The Five Questions for
Wine Connoisseur Catherine Reynolds
The first time I traveled to Spain I was with my family. I was about six years old. My father was the head of the tax division of a large international pharmaceutical company. With factories and distribution centers all over Europe, we did a lot of traveling there before I was even ten years old.
One of these events, still clear in my mind was a tour of the historic Sandeman Sherry production facility. I slipped away from the tour and for a brief moment I was alone surrounded by thousands of gigantic barrels of sherry wine. I can still remember this very day, especially the smell of the aging spirits. It was extremely warm outside. I was thirsty and saw a spout on the side of one of the ancient barrels. To my young eye, that spout didn’t represent wine. A tap in a barrel said water to me or some cool liquid to slake my thirst.
There was a worker nearby and he asked me if I was thirsty in Spanish. I didn’t speak Spanish so he motioned to me. Would I like a drink? He proceeded to fill a tasting cup with the golden liquid that was aging within the cask and handed it to me. I drank it down quickly without much care and then another- followed by still another. I can still smell the saline aroma in my nose and the almost almond tinged flavor- laced with the abundant alcohol of the aging juice.
When they found me, wandering around the warehouse, soon to be quite plastered, they quickly took me to lunch. The freedom to enjoy a glass of wine with dinner was always a part of my upbringing. Unfortunately for my young metabolism, I got rather drunk on these short glasses of sherry swallowed quickly in the hot weather. While sitting at lunch after eating lamb chops with garlic mayonnaise, I recall falling backwards in my wicker-backed chair with tiny feet, slippery against the Spanish terra cotta tiles. I didn’t injure myself, because I fell directly into a stream but the memory of that first taste of sherry will never leave me.
Not withstanding the fact that I got drunk on Spanish sherry at six, I developed a love the flavors imparted by the rocky, dry soil and especially the foods that complement Spanish wines, which brings me to the world of Catherine Reynolds.
I first met Catherine through the confluence of food, wine and the Internet. How this happened exactly, I cannot say. But her friendship is most important to me. I’ve always learned from Catherine, she has much to teach about Spanish wine.
1. What is your favorite Spanish wine to go with grilled fish? It’s been unrelentingly hot this summer in NJ and I’m seeking wines work well in hot weather. What do you suggest?
“My favorite region of Spain thus far, is Galicia. With the sea to the western shore, Celtic culture intercepting with ancient pilgrimage routes, & some of the best seafood I’ve ever devoured… This is the land of Albarino. Albarino is a white grape varietal that grows a thick skin due to the cool NW climate of Spain & is richly aromatic, resonant of sea salt & wet stones. It’s absolutely brilliant with fish. One of my favorite pairings is with percebes or gooseneck barnacles, for which life & limb are risked, as they are plucked from the crashing waves against precipitous rocks amongst the dramatic shoreline of Galicia.”
2. How do you feel about wines that are organic or biodynamic? What do you think about wines that speak clearly of the soil?
It’s funny because I’ve come to understand it, many smaller producers may not have the money to go through the organic certification process, but yet chemicals are expensive, so most small producers shun them in favor of natural methods. While things are changing in Spain like everywhere else in the world, I admire producers who look to sheep to fertilize & bees to pollinate their vineyards, or use sexual confusion techniques to elude harmful caterpillars rather than turning to pesticides.
“I was once asked to do a blind tasting of eight “Tempranillo” based wines from throughout Spain–I am proud to say I nailed where each was from. I put Tempranillo in quotation only because each area of Spain has their own name for the varietal & insists that it has attained its own identity in the specific region, adapting to climate & soil. Some argue that Tempranillo is a clone that has moved from region to region, while others argue it is unique to each area, carrying its own identity & characteristics. Knowing Tempranillo’s adaptations to climate & soil, one can begin to identify a Ribera del Duero from a Rioja for instance. And if a wine is made truly & genuinely from a region, the soil speaks loudly.”
3. If you were given a trip to Spain, where would you want to start the trip and why? What would you like to eat first and with which wine?
“There are Barcelona people & Madrid people, I think. To me, while Barcelona is glamorous & independent, Madrid feels like OLD Spain. In any given town in old Spain, I like to go to Main Square–or the Plaza Mayor (pla-tha Mai-your). That is the center of action in any true Spanish city, large or small. In Madrid, outside the Plaza Mayor, there is a wonderfully small tapas bar called Meson del Champinon. Behind the bar there is a bucket of sangria, a piano player in the back room, & a fixture behind the counter that looks like a Spanish Marty Feldman. Although I have been a vegetarian in the past, we enjoyed the fact that their famous champion (or mushroom) dish was made vegetarian by tossing the piece of chorizo off the toothpick, to the wind. This is a truly Spanish answer to making a dish vegetarian. For me, the mushrooms, the dish, & the experience, truly embody the spirit of Spain.”
