it’s a vacation, shoes or wine, sometimes the wanting or the anticipation is better than the getting and having it What do you think? Let me know. Okay, you’re on with the show.
Natalie MacLean 5:10
Paul k is the host of wine talks with Paul K, which he interviews wine industry, royalty and Michelin starred chefs. He also is the owner of the original wine of the Month Club, which sends wines directly to consumers all over the United States. His expertise spans 30 years, and it was actually his father, who came up with the idea of sending wine through the mail back in 1972. And I’m so pleased you’re here with us this evening, Paul, welcome.
Paul K 5:43
Well, thank you so honoured to be on the show.
Natalie MacLean 5:45
All right. Great. Great background. I was just commenting on that before we got going. Is this your studio? Or is this your home? Where are you joining us from?
Paul K 5:53
Well, we have a studio here at the office. We’re in Southern California, and we’re working with this lighted sign was not lit right now. But technical difficulties, of course, but we’re actually going to do something kind of cool. We’re going to paint back here in black and white. What was my father’s store?
Natalie MacLean 6:09
Oh, really? Oh, well, that’s a storefront.
Paul K 6:12
Yes. And it’ll be. It’ll be like, kind of new with colour. It’ll be a colour but the store will be black and white. Like it’s vintage.
Natalie MacLean 6:19
Oh, I love that. Yes. It’s all this new again. All right. So Paul, let’s just kick it off. Before we get into why did the month and different wines to try it that we should be looking for tell us a little bit from your wine career, maybe take us kind of to the lowest moment of your career, and then we’ll go to happy endings, the highest point so far. So can you recall a situation? Anything that’s happened in your career? Wine wise, that was kind of a bit of a low point, or maybe something you learned from?
Paul K 6:46
Well, gee, that’s a that’s a wine business. I can’t be that many low points, right. I mean, this is really, this is a pretty fun business to be in it. I had a conversation with Eric Asimov, The New York Times wine critic. He’s like anyone that tells you how to hear a bad business. What do you do what we do every day is lying. So there was there are a couple of interesting events that occurred in my business because we’re such a monthly cycle. And every monthly we’re doing the same thing over and over again, we’re trying to find good wines and make sure they get delivered on time and I got a wine from Italy a Montepulciano And it landed here, you pretty reputable guy is a Frenchman who brings wines from all over the world, and I let them just land the wine and they took off the truck and I brought it in and they stuck a corkscrew in it and it released gas. Now you and I know that a red wine should not release gas.
Natalie MacLean 7:36
Nope, that’s not a good thing. Yeah, particularly
Paul K 7:38
if it smells like eggs. So that was a huge problem. I have 400 cases, you have almost 5000 bottles of this completely horrible wine. And I don’t know why I’ve never had it since I’ve never had a problem like that. I’ve never tasted a wine with the same problem.
Natalie MacLean 7:53
Was it sulphur dioxide?
Paul K 7:55
You must have been sulphur dioxide. But you know, I don’t know it was you remember that time and wine? There was this whole rumour that the Italians were putting antifreeze in their wines and sending it to America? And now, well, it’s
Natalie MacLean 8:10
been mixing the batch or enlarging the batch, if you will, yes,
Paul K 8:12
it was bad. So you know, my problem is with with a monthly cycle, and I can’t be late a day or two or so I’m in big trouble. So I had to call that rep and it’s happened twice over the years, once with American wine to that was a low, good day without low. All right.
Natalie MacLean 8:29
You’re right, though there aren’t a lot of low points in this business. So take us a highlight for you something that has stood out so far your mind wine related,
Paul K 8:38
what I like about our business and how we can help people understand the value of great wine and a great bottle and a great glass and a great moment. So our governor is famous for heading head to the French Laundry and Napa during COVID. Right. And oddly, we had just been there. It is really expensive.
Natalie MacLean 8:58
It is one of the most expensive in the whole states, but also like it’s also been named the best restaurant in the States. So I guess you get what you pay for.
