Ep. 138 Monty Waldin interviews Lamberto Spacchetti (Colle Ciocco Winery)
Settembre 25, 2018
Ep. 140 Monty Waldin interviews Giusy Moretti (Moretti Omero Winery)
Ottobre 2, 2018

In this episode, Monty Waldin interviews wine producer, restaurateur, MasterChef TV star, and musician Joe Bastianich. Tune in for a fantastic interview where Bastianich talks openly about his Italian origins and his relationship with Italian culture. Joe tells Monty that his parents came to America from the contested North-Eastern territory of Istria (former Italian territory and now Croatian) and set up an innovative and successful restaurant business in New York City. After talking about his upbringing in New York, Joe unveils his passions for rock music, good food and good wine—the latter culminating in starting the family winery in 1997 in the Colli Orientali area of Friuli Venezia Giulia. Joe tells Monty about his non-interventionist wine-making philosophy, marketing wine to millennials, and wine and food pairings. Enjoy Monty Waldin’s exclusive conversation with Italian wine and food celebrity Joe Bastianich!

Transcript:

Italian Wine Podcast Episode 139: 

Monty Waldin interviews Joe Bastianich (Bastianich Winery)

Date of broadcast: 26 September 2018.

Intro: Italian Wine Podcast – Cin Cin with Italian Wine People!

Monty Waldin:             Hello this is the Italian Wine Podcast, my name is Monty Waldin, my guest today is the one and only, Joe Bastianich. Joe, thank you very much for coming in.

Joe Bastianich:               All right Monty, good.

Monty Waldin:             You’re a busy guy, I know, ummmm… family background, let’s start with that…

Joe Bastianich:              So… my family are Italian immigrants that left Italy after the war, World War II, and came to New York. They from an agricultural background from an area called Istria. it’s a very particular area because it was Italy and then became Yugoslavia and now is currently Croatia, so the Istrian people, ethnic-Italian Istrians are a population in the world without a home. And it is a very very particular culture but that’s kind of what brought my family to food, they came as winemakers and food people to America. So obviously as immigrants do, the first jobs they got were working in restaurants. My dad was a waiter, my mom worked in a bakery and then they met. And then as immigrants do, they opened up their first restaurant in 1968, the year I was born, in Queens New York, which is a suburb of the city, not a suburb, it’s one of the boroughs, and it all started there for me. I was born in a restaurant, I grew up in a restaurant, and, you know, fell in love with food and wine but in the most roundabout way, you know, because as immigrants, we were very modest means and we appreciated everything that life brought us. The journey has been long, but food and wine have always been a central part of it.

Monty Waldin:             It’s interesting that you talk about the economic side, I mean, people I’ve spoken to… One of your big things is that you provide high quality food in your restaurants but you’re not asking the earth in terms of price, you’re trying to get very sensible pricing, is that true?

Joe Bastianich:              Yeah, I mean, I think that’s part of the way that I was brought up, I have a… I feel a very big responsibility towards my customers and I think just even in these days, just selling things for as much money as possible is not always the right thing, and I think that people at the end of the day want value, or… want real value for what they eat and drink and that’s kind of been my M.O. since the beginning and I stick with it. I think that value is something that will never go out of style and both in wine. We were kind of revolutionary in the wine world, when I opened my first restaurant in 1991, it was called Becco, in the Theater District of Manhattan. We opened up with an all-Italian wine list, which was unheard of in New York in the late 80’s and 90’s, and every bottle was $15.00 a bottle, the cost to the customer, so it was like, right off the bat.  Those were different times obviously, we you could sell a bottle of wine in a restaurant for $15.00, but that was how it all began, and then I’ve always tried to bring the value equation, in the wine world, trying to get people to drink better and more.

Monty Waldin:             So it wasn’t just about food for you. You’re a real passionate musician as well. How does the music fit into your life, it’s such a part of your life isn’t it?

Joe Bastianich:              The music … more and more so…it was kind of like a hidden dirty secret, and then I became… I then started doing TV 12 years ago. I became lucky enough to be able to have a public and now I kind of use that privilege to put forth my music, it’s a unique privilege, not many people have it. And I enjoy it, I write songs, I write, I write music, I did a run in the theater in Milan called Vino Veritas, last year we did a four month run at the Franco Parenti theatre in Milan.

Monty Waldin:              So what was that? Was that a musical? A wine musical?

Joe Bastianich:              So it was a wine musical basically, so a classical theatre, people come in, everyone gets a glass, there are 5 wines tasted, they start off with bubbles, and then they sit down, there are sommeliers who work in the room, but then the show happens on stage simultaneously. And it’s never like, there is never a reference to the wine, like, you know you’re there, it’s called Vino Veritas, the stories are about my life, my life in food, my life in wine, the songs are about my life, but people get to tastes my wines. I always say… my wines are very, very personal and I think that when you drink a glass of my wine, it’s like getting to know me a little bit.

