GDP on Wine

Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz

RIP Joe Dressner

Posted by Gregory Dal Piaz, Sep 19, 2011.

Saturday Morning was a sad day indeed when I found out the Joe had passed. I knew Joe well, better than in passing though we were not quite friends. I had the pleasure of dining with him many times, and the displeasure of dining with him a few times.

While not always an easy fellow to get along with Joe was someone worth getting along with, and by that I don't mean agreeing with but rather being with. He was a sly man with a biting wit, fewer filters than one might want, an excellent palate, and a genune atheist soul.

He has had a profound and lasting effect on the way wine is marketed and sold in America and the world, and he will be missed.

I waited until someone did a better job than I could of reporting this story so for additional information please visit Decanter.


Reply by Mark Angelillo, Sep 19, 2011.

I never had the pleasure, and sorry for that. It sounds like he was quite a character.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Sep 19, 2011.

Rimerman did a big piece about Joe Dressner in his Garagiste e-mail.  Unfortunately, I deleted it, but maybe someone can cut and paste it here with acknowledgement. Rimerman actually did not send out an offer, just the eulogy.  I think that speaks volumes in its way.

I wish I had met Dressner--I work with a lot of blunt, opinionated people, and kind of thrive on it.  And he would have served me an interesting glass of wine while he was espousing his viewpoint.  I'm sure his lack of revisionism about the Vietnam era probably angered a lot of people, but it was plainly more honest than a lot of the nonsense that folks who, now far removed from draft age, say about their views then and their views now. 

As JR put it in the email, what Dressner did, and in spite of the attempt by others to "own it," was so vital in pioneering, is well under way and will continue after him.  The fact that people can have strong opinions about what natural wine is, and how important it should be, is part of that legacy.

Reply by dmcker, Sep 19, 2011.

I ditto Fox's comments. Here's the eulogy from Jon Ritterman at Garagiste:


In Memoriam: Larger than Life

No offer today.

Instead I pay my respects to the memory of a man who persevered with sarcasm and determination in equal parts...and lived to tell the tale. 

Joe Dressner truly lived by his own imagination and his own creed - that is more than most of us could ever say.

Without Joe Dressner, the impetus for me to create Garagiste may never have existed. In the early days (and still) Joe and I fought the fight of “natural” wine and its ascension in the US, something he dedicated his life to but I was never sure would happen. Joe was always sure and with his constant voice in my ear, I was finally won over by a one-man show of perseverance when no one else believed.  That was a long time ago, but he never wavered from his original goal of making natural wine (a moniker he disdained, I would call it more accurately, “wine of the land regardless of its BIO/organic leaning”) a matter of fact accompaniment to the US consciousness and the everyday. In Joe’s eyes, his goal would be met when Pepiere et al wasn’t thought of as something discussed and enjoyed only by the counter-culture/café sect but by a wider US populous that had never even heard of the word Muscadet 10 years ago.

There is no question for me that Joe achieved his goal.

The legacy Joe Dressner leaves is palpable – the awakening of the US palate to something new, something real – something to believe in. Joe created an entire wine market nearly by himself as a solitary and often polarizing figure that took all of our education and enjoyment of wine to places never thought possible in this country. Regardless of his opinionated and coarse approach, Joe Dressner earned the respect from not just the coolio and intelligentsia of the wine community (arguably, there would be no coolio wine community in this country without his work) but by an ever evolving US palate that has only scratched the surface of what it will become.

Tennyson once wrote a famous passage in eulogy of his dear friend Arthur Henry Hallam – a passage that holds so true of Dressner’s lifelong pursuit of a wine dream that many thought impossible: 

I hold it true, whate'er befall; 
I feel it when I sorrow most; 
'Tis better to have loved and lost 
Than never to have loved at all.

Joe Dressner made all of us so deeply aware of his passion and love of life that his dream became all of ours as well.  I live his dream everyday and will continue to do so, with Joe’s inspiration in toe, for as long as I carry out my own vinous pursuit.

Joe Dressner is a legend – a true legend that will never be replaced.

I’ll miss you Joe.

 - Jon Rimmerman

Reply by Richard Foxall, Sep 19, 2011.

Thanks, d, for fixing my oversight, and for the "ditto."

Reply by GregT, Sep 20, 2011.
Edited Sep 21, 2011

He imported some really good wines. Nobody can argue about that. I even own some.

And for better or worse he was also one of the most difficult and frankly, unpleasant people in the wine world - no social  graces, rude, and blindingly egocentric. He knew that and reveled in it, so it's no disrespect to point it out.

How wonderful that he marched for the Viet Cong and wished our soldiers dead. I'm sure the boat people on the bottom of the sea are grateful.

