Questions with Patrick Comiskey

Words of wisdom from a wine pro


We are thrilled to have Patrick Comiskey join us for a guest appearance this week. Check out his article "A Spotling on Natural Wine" if you haven't already done so.

As you may know, Patrick is a featured author on Zester Daily, has a long history reviewing and chronicling the American wine scene, and is putting the finishing touches on a long anticipated review of the origin and growth of the Rhone Ranger movement in California. More than simply a critic, Patrick offers a thoughtful approach to examining the "who, what, where, when and why" of wine.

Today, we turn the table on Patrick and ask him for some of his own whats, wheres, and whys! Please look out for Patrick's upcoming book as well as his work on Zester Daily.

Snooth – Which came first a passion for writing or a passion for wine?

Patrick: I was a writer first, of fiction and poetry. Writing as a career kept me poor and lean, and in restaurants for employment...

Photo courtesy Zester Daily
...which led to my first gig as a wine director. Writing about wine struck the perfect balance between a passion and a skill.

Snooth: What was your epiphany moment with wine? Do you remember the wine that sparked your imagination and do you remember what first steps you took in pursuit of your newfound passion?

PC: There have been several, but this is one of them.

Snooth: The current generation of aspiring wine writers faces a new paradigm with many wines now priced out of the reach of most people and fewer professional writers to act as role models. What advice would you give to someone who aspires to fill your shoes?

PC: As for general advice – don’t quit your day job. Few can actually make a living doing this work. But beyond this, I would say that one’s impressions are only valid if they are in the service of a story larger than yourself; your impressions of Chateau Fancypants Merlot aren’t useful without context. The best wine writing isn’t about wine; it’s about writing and telling stories.

Snooth: Do you look back and see that there has been a golden age for wine or are we in a golden age for wine now?

PC: It’s hard to imagine a better market in the world than this one – larger, more diverse, buyers and consumers both always seeking the edge, what’s new, what hasn’t been tried before – so yes, in that sense, we’re in the golden age.

I also think that the twilight of Robert Parker’s influence may usher in a new age of heterogeneity of product, of styles, of tastes, of interests.

Snooth: Do you believe in the notion of the “American palate”? Why or why not?

PC: That a percentage of consumers have the same “palate”? Or that some consumers are predisposed to American wines? I’m sure both can be argued to an extent but I’m not sure it’s germane. Feel free to elaborate on what you mean; clearly I’m missing something.

Snooth: What will the next breakout variety or region be?

PC: I’m thinking that Croatia and other traditional continental wine regions are due for their day in the sun after Austria, Slovenia, Hungary. Thrilling traditions being established in the Aegean.

Snooth: What wines are you drinking more of lately?

PC: Beaujolais. I think the wine world would be a much happier place if only people drank more Beaujolais and less Bordeaux (figuratively, literally). Italian whites of every stripe are coming up, a lot. And, just to be contrarian, I’m drinking more American Chardonnay. It’s not something I used to be able to claim, but there are enough good ones out there – from the Sonoma Coast, from Mendo, from Santa Rita, from Oregon – that I’m constantly surprised by how much more interesting they are from five or 10 years ago – when I ran from the stuff. Now I’m approached with a glass and I’m like, hey, what you got for me?

Snooth: What wines are you drinking less of lately?

PC: Monolithic Cabernet.

Snooth: What is your desert island wine and what would you want to pair with it?

PC: I’m not a huge fan of this question – there are simply too many wines out there and I have too many moods to limit myself to one. But I can’t really be expected to live without Champagne. For reds, a close second, absolutely anything from Italy made with Nebbiolo.

Snooth: What was the last wine that reminded you how special wine can be?

PC: Actually anything that’s made well can bring this to mind. Anything that reflects an attention to detail, balance and harmony. Anything that stops me from whatever I’m doing and demands my attention, that delivers the unexpected.

By contrast, the little wines from France and Italy that are gaining currency from indigenous varieties that are cheap and charming and defiantly unprofound, from the Loire, from the Veneto, from weird little corners of Piedmont: they are the repositories of small wonders, and wonderful for recalibrating your sense of wine’s simpler pleasures.

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: it2daddy
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    622990 50

    re: Monolithic Cabernet.

    Q for PC --- why less single blend cabs? are you saying that it's just not interesting or are other wines pushing Cabs down your hit list?

    Sep 14, 2011 at 10:58 AM

  • Snooth User: Mark Angelillo
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    2 6,458

    Definitely lots of Italian whites "of every stripe" to go through. It seems like every time I turn around there's a new one to discover. It's a fertile field.

    Sep 14, 2011 at 12:51 PM

  • Snooth User: patcisco
    934570 0

    re: Cabernet. By monolithic I'm referring to wines that are crafted to knock me back on my heels rather than challenge me, that are all one note, that mask a sense of place with boorish tannins, high alcohol and extract. I think it's fairly easy to make a power cabernet, but it's really hard to make a great one. More true than with any other varietal.

    Sep 14, 2011 at 3:27 PM

  • Snooth User: it2daddy
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    622990 50

    thanks for the clarification. interesting thought on the varietal, is that because CS has naturally high tannins and winemaker allow them to over-ripen? more so than other grapes?

    Sep 14, 2011 at 3:35 PM

  • Snooth User: pplants
    105989 38

    No it2Daddy, he is saying it isn't trendy enough for him.

    Sep 14, 2011 at 4:12 PM

  • Snooth User: patcisco
    934570 0

    Hmm, somehow my last comment didn't register. Let me try to reconstruct:

    Great cabernet effortlessly transcends any trend.

    I'm speaking mostly about style here, and surmaturite flavors contribute to that style. But having just read "An Ideal Wine" by David Darlington I'm seeing monolithic cabs 'by the numbers,' e.g., as Enologix sees them. McCloskey defines an ideal wine as one which hits all the right numbers - tannins, acid, anthocyans, phenols, etc. Seems pretty soulless, and pretty monolithic, to me.


    Sep 14, 2011 at 7:57 PM

  • PC in the hizzy! Love it.

    Sep 20, 2011 at 8:59 AM

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