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Introducing Arturo de Negro

Now I know how Brian Epstein felt when he discovered the Beatles.

Last night I shared a bottle (or four) with the future of wine and a notable local food blogger, Renee from Feed Me/Drink Me.  I am not sure if the potential “Future of Wine” will be “bigger than Elvis” as Epstein promised the Beatles, but I have a hunch he will soon be a recognizable name nationally, breaking free from “just” a sterling reputation amongst his peers and becoming something of a national figure amongst wine consumers. 

Being a great Sommelier, or even a great wine expert for a distributor, is often a thankless job, the measure being you take less guff from your customer.  However, we’ve seen trends over the last several years that indicate that Sommeliers, and, likely, those that have the designate as a Master Sommelier, are increasing their level of public awareness to rock star levels.  Simply, there is a real hunger for folks that are wine experts that appeal to varying demographic segments, as wine becomes more of a melting pot.

If I did meet the future of wine, then he goes by the very normal sounding name of Arthur Black and he works for a distributor, National Wine & Spirits, in Indianapolis.  Arthur is 30 years old, bench presses 400 pounds, has tattoos on either bicep, commands a room when he walks in, can tell you acreage and soil type for specific chateau’s in Bordeaux, has a palate that would stop Laube or Parker dead in their tracks and he is a candidate to become the 125th Master Sommelier in the world in February of 2009, a test not to be taken likely and a group of professionals that, collectively, represent very rarefied air in the world of wine.  Matter of fact, if I’m going to draw the analogy of the Beatles to Arthur, than Master Somm’s might very well be the Jimi Hendrix’ of the wine world, a group of folks so elite in their training as to be untouchable.  Nobody assails Jimi’s guitar prowess or mythology, not even the Beatles.

To wit, more people have ascended the Himalayans than have passed the Master Sommelier test.  Think about that and now think about the number of wine lovers versus the # of mountain climbers.  It’s a distinct group. However, despite the dedication and skill it takes to become an MS, Arthur stressed the importance of remembering to share wine and spirits knowledge and expertise and not flaunt it; after all, a Sommelier is first and foremost a servant, whose duties are ultimately to heighten the dining experience and engage the guest with enthusiasm and humility. Despite Arthur’s successes, including his most recent victory of winning the title of 2008 Best Young Sommelier Champion earlier this year in Vegas, he maintains a sort of relaxed, easy going, Midwestern normalcy, making his passion for his craft clear and approachable.

After sitting for the Master Sommelier exam, no gimme of a pass for Arthur, he is planning on going for his Master of Wine.  This is akin to Jimi Hendrix having a love child with John Lennon and spawning the vinous equivalent of a DaVinci who also writes melodies and plays lead guitar, if I can mix metaphors.  Less than five people in the world hold both the Master Sommelier and the Master of Wine designations.  If I had to, I would not bet against Arthur.  In fact, if Vegas were handicapping, I would lay the odds. 

Despite you never having heard of one Arthur Black, I expect that to change in the future.

As soon as he gets out of his intense period of study, I fully anticipate Arthur using some form of blogging (written or video) and some Social Media to introduce himself to the larger world of wine.  Given my interaction with him, I think he would immediately jet to the top of the wine blogging heap on his way to a publishing deal, consulting contracts and all of the associated benefits that go along with being in the top 1% of the wine world, with charisma to spare. 

Where others who are young, dynamic, and emerging in the wine world are getting by on cult of personality shtick, Arthur brings genuine authenticity to the table, alongside measurable chops. 

I can’t tell you exactly where Arthur’s nom de plume, Arturo de Negro, came from, but it was wrapped up in a good story, something he does in a completely unassuming, but commanding kind of way, a trait that undoubtedly serves him well in his regionally based educational role with his employer. 

In fact, in the haze of a Sancerre, Priorat, and a Riesling, I think I have forgotten most of the stories Arthur shared.  Fortunately, I pinned him down for an interview, which I got in writing.