Monty Waldin:              Okay, so in terms of Rock influences…

Joe Bastianich:               Ohh…we’re gonna go there?

Monty Waldin:              Yeah… well you don’t have to…

Joe Bastianich:              So…, so I am probably a little bit older than you so umm… I grew up with classic album rock of the 70’s…

Monty Waldin:              I’m 50…

Joe Bastianich:               Oh fuck, we’re the same age…

Monty Waldin:              [laugh]

Joe Bastianich:               You’re older than me because I’m only 49…

Monty Waldin:              Okay…

Joe Bastianich:              I grew up with Classic Rock, I grew up… I started a bit on the Beatles, and then fell into Kiss, and then from there when it really started… Then I heard this guy play guitar named Jimmy Page and then the whole world changed for a young 11 year old Joe because the power of Led Zeppelin was all about masculinity and sex and Rock and Roll, and I thought it was the greatest thing in the world and all I wanted to do was listen to Led Zeppelin. And then from Led Zeppelin, I became more of a connoisseur… I also played guitar and my tastes expanded in the early 80s… I got into a little bit of fusion in jazz and… and started listening to things like Weather Report and Jaco Pastorius. And New York at that time… also… we had a lot of live music, so as kids in New York we went out and listened to a lot of live music three nights a week. Uou know, even as like 13 year old kids…we took the subway in and go to The Peppermint Lounge… go to CBGB’s… go to the Mudd Club, you know, in those days we’d see bands like The Clash… we’d see The Smith’s, you know. We were also into… that whole new wave thing was something that I lived very much in the 80s.

Monty Waldin:             So, basically, you strike me… if, you know, if I was your dad, or your mum, sorry, your parents… you were a kid that was out and about, but not getting into trouble?

Joe Bastianich:               We were just too smart to get into trouble…

Monty Waldin:              What do you mean by that?

Joe Bastianich:              We did what kids did… but we were like…. It was a different time in the 70s and the early 80s, it was… even the drugs and the booze and what happened was… was moderated by humility. So it’s not like now you go out and you buy a bag of weed and it’s like a rocket ship to the moon. We used to smoke like Mexican shake, where you could smoke a joint and feel ok… But it wasn’t like “blow your head off.”

Monty Waldin:              Yeah..

Joe Bastianich:              It was all a little bit more simple, moderate and… kinder…back in the day.

Monty Waldin:             You know what, that may be a factor of age, because if I smoked a joint in those days I could get nicely stoned, but if I smoke a joint now after 3 puffs I’m like whoah!

Joe Bastianich:               Yeah…

Monty Waldin:              You know…

Joe Bastianich:               It’s also the pot now is so much stronger…

Monty Waldin:             What was Queens like as a neighborhood, was it a rough area? Was it a nice area?

Joe Bastianich:              It was super ethnic, we grew up in a very Italian and Irish neighborhood, and then we moved to the Jewish neighborhood and then that’s when I realized… Like, so we grew up in Astoria, which was super hardcore, blue collar, working class Italian and Irish.

Monty Waldin:              But with good values right?

Joe Bastianich:              Super good values… It was all about the food and it was about families and it was about people.

Monty Waldin:              And respect for the community…

Joe Bastianich:              Yeah, but it was also about respect for other cultures… Like, one of the main things that we knew or sometimes, it’s that I always realized that not many people had, was like, I was Italian, the first thing that I knew about you was whether you were Jewish or Greek or Irish, and that made a difference, you know what I mean… where you come from. And then we moved to Bayside Queens which was a more affluent neighborhood. After they opened the restaurant, they had a little success, we moved out of an apartment, we bought a house in Bayside Queens, and that’s where I met people who had pools, and who went to yacht clubs and drove Mercedes Benz, and I was like “ahhh this is like how the other half lives.” So I realized that life wasn’t all about a one-bedroom railroad on Steinway street in Queens.

Monty Waldin:             But you didn’t feel under privIledged… It’s not like you saw, you know, as you say, “the other side of life”, it’s not like you lacked anything…

Joe Bastianich:               No, no, no…

Monty Waldin:             You know, it seems like, you know, you were well fed, you had clothes, you had your friends, you stayed out of trouble, you didn’t take the wrong track.

Joe Bastianich:              No, trouble was always around, and I think that because of, you know, coming back to Italy and because of the family values we had, and how food was central and how my grandmother lived with us, you know, there was always that element of home that was as important as everything else. And I saw a lot of kids especially in the music world, you know, I played in a band, you saw the kids that got into the heavier drugs and took the wrong turn, and I think that certainly having a strong Italian family value was something that kept me on the straight and narrow through those years when anyone could have easily made a mistake.