Paul K 9:06
Well, if you can’t afford it, and you want to splurge and you’re in Napa, it’s a must thing to do used to be impossible to get a reservation. But anyway, there COVID is a little easier. All of our seats are outside, though, the government decided to get the room inside, which my wife wanted to do, which was $800 a seat so those rumours are true. Wow. It’s very expensive and particularly been COVID to get an interior room. But anyway, the point was, we’re with two other couples, good friends of ours just built themselves nice wine cellars. And they just had nothing else but Napa Cabernet, which is a gorgeous wine and they’re wonderful to experiment and to taste but that’s all they could break out. They couldn’t break out of this scenario. So I asked the psalm for a burgundy and coat the Neue something Grand Cru something around $4 a bottle and it’s really expensive. And he brought this gorgeous Sean Bell machine he and our friends flipped over it. And the reason I call it a great moment is because From that moment on, as we began together the last months, we’ve been able to try new things, particularly Burgundy’s now that they experienced them but super Tuscans in wise from the south of Italy and wines from other parts of France. It’s been great experience for me to take it to the next level for them. That’s what’s good for me.
Natalie MacLean 10:19
That’s great. So you got them out of their rut? And so how do you advise those of us who are here with us tonight or on the podcast? How did they get out of their rut? When you’re going back to the same old wine all the time? What are your tips? Other than just get out of there? Yeah,
Paul K 10:34
well, that is a good question. It’s not easy, because if you did what I do, which is around 300 wines a month, that would be very expensive, and you would taste a lot are really best along the way you want to try avoid that. So you want to taste things that are considered by some people whether you know, aerating, which we can talk about that too, in a minute. But that’s respect as let’s say, we’re talking about new dabbawala. from Sicily, we want to make sure that it’s considered a decent one, so that when we taste it, we can determine whether we like it, or whether our palate is suited for it. So you need a good quality curator, your local wine shop, you know, who learns your palate, as you go in and out can help you guide you because there’s so many varieties and so many different grapes and parts of the world to experience wine from that. It’s hard to say, go to Groupon and buy something for $3 and see if you like it, because you really don’t know if it’s any good in the first place. And that’s a problem,
Natalie MacLean 11:30
right? Yeah. In Canada, we don’t have Groupon available to us. But there’s still lots of options. There’s wine clubs, and there’s buying directly from the winery, and so on. But definitely, we have a lot of American listeners. And so I guess that’s one way to get out of your rut. But before we move on to some other tips, what do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t running this wine club and making the podcast? Is there something else you do? I’m still stuck out here. You
Paul K 11:55
don’t have Groupon in Canada. Oh,
Natalie MacLean 11:59
discounts but we don’t get wine offers because the provinces legislate so much. Because it’s only the lcbo which is the biggest purchaser of wine the world that can basically sell wine. There’s a few exceptions, but we don’t get the sort of Groupon deals like you might, but we do have wine clubs. So
Paul K 12:17
it’s funny. The Pennsylvania the state of Pennsylvania was the largest retailer of wine in America. Now that they’ve opened their doors are channels to allow whiners a ship there, it’s changed a little bit. But you know, the government intervention is a problem. I’d actually tried to ship something to Ontario, I think, or was it Montreal? I can’t remember. But it got stuck at the lcbo. And they had 100% tariff. So we had picked up right away.
Natalie MacLean 12:42
Yep. Yep. A lot of tax and a lot of regulation. So I know a lot of wine lovers are hoping for that to privatised
Paul K 12:49
Oh, yes. You asked me what I would be doing.
Natalie MacLean 12:51
Paul K 12:52
I don’t know. What has happened now, particularly in this industry, and not in most industries is that media has become quite an important part of any marketing effort. Anything to do with social networking, or internet marketing or SEO is media and I’ve always wanted to create, I get fascinated by it. I’m a frustrated cinema student from USC, I got in but I never went. I went to business school and sort of regretted that just because I would love the creation part of it. But I’m enjoying thinking through ideas, to get people to try wine to be interested in wine to be inspired by wine. And using media to do that. I think it’s I don’t maybe I’ll just do this permanently. I got a big enough studio anyway. So
Unknown Speaker 13:36
Paul K 13:38
Yeah, that’s right.
Natalie MacLean 13:39
We share that Paul, I did an MBA, but I didn’t have the confidence to write but now it’s the joy in my life creating and master whatever. So in terms of the wines you’ve sold, just some highlights. What’s been the most expensive wine you ever sold through the club.
