Monday, September 19, 2011
The Wine Importer, Joe Dressner
Joe Dressner has left us. I choose that expression carefully. In concrete reality, he passed away from brain cancer on Saturday morning. Also, though, he has left us, well, so much.
He was an impassioned importer of "real" wines from France, Italy, and Spain. A champion of candor who tirelessly cut away the bla-bla of marketing and aspirational thinking and swindlerism. A friend of honest work in vineyards and cellars. An unabashed curmudgeon of unpredictable views and angles. A man who gave to Doctors Without Borders and Partners in Health. One of the funniest people ever, who left us with a body of writing in which kernels of truth hide amid uproarious floods of the absurd.
He was also a friend, to me. We shared wine, and didn't talk about it. We could argue or gossip in that particular brand of French that was his own. His real frankness and humanity allowed for conversations to swing from the acerbic to the intimate.
The wines he imported to America and which his team will continue to bring us are a good reflection of him: Clos Roche Blanche Sauvignon is preposterously good, almost blindsiding you; Domaine de la Pépière Clos des Briords is limpid, earthy, frank; Eric Texier's Rhône wines are deeply intellectual; Christian Chaussard's are hilarious, until you notice the firm backbone of seriousness.
The wines speak Joe Dressner, as do the writings and memories of him we have.