I love to talk about wine with people who share my passion for it. We open bottles, we trade stories about travel and winemakers, terroir and residual sugar, and we talk of taste and food and restaurants. We recommend wines to one another, we drink, and we learn a lot. In Wine Talk, I introduce you to some of my friends, acquaintances, and people I meet as I make my way around the world, individuals who love wine as much as I do, who live to taste.
You’ll appreciate their insight, and I hope you’ll learn something from them as well.
Jeffrey Porter hails from Texas, so I suppose it was only natural that I first made his acquaintance in the state, in Houston to be exact. He was on tour with Ian D’Agata and Indigena, and I attended the two-day seminar and tasted scores of wines from Italy. Porter spoke enthusiastically and knowledgeably about the wines, and that enthusiasm was infectious.
He attended the University of Texas at Austin, and got his start in the wine world at a Central Market there. He moved to California after graduating from UT, worked for a wine wholesaler for a while, then began his sommelier career at Tra Vigne, in St. Helena (which has sadly closed). In 2011, Porter moved to New York to become the wine director for Del Posto (owned by the Bastianch Hospitality Group), overseeing the beverage programs for Babbo, Del Posto, Esca, Lupa, Otto and other Bastianich properties (I love the food at all of those restaurants, and have spent hours in them, especially at the bar at Babbo).
Porter loves barbecue, and Barolo, and he’s a fun guy to talk with. I look forward to sharing a table and a bottle or two with him next time we’re in the same city.
PaperCity: Tell us about three wines you think are drinking well at the moment. What makes them worthwhile? How about a food pairing for each one?
Ciro Picariello Fiano di Avellino 2016: I think this is one of the purest and beautiful expressions of white wine on earth. It is vibrant, fresh, focused, tense and stunning. This with any form of shellfish would — or a grilled whole fish with herbs and olive oil — make you happy. It retails for around $25 and has decent distribution across the United States, but they don’t make a ton of wine.
Rie et Hirofumi Shoji “Pedres Blanques” Collioure 2017: I just tried this on my birthday at my friend’s new wine bar in Brooklyn, Frank’s Wine Bar, and it was awesome.
Collioure is on the border of France and Spain at the southeast junction. It is Grenache, and tastes just like a warm ripe strawberry with some spices. It is great with roasted meats or a grilled mushroom dish. It would retail around $35, and is worth it.
G. Conterno “Monfortino” Barolo 2008: I love this vintage, and it was a vintage that I first began to really understand Nebbiolo and became addicted to its nature. I’ve tried this wine, and it is one of the greatest wines I have ever had and I’d love to hold on to it and see it evolve.
PC: What is your favorite grape, and why?
Without question, it is Nebbiolo. Nebbiolo has everything I love about wine: elegance, acidity, structure, ageability, it’s an amazing terroir translator … and it’s yummy!
PC: How about one bottle that our readers should buy now to cellar for 10 years, to celebrate a birth, anniversary, or other red-letter day?
Ettore Germano “Prapò” Barolo 2014. I love this wine. Germano is located in the Serralunga commune and produces wines that are firm and structured with grace and balance. It will go the long haul.
PC: Where is your go-to place when you want to have a glass or bottle?
PC: If there was one thing you wish everyone would keep in mind when buying and drinking wine, what is it?
Be open to trying new things, and when you love it, take a picture and remember it. Then ask for something similar next time.
PC: What is your “wine eureka moment,” the incident/taste/encounter that put you and wine on an intimate plane forever?
Tasting 1977 Mastroberadino Taurasi when I was 21 years old in 1998 and getting why people were so into it.
PC: What has been the strangest (or angst-ridden) moment/incident involving wine that you have experienced in your career?
When my Mom showed up to a wine dinner (in Dallas) and the winemaker knew me and they texted me a photo and now they are really good friends. There have been many crazy moments in my career, but that was pretty strange.
PC: Your favorite wine reference in a work of literature, film, art, or pop culture?
“Body Movin'” by Beastie Boys … “like a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.”
Want more wine stories? Check out PaperCity’s grape and spirits library:
This Geologist Knows His Italian
From Boston to Austin, With Wine in Mind
A Chardonnay For Your Mother (and You)
Don’t Dismiss the Peat
Distinctive Whisky Enters a New Era
A Whisky Legend Visits Houston
A Rare Cask, Indeed
Austin Whisky, Strange Name
Here’s Your Texas Rum Goddess
A ZaZa Wine Guy Loves Great Service
A Merlot That Your Snob Friend Will Love
French Couple Make a Sauvignon Blanc in California
A Perfect Afternoon Chardonnay
Terry Theise Talks Reisling
A New Wine Wonderland
Paris Wine Goddess Tells All
Rice Village Wine Bar Has a Cleveland Touch
A Texas White Blend for Your Table
A Pinot Noir Full of Flavor
This Pinot Gris From Oregon Pairs Well With Cheese
A Value Rioja
Underbelly Veteran Goes for Grenache
A Man of Letters and Wine
Ms. Champagne Wants a Nebuchadnezzar
The Wine Artist Goes for Chardonnay
This American Loves Spain and Its Wines
Houston’s Wine Whisperer Has a Soft Touch
Blackberry Farm’s Somm Pours in Splendor
Mr. Pinot Noir: Donald Patz of Patz & Hall
A Cork Dork Wants to Spend More Time in Tuscany
Sommelier Turned Restaurateur Daringly Goes Greek
Texas Master Sommelier Debunks Wine Geeks
A Bottle From Gigondas Changed This Houston Man’s Life
Oil Man Falls in Love, and the Rest is Good-Taste History
Ryan Cooper of Camerata is a Riesling Man
Mixing It Up With Jeremy Parzen, an Ambassador of Italy
Sommelier at One of Houston’s Top Wine Bars Loves Underdogs