Peter Bell, winemaker at Fox Run Vineyards, probably needs little (if any) introduction to LENNDEVOURS readers. He perhaps more than any other Finger Lakes winemaker, joins discussions on this blog regularly.
And yet, I still learned something when I asked him our standard set of questions, including his disdain for unfiltered wines.
What (and where) was the first bottle of wine you remember drinking?
It must have been Mateus Rosé, in the early 1970s, in Toronto. I don’t recall enjoying it that much, but that’s what everyone drank. I think the tiny bubbles irritated me on an existential level.
For my 16th – whoops, I mean 21st - birthday, some friends splurged on a very expensive at the time ($5) Liebfraumilch, which I remember drinking with great pleasure, partly because I felt wildly sophisticated. The Nun on the label was actually quite sexy, in a playful, cloistered kind of way.
After I got out of high school, I went and lived in Spain for awhile, and we used to drink the local Catalonian red with dinner every night at a seafood joint, cut with large quantities of fizzy water. No actual memories of what it actually tasted like.
What event/bottle/etc made you decide that you wanted to be in the wine industry?
My assistant winemaker, Tricia, recounts visiting Fox Run one day about four years ago, and having a sudden realization, while standing in the vineyard, that she absolutely had to be involved in the wine industry.
Alas, for me there wasn’t a single epiphanic moment, and so I will never get any offers from Hollywood to make a biopic. But if that were to happen, I want to be played by George Clooney.
I had taken a couple of courses through the Wine and Spirit Education Trust, and everything kind of built from there. As we all know, once you get entranced by wine, there’s no going back. I became a monomaniac there for a while, in service of my need to become a winemaker. May have lost a few friends over that one.
Which of your current wines is your favorite and why?
I get on kicks that last a few weeks at a time. Right now it’s red Bordeaux varietals from 2007. I can just walk up to a tank and ask it for a little something for dinner that night…how fantastic is that?
Pinot is always a fallback, and of course, riesling. Gewurztraminer with a few years’ bottle age.
What has surprised you most about being a member of the Finger Lakes wine community?
To steal a line from (previous profilee) Amy Cheatle, “how amazingly cool everyone is, seriously.” The grammarian in me might rephrase it as “…like, TOTALLY seriously.”
Other than your own wines, what wine/beer/liquor most often fills your glass?
I drink a lot less beer now than I did as a young individual. Way back when, my beer of choice was Molson Stock Ale, which I don’t think they even make anymore.
Almost all Finger Lakes Rieslings are welcome in my alimentary canal. I also have an almost dangerous fondness for Fino Sherry. In my world, good Pinot noir, and Champagne and its New World derivatives, always get smiley face stickers.
There are some wines that I lust after but almost never get to drink: white Bordeaux, unoaked Hunter Valley Semillon, 20-year-old German Rieslings. Be still my heart.
This sounds like I have an aversion to tannins, which I don’t. The three things I am most proud of are 1) my very high HDL readings, being a reflection of my tannin consumption, 2) my collection of NASCAR memorabilia, and 3) my ability to lie about a fondness for NASCAR.
Is there a 'classic' wine or wine and food pairing that you just can't make yourself enjoy?
Well, the little epidemiologist dude on my shoulder can’t let me enjoy raw shellfish, so oysters and Chablis ain’t gonna happen.
I have no patience at all for overripe, high-alcohol California reds. They actually make me grouchy, just by virtue of the fact that they exist at all.
My friends know not to waste old, necrotic reds on me, even if they are of admirable provenance. Maybe I’m a fruit to say I like fruit, but so be it.
There are a few varietals out there that make me puke, and they shall remain nameless; but let me say that if they knew the depth of my revulsion they would actually want to hire a security detail. And I don’t do wines whose labels say “unfiltered”. Brettanomyces metabolites really make me puke.
Wine enjoyment is about more than just the wine itself. Describe the combination of wine, locations, food, company, etc. that would make for the ultimate wine-drinking experience.
Imagine, if you will, a world in which there are no hypothetical situations.