Sprinkle of Spice in Anyone’s Life… With this guy, it’s “Play ball!” for the rest of his life…

Disclaimer for the image at the right. .. Jim Concannon had put on a cowgirl hat that I was traveling with. I caught him enjoying a brief moment of letting his proper guard down. It’s a classic, and Rich’s shirt doesn’t lie about one of his passions, either.

Rich Hinkle’s wine articles first struck me as, “Wow, I love his sass.” It stopped me dead in my tracks, because he dared to say so much, and seemed to be getting away with all of it… handily.

Rich’s writing is quick witted and edgy, and you can catch a lot of what he does in Quarterly Review of Wines… a glossy wine magazine coming out of New England, my old stomping grounds.

Now, if I told you that Rich was one of the originators of Wine Spectator would that surprise you? It did me… Who knew? I knew it wasn’t Marvin Shanken, but I haven’t burned in my brain who it was until Rich let me know that he was one of those people…

But wait, I’m getting ahead of Rich telling his own story through the wine writer Q&A.

What Juicy Tale I do have for you is about when I offered him a trip aboard Patrick Henry’s luxury trains; one a dome “living” car, and the other a fanciful sleeper. We were going to fly into Fort Worth, Texas, head up to St. Louis by rail, pouring Petite Sirah in all of these cities, finishing in Chicago (Blue Tooth Tour II), and then flying back to San Francisco.

Rich was all over it and said “Sure!”

I think I had a bit of a glimpse back then that Rich loved baseball, and how one year he took a trip with his family all over the United States – one baseball season – to visit just to visit all the stadiums. Also on this train were a lot of winemakers… the same adventurous crew that had gone all over the US the year before in a motor home. And, as we were pulling into St. Louis there was a baseball game that night. He and Louis Foppiano were gone as quickly as their feet would carry them. Union Station was only a few blocks from the St. Louis Cardinals home field… Bye, bye… birdies…

Rich has written many stories about that adventure, because that’s exactly what it was, and adventure, all marketing aside. We’ve had lots of fun together, Rich and Beverly Hinkle with Jose and I whenever possible.

Rich authors book, writes articles, and is a giant kid.Writer Profile questions:

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

[A] Writing is my job. It’s all I know how to do.

[Q] When did you start writing about wine?

[A] I created the Sebastiani Vineyards Newsletter, first issue January 1973. That led me to a meeting with Bob Morrisey, a San Diego wine writer, with whom I helped start the Wine Spectator (April 1976).

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

[A] All I knew when I quit law school was that I wanted to write, but had no idea how to make a living at it. (I’m still not all that certain on how that works, but somehow it does.)

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

[A] I love to interview people, to find out what motivates them, what inspires them to create.

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

[A] Tougher to earn an honest living, as the magazines shrink and pay less.

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

[A] Freemark Abbey 1973 Edelwein-honey nectar!

[Q] What’s your favorite variety?

[A] Pinot Noir, for its inherent textural sensuality. I refer you to Hinkle’s Second Wine Law (“Great PN inspires one to create new sins . . . and wish to commit them!”)

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

[A] No question. The essence of competition.

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

[A] I like and am open to any and all innovation. I’m impartial in that regard.

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

[A] Filet mignon and Pinot Noir/Burgundy. Ask a hard question!

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

[A] Baseball! I still play hardball every Sunday. (I’m only 63. My son and I played in a father-son tournament two years ago against a guy-he pitched, hit, ran the bases-who was then 84 years old. He’s my lighthouse, my guiding light!)

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

[A] My wife and my children. And Eleanor Roosevelt’s marvelous insight: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”