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Wine,Wine Writer

Wine Writer Wilfred Wong

[Image borrowed from the San Francisco Chronicle Website. Image by Lea Suzuki.]

Wilfred Wong is one of our most prolific wine people in the SF Bay Area. I’ve long respected him, because he’s so knowledgeable and highly regarded by all of us who know him. Have a  party, invite Wilfred, and many more people will attend, just because he’s coming… period.

It occurred to me that he’d be a great addition to my wine writer page as a resource. I’ve created this page, because it allows for me to just tell a client about a writer that I respect, and have a page resource where my “happy” relationships exist. So far, it’s working well not only for me, but I also find people accessing my files all of the time. It’s apparently working well for others, too…. Especially the day that I saw every single wine writer file had been opened. It’s working.

So, Wilfred… If you don’t know Mr. Wong, it’s time to acquaint yourself with him; especially if you’re in the wine business.

Wilfred Wong ~ Cellar Master For BevMo!
Author, Photographer, Wine Marketing Consultant, Wine Judge Extraordinaire

[Q]  Many wine writers also have a day job. If wine isn’t your job, what is and for whom?

[WILFRED]  Wine is one of my life’s passions and is sometimes my 24/7 job. I have been gainfully employed in the wine biz for 40+ years.

[Q] When did you start writing about wine?

[WILFRED]  I started writing professionally in 1986 for Wine Country International and Bay Food (a Berkeley based newspaper).

[Q] What prompted you to start writing about wine?

[WILFRED]  While developing the Ashbury Market wine department in the early 1970’s, I started a wine/food newsletter. Over time, my recommendations gained a good following, not only with our customers, but with “wine writer and aspiring wine writer types.” After a decade of doing this, I was approached by not only Wine Country International and Bay Food, but others (not very significant publications about writing reviews and articles). I did this while running our full time family business. Also, I always felt that I could and really wanted to write.

[Q] What aspect(s) of wine do you most enjoy covering?

[WILFRED]  When given the chance, I enjoy covering the human aspect of it as well as the historic stuff (where the grapes come from? What is the reason behind the wine and how it came to be?).  Of course, I enjoy breaking down the aspects of wine and why it possess certain characteristics. I review wines as a profession, but that is not always the most exciting part of what I do. I like bringing wines to life if they have a story behind them.

[Q] How has your job changed since you’ve started?

[WILFRED]  This will be my 19th Christmas at BevMo! I began as the import wine buyer, over time the company kind of branded my name and uses it many promotions, etc. From the end of 1999 to present, I have simply research products and reviewed them with my own 100 point scale that BevMo! uses.

[Q] What’s the most memorable wine you’ve ever tasted?

[WILFRED]  In my 40+ years of serious wine tasting, I have rated 5 wines 100 points (listed below in the order they were tasted:

  1. Domaine Ramonet Montrachet, 1990
  2. Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Georges de Latour Private Reserve Estate Bottled, Egg Fined, 1951(Tasted: October 14, 1990)
  3. Opus One Red Wine, Napa Valley, 1997
  4. Altocedro Gran Reserva Malbec, La Consulta, 2009
  5. Quinta do Noval Vintage Porto, Nacional 2011

Of these wines, the first 100 wine was the most memorable, partly because it was the first and because I enjoyed it with our tasting group, made up of mostly Master Sommeliers. We enjoyed it with dinner and could not stop talking about it.

[Q]  What’s your favorite variety?

[WILFRED]  For the first 10 years of my wine career, I could never have enough zinfandel. Perhaps it was because zinfandel provided my first wine “Aha” experience! I had just tasted a flight of Ridge Zinfandels on Union Street in San Francisco at the Crane & Kelly Wine & Cheese Center. Among the wines was the 1972 Ridge Geyserville, which was way out of this world. I subsequently made a call to Paul Draper to visit him at the winery. As time grew on, I went to Cabernet Sauvignon because it just such a great varietal. Powerful and stately, yet stylish at its very best. Over the last decade (actually even as I was like Cabernet) I drifted and fell under the spell of Pinot Noir, which prompted me to take a trip to Burgundy and visit Domaine de Romanée Conti. Pinot Noir is the Holy Grail that all wine lovers end up at or should.

[Q]  Do you believe that there are better quality, lower priced wines today, than in past vintages?

[WILFRED]  Wine quality today is at its best ever! With improve understanding of vineyards and more effective ways of handling grapes and making wines, wines overall are so much better at all levels, including the under $10.00 range.

[Q]  What’s your favorite innovation in the wine industry over the past few years?

[WILFRED]  Improved tools for wine enjoyment, including proper wine glasses and wine keys. This may seem simple, but if the consumer can’t have the right instruments for wine service, all the research in the vineyards and the wineries will never be realized.

[Q]  What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?

[WILFRED]  Lightly seared ahi tuna with a delicate, true pinot noir. Flavors of both food and wine can be simple individually, but dynamite when paired.

[Q]  What are your interests outside of the wine business?

[WILFRED]

  • Family-reminding all of us that family is the most important commodity in our lives and that we should treasure it.
  • Photography-One of my greatest passions, a great photo can tell a story that would otherwise be lost.
  • Ecology- Doing what we can (within limits) to save the earth. I am not a purist, but whenever we can to keep this front of mine.
  • Our local sport teams: San Francisco Giants, San Francisco 49ers, and the Golden State Warriors.

[Q]  Who inspires you (wine business or outside of it, doesn’t matter)?

[WILFRED]

  • Samuel Beckett- novelist, playwright and poet and probably more than that. I was really moved by his play, Endgame, when we performed it in college.
  • Iris Chang- Chinese-American writer (1968-2004), who committed suicide. I haven’t really read her works, but I was incredibly depressed when I read her story.

[Q]  For what would you like to be remembered?

[WILFRED]  This is a story for someone else to write. I think for the most part, I have been misunderstood by most of my peers and those around me, who see me as different, creative, too much right brain stuff going on (not in a bad way). But it truth, I am so really “normal” as can be.

I don’t think Wilfred actually sees himself as we do… As I wrote above, and am going to also go out as my final thought… “Wilfred is a great colleague with impeccable credentials, and adored by all who know him.”

 

 

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6 Responses to “Wine Writer Wilfred Wong”

  1. Wilfred is one of our Living Wine Legends. I first met him when he was stocking the wine shelves at Ashbury Market around 1981 or 1982. He was incredibly helpful to me by answering my novice questions!

  2. Steve Evans says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed this article and heartly agree with his taste in wine and food. Enjoy Ahi with our Pinot from Willamette valley region for its mild and yet complex structure. Say a 2004 Bethel Heights Flat Block just now. Add grilled Ahi with a hazelnut crust Nothing better…..

  3. Andy Perdue says:

    Wilfred is one of the really good guys in this business. I’ve been blessed to have judged with him many times over the past 15 years. He has an incredible palate, and he has provided me with indispensable advice.

    He’s also quite the joker and a really talented photographer.

  4. Jo Diaz says:

    I agree with each of you. He’s a treasure.

  5. […] Wine Writer Wilfred Wong […]

  6. Roger Parks says:

    Wilfred has always been approachable and pleasant and has a great framework for working with the many (sometimes conflicting) aspects of this business.

    Every time I take a photo of a great dish or meal that has been set in front of me, I think of Wilfred, and a long ago dinner at Farallon in San Francisco…

    I think Facebook could have been invented for Wilfred Wong…

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