Monty Waldin:              Sure, so you were a pretty good kid right?

Joe Bastianich:              I was a good kid, yeah… I am trying to make up for that now, but I was maybe even too good.

Monty Waldin:             One of the things we see, obviously, you do a lot of TV, and you know… a thing called Master Chef, which is kind of a talent show where contestants compete against each other and individually, you seem to be someone that anytime you ever really get annoyed is when people… it’s not because they cooked a bad dish or they got it wrong, or whatever, it’s when people don’t give a hundred percent. It’s so clear that you really feel that people should make the most of their potential…

Joe Bastianich:              Well, you know, as much as you think it’s a TV show, it’s also, like, a real 4 months of my life where I’m in an industrial hanger on the outskirts of Milan, in a real shit area, drinking bad coffee and getting up at 7 in the morning spending eighteen hours a day with a fat Neapolitan and a short guy from Bologna…

Monty Waldin:              Those are the fellow chefs…

Joe Bastianich:              And yeah, you know, like, you get to know these contestants. You give them direction, you give them feedback and they continue to make the same mistakes, so they don’t put in the effort or they don’t listen. Or they think they’re gonna outsmart you and that gets annoying so it is a bit of a microcosm that world of Master Chef. In the kitchen and those interactions as much as you may think they even could be staged, they’re not. They’re very real because… it’s almost, like, kind of sensory deprivation, we take these contestants and we pull them out of the world, we take their telephones away, they stay in the hotel next door to the studio…

Monty Waldin:              Really, they don’t have a phone?…

Joe Bastianich:               Yeah… nope…

Monty Waldin:              Oh…

Joe Bastianich:              They can use their phones at certain times but technically they are not supposed to have a phone, because they are not supposed to have access to the internet. They’re all, you know, signed, legally signed to secrecy and we keep them in there and when they’re not on camera they’re cooking and taking cooking lessons and living together. And that kind of… the deprivation of…of their real lives makes them very vulnerable and very, very open to direction. And some people use that stimulus to really kind of excel and win and for other people it doesn’t work so a lot of the frustration on the show is that the rapport between us and the cooks is real.

Monty Waldin:             The rapport, you mean the camaraderie between the presenters, you and your fellow…

Joe Bastianich:              No, no, actually also… I mean, we start with a lot but once we start  getting half way through the season where there’s 20 cooks, and you know them for 2 months, the… the relationship between the judges and the contestants is also real, and it becomes, you know, friends, mentors, emotional and… I think that creates a lot of the drama because it’s… you couldn’t fake it right?

Monty Waldin:              Yeah…

Joe Bastianich:               That’s the thing. So it has to be real…

Monty Waldin:             So when you have to send someone home, it is kind of sad… and a relief in some ways?

Joe Bastianich:              Sad… no, well, it’s usually sad, and sometimes you know, someone pisses you off and you throw them out, and you feel they deserved it, but it’s a, you know, it’s a real thing.

Monty Waldin:             Okay, so food and wine pairing, how anal are you about that? Do you just open a bottle of wine and have a bite to eat or do you really try and match stuff up?

Joe Bastianich:              No, I think that I have gone through an evolution of that in my life, and I think the whole world has too. Like, when I started, it was about pairing wines that, you know, seemed to compliment food and something that would be really, kind of really. We thought about a dish and the wine that would go with it… and then it was kind of like music for me. You go through different phases and different tastes in your life so then it was like… contrasting flavors… then, I really kinda stopped eating at restaurants, you know like, I’ve eaten everything in my life already, you know, I’m done, I’m all about a plate of spaghetti, you know what I mean,  or a pizza, or I’m like about eating products… So, contrast, compliment, what makes you smile, what are you in the mood for, you know, tomato sauces need certain kinds of red wines and different kinds of white wines go well in situations. I drink white wine every day, as an aperitivo, as a beverage, I drink red wines mostly at the table, I never drink sweet wine and I like Champagne whenever anyone is willing to open a really good bottle.

Monty Waldin:             Cool, okay, let’s talk about your creative side. How has that changed over time, either with food or with wine, like when you create your wines, did you go to a couple of wineries…?

Joe Bastianich:              Yeah so…

Monty Waldin:              ….which we have not talked about yet, but we will do…

Joe Bastianich:              So creativity is something that, I think, that grows on you in life. I have been fortunate enough to have different outputs to do it, whether it is in wine or in food or in creating restaurants. You know, I think that at first, the first years of my professional life, a lot of my creativity went into trying to recreate the food experience, and that’s a very powerful thing, like, when you can create an environment and how people interact with food and drink and you can affect it or change it or do things that change the world and wine… And I’ve done that, that’s big.

