Saturday, July 24, 2010

Interview with Wine Blogger and Journalist Arianna Armstrong: Formidable, Human, Real. Finally.

Writers, especially ones writing in wine’s immense existential corner, that withhold, shy, tiptoe, simply don’t move me. Don’t motivate me to turn the page, read on. Recently, this reader was refreshed by a bold, slightly venomous lady of the pen with an impressive acuity for sophisticated libation, and the industry universally. Interesting balance, I know. That’s what hooked me.

Arianna Armstrong, whose work I first read on Dan Dunn’s “The Imbiber” site, displayed her lines like a journalistic surgeon, arranging her moment’s opus in her fashion while concurrently demonstrating professional, and useful (for consumers, and industry), evaluative prowess. I chose her for my first interview, not just in the reality she’s a fellow scribe, but I thought I could learn something, and you could as well if I hurled a discrete blanket of inquiry her way.

1-What is your thought process when deconstructing, analyzing, or just sipping a wine for the first time?

I pour the wine into my mouth and sort of let it speak to me. I have a natural tendency to overanalyze everything, so as much as I can get out of my own way and let the experience happen, the better the information is. And then I'll focus in: What flavors am I picking up and where do I feel them in my mouth? What's happening in terms of terroir? Does the wine seem typical to the varietal? Sometimes I run through this analysis in a moment, sometimes it takes me awhile to sit and sip. Other times I try to register only a few of these before turning off my brain to just enjoy the experience with friends.

2-Do you have a varietal to which you are obviously, and perhaps infamously, partial? Why?

I don't know if I've been writing about wine long enough to be infamous about anything! Although I always seem to love Grenache and Mourvedre, and lately I'm a really big fan of Alsatian Pinot Blanc. I've also been talking to anyone who will listen about Croatian Zlatina. And Menu-Pineau. Oh, and Champagne. Absolutely Champagne - any time, anywhere, for any occasion. So I guess I have a few...

3-Who are some of your favorite writers? How about your favorite wineries?

Writers? So many! And all so different! Wineries? I've never met a Ridge I didn't like. Tournesol, also in Napa. I'm kind of into Dierberg wines from Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara. Joesph Perrier. Haut-Brion (can I include that in this list without sounding like a douchebag?). Clos du Tue Boeuf in Loire - just about anything from Loire, actually. I'm a little obsessed these days... I also have a lot of respect for La Clarine Farms, and I don't think I've had a better Mourvedre than his 08.

4-How do you think wine and writing complement each other?

Ask me when I'm 2 glasses in... Actually, I like the relaxation and the sensory stimulation; the juice gets my creative juices...juiced.

5-Are you a “foodie?” What do you think of that term?

Everybody hates the term "foodie!" Jeez, relax, people! I think it's evocative and easy to say. Lately I've been saying "food person" or "food people" to be - I don't know - "food people PC" or "food apprecienado sensitive" or something. Some people prefer the term glutton, but that sounds a little harsh to me: I can be transported by an olive, but that doesn't mean I'm going to eat the entire tree. But am I one of those? Yes, absolutely. And no amount of intervention, support group or laying on of hands is going to change me. Don't want it to.

The stunning and bewitching Ms. Armstrong, as you may tell, can be a bit curt, sarcastic. One could say this, but I would praise and credit her with the tag of concise, and coherent. You can still say she’s curt, fine, but that’s what makes her so unparalleled in her magnificently constructed analytical reactions, or just reactions to wine, and/or cuisine. No pretentiousness. She is one of the writers that we should all thank for re-infusing the Humanness in wine’s world of wonderment. You can assume the stoic and pretentious posture with her, but I wouldn’t recommend it, ever. Actually, yeah, don’t do it. And the humor...again, thank you Ms. Armstrong! Yes, people, wine can entail humor. It’s okay, really. You should read some of her Tweets and Facebook postings, but not if you're easily offended. They would rile anyone, be they of the pen or otherwise. Again, refreshing.

6-Describe for us, if you would, your ideal wine-food pairing, setting too...

I had a bottle of 07 La Moynerie Pouilly-Fume, while eating fruit and cheese, sitting on the couch, watching TV with my best friend. To this day, that's one of the best pairings I can remember.

7-Do you believe in writer’s block?


8-Tell us about your new projects, [or] something else about you...

I just began blogging for MutineerMagazine ( and I have a few other projects in the works. I don't know if there is anything else to say, except I'm obsessed with food and wine and my little boy, who likes to announce to strangers, "My mom drinks a lot of wine!" Oy.

9-Tell us about GrapeSmart and Mutineer Magazine...

Check them out - they're awesome.

10-Anything you want to leave us with (pitches, thoughts, words...)?

Wine is better in the glass than in the bottle. And best when shared with friends.

Reading her responses here, I’m urged to unchain the Self a bit, a lot. Start writing, crazily, haphazardly. Aside from being offensively gorgeous, she enlightens with her keen bravado and orchestrated connection to the wine world. She is herself, with a sound sense of Self, in the world of wine. She’s not changing, and she shouldn’t be expected to. None of us should. Wine is ours. The writing, too. I keep reading her responses, laughing, and reflecting. Enriched, unquantifiable benefits. I wonder if she’ll let me interview her again. Again. Again. Now I’m being selfish. I don’t care. I blame her.

Make it a point to look for Arianna’s pieces in both Mutineer Magazine ( and GrapeSmart (! Sip, sip...Peace!

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