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A special guest to the usual winemaker interviews, Arthur Black, the future of wine, answers our 20 Penetrating Questions for a Wine Craftsman Pro.

Good Grape: Which of the Seven Deadly Sins are you most guilty of?

Arthur: Definitely gluttony - almost to the point of a barbarism. Everything in excess! Food, wine, work, leisure, studies, fitness, and the lists go on. I know balance is the key to life, but for every instance of moderation, discipline, and restraint in my life, there are an equal number of absolutely bloody demonstrations of excess. Ironically, I guess there is balance there.

Good Grape:  What is your biggest pet peeve?

Arthur: There are two of them and they most often overlap. The first one is the pretentious wine prick that knows only enough to be dangerous and continuously drops names and makes other people who might not be that wine savvy uncomfortable. These people turn my answer to number one into wrath and I absolutely love shutting these people down and putting them in their place. I would argue that one of my major motivations for studying as hard as I do is to always know the correct answer so when one of these jack@!&/*# tries to intimidate or BS a young or emerging wine and food consumer, I can put them in their place.

My other biggest pet peeve is people that profile and stereotype. You know, if you’re from the Mid West, then you are a hillbilly, if you like chicken wings then you can’t appreciate foie gras, bone marrow, or the beauty of white truffles, or if you have tattoos then you’re low rent or unprofessional. One should never read a book by its cover.

Good Grape: What is on your nightstand?

Arthur: Frank Herbert’s Dune, Aronson’s Jesus and Lao Tzu, and laminated wine maps (in case I spill something on them)

Good Grape:  What is in your refrigerator or pantry that you wouldn’t openly admit?

Arthur: Veggie burgers. I’m a proud carnivore, that usually pokes fun at vegetarians (lightly and totally in jest, I’d never go as far as submitting a vegetarian to watching a lobster puppet show or frog leg chorus line at the dinner table), but the burgers are low in caloric intake and represent that slight percentage of moderation I mentioned in my answer to question #1.

Good Grape: What do you drink when you’re not drinking wine?

Arthur: Water in the morning, followed by coffee, followed by espresso, followed by water, then back to wine, and, on a good night, Fernet Branca (aaaahhhhhhggggg!!!!! In my best Homer Simpson voice).

Good Grape:  What type of music or radio station is played most often in your car?

Arthur: Sometimes talk radio, but I don’t really listen to the radio while driving because most everything on the airwaves is a continuous cycle of SUCK. Actually, I use my driving time in a very productive and responsible way; I look at flash cards, make phone calls, eat, do the 7 minute abs tape in rotation, and practice origami (I do a killer Elvis and I’m working on Kermit the frog). So, I’m lying about the abs and origami thing. If I am listening to a CD or have my Ipod plugged in, it ranges from Tool to Rachmaninoff to the musical score of Conan the Barbarian.

Good Grape: In what era would you live if you transport yourself?

Arthur: 17th century French Court Society, assuming of course that I would be a member of court and would have maidens to give me baths, or the Hyborian age, assuming of course, that I would be Conan and could knock out camels with a single punch (hey vegetarians, don’t take that as I’ve actually punched a camel in real life, or at least I don’t remembering ever punching a camel – it’s a joke)

Good Grape:  What is the best wine-related book you’ve read?

Arthur: I don’t really read wine-related books in the way of wine stories or winemaker autobiographers, but for more leisurely wine readers, Wine and War by Donald and Petie Kladstrup is an entertaining book that covers the tribulations of vineyards, wineries, wine, etc. of Europe during WWII. Sadly, I actually take pleasure in more reference and data oriented texts. When I found the exact percentages, numbers, and allowances, of the Cadastro (a 12 point criteria in the Duoro that determines the Beneficio or amount of wine a winery is allowed to make) I was in heaven. There are so many texts that cover specific genres, but Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion is sort of the wine reference bible. I’m currently reading The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode, which is “rock star” status for wine science.

Good Grape: What is your favorite movie genre? 