Monty Waldin:              Is that about the ambiance, or is it about the atmosphere?

Joe Bastianich:               Well, like…

Monty Waldin:              Or, is it about the pairing?

Joe Bastianich:              It’s about physical …physical things, like, when we opened Bravo in 1998, I had this idea, we were buying wine in large formats because the wine market was upside down, the distributors had all these 3 liters…great wines, they didn’t know what to do with them, I was buying close-outs of giant bottles, and I was like… how am I gonna sell this stuff, so we basically started the idea of the quartino, you know?

Monty Waldin:              Explain?

Joe Bastianich:              A third… a quartino is, un quarto, un quarto di un litro, a…a quarter of a liter…

Monty Waldin:              A 25cl…

Joe Bastianich:              Yeah, so the concept was, all the pomp and circumstance of wine by the bottle, in the context of wine by the glass… It’s a… you pour from the bottle at the table into a small decanter, then you can kind of fill your own glass to as much as you feel comfortable and we were really the first to do that…

Monty Waldin:              Yeah…

Joe Bastianich:              …and that is the way that wine is served almost everywhere in America now…

Monty Waldin:              Okay…

Joe Bastianich:               So that’s like a real thing…

Monty Waldin:             But that was… almost…you’d sort of see that, in like, the old timers in Italy, they’d have those kind of beakers, almost, on the table, they’re playing cards, or whatever in a bar…

Joe Bastianich:              Yeah my… yes exactly, where my family is from we come from a great Osteria culture. My great grandfather was a drunk, the town drunk, and they called him Quartiche because he would just go to the Osteria and have one quarto after the other, and that was his nick name…

Monty Waldin:              Really?

Joe Bastianich:               True story yeah…

Monty Waldin:              Did he live to a ripe old age?

Joe Bastianich:               I think he lived into his 90’s yeah…

Monty Waldin:              Yeah, well there you go…

Joe Bastianich:              Well, I say drunk, I don’t think he was a drunk, he was a guy who probably drank 2 liters of wine a day,

Monty Waldin:              Right, kids don’t copy that at home!

Joe Bastianich:              But he probably… you know, he worked in the fields, and he could matabolize it…

Monty Waldin:              It’s fuel isn’t it?

Joe Bastianich:              Yeah, they were drinking different kinds of wines back then… but 2 liters seems like a lot but… 

Monty Waldin:             So that is what I associate with you… you’re not someone that has any heirs and graces, you know your origins and you’ve got a lot of respect for that kind of… like the old timers basically… the old timer Italians…

Joe Bastianich:              Yeah, I think there is so much to learn from how they handled life… I wrote a book called Restaurant Man, I don’t have it, I’ll send it to you… I learned a lot from my father, you know, guys who were immigrants, guys like my father, even in his own simplicity and he was the guy that the times left behind a little bit in the older parts of life, but he was a guy who saw hunger in his life, you know, in the war, didn’t have enough to eat, came to America, opened a restaurant, made a living, bought a house… And I think the kind of like, nuts and bolts values that those kinds of people have about the value, he quantified his success in America by the kind of food he could put on the table…

Monty Waldin:              Right…

Joe Bastianich:              You know if he could open a bottle of champagne, or have good wine, or some caviar, or a smoke he liked…for him that was success…eating well, having friends to the house, music… He played the accordion—he was actually almost a semi-professional accordion player. So singing and eating and drinking, working hard to make a living, super straight forward, super simple but really values that can be driving and determining in someone’s life…

Monty Waldin:              Yeah… so you have a lot of those don’t you…

Joe Bastianich:               I just try to keep it no bullshit… I keep it really straight… I try…

Monty Waldin:              And your kids, are you quite strong with them?

Joe Bastianich:               Yeah, I try…

Monty Waldin:              Are they good kids?

Joe Bastianich:              Yeah, my kids are good, I think they certainly have had a very different experience than I’ve had and they’ve grown up in New York City and certainly know a much more privileged situation and… you know it’s funny, because the winery I started—Bastianich—in 1997 was the year my daughter was born and the …really as much as I loved wine, and making wine was my dream…

Monty Waldin:              And this is in Fiuli, this winery…

Joe Bastianich:              Yeah the winery is in Friuli Venezia Giulia in Colli Orientali, I came here as a kid, toured around in the late 80s in a VW minivan and lived like a hippy for a year and half, I went from Pantelleria  to Alto Adige making wine, working in restaurants, and that is really where I fell in love with the wine thing, like, the making of wine and the agriculture, and you can imagine that in 1989 the Italian wine world was a very different place than it is now. But one thing that the Italians do do is bring people into their world, and the wine… the Italian wine community brought me into their world, and they kind of influenced me and they taught me. And I had great, great teachers, people like Luciano Sandrone, Marco de Bartoli, just to name a few, who were really kind of mentors to me as a young kid, and… And, that’s where I figured out that I had to do the wine thing. So, my first plan didn’t work out, I was gonna find an Italian Contessa, like a…like a…you know, like a…. a noble…

Monty Waldin:              What to marry?   

