In 2013, Wine Press will occasionally feature a question-and-answer session with someone from Omaha's local wine scene. Future columns might include interviews with Omaha's burgeoning sommelier community, restauranteurs, suppliers and wine merchants to find out their individual tastes and preferences of the world's greatest beverage.
First we spoke to John Draney of the Omaha Wine Company.
Draney and Vita Coffey opened the business in the Miracle Hills Square shopping center in 1995 with the goal of providing Omaha with hard-to-find wines from top producers around the world. The store has always been strong in domestic offerings, including boutique and sometimes cult wines from Napa Valley, but there also are blue-chip selections from Europe, Australia and the Southern hemisphere as well.
Draney and I have known each other for many years, and he was very encouraging of my wine career early on. Draney's palate is excellent and I've always admired his unique approach to wine. Here is our discussion of his wine philosophy.
Q: Until 1982, when wine critic Robert Parker made his name with the '82 vintage in Bordeaux, Americans mainly learned about wine from their trusted wine merchant. From that time, and until just recently, consumers have been very interested in various point scores. Did the era of the wine critic ever influence your approach?
A: Yes, in an unusual way. The scores have brought people “into” wine as if finding high-pointers were a competitive sport, but the scores are attached to words which eventually helps all of us communicate more exactly. Our store's approach has always been to ask what the buyer likes and dislikes, then to show what we think are good matches. It would be difficult to sell a 100-point shoe in size nine to a person who wears a size six.
Q: The French use the term “terroir” to describe the “taste of place” in wine and other agricultural products. Is terroir important to you when you select a wine?
I have many friends who grow and produce wines on Spring Mountain in the Napa Valley. There is a distinct common taste thread that runs through all of their Cabernets. It took me quite a while to appreciate that, and now it is fun to taste each winemaker's personality in their finished product as new vintages are released. This applies to almost all wine-growing areas that claim some affinity of place, whether it is right-bank Bordeaux, Oregon Pinots or wines from the northern areas of Italy. Sometimes though, I think wineries try too hard to show “place” instead of their own tastes.
Q: What have you been drinking recently that's really blown you away?
I'm lucky, what with samples and a store loaded with 2,000 choices all screaming for me to take them home. It would be stupid (and maybe immoral) for me not to have a glass (or two or three), and yes, there are two Napa Valley wineries located right next to each other (Hourglass and Switchback Ridge) that are both putting out Merlots that have a wow factor that have made me redefine what this grape can do.