When you hear Gaironn Poole talk about wine, sometimes you have to remind yourself that she is in fact, describing wine as opposed to, say, art. She uses phrases like, human interpretation, expression, and delicate. But then you quickly catch on that wine is just like art to her.
She’s been tasting it since she was a girl and now she’s being paid to design the wine menu of one of Portland’s highest brow dining rooms: Bluehour.
She gracefully allowed me to ask her my, ahem, introductory wine questions (how else am I to learn?) and shared advice as to how long an opened bottle of red should really stay on the shelf.
A Fly on the Wall: What was one of the first things you did to the wine list at Bluehour?
Gaironn Poole: I made a blueprint of what I thought a balanced list was (how many of this and that), and starting filling in the holes. Getting the right wines for the spots took about three months.
AFotW: Do you drink wine everyday? Do you taste wine everyday? Do you often close your eyes when tasting it?
GP: I taste wine for work most every day. Usually around 40 wines a week. Yes, I close my eyes at times but not usually, as I am often in the midst of conversation with the person trying to sell it.
AFotW: Right. Talking with your eyes closed is kind of challenging… Okay, here they are… the favorite questions: What is your favorite Oregon wine right now? What about Spain, Australia or South America?
GP: Ouch, favorites? I can’t pick just one! That’s crazy. But I can tell some I love.
Oregon: Cameron, Patricia Green, Left Coast Cellars, Cristom.
Spain: Melis, Can Blau, Marques de Vargas
Australia: Clarendon Hills, Schwarz, Torbreck
AFotW: I know this question is a monster, but what would you say is really the fundamental appeal about wine that puts it in its own universe?
GP: It’s rooted in a primitive joy. It’s an expression of the land, as interpreted through the hard work of humans. It’s present around good food and great friends. Heck, we definitely know it’s a social lubricant. Combining all of these, we, the lucky consumer, get to taste a culture, a land, and dive deep into our senses. What more could you want?
AFotW: Bring it! I want some right now! Okay. Back to questions… Wine Spectator: love it, hate it or deal with it?
GP: Deal with it. The good side: it is a starting point for folks to get into wine and it encourages wine as a hobby. The bad side: rating art with a grade or number streamlines the styles that are produced, and inhibits risks and variety. We loose artisanal products from this.
AFotW: Can you remember the first time you drank wine? Your first wine-memory if you will? Describe it, if you can.
GP: My father was in the business and had me trying wine at a young age, so it’s just a part of my upbringing. No real “ahh ha” moment like that. But I can’t stress enough what my formal wine education taught me. The power of blind tasting is huge and I use it at every staff training I conduct.
AFotW: Like a lot of the young drinkers I know, I am so amateur when it comes to knowing, well, anything about wine. I’m not going to try and hide it, but why do you think it’s so intimidating?
GP: It’s totally fine to not know anything! Lots of folks don’t but they just try and pretend, which makes my job more delicate. All you ever really need to know if what you enjoy, but remember that your palate is just like you as a person; it’s growing and changing (that sounds like puberty, but wasn’t what I meant). So, what you don’t like today may be so wonderful a year from now. Most wine geeks would agree with this. Just like musical interests, most of us go through phases. What I get a kick out of now, usually wasn’t even on my radar two years ago. But that’s what’s great about wine. Like anything, it’s only intimidating if you let it be. There are so many twenty-something wine drinkers these days; you should feel totally in the right to ask away and not worry about looking out of place.
AFotW: Okay; so now I’m going to try really hard not to feel like a jerk asking the server what every single wine by the glass is like!
Something else I’ve always been curious about: My house rarely goes through a bottle of red wine within two days; in fact, there are two bottles of months-old-half-empty cheap reds on my shelf right now. It feels so wrong to just drain them, but should I just let them go? Is there anyway they could be added to an Italian red sauce?
GP: Oh yeah, cooking with wine is great, but I would try to use it within two weeks if possible. As for your month-old wines, I would say good bye; life is too short to drink bad wine.
AFotW: There’s your bumper sticker… Is there anything else you’d like to share with A Fly on the Wall?
GP: Thanks for the interview and remember you vote with your dollars when you buy, so support wineries you believe in.
AFotW: As per usual, I’ll drink to that.