Paul K 13:55
I sold the DRC Romanee Conti was a rich Borg 2007 thing I charged them 20 $500.25 that’s
Unknown Speaker 14:05
a deal. Yeah,
Paul K 14:06
well, yeah, it was a few years ago. We have four more bottles. I have some Latasha those around 5000 Well, I had a customer buy $13,000 with a burgundy a few weeks ago it for 28 bottles. That’s amazing. That’s pretty good order. But you know that took some more he was looking to round out his cellar and he had a beautiful cellar. You invited me to go see it biometric entrance, you put your thumb against that pad there. And mostly Napa cabs and first growth Bordeaux is like I don’t know where I can help you. You have things I probably can’t even get. I said but you don’t have good burgundy. And let’s let me help you with that. So did a lot of research. And he’s very happy with that part of his cellar now. You know, my specialty is 15 to $25. And that’s where most wine is particularly now during COVID there’s so many wines coming in at that price range. The way we taste is not like What the spectator are the way James suckling? My tastes are way one enthuses my tastes. I’m the guy that’s going into like the wine shop with your into the supermarket. I see 20 $20 Cabernets, but I’ve tasted them all. And I can tell you that this one’s really worth 40 bucks based on the other things that are $40. And the one over here is really like 10. And there’s a lot of those. And our job is to weed those out.
Natalie MacLean 15:24
Yeah. So you kiss a lot of Venus frogs to find the prince. So what would you say is your sort of ratio for tasting like, rejects, like, I taste 10? And I pick one or whatever? I know, it’ll vary. But on average, how many are you tasting? versus how many do you offer to your wine club members?
Paul K 15:42
Well, I don’t even know what I buy. Now. I think I buy about 20 different wines. Because I have a Napa club of Bordeaux club, I have a sweet rosae, etc. Okay, but if I taste 300 wines in a month, I will probably reject 270 of them no 250 of them. Wow, most. And I reject them for a variety of reasons. And this is kind of colloquial because my father had a three point system when he started tasting wine in the 70s. And that was one can’t use it. So my vendor stick wise, they see a one on my computer because I log everything that that they got a one that’s like a guy. So it’s actually the worst thing to me is I think I can use it the way it is for the price and what it is and what is it’s trying to be that’s a good one. And three is the one was very good, but just overpriced for what it is. If price came down to where I think is more valuable, then it becomes a good one. So that’s what we do. It’s very interesting because any way you can buy wine in America, I’ve done it, we’ve bought grapes, we’ve crushed them, we brought 20,000 litre tetrick takes in from Argentina and bottled at Napa, all those kinds of things. Okay, if a vendor is a legitimate distributor of wine who actually curates their own book, the rejection rate is much lower, because they’ve already been through the process. But I have a lot of bottom fishing brokers that go around the country in the world and find odd lots of odd things and they find some really good values once in a while but the rejection rate is much higher. Because they just don’t care. There’s maybe Paul like it’s like the life cereal commercial a pile probably likes it.
Natalie MacLean 17:19
Because sometimes I think wine clubs get a reputation other wine clubs, of course, as a dumping ground for bad wines. It’s like in the Caribbean, I think all the bad vintages go there to die and Caribbean vintages restaurants. How interesting. If you’re a consumer looking for a good wine club. How do you know that you’re not getting offloaded some stuff that was just the buyer happened to get a great deal. It’s not a great wine. You don’t you don’t Okay,
Paul K 17:44
like I said it goes back to like trusting the wine buyer at well. If you go to the supermarket buy wine which I’m not sure in Canada, you can do that. I got yelled at Montreal when I was a teenager trying to buy beer so we can Sunday.
Natalie MacLean 17:58
limited amounts we can go to the grocery store. I
Paul K 17:59
think she helped me in French to the way wine works is sort of disillusioning for a lot of people because so much of wine is just farmers. Most wineries are really just farmers, they’re just growing grapes, they sell the grapes to somebody else, a very small percentage of wine is actually bottled by the grower, you know, his state bottling. So our vision as a consumer of a winery like Napa, there’s a big Chateau and the French Chateau is the smallest percentage of the real thing of wine. And if you make a wine, and it’s not very good, you can make a mistake can’t make good wine from bad grapes, you make bad wine from good grapes. It goes somewhere, it ends up somewhere, somebody’s gonna bottle it, someone’s gonna sell it to another winery to blend with something else that’s maybe better. And try to just move through it just the way the business is. And so you need to trust the purveyor of the wines. It doesn’t really matter if you get the end of a vintage. It may be better. In fact, years ago, Napa had a great year. 1990 was like a great year. I mean, a Bordeaux had a great year 89 was a little tough. Well, I’m sorry, back to Napa 90 was great. Eight nines were tough. So the 90s came out before the nines. And so now the winery can’t bring back the 89 because the 90s aren’t on the shelf. But they’ve got pallets of these wines sitting in their warehouse. So the 989 started to come around. I mean, after a few years, they’re really good. And there were some great deals to be had. So you might call that a bin and or close out or something it probably was but wine was really good. So I don’t have a problem with the timing of certain things. It’s that the wind has been properly curated and determined to be a good example of what is supposed to be that’s really the key.
