Find out more about the world-renowned names that make up the 2014 Decanter World Wine Awards judging line-up in this Q&A series.
Bob Betz MW is the winemaker of Betz Family Winery in Washington State. He initially graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in zoology, but turned his attention to wine after spending a year in the vineyards in Europe, and then spent 28 years working for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.
Read our interview with Bob Betz MW below…
☆ Which year or decade do you wish you’d been born in and why?
Exactly when I was born as I think we’re lucky to be drinking wine right now. We are drinking the greatest wine that has ever been made in history, as the result of the combination of knowledge, technology and artistry.
☆ How old were you when you had your first wine ‘moment’ and what was it?
Besides the jug wine mixed with soda enjoyed as a kid at my parent’s table on festive occasions, my first “ah-ha” moment was in 1971. I was trying a number of American wines to take to friends in France when I tasted the 1968 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. I had never had such a compelling sensation of excellence. It was the wine I took to show them, and has been on my short list of greatest wines ever since.
☆ How many bottles do you have in your cellar?
About 1200 in total.
☆ How many years have you been working in the wine industry and what was your first job?
I’ve been in the wine game for 40 years now, which includes a year in the vineyards of Western Europe in the early 1970s. After returning home, I managed a wine store in Seattle until I joined the team at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates in January 1976 where I worked for 28 years.
☆ Which vintage and region (or wine) do you wish you’d bought a whole case of wine from?
All these wines, not enough time… I’ve been fortunate enough to have several decades in the industry and it would be impossible to pinpoint one specific wine. But, if pressed, I would have to include the 2001 Château d‘Yquem and Château Coutet, the 1968 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, the 1964 Chateau Latour, the 1975 DRC La Tache, and the 2007 Pichler M Gruner Veltliner Smaragd from Austria.
☆ In the last 12 months, which grape have you drunk the most of?
For whites, Riesling, Gruner Veltliner and Chardonnay. For reds, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese and Syrah.
☆ In the last 12 months, what’s the most exciting region you’ve discovered or re-discovered and why?
Last June I made my first trip to the Winelands of South Africa. What a discovery! It’s the most beautiful wine region I’ve visited, and exciting advances by several small producers forecast a future worth watching for this area.
☆ Who’s your wine idol (who has inspired you the most in the wine world)?
André Tchelistcheff influenced my wine culture more than anyone else. While he was still winemaker at Beaulieu Vineyards (Napa Valley) in the mid-1970s, he also consulted for us at Château Ste. Michelle. Over the years I was able to learn so much from him about vineyards, winemaking and wine culture.
☆ What’s your most memorable wine and food moment?
Where to start? There are so many, from the simple to the sublime. I think the most memorable moments are those with a few close friends where the mix of wine, food and conversation is so remarkable that the moment goes far beyond the act of eating and drinking.
☆ If you could taste/drink any wine in the world what would it be and who would you drink it with?
Great vintage Champagne with anyone who cares to join me!
☆ What are you most looking forward to about judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards?
This judging is as good as it gets – for the wines, for consumers and for the judges. Being able to review wines from such diverse origins, with old friends and some of the industry’s finest palates, will be one of the highlights of the year.
For more information on this year’s competition, including how to enter, visit the Decanter World Wine Awards website
Written by Decanter