Wine. You have questions, we have half-pickled opinions. Actually, we operate under a much healthier self-image here at PAVC. We do, though, have scads of respect for the knowledge of others, and we get especially perky when a big-time beverage brain is in our midst. Thus, from time to time, we’ll tap an expert for their insights to help improve everyone’s pleasure quotient and provide a dram of wine wisdom at no cost to you and yours. It’s on us.
First in the spotlight is Bob Trimble, a personality who may be familiar to casual Philly area consumers and wine obsessives alike. His aka, The Wine Guy, is field-honed. Extending well beyond guest lecturing, industry consulting and duties as a PLCB retail wine specialist (based at the King of Prussia store), Trimble’s CV reads like that of, well, what he is: An old vine-rooted pro. He’s served as national wine educator for the mammoth multinational Diageo Wines; director of education, wines and Champagne for the equally expansive Pernod-Ricard USA; regional sales manager at Seagram Chateau & Estate Wines; instructor at Napa’s Sterling Vineyards School of Service & Hospitality; and was a founding board member of the American Sommelier Association. The guy has vintage.
We asked Trimble to pause his hectic routine to share answers to the following questions. Thankfully, he’s also a nice guy. You’re welcome.
Tell us about your wine epiphany – the moment when your appreciation for wine crossed over to love or obsession.
This memory is still vivid in my mind. The year was 1994. I was at Restaurant Taquet, located in the Wayne Hotel, having lunch with a few colleagues from the distributor where I worked. The wine was a 1976 white Burgundy (Chardonnay) from the Village of Meursault and the Premier Cru vineyard of Perrières, from producer Domaine Robert Ampeau. The wine was mesmerizing in a way I had never experienced before. Incredible, complex aromas with firm acidity and a light straw color that would not indicate the wine was anywhere close to its age. It was so good, it kept distracting me from the conversation, and when it was finished I actually sat there for another half-hour just smelling the empty glass! Absolutely stunning.
I was lucky enough to visit the Domaine and spend some time with Robert and his son Michel, coming to understand their total commitment to making great wines and working the vineyards all the time, which gave me a true understanding of the saying, “the best wines are made in the vineyard.” The memory of that wine is still hauntingly vivid nearly 20 years later.
What noteworthy wine/region/style is overlooked by consumers?
There are many! Spain is one giant producer that has some incredible values that people just are not as familiar with, like the whites from Rueda made with the Verdejo grape, deep reds made from the Monastrell grape (from regions like Valencia and Murcia) and, of course, Sherry from Andalucia. Portugal also offers incredible value for the dollars spent. Look for reds from the Douro, Alentejo and the Dão regions and whites from Vinho Verde as well as Alentejo.
Is there a piece of wine wisdom that you’re passionate about?
It sounds like a cliché, but good wine is really wine that you like. First and foremost, wine should provide pleasure and it can do that on many levels. That’s what I love about it. You can enjoy it on its most basic level, just drinking for pleasure, or you can make it terribly complex, studying soil complexities, climate, winemaking and farming – the list goes on and on. It’s totally up to you as to how far and complex you want to make it. Plain and simple, it’s subjective!
What’s the most common question you get?
“I would like a great wine but don’t want to spend a lot of money. What do you have?” Actually, it’s a great question because I don’t believe you have to spend a lot to get something really nice. I can always point to our Chairman’s Selection wines where we leverage the state’s buying power to get great wines at real value. I also have a number of wines in the Luxury section that offer super values as well. I’m always searching out wines for the store that really over-deliver for the price point.
We have a ton of great values under $20. Under $15 can work quite nicely as well with wines from Australia, Chile, Argentina and lesser-known regions of California. Under $10 is always a bit more challenging, so one might need to explore regions like the Douro from Portugal, for example. But we are always receiving new shipments and those under-$10 gems do show up from time to time. All the more reason to stop by regularly, because when they arrive, they really fly!
How do you select wines for your store?
As retail wine specialists, we get some say as to what we stock, which is why stores have varied selections. I try to build a nice collection of wines in my focus categories. For example, with white Burgundy, I try to offer different price points while featuring a complete range of good producers from major ACs (or AOCs – Appellations d’Origine Contrôlée – the top French wine classification) like Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet, in the Côte d’Or. Then, I work my way south through the Côte Chalonnaise and the Macon region, finishing up with Chablis up north. I look to select benchmark producers and do plenty of research to keep on top of current trends. One of my favorite tools is social media – Instagram, Twitter and Facebook – where I follow a number of sommelier friends and other wine geeks to see what they are tasting and enjoying.
What bottle(s) do you have open at home?
At the moment, I happen to be a temporary Francophile. Open right now is the light and refreshing 2011 Apremont, Vin de Savoie, from Pierre Boniface. The vineyards are nestled in the French Alps and the grape is the obscure Jacquère. The other wine which has been a staple in my fridge all summer long is a 3-liter box of Rosé wine from the Commanderie de la Bargemone in Coteaux d’Aix en Provence – 2012 vintage. I love the convenience of the box and you really can’t beat the price: Four bottles’ worth at nine bucks a bottle. That, to me, is incredible value. I’m hoping that they will consider producing a 6-liter box soon so it might last a little while longer in my house!