Natalie MacLean 19:42
Right? And when you’re tasting like what are tasting tips you can pass on to those who are listening or watching right now. I mean, you’ve developed a pilot you know what you’re looking for in that one, two or three scale but what else you’re looking for when you taste?
Paul K 19:55
Well, the you know the primary is you know, the three pieces of a taste is the beauty The middle of the end. How about that? Sounds a great story, isn’t it?
Unknown Speaker 20:03
Paul K 20:04
I wrote a book, a beginning, a middle and an end. I look for varietally correct. Exposure to those three pieces. So what
Natalie MacLean 20:11
does that mean variety? Lee? Correct. Right?
Paul K 20:13
Correct means if it’s Cabernet, do we have the casies? Do we have the spice? Do we have the firm acids in the back of his mirlo is a more approachable they’re a little bit more black cherry, those kinds of characters. And I think the question that you’re asking me is more like, Well, how do I know it black cherry taste light? Or how do I know you when somebody says it smells like herbs? That’s what you do. If you’re cooking, and you’re squishing Rosemary in your hands, smell your fingers. If you take a bite of an apple smell the apple if you’re working with eggs, take a moment to savour that egg because the memory of smell is like one of those memorable things you have. It’s that sense is very time insensitive. In fact, we were in Paris a few years ago. And then we went to the local view of the Eiffel Tower, the little local tourist restaurant and they serve the quiche in a took me back, like 45 or 50 years, my mom made the same quiche. And I had the same ingredients. And I told my wife I said, I can’t believe what the smell is how far it’s taking me back,
Natalie MacLean 21:14
like Proust’s Madeleine or even Ratatouille? He goes Yeah, exactly. It goes back. Yeah.
Paul K 21:20
So that’s exactly right, the Ratatouille moment. So it’s all about just experiencing and taking a minute to use your senses during everyday things mowing the lawn, if you’d if you do that kind of thing. Pruning the bushes. Like I said, when you’re cooking for particular, fruit senses, bite the apple and sort of Gee, what am I tasting the green apples tastes different than Fuji apples. And that’s how you start to develop a vocabulary for this.
Natalie MacLean 21:43
Absolutely. I also tell my online course students like do exactly what you’re suggesting, because you’ll develop that vocabulary. And now that I’m writing my third book, which is a memoir, the way I access my memories is to remember first, what did it smell like? And then everything else comes back. Just close my eyes. I’m not trying to remember what it looked like. What did it smell like first? And not even just wine? But the whole situation?
Paul K 22:07
Yeah, there’s a room. Have you heard of the aroma wheel?
Natalie MacLean 22:10
Yes. by Ann noble UC Davis? Professor.
Paul K 22:12
Yeah. Right. So she sold it to Isabel, the chef. And she’s back doing it. And she’s refining it. And she’s creating courses around it. And I had forgotten about it. I remember, I was gonna try and copy it like 10 years ago. I’ve told this this advice, Gemma, obviously, we’re just copying it just copyright infringement. But it’s a great tool. It’s a great tool, because it sort of allows the basic component to come out. And then oh, yeah, I really since this isn’t the last most granular ring.
Natalie MacLean 22:45
Exactly. Because for those not familiar, it starts with broad categories, like flowers, or wood or whatever. And then it’ll go deeper and deeper, like violets and you know, what stems of those violets or whatever? Yeah, that’s great idea. Not the copyright infringement. But let’s not do that. What’s the weirdest or most obscure wine you’ve ever sold? You know,
Paul K 23:07
it’s funny, you asked that question. And I’ve been talking about this for the last week. It was recently it was two weeks ago, tasting somebody brought me and I brought it in for myself. It’s not on my website yet. It’s from the Canary Islands. Oh, really? Yeah. And when I log on my computer, what I’m tasting I do that every Tuesday, I put it in the vintage that day, you know, I put everything in there, the grapes, and the grapes already been tasted, which you can’t imagine after 30 years, that does not a grape in there. I don’t haven’t tasted but I start typing in Lisbon negru. And it didn’t come up, which means that never tasted a great wine from that grave. And of course, Canary Islands have never come up before. And because of its volcanic soil, it’s fabulous wine and I really kind of love volcanic soil wines anyway, not to be why
Natalie MacLean 23:54
volcanic soil due for that wine,
Paul K 23:56
you know, you’ve really understand the minerality you get a little bit it’s not smoke, but it’s a little bit of ash. And they’re, they’re a little leaner. You know, they don’t get so voluptuous because the water flows through them. It doesn’t accumulate and clog
Natalie MacLean 24:09
drainage. Yeah, right.