Arthur: Somewhere between movies like Babette’s Feast and movies with Zombies. Actually, I’m a “sucker” for vampire movies!

Good Grape: Is your desk messy or organized?

Arthur: Messy 29 days of the month and then spotless. The papers, flash cards, bills, calendars, and business cards are sort of like tattoos; I wake up and there are more of them and they’re all over the place!

Good Grape: Are you always early or terminally late?

Arthur: Surprisingly right on time for appointments, but notoriously late getting into the office.

Good Grape:  Do you read the comics in the newspaper?  If so, what’s your favorite comic?

Arthur: I don’t read the newspaper. Seems like a bunch of nothing - political spin, lies, and entertainment news, which is a complete waste of my time, attention, and it’s not like I have the brain power to waste on what seems pointless. But, if I did read the paper, I’m sure the comics would be the most intellectually stimulating.

Good Grape:  Who would you want to play you in the movie about your life?

Arthur: Maybe Russell Crowe, but I really wouldn’t care as long as my girlfriend in the movie would be Scarlett Johanssen. Since Erica, my significant other, is partial to Johnny Depp, she would probably like for him to play my part.

Good Grape: What super-power would you most like to have, and why?

Arthur: X-ray vision would be cool, for obvious reasons, but with the good comes the bad and I’d rather not see really ugly people naked. Telekinesis would also be an option because I could make anyone do whatever I wanted. But, in the movie X-Men, there is a smoking hot, multi-colored mutant chick that can turn into other people and use their powers, so……with those chops I could have anyone’s power whenever I wanted. I’d probably spend most days as Wolverine because I can relate to him and he kinda had a thing with the other hot mutant chick in the movie.

Good Grape:  You are moving and can only take three or four articles you want to take with you. What would you grab?

Arthur: Dog, wine, flash cards, and clothes.

Good Grape: What do you do if you have a spare hour?

Arthur: Usually work out to sweat out the day, stress, and previous night’s wine, or go to my bad ass massage therapist.

Good Grape:
What was the last great restaurant you ate at?

Arthur: Abroad - Al Gallopapa in Castellina, Chianti, a truly amazing meal though I wouldn’t call it “traditional” Italian. The restaurant is rather innovative and savvy, and though I love the various regional flavors of central Chianti, like wild boar, I would still highly recommend anyone traveling in Tuscany to check this place out.

Nationally - Recently in Vegas, I drooled over a sweet prawn and ginger consume that I could have literally guzzled buckets of at Mina’s place, Nob Hill. 

Locally – Restaurant Tallent, owned by the “bad ass” duo, Krissy and Dave Tallent, whom I love and are my guardian angels when I’m in Bloomington and am up to no good. FYI – take in a CD of Kenny Loggins for Dave and get a free appetizer!

For seafood, though, I have to recognize Oceanaire in downtown Indy. The staff is great, the GM Roddy Kirschenmen has great wine knowledge, and the Chef Ryan Nelson, has mad skills and has prepared some of the best fish preps I’ve eaten in the country.

Good Grape: What is your favorite ice cream flavor? 

Arthur: I don’t really dig on ice cream that much, but I recently have a super cool jalapeño ice cream at H2O Sushi here in Indy. This restaurant is the place to go if you want a great experience and wicked ice cream flavors, ranging from truffles to Guinness, and everything in between.

Good Grape: What is the best compliment you have ever received?

Arthur: Wow! How do you answer this without sounding like a complete self absorbed wank?  Just a couple of weeks ago, my mentor, wine sensei, great friend, and awesome wine educator, Matt Citriglia MS, told me, “there isn’t anything else that I can teach you.” Whether true or not, for me, it was like Yoda telling Luke he is a Jedi!
Ok, so I might have avoided the self-absorbed portion, but definitely sounded like a wank with the Star Wars reference.

