I grew up in the Bronx, in a close-knit, working class Italian-American family. We were far from wine connoisseurs; in fact, my earliest memory of wine was the gallon jug of Ernest & Julio Gallo red wine that my dad kept near his seat under the dining room table.
He never drank much but I remember as a young boy watching him on occasion pour himself a small glass from the jug. No swirling the glass. No smelling the bouquet. No pedantic reviews of the wine’s structure or mouthfeel. Just a small, well-earned reward at the end of a hard day of work. Those early images of my dad and my introduction to wine have stayed with me throughout my life—as did a few important lessons. First, there is nothing extraordinary about wine. It’s not something to be prayed to at the altar of pretense, but rather something to be enjoyed, with ease, not anxiety. Second, it’s something that’s best consumed with family, friends and those close to you. Third, wine and food have some sort of very special and undeniable connection, and when combined in the right ways, creates an even more memorable experience.
But I quickly learned that the world of wine was much broader than I knew. It all felt so mysterious—with strange names like Pouilly¬Fuissé, and words like tannic, oaky, austere, silky and floral that sounded more like voodoo than helpful descriptions. And then there were all of these grape varieties, and good and bad vintages, and even something called “malolactic fermentation,” whatever the hell that was. Wine had gone from this simple beverage that my dad enjoyed at the dinner table to this complex world, where I increasingly felt ill-informed and out of place.
I realized a couple of things. First, wine was intimidating to lots of people, not just me. Secondly, it didn’t have to be hard, or off-putting. You could apply the same practical, structured, easy to understand and easy to apply ways to think about wine as you could to understand any complex business issue. I also realized that there is a real yearning by busy professionals to learn more about wine, and food pairing, that they could use not only in their personal lives but in their social dealings with colleagues and clients.
And Frank Talk On Wine allows me to do just that—fuse my experience as business consultant and a branding coach to senior executives, and my love of wine, which has been through the ringer of oenophile education with its obscure language, intimidating rituals and roster of self-absorbed “experts.” With Frank Talk On Wine, I break it down in terms that a busy professional can understand, not by telling them what they should drink, but rather sharing insights and practical ways so they can understand and choose what they like to drink.
My wine coaching principles are pretty simple. Wine should be easy. Wine should be fun. Wine should be accessible. Wine should be something that you enjoy with the important people in your life, along with some good food and hopefully, a few laughs.
My dad taught me that.