Paul K 24:11
And so wines from boulia, around the base of the mountain down there have that same character with the Canary Islands. Who would have known
Natalie MacLean 24:21
Did you Wait, where’s Canary Islands? Roughly geographically? Last the Canary Islands mine council? Do you know anything we’re about there? Why didn’t like how much wine they make? Or like, I guess that’s probably the leak. Right?
Paul K 24:36
That’s a good question. I usually when I taste a wine like that, I usually go right to Google Earth or something. And I’ll start looking at this to understand it. I didn’t have time that they from the vendor and the wine just came in yesterday. I mean on Friday, so I’m gonna probably have to do my homework now.
Natalie MacLean 24:51
dig into it. Yeah, you’ve made me curious now. So is there anything that stands out for you like a kind of a stranger on usual situation when you’ve been out either researching or trying to buy wines or anything related to the wine club or just wine generally?
Paul K 25:08
Well, you know, it’s kind of fun. And things have changed a lot in the wine business through COVID. I mean a lot. We used to go to big trade tastings. And you know what i do 300 a month, that used to be 100 or 200 off premise, at some other venue,
Natalie MacLean 25:25
off premise, meaning sorry,
Paul K 25:26
let’s say the local distributor wine warehouse was having their annual tasting twice a year, right. And there’s a whole bunch of retailers, I mean, a whole bunch of distributors in Los Angeles. This seems to be going on all the time. But at least twice a month, I’d be out of the office, tasting somewhere else. COVID stopped all that, of course. And so now those 300 wines a month and more are coming through the door here. So it’s a lot of work. But back in the old days, and I always found this fascinating back in the old days. Hey, the day myself is not that old, but I’m talking about the late 80s when you would go to a big tasting and there’ll be 1000 wines to beef 200 tables 10 wines each never do a wall, right. But people like Fess Parker will be pouring his wine. You’ll Daniel Boone,
Natalie MacLean 26:12
California winemaker, yep,
Paul K 26:14
that Paulson, the great comedian, would be pouring his own wines. Dick Sanford who’s a became an icon in the world of Santa Barbara wines, pouring his own wines. Dickie smothers the great comedian, part of the half the team with the Smothers Brothers poisoned wine. The point of that is they weren’t celebrities then. I mean, they were celebrities in their public persona. But in the wine world, there were winemakers and winery owners, and it completely approachable without any pretence. We’re talking wine here, we’re not talking about my celebrity status. And I was always really fun just talking to him about wine and what’s You know what, you know, like Pat Paulson had a wine called refrigerator white. Like, what is this? Because the IRS dryers took his winery, whatever.
Natalie MacLean 26:57
Okay, well, too bad for that. Empty the fridge. All of these folks back in the day when they’re pouring. How is it changed with today’s celebrity endorsed or named wines?
Paul K 27:08
That’s a really good segue. Those guys were winery owners. Like I said, you know, Pat Paulson’s was absorbed by the IRS. I mean, he had the owner to take it right. Fess Parker became a huge enterprise. In Santa Barbara. Dickies, the Smothers Brothers. I believe they’re still around. I’m not sure but there was haven’t seen him lately. Dick Sanford, of course, he sold the winery. Those were real people making real wine, it real investment in the wine. I haven’t seen that except for Greg Norman’s wines in the celebrity world. So typically, a client said they don’t typically work because you’re just paying a percentage off the top for the celebrity status. What is the value of? Well, I think the most obscure example began the sort of verbose woman that was in one of the Housewives of Atlanta, she had a whole line of sparkling Moscato they’re horrible. Oh, and nobody really cared.
Natalie MacLean 28:03
They just wanted the name on the bottle just for Yeah, whatever a gag gift or whatever.
