Not long ago I was asked to visit the radically fun and exciting video blog by the one-of-a-kind on-line wine guru Gary Vaynerchuk at winelibrary.com. A friend sent me the only episode that GV did on sake, and in a word I smiled. His passion – undeniably – is fantastic and I enjoyed hearing him speak to several brews that they sell in their store, but I thought to myself that he needed a visit from a sake freak like me. So upon hearing GV say GIN-jo for the fifth time, I said to my friend “set it up.”
Fast-forward two months and I found myself in G’s office in front of their brand new HDTV video camera with “Mott” working the camera in the very large three story Winelibary building in Springfield, NJ. It felt sort of trippy being in “that” room – maybe on account of the three hours of sleep that I had due to weather-related air travel. Truthfully, I thought he filmed those segments in a basement somewhere, but alas it was in his very large office, which is adorned with all things J-E-T-S. Basically his office is an extension of him – scattered, disheveled, layered, but with a laser purpose. The room screams wine. He screams wine. And as we spoke about it on film, wine is his purpose.
I didn’t know it, but in speaking to “Mott” as he was setting up our shoot we were scheduled to do a 20 minute segment. (We actually did an hour for two segments – which was tough on them because some other folks were waiting to interview Gary and then he had to do a segment with his father for father’s day – but we were on a roll so we rolled with it.)
Let me begin by saying G is the real deal – an incredibly bright and witty cat with a very good heart and an intense loyalty to his family. He exudes confidence, but is as far from cocky as one can get. Gary is like one of your best friends who challenges you to be your best – he is a catalyst and a fire-starter – and he works purely in wave lengths. Get on his wave length and it’s like monster wave surfing at Mavericks – 40 feet of rushing sheer terror-energy.
In preparation for the segment I was told that we would taste 3 sakes at “room temperature” as Gary “always tastes at room temp – even white wines and champagnes.” (He would later admit that he tastes at least half of his sparkling wines chilled) But the pressure was on to pick three great brews that accomplished a lot for a short segment. Of course my number one requirement was quality, which manifests itself in the all important balance. Then I wanted to represent each of the grades/categories Junmai, GIN-jo and DaiGIN-jo (yes I’m playing here with the pronunciation). I also thought about different prefectures and rice varietals. There were so many angles, so many “plays” but I settled upon three of SakeSocial’s top sellers – Chikurin Junmai, Tsukinokatsura Junmai Ginjo, and Taiheizan Tenko Junmai Daiginjo.
From the moment G and I shook hands we jibed. Then when the camera was on we “shuck and jived.” I think that we fed off of each other’s passions. In fact I know that we did. He is on a mission and so too am I – and together those missions melded into a three-ring circus with two rodeo clown booze preachers.
You will note that G speaks very highly about the future of sake (and tea) – and I think to a certain degree he has the “sake bug.” Off camera his enthusiasm for sake was even greater and that spoke directly to my passion and retail purpose for the past seven years. As a guy who has devoted himself to doing the sake equivalent to Gary and wine, I felt a certain pang of pride during our filming (all Oprah references aside).
I know sake is the future. And the mere fact that you are reading this proves that you are on the same page. Enjoy!