Wine & Spirits relies on a vibrant community of retailers, sommeliers, winemakers, and other wine professionals to sit on our panels. The panels are conducted by a critic or W&S staff, and benefit from the multiple perspectives. We pose a simple question: Would you recommend this wine to a friend? The wines that a majority of the panelists recommend are then re-tasted and scored by the critic. The goal is to avoid and temper any prejudices a critic might exercise, consciously or not.
In this installment of our “Panelist Profile” series, we sat down with Jonathan Eichholz, who has tasted with us since January 2018 after moving to New York to work at Aquavit. Now that he works at Massanois, a wine importer and distributor, he joins us for categories the firm does not handle. And at night, he is busy crafting beverage pairings for his pop-up, No Ceilings.
Eichholz went to Colby College “to become a neuroscientist, a head surgeon, and a lacrosse player.” Then, during a summer microbiology internship at Murray’s Cheese, he fell in love with the food and beverage world’s “marriage of science, history, and creating experiences.” He volunteered to pour and teach the classes at Murray’s in the evening. Thus began his descent into the cellars and onto the floor, drawn in through beer and cheese pairings (stout and blue cheese is a favorite). He went on to write an undergraduate thesis on terroir, and earned his Advanced Sommelier certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2018.
Stints at The Riggsby and Garrison in Washington, D.C. and Aquavit in New York have opened the door for Eichholz to explore the potential of food and wine pairing, particularly in the context of tasting menus. He continues honing this skill through No Ceilings. To him, a great pairing does not simply add to or contrast the flavors present, but multiplies their qualities and uses “two different things to create a new flavor sensation.” In a word, he describes it as “idiosyncratic.” In more than a word, he says, “Anybody can put a red wine with a steak, anyone can put Sauternes with foie gras,” but what interests him is using “the whole arsenal of the world of wine and the world of food.” A pairing of Savoie jacquère, a light white variety, with a dish of king crab and chamomile on the menu at Aquavit sticks out in his memory. He finds pairing with desserts challenging but most interesting.
He’s fascinated by the vastness of the wine world. “We need to see more Australia and New Zealand, we need to see more New America, we need to see more old-school France.” He recalls how the 2005 Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay “blew his mind” at TexSom this year. He went so far as to call it “the most perfect chardonnay [he’s] ever had. It is so nuanced, so textural, so fascinating, and gets different at every temperature.”
A self-described “theory nerd,” Eichholz loves to come to W&S panels for those times when he can connect the thread of theory from a place—its soils, varieties, and winemaking practices—to its wines. When tasting, he wants to “connect where that wine came from to what manifested in the bottle.” Though the wines can still vary greatly within the same appellation, vintage, and variety, the panels help Eichholz to attach a recognizable palate to a year and a place. He recalls making his way through a 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape panel, emerging at the other end alcohol-soaked but confident he would never miss that vintage and region in a blind tasting. And he calls the chance to taste and calibrate his palate with W&S “one of the most transformative things” he’s done during his career in New York.
Playing Card Info:
English, Colombian Spanish
Can read Arabic
Go-to aperitif cocktail:
Smith and Cross Daiquiri
Backup career plan:
Music (rap artist), or non-profit
Theoretical competing publication:
Wine & Spirits & Hip-hop
The author previously worked with Eichholz at Aquavit and works with him at No Ceilings.
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