Good Grape:  “2 Truths And a Lie” – Share 3 unique things about yourself and your life, 2 of them true, 1 false, readers will guess by leaving a comment

Arthur: U can’t tell it if I’m wearing a Polo, but I have 9 tattoos, including a piece on my back of the Egyptian god of the wine press, which also happens to be the god of blood, persecutor of the wicked, and the god of righteousness.

I used to have a mullet

I like Nascar

*Ed Note*  This post has been edited on August 5, 2008 from its original form



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Posted in, Good Grape Daily: Pomace & Lees. Permalink | Comments (17) |


Comments

On 06/04, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Right on Jeff, thanks for the space and wicked props…..I think the only thing you left out is I can leap buildings in a single bound.

I appreciate the vote of confidence on the upcoming Master’s, I’ll do my best to make the Mid West proud.

Look forward to drinking some juice soon!

On 06/05, Jason wrote:

I think the Nascar is the lie…the mullet seems likely and the tattoos aren’t a consideration…

On 06/05, Suenarita wrote:

I think I might be in love…

I think it might be the Mullet. I am sure they sell chicken wings at Nascar events…

On 06/05, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

The Nascar thing is a lie. I also know how you came about your Nom de Plume.  By the way it, this article reaks of pirazine. 

P.S. I like girls in whom like other girls

Cheers from Cimmeria
Robert. Eh Howard MMMkay

On 08/28, Egypt Property wrote:

Uh, nice body in the pic. Loved the bit about the drooling in that Vegas restaurant. I can actually picture that very well. LOL.

Best
Ravi

On 05/04, Cathy wrote:

An interesting conversation there with the wine expert. He is really good at what he does. I am too amateur about wines but trying to learn more.

On 07/08, 350-001 wrote:

I also think it might be the Mullet. I am damn sure about it they sell chicken wings at Nascar events…

On 09/15, Kim Da Cook wrote:

Great interview and he is not bad looking either I would guess that he has quite a few female followers , I would have to also guess that it would be the mullet, no man with bad ass tats like that would have a mullet.

On 11/25, VCP-410 exam wrote:

650-175 exam - I think the Nascar is the lie…the mullet seems likely and the tattoos aren’t a consideration…
70-271 exam

On 11/23, Temporary Tattoos wrote:

Tattoos have experienced a resurgence in popularity in many parts of the world, particularly in North and South America, Japan, and Europe. The growth in tattoo culture has seen an influx of new artists into the industry, many of whom have technical and fine arts training.

On 12/13, Tony wrote:

I agree with his line about stereotypes. I love some chicken wings but can also appreciate the finer things.

On 02/08, F50-531 wrote:

I’m really enjoying reading your well written articles. I spent many efforts and time to update the blog. I’m taking a mark and look forward to reading new articles. Please keep the good articles!

On 04/18, Baby Walkers 4U wrote:

Hello, you have made some excellent points here, many thanks for sharing this great content! I hope that you can manage to keep this great work flowing. All the best.

On 08/21, Spicewood Golf Course Homes wrote:

if you like chicken wings then you can’t appreciate foie gras, bone marrow, or the beauty of white truffles, or if you have tattoos then you’re low rent or unprofessional.

On 08/21, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

I have not looked at this article in a while, but upon recent comment notification, WOW, Spicewood, you are a fucking ignorant, idiot first class! Hhhhhhmmmmmm, if you like pizza then you can’t appreciate hamachi or pork belly….no logic. Dumb. Plus the lack of couth possessed where one feels compelled to share such idiocy.

....And yes, using profanity online is unprofessional, perhaps even “low rent”, but you’re in need of serious desecration of character or better yet, a golf club against your head.

On 08/21, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Arthur, so glad you responded to Spicewood - if you hadn’t I would have. What a jackass. Guess what? People who really know food and wine can appreciate the breadth of food and wine, simple and complex (and don’t limit themselves).

On 07/27, poker tournaments las vegas wrote:

These are genuinely great ideas in concerning blogging. You have touched some fastidious things here.
Any way keep up wrinting.


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