Paul K 28:07
Bottle years ago, I won the right to be the Professional Golf Association Wine Club. Long story Why didn’t never came to for which but at that time, there were 16 golfers professional golfers had once your couples attorney. Yeah. Yeah, they’ll have one, right. Yeah. And but you know, Arnold Palmer had nothing to do with it. Right. It’s just his name. Greg Norman has something to do with it. None of those brands exists anymore. And so seems the only ones that have worked is Mirabelle, you know, which is Brad Pitt.
Natalie MacLean 28:37
Angelina Jolie? Did one or the other of them take custody of the wine? Because
Paul K 28:42
that’s a good question. I haven’t. I haven’t heard about what happened to the wine.
Natalie MacLean 28:46
But you know, I think to your point that is a great wine, but it’s made by the people who do shadow what is it that oh, well, castor oil in the Rhone Valley, that’s a serious winemakers behind the real me. And they don’t have their names on it the label light. Brangelina is not on the label anywhere.
Paul K 29:03
Yeah, that is one difference now. I like Snoop Dogg’s in the wine business now. And we are at the market here locally. And the first time I saw it, it’s called Cali read. I think it’s made by the guys to do the 19 criminals. But it was right at eye level in the middle of the middle shelf of the wine at the supermarket. Okay, so best spot you can have, and that means it’s been paid for. It’s like toothpaste for Procter and Gamble, right. It’s not free. So I guess I’ll snooped I won’t do so well, because the next time we went in about a month later, it was in the bottom shelf.
Unknown Speaker 29:37
dog house, he’s
Unknown Speaker 29:38
headed down the track. That’s funny.
Paul K 29:44
That shows you that. I personally think I’ve brought this example up before. If I spent $50 on a bottle of wine or 40 or 20 or 10. And I know what I like, why would I buy that version of because Fred couple’s name is on it. I don’t understand. If I’m a real wine drinker, and I really enjoy what I do, what value does that bring to the bottle?
Natalie MacLean 30:05
Absolutely, you know, and as I tell my students, the first sale might be based on the label, but the second sale is always based on what’s inside. So that’s growth for me once or whatever.
Paul K 30:17
And I’ll be the article, I had punched drink, which is a great online blog for anything alcohol, and she sat with me for three hours and watch me taste. And during the tasting, there was a break in the action. So I had a bunch of samples that were sent to me, oddly, and weirdly, as a competitor sent some of their wires for me to buy. And one of the Beaujolais 2016. This is about two years ago. So it was current vintage. I said, Let’s taste this. It’ll be fun. So we open it up. It’s really quite bad. You know, we drink it. And she goes, this is really horrible. I said, Yeah, and I roll the label over in a wine was from Saturday, and I live the TV show.
Natalie MacLean 30:55
Paul K 30:56
I think myself, some poor person who loves Santa live who saw this bottle somewhere or saw an ad for it that oh, I can all drinks Saturday night, live Beaujolais while I’m watching the show. And there’s just no way you could have gone. This is really good. Just he couldn’t do it. Yeah.
Natalie MacLean 31:12
So yeah, well, those names and endorsements only go so far. So sort of conversely, what do you think are the most undervalued regions and grapes and styles that we all should be trying right now?
