The other day I had the opportunity and privilege of meeting with, and tasting through the wines of, Sean Thackrey. Our initial meeting was kind of funny, because here was this stranger pacing back and forth outside my store, who looked like he might have been out just a bit too late the night before. Ever so slightly disheveled, he kept peering in and looking at me. My first reaction was, “Oh, boy, what am I in for?” When the guy finally walked in, I hesitantly asked if I could help him. He said he was here to meet me. I knew I had an appoinment with Sean Thackrey and his wine distributor, so I brilliantly put two and two together and said (embarassingly) “Ah, you must be Mr. Thackrey.” What’s that thing about judging a book by it’s cover? It turned out that I wasn’t entirely wrong, because he and the salesman did admit that they had indeed been up until all hours “tasting” the night before.
Anyway, he proceeded to place four bottles in front of me (Pleiades, Orion, Andromeda, and Acquila) and off I went. Sean’s wines are legendary and they carry the price tags to prove it. But if you ever get a chance to have a sip, do not pass it up. As he pushed the Pleiades toward me (I did the pouring, myself — unheard of !), I took Sean through a Q&A to find out what he and his wine-making philosophy were all about. He very modestly and clearly laid out the sheer simplicity of it all. “I’m a chef, basically. I have these vineyards, one of which was planted so long ago that no one knows what’s exactly what’s in it. Then I harvest these grapes, bring them back to where I make the wine (he doesn’t use the term winery because it isn’t in the traditional sense) and proceed to put the dishes together.” Sean is trained, but in Art History, not wine-making. He doesn’t believe that that wine-making is something that can be taught. While he acknowledges that science has a place in the process, it’s a small one. To quote from his website, “All the science in the world isn’t going to tell a chef what to do with a chicken. It may suggest some experiments, and may explain some results, but the only result that counts is a better tasting chicken, and the only judge of ‘better’ is the pleasure the chicken gives the palate; and the essential job of the ‘chef’ (‘wine-maker’) is to make that judgement, right now, right here, while the pan’s still on the flame.”
Boy,you just can’t put it any better than that, and he’s one hell of a “chef”. The wines were all complex, layered, balanced, and stunning. And the next time I sample a wine that’s been “manufactured” with all of the latest and greatest technologies, I will think back on my meeting with Chef Sean Thackrey. Bravo, Sean. Keep the dishes coming.