5 QUESTIONS FOR… The Winehound's Bob Wesley
Over the course of nearly 20 years in the Santa Barbara wine scene, merchant (and Buffalo, New York native) Bob Wesley has gained a very avid following of thirsty consumers. They heed his advice and eagerly read his cleverly authored wine newsletters. He’s now the mind (or should we say, palate?) behind The Winehound, a recently-opened and impressive downtown shop that stocks close to a thousand wine labels (and even a few olive oils) from around the world. Here’s some insight into this sometimes-shy, often-funny, always-knowledgeable wine lover for this issue’s 5 Questions For…
W&D: The world sees you as a wine merchant, as a liaison between winemakers and wine consumers. How would you describe your role?
BW: I’m a Brita Filter/Jungle guide hybrid in one: first, tasting an abundance of wines to weed out the mediocrities, and then guiding our customers through the enormous number of selections to find the one that will work best for their specific needs (a dinner, a celebration or otherwise). The vast majority of wines on the planet are poor to undistinguished, so we take a bullet to spare our clientele from suffering through them.
W&D: Name a winemaking region you feel the consumer has yet to discover or really appreciate.
BW: Rueda in Spain. The main grape here is Verdejo, which must have Sauvignon Blanc in its DNA, as there’s grapefruit and grassiness in most every bottling I’ve ever tried, often along with additional notes of flowers and white pepper. One of our new favorites is the Valdelainos 2007 from Aurelio Cabastrero, a talented importer who owns a company called Grapes of Spain. This is an aromatic and ripe Rueda, with terrific complexity and a fair price.
W&D: Name a red wine that’s totally underestimated as a great Thanksgiving or holiday feast wine? An underestimated white wine?
BW: I think Italian Amarone is an overlooked import that would ignite the taste buds on Thanksgiving day: it’s uber-ripe and a great replacement for the Zinfandel that most folks flock to. With massively ripe, juicy-jammy purple fruits, dashes of black pepper and a bit of chocolate, it will pair well with the sweetness of candied yams and cranberry sauce and will tackle any crazed, hyphenate stuffing you can throw at it... dried cherry-chorizo-sage, anyone? I think the Tomasso Bussola 2004 Amarone Classico ($69.99) would be ideal, as it doesn’t veer off into overt portiness like some other major producers. For a white wine, one of my secret favorites is Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France, and the first name I think of is Francois Chidaine, especially the 2006 Montlouis Les Tuffeaux ($26.99). Here’s a honeyed wine with loads of pear and apple, and a mineral-laced undertone. Again, the sweetness level is a friendly match with the traditonal Turkey Day sides, but not so sweet as to turn the entree into a dessert course.
W&D: Tell us about a memorable wine-themed vacation.
BW: I was up visiting Napa a couple of years ago with another wine geek, and she likes a broad range of wines, including more offbeat selections. We were at Go Fish Restaurant and found a Spanish Grenache Blanc at a great price on the wine list, and it was ideal with course after course of fresh seafood during a 2-1/2 hour dinner. The next night, we went to Press in St. Helena and she brought along a bottle of Pierre Usseglio 2003 Chateauneuf du Pape Mon Aieul, which was nirvana with Press’s steaks and world’s best French fries. So, there we were in the heart of the Napa Valley, drinking Spanish and French wines. It was a great weekend.
W&D: If you hadn’t become a wine merchant, what would you have done?
BW: Struggling screenplay writer, or wine journalist.
By Gabe Saglie, email@example.com