Joe Bastianich:              Italian…Yeah to marry into… I thought I would just marry in it, it would be easier…

Monty Waldin:              No… you’re bullshitting me…

Joe Bastianich:               No I swear, that was my plan one…

Monty Waldin:              Really?…

Joe Bastianich:               But it didn’t work…

Monty Waldin:              Did you have a crack at any?

Joe Bastianich:               Yeah, one…

Monty Waldin:              Any success?

Joe Bastianich:              One… I can’t mention it, but one German, I almost got it….not far from where you live, but anyway… I’ll tell you later… [laughs]

Monty Waldin:              Okay… [laughs]

Joe Bastianich:              Off, off, off tape… [laughs] So I went back to New York in 1991 and and I did the only thing that I knew how to do: open a restaurant, so I opened my restaurant. And that was Becco and then that did well, so I opened another restaurant, and then I was able in 1996 to go back and I bought 9 hectares of vineyards. I had no idea of what wine I wanted to make, I went back to kinda…near…not Istria because Istria was then, even Yugoslavia…couldn’t  go there, but we went outside of Trieste to Colli Orientali, in Friuli near Cividale, and I bought 8 hectares at first, and I started making my wine, Vespa Bianco in 1998… It was the first vintage, so just up to 20 vintages now, and that was my dream. So that brings me back to think why, aside from loving wine, I really had to find a way to have my kids be tied into this Italian reality. In a real way, like I was fortunate enough through my family, and they did, they grew up in the winery, they grew up among people who live there… And a woman, Janna, this seventy year old woman who runs the winery, who taught all my kids Italian and took care of them like she was their grandmother and they worked with farmers and they had a whole existence of agriculture of living in Italy with… And Friuli is also a place of hard-working, simple people.

Monty Waldin:              So this wasn’t a winery with red carpets running through it

Joe Bastianich:              No, it was hardly that. So, they saw the growth of it, and you know, in time we opened a restaurant, we opened a small hotel and B&B and it’s really part of their home. And although now as teenagers they’re…the two of them are in college, they’re moving away from it a little bit I think, but hopefully one day they’ll come back to Italy as a place where they have fond memories, and maybe come back to even make it a part of their lives.

Monty Waldin:             Okay. When you visit other wineries, the ones that you don’t own, do you offer an opinion, or do you wait till you’re asked? You know: “Mr. Bastianich, what did you think of our red wine”?

Joe Bastianich:              Well, I would… I would never offer an opinion unless I was asked, and usually  if you ask me I’ll tell you the truth, for good or for bad, and I do feel qualified to do that because I, you know, I think that I have tasted a lot of… I know that I have tasted a lot of wine in my life and I’m fortunate enough to have a really good reference point on wines in general and I’m not afraid to give an opinion.

Monty Waldin:              How do you stand with the whole natural wine thing?

Joe Bastianich:              Sooo… I believe in making wines naturally and I think I‘m certainly a ‘non-interventionist’ wine maker. As a person, I think our roles in the winemaking world is to be guardians of…, of processes that are very natural, like photosynthesis or alcoholic fermentation. These are things that happen without any great intervention by man. And the grape will struggle for life to procreate itself, the vine, the grape is the fruit of the vine, it’s… it’s… it’s…looking for a future, it’ll struggle with the other vines in the vineyard and give the most of the vigor it can to its grape cluster, the sugar in those grape clusters when they mature will be infested by yeast and the yeast will turn that sugar into alcohol and the rest is, is history right? So, as far as ‘natural wine’ is not interfering with wine… and I think that our role as winemakers is also to have the wines… have to speak of the varietal and their terroir, their place of origin. If wine doesn’t do that, then it’s really doing nothing, so…I’m very much about wines that are expressive of place, of varietal that have a story. Living and working in New York, in California, Los Angeles, I think in the last, maybe 10 years, we’ve seen extreme wines, orange wines, biodynamic wines, whatever you want to call them, that have become more of a… a tool of marketing and… just something for the sommeliers to talk about to justify their existences and I think that that’s… that’s a mistake, because…

Monty Waldin:             So if you had the choice, so right, we’re going to go out for an evening, and I’m going to invite you out for an evening on me and I say right, “I’m going to hook you up with… 6 sommeliers, or 6 chefs… Which… which would you prefer? You can’t have 3 and 3.

Joe Bastianich:               Neither…

Monty Waldin:              Really?

Joe Bastianich:               3 butchers and 3 fisherman… 

Monty Waldin:              Really?

