Wes Narron knows the Boston wine scene like the back of his hand. While he doesn’t work in a restaurant, Narron is committed to bringing the world of wine alive for those who take his City Wine Tours. Narron was General Manager of The Wine Gallery—a chain of local wine shops—for six years, before he crisscrossed the state as a wine consultant for Café Europa Wines and Monsieur Touton Selections. You can find him at City Wine Tours Boston.
– Katie Curley-Katzman
Here’s some expert advice from Wes Narron, Chief Wine Ambassador, City Wine Tours:
You’ve been in the wine business a while, how have you seen it change over the last 5-10 years?
Small, boutique wine shops are able to compete against the big box package stores. They’ve abandoned trying to match the mainstream selection and prices of the chains. These little shops are buying wines they actually taste, rather than “stacking it high and watching it fly” in order to get a free case of nips.
Are today’s wine drinkers more savvy?
Wine drinkers today use different channels to find wines they like. They trust their friends and their own palate, rather than a Wine Spectator score or Robert Parker review. Are they savvier? Nah, they’re just not as worried about drinking the “wrong” wine.
What are today’s wine drinkers looking for?
To get a decent bottle of wine to have with tonight’s dinner for under $20!
What do you open at home?
For a special occasion: Amarone. It’s a big, luscious Italian red made from 3 obscure Italian grapes. It’s soft, smooth, and unbelievably expensive! Good ones start around $50/bottle. Great ones start around $80/bottle. No, I don’t drink them every week. The 1998 Quintarelli Amarone was the only wine that ever brought tears to my eyes. It was so incredibly delicious. It sold for $150. Before I tasted it, I thought you’d be a chump to spend more than $30 for a bottle of wine. That sip was my wine epiphany. I hope you get to experience your moment someday.
For everyday drinking: Rioja Tempranillo from Spain, lighter-bodied easy-drinking reds & sell for $10-20. White wines from Alsace. Legal Sea Foods has been trying to get folks to drink Alsatian wines for years! I love all the white wines from the Loire Valley in France. They sell for $10-20.
What do you recommend for those looking for a less expensive bottle of wine that tastes like a $50+ bottle?
Valpolicella Ripasso from Italy is the “poor man’s Amarone.” You get the same flavors as the big boy wine, just not as smooth or intense. They sell for $15-20. This is the best wine value in the world.
What’s a great “starter” wine for someone just getting into wine?
A Vouvray from the Loire Valley in France. Vouvray is the region and style of wine, made from the Chenin Blanc grape. It’s a slightly sweet, easy to drink white wine, with flavors of pear, peaches, and apple. Very affordable: $10 – $20/bottle.
Your bio on City Wine Tours talks about dealing with a wine snob. They can be easy to find in the wine world, how do you deal?
Does it taste good? I don’t have time for your lesson in being a connoisseur. Most snobs are hiding their ignorance by parroting what they’ve read. Say these 3 little words to them, loud and proud: “I like it.”
How did you get into wine?
Like every other person now in the wine business, I was once a musician/DJ/entertainer. As I got older, I stopped caring about pop culture. It was time to do something else. I spent all that time in clubs, drinking and talking and opining, and hit upon the realization: the older I get and the more I drink the more respected my opinion will be!
Favorite vineyard/winery you’ve been to?
I hate going to vineyards. “On your right is another southwesterly facing terrace, where the cool ocean breezes roll over the mountains, allowing the grapes to…zzzz.” A vineyard is a farm. I grew up on the farm. Couldn’t wait to get away. City living is the life for me.
Favorite wine shop in Boston?
I find myself going to Martignetti’s on Soldier’s Field Road, the Wine Bottega on Hanover Street in the North End, and the packie nearest my house. You should visit a store that opens lots of wines for tasting.
Boston restaurant with the best wine selection?
Now, this is where the advances in American wine culture show up. Foodies understand the importance of menu presentation and wine lists. You can find great wines everywhere.
I love going to Bergamot, 118 Beacon Street, Somerville, because I don’t know ANY of the wines on their list. I can set aside my expectations and just taste.
Do you have a piece of wine trivia you like to use at a cocktail party to impress your guests?
I can smell a wine and tell you whether it was aged in French Oak or American Oak. Want me to teach you? American oak barrels are cheaper, have a wider grain, and lower wood tannins. They often impart vanilla or buttery nuances and a sweeter palate profile. French oak barrels are often “toasted”…charring the insides of the barrels, which results in a smokier, earthier, dirtier aroma. American = vanilla / French = smoke
Katie Curley-Katzman loves learning, collecting and writing about wine. She holds a certificate in wine tasting and education from the Institut d’Oenologie in Aix-en-Provence, France and is a graduate of Salem State University with a degree in English and French. Her wine writing has appeared in the Quarterly Review of Wines Magazine. Have a wine question or suggestion? Tweet her @KatieKWBZ