4. Who taught you to cook? Your mother? Father? Grandparents? When you were a child did you cook for your family? Is there a recipe that brings a tear to your eye when you cook it? What is it and why?
“This is such an interesting question. Compared to my Midwestern cousins, I certainly feel that my eyes were opened to different cuisines growing up in New York State. My absolute favorite event as a child was the Festival of Nations at the Schenectady Museum. I relished the weekend day of perusing tents for exotic cuisine from Africa to South America, walking amongst stands featuring colorful garb & thick accents, smoke & spice. My own soul food is Polish, thick pierogi pillowed with cabbage & mushrooms, which is my Northwest go to around the Easter holidays–a holiday I celebrate with family food traditions rather than religious spirit. The last time I cried over food was at my grandmother’s funeral at the White Eagle Hall outside of Chicago. The food is thick & soul-sticking & it brought us all together–a new generation of mixed Poles who understood what this cuisine has meant to our family, & we were all old enough to finally drink beer together.”
5. You’ve accomplished a great deal through your use of social media. Do you have a strategy for the use of social media in your business? Does Facebook work better than Twitter for you?
Strategy? Are you kidding me? I miss people. It was absolutely the hardest thing to give up when I decided to start my own business & work from home.
My old boss accused me of being a “chatty Kathy” & it ultimately led to the demise of my relationship with __, as folks had a working relationship with me, rather than the owner. I went from working at the Pike Place market to being at home–how different can you get?
And then I had an aneurysm?
When I was taken to a support group & people were just talking about their medical experiences, I knew Twitter & Facebook were for me. I just wanted to be myself–not just my “old self” but also an un-categorized individual again, trying bravely to start a new business & my life again.
I hope my brain lets me write poems again some day. I used to be really good at that.
Well, Catherine, since you sent me some of your poetry, please let me publish it here in Wild River Review for you!
In another hemisphere, it might be Spring.
On another planet, there might be fifteen suns
and no moon.
You run the risk of no Miles Davis, no oxygen to breathe,
In the far-off corners of the cosmos, there might be ten key touch.
There might be a constellation that resembles the profile of Gertrude Stein gazing up at the stars, as the stars gaze back at her.
Such relationships might exist.
But there is only one universe where you press the snooze bar nine and a half times as I warp my legs around your good morning.
Why I am here comes down to gravity.
Here, the oak trees have all read Cliffs Notes
on Emerson, they smell like old English professors
with patches of brunt orange around the elbows.
The Four Seasons crackle on the turntable
as we turn out the lights and someone says,
I love you, I always wanted someone to love in the fall.
Warren Bobrow is a mixologist, chef, and writer known as the Cocktail Whisperer. In 2010, Bobrow founded “Wild Table” for Wild River Review and serves as the master mixologist for several brands of liquor, including the Busted Barrel rum produced by New Jersey’s first licensed distillery since Prohibition.
Bobrow has published three books on mixology and written articles for Saveur magazine, Voda magazine, Whole Foods-Dark Rye, Distiller, Beverage Media, DrinkupNY and other periodicals. He writes the “On Whiskey” column for Okra Magazine at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and has written restaurant reviews for New Jersey Monthly.
His first book Apothecary Cocktails, was published in September 2013; and immediately went into a second printing. In 2014, he published Whiskey Cocktails. He was born and raised in Morristown, NJ, on a Biodynamic farm.
Warren Bobrow in this Edition
COCKTAIL WHISPERER, Editor
Apothecary Cocktails: Mexican Sleep Cure
Billy Reid: Bourbon, Branch and a Splash of Southern Lore
Blue Hill/Stone Barns: Time Exists in Harmony with Nature
The Cocktail Whisperer asks Anthony Bourdain Four Questions about Scotch
The Five Questions: Andrew Bell, American Sommelier
The Five Questions Catherine Reynolds
The Five Questions: Lincoln Henderson (Master Distiller)
The Five Questions: Natalie West (Foppiano Wines)
The Five Questions: Randall Grahm
The Five Questions: Sustainable Sushi
A Glass of Bourbon, Branch, and History
Midnight in the Bronx: Visit to Hunt’s Point Wholesale Fish Exchange
A Modern Day Absinthe Alchemist
A Summer Cocktail Party for Artie Shaw
Tales of the Cocktail: New Orleans, Louisiana