Joe Bastianich:               Yeah?

Monty Waldin:              Why? Because they’re craftsmen, they’re dealing with a raw product?

Joe Bastianich:              Yeah…it’s also just a thing of maturity, I think that… I always say that the tyranny of the sommelier has to end soon so… Even though I come from that elk, and that’s how I was born and raised, and to a large extent…not to blow sunshine up my ass, but we did create the…the… the culture of wine professionals in restaurants 30 years ago. We were the first to do it, we were the first, you know, to do a lot of things in the wine world. I think that to a certain extent, it’s gone a little bit tipsy turvy… or it did, and now it’s maybe coming back a little more grounded but

Monty Waldin:             So… it… basically…it’s basically more about the sommelier than it is about  the wine, they’ve become bigger than the wine, so big egos.

Joe Bastianich:              Exactly… big egos, it’s about justifying their travels, their existences, you know, bringing… just, have… having to, having to blow people away on every turn on how smart and intelligent and insightful and keen their palettes are, rather than being who they really should be, which is someone who is assisting someone  to help to find the wine that they’re gonna like and make their dining experience more pleasurable. If you’re a fantastic sommelier and you’re that smart, write a book, and if I want, I’ll fuckin’ buy it and read it, if not, keep your mouth shut and help when you’re in the restaurant.

Monty Waldin:             Okay… So are there any food and wine matches that you… that really get up your nose, that you really don’t like, things that… things that don’t work or are you very much kind of… listen, if you like it?

Joe Bastianich:              Naaa… yeah… I mean… I believe there are absolutes, there are good wines and there’s bad wines, the whole concept of “the best wine is the wine you like” is bullshit. There’s good wines and there’s bad wines, I believe that if you… on the pairing of good wines with good food–total freedom on that—you know whatever you… I mean, certain things are going to work better than others but there’s…, I mean, people should be able to… to do that as they like. Although, there are certain absolutes that I feel, at least in the Italian world that… that really stand true and work. You know, like, Nebbiolo, Piedmontese wines, Barbaresco with a… with a Brasato, with mushrooms, with those kind of flavors, those earthy, woodsy, flavors or Tuscan wines like Sangiovese in its best form, as Brunello or Vino Nobile with grilled meats and that char and the red meat. Those are things that really, really work.

Monty Waldin:              Cause you got a winery in Tuscany as well, tell us about that.

Joe Bastianich:               Did I go to a Tusc… I… I own one…

Monty Waldin:              No you got a winery… yeah… La Mozza…

Joe Bastianich:              Yeah, La Mozza in Maremma, yeah, that came 15 years ago, 5 months after the original one, and Maurizio Castelli was… He had bought a plot of land for his son and their family and he’s like “ yeah, these fuckin’ dudes from the… these rich noble people from the Veneto are gonna come here and break my balls, you should buy this land before they do because I am gonna have to kill them.” Sooo… I did and we bought like 100 hectares, we planted 10 off the bat. Now we’re up to like 30 hectares and we’re in Località Poggio La Mozza where we make a bit of Morellino and a bit of IGT.

Monty Waldin:              So the Morellino is the local name for the Sangiovese grape…

Joe Bastianich:              Yep, and…, so mostly Sangiovese, but you know with all the clones down there that they use… in making the Morellino, so… Morellino is a geographic designation, where Sangiovese… Sangiovese and 11 other varietals that can be used in Morellino.

Monty Waldin:             So, do you ta… I mean these wines that you make in Italy, whether they’re in Friuli obviously… or in Tuscany, I mean, do you… do you sell all of those via your outlets or do you sell to other people?

Joe Bastianich:              No, sure, obviously we sell in our restaurants, in Eataly but also… throughout the world… I mean we try to, I mean, obviously having a throughput of your own restaurants is great and it’s a good marketing tool for wines but, we also, like, you know, have markets all over the world.

Monty Waldin:             Yeah?… And how are tastes changing in terms of wine and in terms of, I mean, obviously, oak seems to be out… not just the natural thing but…

Joe Bastianich:              Well, if you just look at the microcosm of… of… of Barolo and Barbaresco, what’s happened in the last 10 years, I think that’s a good leading indicator of what’s happening in the global wine world. You know, those wines, when done right, speak of the place, are pure, are powerful, are varietally driven, have this great sensibility with the local food, the people who make them, smell of them, you know what I mean? It all kind of makes sense and I think people want more and more of that and it’s funny because we’re here today to talk about millenial wine consumers and understanding what these kids who are 20 to 30 year old are gonna drink and from our perception and from what studies that we, what we’re… we’re learning by web marketing is: they’re informed, they’re not afraid to spend, they want quality and they want authenticity.

Monty Waldin:              And they want narrative as well, they want a story behind it, don’t they?

