10 Questions for Jeff Lefevere


Welcome to The Grapevine! In this new weekly feature, we'll be asking our favorite experts the questions that really matter: how they fell in love with wine, what wine trend they'd love to see end, and what they'll be drinking on their deathbed.
Jeff Lefevere, founder and editor of the award-winning site Good Grape: A Wine Manifesto, removes the velvet rope that often closes off the subject of wine. No friend to the wine snob, Lefevere's writing is accessible but never simplistic; every post offers intelligent insight into the wine business or culture as a whole.

1.) Which wine first won your heart?

It was actually a wine from a garagiste winemaker from California about 15 years ago.  I think the winemakers name was “Dave.”  It was a Sonoma “mutt” red blend, and had no label on it.  A friend brought it out on a visit and we drank it in my living room catching up before enjoying a really fabulous fritto misto di mare at an Italian joint down the road. The wine itself was very good, but it was the combination of time, place, and the warmth of the situation that really flipped the switch for me and got me thinking that, yes, this is a good way to live life.

And, I’m pretty sure Dave has no idea how profound of an impact he had on me.

2.) If you could have an endless supply of just one bottle, what would it be?

The expected answer here would be something French to show off my sophistication, maybe a Puligny-Montrachet. But, truthfully I’d have to go with an Inniskillin icewine.  I’m so fickle and ever-evolving when it comes to wine and my palate that the only thing I could never get enough of and I don’t anticipate ever tiring of is an excellent icewine.  It wouldn’t matter what I eat as long as I have dessert … or the dessert wine.

3.) What would you pour for someone who swears they don't like wine?

In my experience, when somebody says they don’t like wine, the diagnosis is they don’t like the bite of tannins in reds and they have a “sweet” palate that needs to be developed. I’d go with an off-dry Riesling, always a good gateway wine.  The Chateau St. Michelle Eroica Riesling is perennially excellent.  I’ve never heard any guest say anything other than, “I love it.”

4.) If you could settle in any major wine region, which would it be (and why)?

I have this ongoing fantasy where I live off the grid and off the beaten path.  I’d still need internet access and American comforts, though.  Access to the ocean would be a good deal, too.  I’ll go with Mendocino and the NoCal hippies.

5.) What wine trend do you think (or hope) is almost over?

Butter-bomb domestic chardonnays.  I think we’re definitely seeing a growing movement to restraint and stainless steel on California chards.  The Toad Hollow Unoaked Chardonnay is widely available and a screaming deal at around $10.

6.) What trends do you see on the horizon?

I think 2010 and 2011 will break the current decade-long run of growth in the number of new U.S. wineries.  It takes years to get a winery off the ground and at some point a new winery without a market to address becomes a not-so-great business decision. The economy will magnify that decision-making and some shakeout will thin the herd of existing wineries, as well.  There’s just too much wine available, flowing through too few wine distributors with too few people to buy it all.

7.) What are the biggest values on the market today?

I get asked this question a lot.  My domestic go-to’s are always Castle Rock Pinot Noir and Bogle across their line-up.  Consistently good wines.  But, of course, international wines where the land doesn’t cost $55K an acre are finding really good economies of scale and making really good wine in the process.  It’s no secret, but Chile is where Australia was 15 years ago.  I don’t have a problem saying that Chile is categorically good across reds and whites and a tremendous value.

8.) What’s the biggest myth about wine you’d like to dispel?

I have this ongoing wine pet peeve with glassware and wine pairings – the two biggest sinners in perpetuating wine elitism.  I really like to drink wine paisano-style out of a tumbler.  And, I don’t sweat what’s in my glass if it isn’t an empirical match to what I’m eating.  Being open-minded to both of those things does wonders for taking the high-mindedness out of wine.

9.) What’s the best food and wine pairing you’ve ever had?

Of course you ask this question next.  I had a 2000 Cascina Morrassino Barbaresco in a tasting menu at Mario Batali’s Esca a few years back.  It was paired with a roasted monkfish and a pan sauce.  My toes curled in orgasmic pleasure – seriously it was the height of pleasure.  If I could bottle that moment of pleasure I’d be a wealthy man, indeed.

10.) You're on your deathbed, and you can get one final glass: What’ll it be?

Kosta Browne Pinot Noir.  It’s one of the few domestic allocated wineries that I think is worth the money and I would want to save the ’47 Cheval for somebody who could brag about it for a while -- no sense wasting a bottle on a soon to be dead guy.›

Castle Rock Pinot Noir
A terrific value in Pinot Noir, fit for everyday drinking.

Kosta Browne Pinot Noir

The perfect Pinot for a full-on splurge: "It’s one of the few domestic allocated wineries that I think is worth the money."

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: amour
    Hand of Snooth
    218530 2,203

    I have been putting Chile on a throne for some time.
    I have praised Chile on Snooth endlessly,
    with very little response from the great posters.
    Coming from you in this interview may make some cynics take a fresh look and re-visit words of wisdom!

    Apr 21, 2010 at 5:58 PM

  • Snooth User: vmeyers
    98829 3

    Thanks, can't wait to try the Kosta Browne Pinot Noir, I've had the KB syah and it was sublime!
    Attended an Alpha Omega tasting last night and purchased "out of my budget", their Propiertary Red was killer!

    Apr 21, 2010 at 6:53 PM

  • Snooth User: civiletti
    192021 20

    I may be the world's only red lover who does not care for South American wine. I have had the same reaction to every red I've tried from Chile and Argentina - including several touted by wine writers - : they brutalize my palate. I'd much rather many of the decent reds from Portugal, Spain or Sicily that are such a great deal.

    Apr 21, 2010 at 10:02 PM

  • I used to be one of those in Jeff's #3. However, wife & I recently did a wine tour of Chile, Argentina, & Uruguay with friends. I am now a red wine drinker. I particularly liked the Errazuriz Carmenere in Chile, although we drank lots of great Malbecs in Argentina and found good Tannats in Uruguay.

    Apr 21, 2010 at 10:45 PM

  • Snooth User: plano bob
    333854 2

    for me, malbecs are a hidden gem. I just recently started getting into them. Great value. Great wine.

    Apr 22, 2010 at 11:20 AM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 5,000

    If you're pointing at me, Amour, I like Chilean wines just fine, better than Argentina on the whole, and certainly better than a lot of NZ whites... ;-( . There's a lot of mass-produced red Chilean plonk, kinda like JL's American-centric comparison to an abundance of cheap wines from Oz 15 years ago. But hey, there're seas of crappy red flowing from Modesto in California, too. Where there's demand, it seems there will be supply. I've posted in the forums about a number of lovely, small-production Chilean reds I've been fortunate to run across....

    Apr 25, 2010 at 5:33 AM

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