Joe Dressner Tributes: There was a disturbance in the Force over the weekend when news broke, early Sunday morning, that iconoclast importer of "real" wines Joe Dressner (right) had succumbed to brain cancer at age 60. Dressner was "an importer whose advocacy of Old World wines made without chemicals or manipulation inspired a sort of natural wine avant-garde," wrote The New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov in an obituary yesterday. The following posts are just some of the many tributes to the beloved however often caustic Dressner, whose legacy helped to shape a new generation of wine lovers in this country -- including me. (Photo via Saignée.)
Alice Feiring: The "hours [I spent] with Joe changed my life, my future," writes Alice who profiled Dressner in her 2008 book, The Battle for Wine and Love. "I am not alone in that. Joe, complex, arrogant, kind, generous, dick, crazy, wild sense of humor, had the power to effect change. He made a difference."
Eric Asimov: Dressner "represented a culture that does not exalt wine into something overly complicated or turn it into a fetishistic object," wrote Eric in a blog post published on Monday on The New York Times website. His way of thinking did not reduce wine to scores and tasting notes, either, or strain to demystify it. To Joe, wine was a pleasure and a joy." Eric did not shy however from writing about Joe's caustic side: "It was not so much his enemies who disturbed him as his friends, people he thought should know better, and yet who persisted in straying into the realm of the self-important or pretentious. Out came the ridicule, the satire, the absurdities, and if he were on your tail he would pursue with an unholy tenacity. He could make people cry. Now, he's done it again, by dying."
Inside Scoop SF: "To simply call Joe an importer misses the point," writes Jon Bonné, wine critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. "He was a tireless defender of honest, simply made bottles -- which made him a vicious critic of what he termed 'spoofulated' wines, and those who trafficked in them."
Saignée: Dressner, writes Cory Cartwright, "thought there was a purpose and a force to celebrating what [Rhône winemaker] Eric Texier called a 'culture of wine' of people farming the land, making wines like people used to when wine was both something to put on the table and a part of something larger, something that connects us all to produce, to work, to food. Before wine became an international commodity dominated by brands and made by laboratories."
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Rockss and Fruit: A heartfelt eulogy by Lyle Fass comes in the form of a letter: "Joe, I will always remember our last time hanging out at your apartment this past June, drinking tea, bullshitting about the royal wedding, mystery novels, Treme, The Wire, playing with Zaggy [his dog] and so many other things. Now I know it was a goodbye and I could not have dreamt of a better goodbye. You were so much more than the greatest wine importer. You were my friend. I will miss you."
To understand Dressner's role and legacy in the wine trade over the last three decades, check out this 2008 profile by French photographer Bertrand Celce. Rest in Peace, Joe Dressner.