Paul K 31:25
Well, the Canary Islands,
Natalie MacLean 31:27
get it or find it if we know where the heck it is in the world. But yes, Canary Island? Sure. You know,
Paul K 31:33
it’s funny, right now, the industry is in a weird position. There’s a lot of great wines, and they’re very inexpensive. So you can find good values just about anywhere. Because what COVID did was if you and I started a winery tomorrow, we would want to go to a restaurant for the sales. Because we get our name on a list and they just keep buying, we don’t have to go there again, because it’s printed on list. So it’s like a permanent salesman. All that got dried up for nine months, no restaurants for buying anything. So there’s a lot of great wines coming out of the Woodworks, that some of the value, some of the ones that you like, typically are going to be less money. And if you have somebody you trust, to point you in the right direction, they’ll be a lot of really good values. regionally, though, still, the Chilean, Argentinian things are really good values. It’s some really fun things come out of there. You know, Australia’s back in the game a little bit. They’ve come to our shores again, they sort of ebb and flow through over the years, some as their prices go out, and then they don’t come back for a little while, but they’re kind of coming back into the fray. There’s some caucus wines that are very interesting. I’m Armenian descent, I have a little bit of a bent toward them. But you know, when they became free, that technology showed up at their doorstep, and there were some pretty bright winemakers. Michelle Rolando has been out there. Paul Hobbs has been out there famous
Natalie MacLean 32:50
flying winemakers. Yeah,
Paul K 32:52
yeah. Right. So it’s been around. They’ve been around doing this stuff, so they’re hard to find. They’re reasonable though. I just, unfortunately, during the war, the war to the art side war, a friend of mine, his winery was commandeered by the soldiers. And he had a great wine called arborists. It was made from a grave called Sidney which we don’t grow here. It was like $15. But it was Class A wine made from you know, a real winemaker with quality equipment. So but you know, Chile and Argentina, it’s just the go to value. There’s some great values really good values,
Natalie MacLean 33:25
is that because the cost of production is lower, natural conditions are better. All of those contributing all those things
Paul K 33:30
together. Yeah. Which is just less money to do. Well, I had this conversation with an Armenian winemaker, for instance. I think Cabernet grapes for your premium Cabernet grapes in 2018. Were $8,000 a tonne. Okay, so that puts like $125 worth of juice in each bottle, just for the juice, not the glass, not the cork. And you can buy grapes in most countries like that for like $500 a tonne. So you can see this is a considerably less less money, just with costs well,
Natalie MacLean 34:01
and with Armenian wines. Do they share any similarities with Georgian wines, which are really in vogue now with the equip very and the orange wines and the ancient winemaking methods?
Paul K 34:12
Actually, they’re not as tuned to that. I think part of it because when the Soviets were running the show, they had told the Armenians you’re making the brandy and that’s why Winston Churchill loved Armenian brandy. And the Georgians were told to make the wine. That’s basically what the rules were. So the Armenians didn’t have a chance to cultivate to see the age of their vines grow to get the benefit of old grapes, old vine grapes, so they didn’t have these interesting techniques like the Georges do. There’s no quality difference, but they’re totally different. Sit any out any of the main red grapes. They make a more. I can’t even this is what’s cool about wine. I can’t even reference another grape that I taste. Maybe Sangiovese eats a little like a Sangiovese you syrup blend, which is kind of weird right to equate the regular digitus red wine Romania, the Georgia winds are heavy and robust and they’ve used that micro oxidation going through the museum for underground. So totally different. Totally different process.
Natalie MacLean 35:09
Yeah. What is your opinion just segwaying into that on Georgian wines and orange wines and I don’t know those that are in in for I and pet net and all the rest of it.
Paul K 35:21
We just did my first ga once I’ve been here it’s called last Eden’s. It’s got a little residual sugar, natural residual sugar. It’s done very well people really like it. So a really cool bottle. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether these things are trends certainly Georgian why’s that trend because it’s been around for 1000s of years, but things like pet bat which is you know, is naturally petty out wise. Some of them even have like beard cap, closures,
Natalie MacLean 35:48
patchy lawn natural or something the ancestral method, likely frizzy or whatever not is fully sparkling. Yeah,
Paul K 35:56
biodynamic wines are becoming popular organic wines are popular, but here’s my opinion of them. I don’t want to suffer through a glass of wine because I think I’m doing myself a favour because biodynamic, there’s no reason in the world. And biodynamic means that organic farming, but it also includes the cycles of the sun, and the moon for planting and picking and storage, and other things. But I don’t want to have it tastes like hay. Because it’s so natural. I want to taste good. And there’s a reason why it shouldn’t taste good. I personally have not read any more anything valuable health wise, necessarily, except that maybe it aligns our bodies with you know, the molecules of the earth. I mean, that’s kind of what the attitude is. And the one defence of that thing, like by the amount that I’ve ever heard Shapiro and sins of in Patagonia from a bodega chakra. And he said this, once he goes, you know, if the moon can move the bodies of the ocean, which man can never do, and your body is 90% water, imagine what that gravitational pool is doing to your health. I thought that was thought provoking, calm and poetic to his wines are great, they’re biodynamic, they have a wonderful liveliness about them. And I will say organic, true organic wines, not wines just made from organic grapes. But they’re organic throughout the process. Have a liveliness about them. I just I want them to taste good, though. I mean, I don’t want to.
Natalie MacLean 37:25
I do so many don’t. They’re freaky or funky or whatever. And, like even natural and raw wines. I mean, they’re hot and trendy and on restaurant lists, but often they’re just so not good. So hey, yeah. Why are they Is it because of lack of preservatives like sulfites or what’s going on with these wines?
