The Iconoclast, The Reporter, and The Crusader—Wine Folks We Miss

Listening to Alice Feiring’s interview with the late Joe Dressner, it got me thinking about a few people who I really miss. Joe is one of them.

dressnerI never met Joe Dressner, the iconoclastic wine importer who never, ever held his tongue. I never missed reading anything that he wrote and to this day I am sorry I never met. He said some very nasty things about me, as well as saying some very gracious things about me. I did not understand the man and this is some of what attracted me to him. Alice’s interview with him is well worth a listen. I miss him being part of the community of engaged and passionate wine people. Joe died in September 2011, after battling a brain tumor and as part of his reaction to this situation, he began a blog entitled “The Amazing Adventures of Mr. Tumor Man.” I am hoping that if I ever have to face a situation such at that, I can do so with the gregariousness and face-forward way in which Mr. Dressner did. Listen to Alice’s interview with Joe. You can also still read his first blog and one of the first ever blogs, The Wine Importer.

CartiereAnother gentleman I miss is Rich Cartiere. Rich was a reporter who primarily covered the wine trade, the business side of things and he was a very good one. Rich died in 2008 and at the time he had a website called “The Wine Market Report”. He broke news, he doggedly covered stories and he was as conscientious as they get. I was shocked when I learned he died of cancer. He was 51 at the time. He never told me he had this infliction.

meadFinally, I miss Jerry Mead. Some of you will remember Mr. Mead. He was an inspiration for this very blog. At the time of his death in 2000, Jerry was still writing what at the time was the longest running wine column in America. He was a steadfast proponent of direct shipping and took opponents to direct shipping to task in words with the artistry of a butcher taking apart a carcass. You could always count on Mr. Mead to say the right thing when he saw the wrong thing being perpetrated.

I am generally not one to look backwards and dwell. That sort of thing can stymie you, hold you back, and keep you in place and I have no interest in that. But today Alice’s recording of an interview with Joe Dressner made me think of those folks who meant a lot and did a lot and inspired me. So, here’s to Alice and to those folks I miss.

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7 Responses

  1. rich reader - January 24, 2014

    Always forget whatever needs to be forgotten, always remember what must be remembered, & toss a coin on what to do with all that remains in the middle.

  2. Bob Henry - January 27, 2014

    Tom,

    . . . and for those who have l-o-n-g memories, I nominate these individuals.

    ROBERT LAWRENCE BALZER:

    http://articles.latimes.com/print/2011/dec/09/local/la-me-adv-robert-balzer-20111209

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/15/dining/robert-lawrence-balzer-wine-writer-dies-at-99.html?_r=0&pagewanted=print

    http://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/46126

    FRANK PRIAL:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/08/dining/frank-j-prial-a-guide-to-the-world-of-fine-wine-dies-at-82.html?pagewanted=print

    And R. W. “JOHNNY” APPLE:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/05/us/05apple.html?pagewanted=print

    Invoking LEN EVANS, don’t forget to honor his “Theory of Capacity”:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/30/dining/30evan.html?fta=y&pagewanted=print

    We don’t live forever — and neither do our wines in storage.

    Drink ‘em up!

    ~~ Bob

  3. Bob Foster - January 27, 2014

    I would add Tom Stockley, Seattle wine writer killed in the Alaska air crash a few years back.

  4. Mitch Cosentino - January 27, 2014

    There should be a place for remembering those in the past who were so influential to the wine industry such as Jerry Mead. His tireless promotion of wine in the 70′s and 80′s was without equal. I met him in 1978 and we remained very good friends. Frankly he was someone who encouraged me to go into winemaking. H was THE MAN when it cam to national wine columnists and his national group WINOS (Wine Investigations for Novices and Oenophiles) with 100′s of chapters around the country really helped bring this country into becoming a serious wine society. There were others who reached different segments of Americans, Jerry reached everyone.

  5. Thomas Kruse - January 29, 2014

    I have been so fortunate to have met and even gotten to know many “old timers” of the wine business. I am now the age – 74 – they were when I started in 1971. So many of them took the time to share their thoughts with me and I am so very grateful. Too many to name them all. Let it suffice that they are revered in my memories of them and their contributions to this business.

  6. Jackie Wilferd - February 8, 2014

    Jerry Mead was a mentor, friend, role model and unapologetic champion of wine consumer rights. The WineBoard forum at http://wines.com, which he started, still has a special area for “Jerry’s Kids”. If you like to share your memories and pay tribute to Jerry, you’re very welcome to post here… See wines.com/wineboard/

  7. Jim Wallace - February 9, 2014

    Tom, thank you for this thread. I even miss seeing you once in awhile. The very first time I met Balzer was at Souverain Winery in ’73 with his busload of “children” then at a tasting at Valentino’s on Pico in L.A. where a wine was being described as barnyard and Balzer said “More like horseshit”. I met Jerry when we first started the Sonoma Harvest Fair judging and was later proud to be a W.I.N.O. director in Fresno and eventually helped him start The Jerry Mead New World International Wine Competition where I am still one of the chief judges. http://JMnwiwc.com/. The problem I suffered being so close to Jerry was I developed a total lack of respect for state lines when it came to shipping. I once had an ABC person call from the east asking if I shipped to a certain state, then he said “that’s against the law” and I said; “not here is isn’t.” Jerry was a bad influence.

    Last month I tried contacting a friend of Jerry’s in Holland, Paul Blom. I found his website and of course could not read it but I did see Jerry’s kids there. That was special. I remember Jerry and Mitch Cosentino were close and he especially liked Ken Burnap’s Pinot Noir. Jackie at Wines.com was the first to publish his and Millie Howie’s articles on the internet. I miss her too. Millie contributed so much to the industry. Forgive me for rambling. These folks meant a lot. Jackie, perhaps you could start a page on wines.com/in memorium. In closing Tennyson’s words ‘Tis better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all.’ I think are most appropriate.


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