Joe Bastianich:              Well…they have their narrative you know, in their… on their, on their digital existence. Everything is either a video or a narrative, so I think they kind of, that’s… they even presuppose that because anything you sell them has to either have the visual behind it or the storytelling behind it. But they are… they’re certainly focused on quality, they’re consuming less but better and they want to know where their products come from and they’re not willing to spend a little bit more. So the signs are all good. I think it’s up to us producers or us older folks to really modernize how we want to communicate about wine and how we want to affront this next horizon of wine consumers which are millennials.

Monty Waldin:             So final question. You know, you’re a brilliant communicator, very successful self-made businessman who’s got his feet on the ground. Do you have any political ambitions? And I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense, I just mean… would you, you know, you are a leader, a pathfinder…

Joe Bastianich:              No… I… I…I’ve thought about that, quite frankly, if I, if I didn’t do the whole TV thing, politics might have been something that I… that I would have enjoyed doing.

Monty Waldin:              Because you were a banker very briefly, weren’t you… or?

Joe Bastianich:              Yeah I was a banker for a while too.

Monty Waldin:              Was that fun?

Joe Bastianich:              It was… did you see Wolf of Wall Street? It was like the, 1990, 90, 89, 90, 91. It was like the excesses of New York and Wall Street. It was a great moment in New York, but it was a crazy moment in New York.

Monty Waldin:             Were you a bit of a black sheep then, presumably if all the bankers made a million that day they were sloshing Krug Champagne down their necks and you were probably going back to your family home and just chilling out, yeah?

Joe Bastianich:              No, I had an apartment on the 38th floor in Battery Park City, overlooking the Statue of Liberty.

Monty Waldin:              So you were caning it as well yeah?

Joe Bastianich:              Yeah… I had a Jewish girl named… girlfriend named Robyn Shalone and… and we would go out… we’d go out for dinner like, every night, and it was great, it was like… a real hay day in New York, good memories, good times…

Monty Waldin:              So she’s obviously stuck in your memory?

Joe Bastianich:               She was, I didn’t forget her, very nice girl.

Monty Waldin:              How do you stay in shape?

Joe Bastianich:              I exercise every day, I do a lot of like… I do…I’ve done Iron Man and I run marathons and try to… The only thing that keeps me on the straight and narrow is having to get up and hit that gym for a couple hours every morning.

Monty Waldin:              I was gonna ask you that one about… about the one… the, the politics…

Joe Bastianich:               Mmmmm…

Monty Waldin:              So can I cut you off…

Joe Bastianich:               Sure.

Monty Waldin:              Any, any political ambitions?

Joe Bastianich:              Not… not in Italy because it’s not my country and it’s just…

Monty Waldin:              In the US?

Joe Bastianich:              …so fucked here anyway… but I… The US is hard for me anyway because I’m living mostly in Italy so it’s kind of like, I have to be there…

Monty Waldin:              Right…

Joe Bastianich:              But I wouldn’t mind and I think that there is…especially with what is happening now in the United States, there is always, more and more of a need for I think, people… intelligent people, who really want to do something good, to get involved.

Monty Waldin:              Moderate people.

Joe Bastianich:              Just people who… yeah… people who have a good sensibility because it’s just, you know, the whole ambition of ego and power is just boring and it’s kind of gross.

Monty Waldin:              Yeah…

Joe Bastianich:              And I think there will always be a space that want to do right by others in politics, so I… I don’t know… I’d love to do it but, who knows…

Monty Waldin:              Yeah…

Joe Bastianich:               Maybe not in this lifetime…

Monty Waldin:             Fair enough, Joe Bastianich, I want to thank you for coming in. Rreally good to talk to you…

Joe Bastianich:               Thank you very much.

Monty Waldin:             So it’s always a little bit nerve wracking talking to someone you see on telly a lot?

Joe Bastianich:               It was a great interview, you’re good…

Monty Waldin:              Thanks…, ummm, so I told you about my kid, yeah?

Joe Bastianich:               Yeah he’s 9…

Monty Waldin:              Yeah he’s a good lad, hopefully…

Joe Bastianich:               What’s his name?

Monty Waldin:              He’s called Arthur.

Joe Bastianich:               Aaarthur

[attemptes a British accent]

Monty Waldin:              Yeah so… ummm…

Joe Bastianich:               Does he speak Italian?

Monty Waldin:              Yeah, he does… yeah…

Joe Bastianich:               Does he speak English as well?

Monty Waldin:              Yeah, he does… yeah…

Joe Bastianich:               What’s his first language?

Monty Waldin:             It’s a mix actually, because he goes to school in… in the little local school at Montalcino, which… is full of good kids and most…most of the parents are Brunello producers.

