Eric Arnold - Author - First Big Crush
Eric is the author of First Big Crush - The Down and Dirty of Making Great Wine Down Under. His website is www.crusheric.com.
What was the first memory you have of wine?
My family lived in Naperville, IL until I was about 12. Most of the neighbors all had kids the same age, so in the summer there were block parties. The "wine" was some sort of pink stuff in a box. I didn't try it, and I don't think any of the adults did either. But I don't remember, and I'm sure the adults then don't either.
What was the first wine that you considered to be good wine?
Hogue Cellars Fume Blanc from Washington, which I discovered when I was in college. It was cheap and consistently very good.
Do you think it's the taste of a good wine or the experience while drinking the wine that makes it good? Why?
I think it's a bit of both, but environment is a huge factor. If you're drinking '61 Latour while you're in a North Korean labor prison with electrodes hooked to your nipples, I don't imagine the wine's going to taste all that great. But I've been with friends and family and had a wonderful time even though we were drinking some pretty mediocre wine.
How big is your cellar?
Don't have one. I just have a mini wine fridge designed to hold 16 bottles that I've crammed about 20 into (mostly Chateauneuf, some Sea Smoke and a couple goodies from New Zealand). And a wine rack for everything else, that holds maybe 50 bottles, is usually no more than half full of drink-now wines.
What is your favorite varietal (i.e. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot)? Why?
Sauvignon Blanc. I just love how different it is in each part of the world it's grown, and how it's at its best from Marlborough, NZ. Bright, acidic, tangy, fruity, grassy – it's got a little of everything, and goes as well with dinner as it does with a fruit salad at breakfast (if that's your thing).
What is your favorite region for wine (i.e. Napa Valley, Margaret River, Montelcino)
Marlborough, mostly because of the personal connection I have to it. But also because it's not just a Sauvignon Blanc pony. There are great Pinots, Chards, Rieslings, even Syrah and Viognier there. It's a small region, but has so many wineries trying so many different and interesting things all the time. And even the local trashy bars have really good wine in them.
What is your favorite vineyard or brand?
Allan Scott, again, because of the personal connection. But a couple other brands that drew me to Marlborough were Huia, Wairau River, Hunter's and Drylands. Some of my favorite discoveries there are Fromm, Herzog, Spy Valley, Astrolabe, Highfield, Seresin and Foxes Island.
Do you have a favorite bottle? (varietal, region, year)
Yes, but it's empty. It's a bottle of Hogue Fume Blanc from 1996 I think, that is one of several that a bunch of friends and I drank the night before we all graduated college. Everyone signed it.
What wine are you saving for a special day?
More and more I'm finding that sort of thing in general to be a bad idea. Because you wind up with tons of wines you feel like you can't drink because the day just isn't special enough for one reason or another. But among those I have lying around for the specialness or the odd, late-night, impaired decision are: three Sea Smokes, a couple Domaine St. Prefert 2005 Chateauneufs, a 10-year-old Champagne, some single-vineyard Allan Scott Pinot and Chardonnay, and a Fromm Syrah. Oh, and I think there's a half bottle of Hungarian Tokaji buried in there somewhere that my parents gave me.
Where do you buy the majority of your wine? (Retailer, Direct, etc. Feel free to name the store you shop at or the site you buy from)
On the way home, after work, to be consumed that night. There are a few retailers near my office and a couple near my apartment in Brooklyn, such as Slope Cellars. Just depends on my mood. But for bigger orders I usually buy from Wine Library in NJ and have the wine shipped to me.
Have you ever had an organic wine? Did you like it?
There are some good ones out there, sure, but I don't think they're better because they're organic or anything. And I would say that 75% of the organic wines I've had that proudly marketed themselves as such weren't that good. Not terrible, but not worth the extra money they cost.
What is the most you've ever spent on a bottle of wine?
I bought a couple magnums of Chateauneuf that were $130 each I think. That's really pushing it for me since I'm not rolling around naked in piles of money. Actually, I'm not rolling around naked in piles of anything.
What was your favorite wine experience (or one of your top experiences)?
Spending a year making it, and writing a book about it. I'm a pretty lucky dude that way, I'll admit. Though one funny thing that springs to mind is when I visited Australia, and was staying in a hostel in Byron Bay, which is a secluded little party town. It was Christmas Day, and for $20 there was an all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink BBQ. But all the wine was in boxes – really awful, sweet, Hunter Valley plonk. I had one bottle of Riesling, from Pettavel in Geelong, Australia, that I wanted to bring back to NZ, but I couldn't stand to drink the boxed stuff. So I opened the Riesling. Then I heard that people in the kitchen of the hostel were saying, "Did you see? There's a guy out there drinking wine from a <i>bottle</i>! Coooool."
What one wine do you recommend for our readers to try?
Manischewitz. So you never forget what horrible wine tastes like.
What is an up-and-coming wine (or winery) you think is a good value right now?
My obsession of the moment is cheap Spanish Garnacha: Las Rocas, Tres Picos and Pablo Menguante all come to mind. But ask me tomorrow, and I'll probably have a different answer.
Did we miss anything?
Other than shoe size, boxers vs. briefs, and social security number, no, you didn't miss a thing. This is the longest Q&A I've ever done!
Got Tannins would like to say cheers to Eric and encourages our readers to try out his book, which is rated 4 1/2 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com. Click the following link - First Big Crush to purchase.