On a recent Friday night, a group of wine lovers gathered around the counter at the Grape D’Vine in Sparkill, tasting and talking with owner, Joe Printz.
“I like to make friends with people,” says Printz. “The idea is to make people relax, because if you don’t make a study of wine, you don’t know what’s new.”
Printz tastes more than 100 wines a week, so he knows what’s new. And trendy. And what wine works with what food. Plus, he seeks out smaller wine makers that you may have never heard of. You may find your next favorite wine when Printz pours it at the Grape D’Vine.
“I like to find the unique and the good in all the wines that are out there,” he says. “I don’t just like to find what everyone likes to consider their benchmark wine. I like to find things that are very different.”
That’s one of the reasons we selected Printz to be our wine expert-in-residence for the next three months. For the next 12 Wednesdays in Life&Style, he’ll choose our LoHud Wine of the Week, and include tasting notes and suggestions for pairings. (His first recommendation, a 2011 Scinniri Etna Rosso — is at the bottom of Page 1B.) We’ll also arrange online chats with Printz, so you can ask him about wines, too.
At the end of the 12 weeks, we’ll review our Mixed Case and recap the choices assembled by Printz. Then we’ll introduce a new expert.
We’ll also turn to Printz for suggestions for pairing wines with meals, including for Christmas and New Year’s. And whatever the pairings are, they’re sure to be served with a healthy dose of enthusiasm.
Ask Printz his favorite wines, and you might get an ode to Italy.
“Piedmonte, Barolo, Barberas, Nebbiolos, Dolcettos,” he practically sings. “I love that bright cherry, dusty-earthy-cocoa powdery note that comes in the back end of those wines from the Piedemonte region that pair so beautifully with food. Runny cheese, a roast loin of pork, or some beautiful roasted tomatoes and fresh pasta. I love how that all combines so easily in your mouth.”
Printz carries more than 600 different boutique wines at his shop, which he moved from Tappan to a new space in Sparkill in August. The new interior is spacious and welcoming, and there’s a lot more room at the counter for tastings. (The wooden barrel-shaped ceiling is literally that: wooden and shaped like a wine barrel. It’s made from salvaged wood, too.) Upstairs, there’s a private room with a big beautiful table for wine classes.
Printz started his career as a chef, but decided to give up his behind-the-stove life for one with a more predictable schedule — and one that was a little easier on his knees. But he’s still in love with food.
He waxes rhapsodic about pairing a pig roast with a 2009 Domaine du Banneret Chateauneuf du Pape, a French wine from the Rhone region that is expertly blended from 13 different varietals.
He and his friends had rubbed the pork with rosemary, garlic, lemon rind and maple syrup and cooked it over 8 hours.
“As the wine unfolds in your glass and you get to swirl it around and it gets to open and take on its second life of its own,” he says. “And just like being in a kitchen when you start cooking, you like one flavor note to dissolve in another one and that’s what I look for in wine, as well.”
When you’re browsing his shop and reading his quirky tasting notes, you’ll realize that while he may be serious about wine, he doesn’t want you to be. (A couple of my favorite “shelf-talkers,” as he calls them: “Oh, my god, it’s big! Black fruit drama! With a touch of wood.” Or “This will make your head spin like Linda Blair’s. Exorcize your right to drink it!”)
“I like to go up to the line, but don’t step over the line,” he says. “I want people to relax in the wine store. So many people come in and they don’t know what they’re looking for, and they’re intimidated. So it’s anti-snobbery. Don’t be intimidated by wine. As they say, it’s just rotten grape juice.”