I love to talk about wine with people who share my passion for it. We open bottles, we trade stories about travel and soil types, 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 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, who farm and make wine. You’ll appreciate their insight, and I hope you’ll learn something from them as well.
I am not sure when I first met Marcus Gausepohl, but not long after I moved to Houston and began immersing myself in the food and wine scene his name came up several times in conversations. It was 2013, and I had accepted the position of managing editor at The Houston Press. Perhaps I encountered him initially at Brennan’s of Houston, where he worked (he also lists stints at Ibiza Food & Wine Bar and Mark’s American Cuisine on his CV). I liked Brennan’s wine list, and paid attention to the people behind it.
Gausepohl has been working in the hospitality industry since he was 16, and began his relationship with wine during a trip to Europe. He tasted and fell in love, then read all he could, and continued tasting and learning. In 2009, he took his first wine job, and recently became a member of the staff at one of my favorite wine shops in Texas, Houston Wine Merchant. He is a senior sales associate and a buyer for domestic, Australia and New Zealand wines at the store.
Pay him a visit and buy a few bottles. You’ll have a stimulating conversation, and if you love jazz get ready for some passionate discourse.
Let’s see what Gausepohl has to say in the latest edition of Wine Talk.
James Brock: How has COVID-19 changed your work and life?
Marcus Gausepohl: Like everyone one else in the food and wine industry, it has been a roller coaster and a bumpy ride. So please be nice to your service professionals, folks. On a more personal level, I was in the process of getting married when the pandemic arrives, and I was lucky enough to have two weddings with the same wonderful person.
JB: 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?
MG: The 2019 Ridge Grenache Blanc Paso Robles. Ridge is one of my favorite producers and never fails to impress. If you ever get a chance to drink Ridge red wines with age on them it is a whole other experience. But I was over the moon about the 2019 Grenache Blanc. I had this during a wonderful lunch at Farmstead in Napa with a fantastic trout dish.
Next is a wine from Massican, the 2019 Annia, a Tocai Friulano/Ribolla Gialla/Chardonnay blend. Massican is the only solely white wine winery in Napa Valley. I feel this is somewhat of a “serious summer white.” The wine is both refreshing and interesting. I enjoyed this with some some raw oysters during lunch.
Christophe Buisson is an under-the-radar producer in Burgundy who makes great wines that still can be obtained without breaking the bank. I loved his 2016 Bourgogne Blanc. He is a laidback and funny guy whom I have had the pleasure of eating a Époisses burger with. If you are curious about the Burgundy region or looking for a new producer, his wines are worth seeking out. Grill a fish or some seafood and open a bottle.
JB: If cost was no consideration, tell us the one bottle you would add to your personal collection, and why.
MG: Anything by Henri Bonneau (1938 to 2016) or Henri Jayer (1922 to 2006), iconic winemakers who really left a mark on the wine world. The bottles tend to be few and far between. I would encourage collectors to experience the wines if they can.
JB: What is your favorite grape variety, and why?
MG: I do not really have a favorite grape, but my old love is the wines of Burgundy. My favorite grape should be Pinot Noir, considering it makes so many of my favorite wines. . . though if I dig deep in my wine history I think Riesling has always romanced me and reinvented itself with food so many times in my life.
JB: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?
MG: Mayacamas is one of my favorite wineries in North America. I don’t usually suggest opening the Cabernet before years, although I had the 2015 recently and it was fantastic.
JB: Where is your go-to place when you want to have a glass or bottle (outside of your home and workplace)?
JB: If there was one thing you wish everyone would keep in mind when buying and drinking wine, what is it?
MG: People tend to drink the same wines over and over (insert big name California Chardonnay here). Every bottle should be a new experience.
JB: What is your “wine eureka moment,” the incident/taste/encounter that put you and wine on an intimate plane forever?
MG: I was in Hungary when I was young, maybe 20. I got the chance to taste in a cellar and the winemaker pulled a bottle out and said, “Tokaji.” Tasting that was an experience that led me down more wine paths.
JB: What has been the strangest moment or incident involving wine that you have experienced in your career thus far?
MG: I was working the floor one night and a gentleman ordered a very nice bottle of white Burgundy, around the $700 range. I was excited to share the producer. When I got to the table, the other person dining with the guest asked me for a glass of ice. Not really thinking about it I came back and quickly realized it was for the wine.
JB: Your favorite wine reference in a work of literature?
MG: It is the movie Sideways. Yes, it basically destroyed Merlot consumption, but I actually took a Sideways trip to discover that part of wine country. It ended up being a lot of fun and I made some great memories.
For more wine, travel and other stories from James Brock, check out his Mise en Place.