Monday, May 14, 2007

Randy Savage as Grape Grower

Grape Radio has just put up the final segment of its Podcast on the 2006 Pinot Days convention in San Francisco, a two-day Pinot-fueled bender in celebration of the world's trendiest grape varietal. This third segment is rather dry, as it somewhat pointlessly tries to "broadcast" a series of blind wine tastings (how maddening not to be able to taste the juice!), but the Parts 1 and 2 feature a series of short interviews with growers and producers (some, of course, more interesting than others). The undeniable highlight of these segments -- worthy of anyone's attention -- is the interview with the exuberant -- and clearly toasted -- Gary Pisoni, who sounds uncannily like Randy "Macho Man" Savage from the old WWF.

Pisoni (pictured above), of Pisoni Vineyards, grows the fruit for some of the trendiest California pinot made in a fruit-driven, high-octane style, and the Grape Radio interview (which begins at 12:35 of Part 1) is a testosterone and alcohol-fueled rush of energy. Pisoni describes some of the early challenges of growing pinot noir in the United States and after some minimal prodding reveals the secret, and illicit, source of his success:

In the early '80s we could not grow good pinot noir in California ... I didn't know if it was the clones or the sites ... So anyway I went to a famous vineyard in Burgundy and went and got cuttings ... In my hand I got five hundred buds, wrapped them with gauze, stuck them down my pants ... I went through customs, and the customs lady says, "What's that?" And I go: "You want to check? I'm Italian." Scared her to death.

Pisoni is in many ways a throwback, a self-taught grower (he got a degree in psychology so he could "talk to the grapes") who never had the benefit (or handicap) of formal viticultural training: "I meet all these winemakers, get them drunk, and try to figure out their secrets." He is also an unabashed defender of the bigger, riper style of California pinot and boasts of California's superiority to the grape's traditional Burgundian home: "You can't beat California! We've got sunlight! Sometimes they have to put sugar in their wines, the poor dudes!" (Which is, in fact, true.)

A fantastically entertaining interview that begs to be heard -- check it out!

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