Joe Bastianich:              So, do you know the other kind… like…who are the other… Brits over there? There’s… Suckland is around there, doen’t he live there… his kids…

Monty Waldin:             Uhhh, yeah, he’s a bit further north, actually. He’s up a little bit more towards…

Joe Bastianich:              He’s got kids that come to Tuscany, they grew up in England and there’s a couple of others, there’s a lot of expats… there’s a lot of you guys up there in Tuscany…

Monty Waldin:              Yeah, I mean, well Montalcino’s got kind of the Tuscan lifestyle…

Joe Bastianich:               That’s my dream, that was always my dream… Montalcino…

Monty Waldin:              Really?

Joe Bastianich:               I came close a couple a times and…

Monty Waldin:              What? To buy a Vineyard?

Joe Bastianich:               Yeah….

Monty Waldin:             Well, my partner is a financial lawyer so she could help, because she valued some wineries recently… you gotta be really careful…

Joe Bastianich:               Yeah, it’s…

Monty Waldin:             Because when they value the winery, what happened last time is they actually valued the stock on its retail value, so the price of the winery was X million more than it should have been, so you gotta be pretty careful… But it’s umm… but I tell you the one thing that we lack in Montalcino.

Joe Bastianich:               Focus.

Monty Waldin:             No, it’s… apart from… Yeah okay… no, but the one thing that we lack in the town, is we don’t have a high-end restaurant.

Joe Bastianich:               You don’t have one, really?

Monty Waldin:              We do not have a high-end restaurant.

Joe Bastianich:               Wasn’t there the one in the hotel, something the “Oro,” no?

Monty Waldin:             Yeah, but it’s… it’s not like really high-end… I mean it’s, it’s very good, it’s typical Tuscan.

Joe Bastianich:               What’s it called?

Monty Waldin:             Well, we have the ‘Cucina Povera’ we just have… we have the… the kind of bread, soup and all that sort of stuff… but we don’t really have anybody doing… fine dining…

Joe Bastianich:              So I had real moments in Montalcino on my epic trip there when I was a lad, I can just remember…

Monty Waldin:             For the moment let’s just stick to the food and wine, not all the girlfriends that you…

Joe Bastianich:              Not even the girlfriends… just… I just remember sitting on the walls and watching the sunset, and, you know like, those times when you’re young and you spend a year alone or away from all your friends and you just spend a lot of time thinking’ and Montalcino was a big part of my collective memory, of kind of my Holden Caulfield coming to… coming to fruition as a person.

Monty Waldin:             It was a bit of a backwater then, I mean people… it was a… There’s a very young… superstar in the wine firm at Montalcino… It only has a 100 year history and even in modern history it’s only like 25 years old, 30 years old, it’s not like Burgundy with the Cistercians, you know, like 1000 years ago…

Joe Bastianich:               Yeah right…

Monty Waldin:             So there’s a very young, like… almost like a “parvenu” region, I think a lot of people there are still finding their way a little bit.

Joe Bastianich:               Yeah, the wines are a little bit all over the place…

Monty Waldin:              Yeah, they are…

Joe Bastianich:              I think they need to… I think that they expanded it too much, I think there’s a lot of Brunello that’s not Brunello, in my opinion.

Monty Waldin:             Yeah, it was the 97 boom where the… basically, the legal registry could register. If you had a… a EU wife, like a Croatian wife, whatever, you’d get extra money because it was a woman getting involved in farming, so there was some… maybe some, slightly dodgy motivations for people getting… jumping on the band-wagon…

Joe Bastianich:              And there are certain people who have not… not helped it either, certain firms, remain nameless, that have not helped the Montalcino cause, but…

Monty Waldin:              It’s cleaned up a lot though…

Joe Bastianich:               Has it?

Monty Waldin:              Yeah, yeah, it’s a lot better…

Joe Bastianich:              It’s a great place because when the wines… Like, I’m a big fan of  Poggio di Sotto. When those wines… even Soldera… when those wines are good and pure, Sangiovese can be so powerful, so amazing and it really is kind of Burgundy-esque in a lot of ways. When it’s… when it’s… it’s unforgiving… it’s acid… it’s a beast and to do it right takes a lot of finesse and when it’s great, it can really be great.

Monty Waldin:             Yeah you should… come down, you should… you should buy somewhere… 

Joe Bastianich:               Haaaa, we’ll see, I think I missed the boat on that one…

Monty Waldin:              Noooo, maybe… you never know… Joe Bastianich…

Joe Bastianich:             Thanks man… appreciate it…

Monty Waldin:              You’re a superstar, thanks a lot for coming in…

Joe Bastianich:               Thank you for havin’ me…

Monty Waldin:              Yeah, it’s been great, thank you.

Joe Bastianich:               Thank you.

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