Wine Writer of Distinction and Quality…

Gerald Boyd is a freelance wine writer (based in Sonoma County) for whom I have great respect. He takes what he does seriously, and he strives to do it well.

About seven years ago, I asked Gerald if he’d moderate a panel for a Petite Sirah Symposium I was organizing for the Louis Foppiano family. He told me that he’d do it if I could get Carl Doumani to be part of it. Since I was new to the Petite Sirah variety, I didn’t know that he was setting the bar really high. He established all that I would do with the symposium from that point forward, and for the next six years. I know he set the standards for my own personal growth and success as being very high, and for that I’ll always be grateful.

[Q] Many wine writers also have a day job. If wine isn’t your job, what is and for whom?
[A] Wine and spirits writing is my job, although I am moving toward retirement, or at least semi-retirement.

[Q} When did you start writing about wine?
[A] Not sure of the exact date, but likely in the early 1970s when I sold a piece on Ivancie Cellars of Colorado, which I had originally written for the Denver magazine, to Wine World magazine.

[Q] What prompted you to start writing about wine?
[A] Like many writers of that time, I was a collector who also happened to be a free-lance general interest writer. The Ivancie idea was unique (only winery in Colorado then) and once published in the Denver magazine, a wine friend said I should sell the piece to a wine magazine. I didn’t know such pubs existed then, but I checked and discovered that Vintage magazine was publishing out of New York and Wine World out of southern California. Colorado was a very active market for California wines in those days and Ivancie was buying grapes from California, so….

[Q} What aspect(s) of wine do you most enjoy covering?
[A] Everything except maybe business and marketing. Pamela Vandyke Price, an old friend and storied English wine writer told me once that a writer’s duty was to know and write about all wines, not just one region or type. I’ve heeded her advice since and try to write and learn about as many wine regions and wine types as I can. I have always believed that the wine writer’s job was to educate, inform and if possible, entertain.

[Q] How has your job changed since you’ve started?
[A] Gad, now there’s a loaded question which could take hours to answer, if at all. But I’d have to say that the discipline of wine writing has gotten away, too far in my opinion, from education and information about wine in favor of wine lifestyle and personalities. While I’m not opposed to either, I think there should be more balance in today’s wine writing and more writing about wine, as guidance, rather than endless tasting notes and numerical ratings. I know, I’m guilty of the tasting-rating lockstep for Wine Review Online, but I like to think that the meat of what I write for WRO is in the body of my copy not the wine ratings.

[Q] What’s the most memorable wine you’ve ever tasted?
[A] Another loaded question that’s akin to that all-time favorite: “What’s you favorite wine?” In my time, I’ve tasted pre-phylloxera Bordeaux, some of which were astounding for their youth, Burgundies from the 1930s that were incredible and a 1927 Ch. D’Yquem that, after the glass was drained, the dried remains smelled as fresh as when the bottle was opened. But maybe the “most memorable” wine was the one that got me started drinking good wine. In the early 1950s, I was a young airman on temporary duty in France when a friend and I went to dinner in the Chaumont train station restaurant; the place to eat in those days, outside Paris, if you didn’t have much money. We were lucky to have an old waiter who liked Americans, wanted to practice his English, but also was knowledgeable about wine, a rare thing among the French in those days. He tutored us and then recommended a red wine with our meal. Although I don’t recall the specific wine, I believe it was likely Beaujolais because of where we were and the waiter’s wisdom of breaking two young Americans in with a wine they couldn’t help but like. He was right. To this day, I remember the aroma as the wine poured from the bottle.

[Q] What’s your favorite variety?
[A] I would have to say Pinot Noir, although I also have a soft spot for Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc.

[Q] Do you believe that there are better quality, lower priced wines today, than in past vintages?
[A] Yes, how can there not be with all the advances in viticulture, enology and winemaking that we’ve experienced since the 1970s. The caution is that far too many of the wines are sterile and boring and taste alike. Winemakers need to be careful of losing the essence of wine that makes it different from other beverages.

[Q] What’s your favorite innovation in the wine industry over the past few years?
[A] The increased interest and understanding of viticulture; the universal sharing of vineyard and winemaking techniques; New World winemakers showing their Old World colleagues that old dogs can (and must) learn new tricks and the near universal acceptance of the screw cap for certain wines.

[Q] What’s your favorite food and wine pairing?
[A] Fresh grilled salmon and Pinot Noir; mature Cabernet Sauvignon/Bordeaux and roast lamb or lamb stew with barley; slightly grassy Sauvignon Blanc with fresh goat cheese. I could go on, but these are at the top of my list.

[Q] What are your interests outside of the wine business?
[A] Classical music, reading, bicycling, travel, spending time with my wife, travel.

[Q] Who inspires you (wine business or outside of it, doesn’t matter)?
[A] I’ve met and have been influenced by so many notable people in and associated with the wine business that it is impossible to name just one or two. But in general, people who have a passion for wine and want to make the best wine they possibly can, more than making money. Outside the wine business I have great admiration for visionaries like Nelson Mandela and people who unselfishly work to make the world a better place to live and enjoy wine.

Both images for this posting have come from The Critics Challenge Website.