Paul K 37:47
No, you know, organic wines in America, you can add sulphide, so you can’t in Europe, but you can have in here so much are natural to I don’t buy that argument. most conventional winemakers,
Natalie MacLean 37:56
even if you don’t add them,
Paul K 37:57
right. And so one of the things you typically hear too, when winemakers used to come to America before COVID, one of the most popular things so told me it was by Valentino Valentini. Imagine that nameless should be in the movies, right? Yes, Valentina. Valentina. He was the mayor of Malta, Falco, grow sagrantino. And he says, you know, my kids are playing in that vineyard, I don’t want them dusted with pesticides. And that was a very poignant thing. And I think that’s pretty normal. Actually, in most parts of the world. We just didn’t take time to worry about certifying them as organic. Many wines I get in here, organic by trade, but not certified. They don’t go through the legal bureaucratic process to call it organic. But they only do it because they want to do it. And I don’t know, the reason, you know, takes three years to certify your winery is organic, or biodynamic. And then I think you start over, learning what that soil is going to do and produce and grapes and it takes time. And to highlight that Michelle, Rolando friend of mine in Armenia, he goes, Okay, I agree with you. You can grow grapes here, you can make wonderful wine, but it’s gonna take you 100 years to figure it out. 100 years I’m only 35 years old.
Natalie MacLean 39:07
optimistic in the long term, though, really
Paul K 39:09
long term. But the point of that is to learn how all the different seasons and all the different things that impact how a grape grows and, and how deep the roots are gonna go. And all the rest of the things that go into making a glass of wine are unknown. Yeah,
Natalie MacLean 39:22
well, and you only get one chance every year to accumulate all that learning with beer, you know, you’re making a batch every six weeks or whatever. But with wine, it’s like once a year, and then you document and you learn, but it is a slow process.
Paul K 39:34
Natalie MacLean 39:40
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Paul. Okay, here are my takeaways. Number one, Paul offered some great tips on how to choose a wine club, as well as a good local wine retailer. Both of these can help you with the curation process and choosing great wines and getting to know your palate. To I agree with Paul in how to develop your wine vocabulary, smell and taste everything. Well, almost everything. And three, it’s interesting to see how COVID has dramatically changed the wine business, from the volume of business done online these days to what’s changing in terms of popular styles, regions and price points. I also like to suggestions for undervalued regions and vintages. You can win a personally signed copy of Rex pickets novel sideways that was made into the head movie as well as a bottle of sideways Pinot Noir. If you comment on the social media post I created about the contest. Just pick your favourite platform, Insta Facebook or Twitter and comment on the post I created before 7pm on April 21. I’ll select the winner randomly from those of you who participate you get a bonus entry if you tag a wine loving friend, or reshare it in your stories. in the show notes, you’ll find a link to these posts the full transcript of our conversation, how you can join me in a free online wine and food pairing class where you can find me on zoom, Insta, Facebook and YouTube live on video every Wednesday at seven including this evening and next week. That’s all in the show notes at Natalie maclean.com forward slash one to four. You won’t want to miss next week when I continue this fascinating conversation with Paul Kay. In the meantime, if you missed the last two episodes about wine in the White House, go back and take a listen to them. There’s lots of wine tips in there. As I talk with Fred Ryan, publisher of The Washington Post. He’s got some great stories on the intersection between wine and politics. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.
Fred Ryan 41:50
This was in 1987 and the Prime Minister of France, Jacques Chirac. And his wife had come to the White House to rock and Reagan had been friends for many years to rock up in the mayor of Paris, and Reagan’s governor of California. So they knew each other well and they had shared wine together. And now here they are the respective leaders of their two countries. And Iraq is coming to the White House. Here is France, the world’s wine superpower coming. So you had to do something that balanced that with the desire of American presidents to showcase the best in American wine. So ronald reagan came up with a very diplomatic solution. He served open one the joint venture between Felipe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Robert Mondavi joint Franco American venture and it was a perfect wine and it was very well received that evening.
Natalie MacLean 42:40
perfect blend, blended diplomacy. Very nice. If you liked this episode, please tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the tips that Paul shared. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week.
Natalie MacLean 43:09
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at Natalie maclean.com forward slash subscribe. We’ll be here next week. Cheers.