‘I have had a great life, from marching for the victory of Viet Cong, to bringing real, natural wines to America, to working with vignerons who have made a difference, raising money for Partners in Health in Haiti, and to sticking out my middle finger to every pompous, reactionary asshole I came across in and out of the wine world.’

I always imagined he did that last bit while looking in the mirror.

But he brought in some great wines.

We all need to decide what matters.

Reply by napagirl68, Sep 21, 2011.

RIP.. I actually like his style  (have been tortured by the best :-)

Reply by zufrieden, Sep 21, 2011.

Dressner was obviously someone who dared to know and cared little or nothing for lesser mortals bogged down in boring mediocrity and supporting Stalinist mind games (aka political correctness) to enforce that mediocrity.  

If he was over the top that implies he was not hugging the bottom.  Keep his sabre sharp for his successors.

Reply by Masaryk, Sep 23, 2011.

Who's picture is that in the RIP Joe Dressner on the Snooth email dated September 23rd titled: "Best Buys Under $15 at the Sunset Western Wine Awards"?  Because, that doesn't look like Joe Dressner. 


Reply by vinorosso14, Sep 23, 2011.

Fuck the politics..ive been in the trade for 25 years..he had the balls to follow the courage of his convictions...and earnt the loyalty of men of the earth along the way.

Reply by zufrieden, Sep 23, 2011.

Youy got it man.

Reply by mjanaitis1, Sep 23, 2011.

Did not know the man and do not go along with all that he believed but he had the courage and conviction to say what he thought.  That is what a man should be.  I live by that rule and I am sure that my sarcasms and I don' t care what you think attitude has garnered many who dislike me.  It does not matter because my true friends stand by me through thick and thin no matter what.  RIP Joe as I said I did not know you but I respect you for what you were.

Reply by GregT, Sep 24, 2011.

I knew him too. His courage disappeared when he was confronted.  Then he'd claim his offensiveness was all "in fun".

Like I said, he brought in some good, and sometimes really good wines. 

That's sufficient.

Reply by mjanaitis1, Sep 24, 2011.

God the man is deceased.  Nothing good to say about him except he brought in some good wines.  I assume you had some issues with the man or you would not be speaking of him as you are.  Shame on you.  Eventually your time will come like the rest of us.  Is this the kind of tribute you would like?

Reply by EBGB, Sep 24, 2011.

"Is this the kind of tribute you would like?"

Other than GregT's postings, yes.  That I was honest, that I stuck to my guns, that I was good at my job, and that people always respected me even if they didn't necessarily like or agree with me.

Reply by GregT, Sep 24, 2011.
Edited Sep 24, 2011

The kind of tribute I'd like? 

Absolutely.  I'd want people to remember me honestly and not through some miasma in which they create their own images of something I wasn't. I think Joe would too.  He always spoke his mind and was never hesitant about offending anyone. After all, with rare exceptions, it's what we do in our lives that creates our legacies, not what we do afterwards. I don't think I've said anything dishonest about him and I've given him credit for what he's done. Not sure why anyone would have to pretend he was also cute and cuddly.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Sep 24, 2011.

No the picture in the email was not Joe.

Joe would have understood.

Reply by dmcker, Sep 25, 2011.

Having trained a bit as a historian, I don't buy into that 'don't speak ill of the dead' business. The best euglogies, anyway, mention the warts as well as the beauty marks. The fact that this man who was in a corner of a very specific marketplace has warranted this number of comments on a site like Snooth speaks volumes in itself....

Reply by Richard Foxall, Sep 27, 2011.

aww, dmcker, I want to be you when I grow up.  No Times obit for me, write something on Snooth, if it and the internet still exist.  (I'm feeling a little apocalyptic right now.) And for some of us, the warts are our good points. Or maybe I want to be GdP: The line "Joe would have understood" seems to sum things up in four words, from someone who knew him, warts and all.

I have messaged offline about the politics in this thread, but I think my original comment stands:  The fact that we can have quite different ideas about Joe or natural wine and that we can discuss them here says that he succeeded in provoking us.  We need that sometimes. 

I've had some serious confrontations--or at least spoken truth to power--when the bullies have been much richer and much more powerful than Joe. (List provided on request. People will put up with a lot of back talk when you can make them money, even if they are already quite rich and powerful.)  I can't really blame him for the consequences of bad US policy, or his political choices, when the historical revisionists of the Viet era who never served led us into more catastrophes.  The boat people who died aren't on Joe's scorecard, anymore than they are on the scorecards of anyone who opposed the war for any reason.  But this is a wine web site, and that's enough politics, at least from me.

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