Hi, I'm John Truax.
I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the Fifties. My grandparents on my mother's side loved wine and traveled to Europe many, many times. We always had wine at Sunday dinners, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhone, and German wines. This was uncommon in Minnesota in those days. I have many fond memories of going to the wine shops with my grandfather and my uncle David when I was just a child. There was a shop called Holtzermann's that sold German wine and candy; the proprietor split a chocolate covered pretzel with me. Salty and sweet, it was a revelation. My mother loved wine and good food. On a trip to the world's fair--Expo 67 in Montreal--we went to have a lunch at the Swiss Pavilion, leaving my 4 brothers and father to fend for themselves while the two of us got a gourmet treat. I remember we had veal in a brown sauce with mushrooms and rosti and some white wine--it was probably a Chasselas. My eyes had been opened. I was twelve years old.
I moved to Washington, DC in October of 1979 resolved never to spend another winter frozen. I got a job working at a wine store on Capitol Hill. My professional wine education really got started in 1981 when I became the sommelier at Chez Maria, a French Vietnamese restaurant in Georgetown. It was one of the very first wine bars in the country, and its proprietor, Roger Grison, taught me about regional French wine and Indochinese food. Monsieur Grison was fantastic, he reminded me of Maurice Chevalier. He was born in Paris when it was surrounded by dairy farms. He knew about good French table wine and also about the wines that needed bottle age to show their best. He was a civil and structural engineer for Eiffel Constructions and spent most of his adult life in Indochina. He loved food and wine, especially French wine with Vietnamese food. Then I ran a great wine bar called Suzanne's in Dupont Circle. We had a carryout shop and the wine bar/restaurant, we ordered wine direct from France on our Telex machine! I would go to Port of Baltimore and bribe the Teamsters to make certain that the refrigerated shipping containers were plugged in (they weren't).
My first trip to Burgundy was in 1983. I used to buy a lot of wine from the Canaan-Wasserman company and started my friendship with Becky Wasserman then. Her son Peter later became my roommate here in New York and I have been very lucky to have benefited from their knowledge, hospitality, warmth, and friendship for decades. Over the years I have worked at some of the top retail shops in New York: Crossroads, Sokolin, Park Avenue Liquor, Chambers Street Wines, and now Flatiron.
Today there are great wines being grown all over the world from many grape varieties. As farming techniques have improved, what was once a disastrous vintage can now produce very good wine. Very good producers will make great wine when their neighbors fail. If you only buy the "great" vintages, you won't have any wine to drink in your cellar. Although I learned about the classic wines I am always open to trying new stuff. Pinot Noir grows well on the Mooroduc Peninsula and in Burgundy and Sonoma Coast and Prince Edward county. Riesling likes the Finger Lakes and the Mosel and Eden Valley. Merlot from Pomerol is amazing and so is Merlot from Bolgheri. Cabernet likes Napa and the Medoc. Good wine can come from everywhere and good wine is wine that tastes good.
My wife and I enjoy many wines at our house. Simple country wines help us understand and appreciate the great wines. Drinking Macon and Morgon makes the Batard Montrachet and Vosne Romanee that much more special on the occasions that call for great wine. I honestly believe that Barbera and Dolcetto are for lunch and dinner and Barolo is for Sunday dinner. I must add that although Bordeaux is not cool or trendy right now, it sure is good with steak or roast beef and potatoes and mature Bordeaux is a bargain today. I like it that it is not trendy.
Every year I travel to different vineyards to taste. There is one place I consider my home away from home: Burgundy, one of the most complex of all wine regions. Wine is an immense subject and a matter of personal taste. It's an endless debate with no absolute answers, a truly delicious and invigorating intellectual and gustatory exercise. I think we learn more about ourselves as we learn more about wine. We can continue to learn about wine as long as we live as it is an ever-evolving infinite subject.