How did you get started in the wine business?
Many years ago there was a television show called "So You Think You Can Vomit?" that auditioned and judged ordinary folks who believed they could have a career in the wine business. Contestants were asked to display their wine talents in front of a panel of three distinguished judges--Andre Tchelistcheff, Robert Lawrence Balzer and Arlene Francis, who, for some reason, always wore a sequined mask. I appeared on that show in 1963 competing against a young Hugh Johnson, Jerry Mathers and an orangutan that Mr. Balzer had mistakenly married after a long evening tasting Cognac. The orangutan won (creating another game show scandal as well as ending the monkey marriage to Balzer--Mr. Balzer became a Borneo Again Christian after that) but I was a very popular second place and went on to my distinguished and interminable career in wine.
Robert Lawrence Balzer (a driller, for sure) after his conversion.
What's your favorite grape?
I get asked this question a lot. And it's odd because I don't really like grapes. I like wine. And so few wines taste like grapes these days. What's up with that? Winemakers spend so much time making their wines taste like apples or peaches or blackberries or plums, but not grapes. I don't want them to taste like grapes, but why don't they? Just another sign of the over-manipulation of wine. Sheesh. Just once I'd like to taste the damn grapes in the wine.
What was it like being a Sommelier?
No, but I am a member of Al Qaeda. Which has a much tougher course to get in. Though it's still judged by Larry Stone.
Yes. But only when I'm alone.