Is there any experience, person, class or instructor that you will never forget? Two NAU scientists I looked up to were Matt Kapinski and Joe Hazel. They love what they do and make it fun. Outside of that, [ceramicist] Don Bendel really resonated with me. He was one of the reasons I had so much fun and got through. Having the opportunity to explore and satisfy different parts of your being through ceramics—in a world-class program—was awesome. In fact, I’m going to take up ceramics when I get some more time.
What advice would you give to someone following in your footsteps? There isn’t a prescription to become a sommelier. The important thing is to pay attention to what makes you tick. I didn’t plan on going to Occidental College, floundering, get- ting on the dean’s blacklist because I was always at the beach surfing, and then change majors a trillion times, and end up in geology. I didn’t plan on working on Capitol Hill, writ- ing speeches, going to grad school at NAU, taking the LSATs, and then within three weeks of going off to law school, deciding on a whim to do wine. It was really important to have all these experiences.
While finishing my master’s thesis at NAU, I ran across the street to Brix, bought a bottle of wine and took it home, opened it up, and stuck my nose in it. It brought me back to a very specific moment. I remembered where I was sitting, where my wife was sitting, what we ate. It was very compelling. The next morning I was at Late for the Train and thought, “What I want to do is food and wine.” And so I did.
“ Wine is fun, not scary. Trust your own palate—don’t like something just because someone else likes it or tells you it is good. Wine doesn’t belong on a pedestal; it belongs on your table, and it only belongs on your table if you think it tastes good. ”
Our alumni will read this issue in April. What do you think people will enjoy drinking in the spring? I think that during any season, peo- ple are leaning more toward elegant wines. Drinking wine is not supposed to be work, but fun. We can all be impressed or wowed by something that is big, mysterious, hits you in the face, lots of fruit—but wine drinkers want more, in intellectual value, and that also comes with wines of finesse and elegance. Grace over girth, if you will. And I think that is just the natural progression people are following.
What do you think would be the quintessential NAU wine? Something mountainous, since Flagstaff is such a beautiful place, which makes me think about Italy with the mountains rising above the town—so I will go with Barbera. ≤
naualumni.com I Spring 2008