Nerdy and knowledgeable, Cody Burkett is the face behind The Wine Monk: Arizona Wine Blog. With a passion for wine that rivals his love of writing, Burkett is rapidly making a name for himself in the Arizona wine circles. We caught up with him in between reviews to discuss the best way to pick a wine, his fandoms and what wine The Doctor might be.
FGN: For the uninitiated what is “The Wine Monk”?
Cody Burkett: The wine monk is the name of my column, and, I suppose, my official title. The name comes from the time I spent formerly in Seminary, studying to be a Greek Orthodox Priest. I decided it was not my thing. It’s my blog which focuses almost exclusively on reviewing and examining wines from my home state of Arizona.
FGN: How do you find the wines you review?
Cody Burkett: By and large, simply by visiting the various tasting rooms for the wineries in my state. Some winemakers will send me a bottle also, or offer one for the cause, but that’s rare. Sometimes also I obtain the bottles when I help bottling various vintages.
FGN: You also work for a winery. Which winery and what is it like working in a tasting room?
Cody Burkett: I work in the tasting room of Passion Cellars. It’s usually pretty awesome, since I get to meet a variety of people from all over, and it’s great when I meet a kindred spirit in any of the Fandoms I participate in. Other times it can be a little terrifying when the legions of drunk cougars decend upon Jerome and assail themselves upon my virtue. On days like that, I wear a copy of The One Ring as a fake wedding band. It makes me dissappear! Overall, though, it’s more or less my dream job and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’d still be reviewing wines and working in the tasting room if I was instantly a billionaire tomorrow.
FGN: You mentioned your many fandoms. Which fandoms do you follow?
Cody Burkett: Lord of the Rings, Discworld, Doctor Who, and Futurama are my four biggest, but I also dabble in Sherlock, The Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect, C.S. Lewis (Space Trilogy more than Narnia), Dresden Files, and Steampunk as a whole. I am also a huge fan of D&D.
FGN: What class do you play in D&D? Who do you relate most to in Doctor Who and Lord of the Rings?
Cody Burkett: I like Bards, especially. They’re especially versatile, and you never run out of money. You can sing and stab at the same time. It’s also, probably, the class I’d be most like in reality. People pooh-pooh bards, but when played properly, they are so much fun. I’ve wanted to play a sorcerer, but haven’t had the chance yet.
In terms of Doctor Who, I relate most to Vincent Van Gogh in “Vincent and the Doctor,” but in terms of main characters in the last few series, I’d have to go with Donna, or Rory. Possibly also the 9th Doctor; I’m pretty snarky.
In terms of Lord of the Rings, it was decided when I was in seminary that I would be Samwise. I’m definitely a hobbit. I like good food, good wine, a nice landscape, and occasionally a good pipe smoke.
FGN: Your home base is Jerome, AZ. Does this provide for your hobbit tendencies?
Cody Burkett: Oh yes! It’s a small hidden town on the side of a mountain that is already kind of magical to begin with. Half of the houses are small and hobbit-like to begin with. It’s a quiet town where, while the world passes through, nothing untoward really happens. It’s the first place I’ve lived that feels like home.
FGN: If each of the Doctor’s regenerations were wines, which would be which?
Cody Burkett: Answering that question isn’t too hard, actually, since as part of my reviewing process, I tend to personify the wines I drink. The First Doctor is a Saperavi, old and tannic, oldest and wisest. Second doctor is a Viognier, intensely varied and straitlaced, yet whimsical. Third Doctor is a Marselan, comfortable in many hats. Fourth doctor is definately the eccentric and cheesy Blaüfrankisch. The Fifth Doctor is a Verdehlo, versitile and yet complex. The Sixth Doctor is the temperamental Pinotage. The Seventh Doctor is a ruthless and bold Touriga Nacional. The 8th is a young and vibrant Greek varietal known as Agiorgitiko. The War Doctor is a weary, aged vintage Carmenere. The Ninth Doctor, full of sass and sarcasm yet meshing well with a varied crowd is Tannat, like myself. 10 is clearly a Sauvignon Blanc, versitile in almost any situation. 11 is a Pinot Noir, and the latest… he’s hard to get a bead on, but I’m thinking he is a Petit Verdot.
FGN: For the uninitated, what is the best way to approach your first wine tasting? What tips do you have for new wine drinkers?
Cody Burkett: My recommendation to approaching and learning wines is to do what I do: attend wine tastings. The first thing I do is look at the wine in the glass. Color says a lot– age, sometimes type, how full bodied a wine may be, and so on. Next I smell the wine. The scent of the bouquet can tell you a lot, in terms of barrel aging and certain key scents are often specific to certain grapes. Then I sip, taking note of the various flavors, the mouth-feel (literally how the wine feels in your mouth) and how long the finish (that is to say, the aftertaste) is. Then I swirl the glass. People will often tell you here to look at the legs, but much like legs on a woman, they don’t tell you much, other than “oh this one has alcohol in it.” I smell again, as the stirring in the glass may open up new aromas. Then I taste again; new flavors may also have emerged after swirling. Then, after I’ve taken all the notes I need, I just drink it as normal. Really, all you need to know is “Do I like this wine?” If so, yes, grab some. If not, move onto the next one on your tasting.
When it comes to how I critique wines, I find the 100-point scoring system of giants such as Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast to be deeply flawed. It’s geared towards specific palates, the palates of those reviewing. I try to simply let the wine describe itself–while it may be something I don’t like but that someone else will love, so I’m not going to say “this wine is bad.”
FGN: What is your favorite wine you’ve reviewed? What do you drink regularly?
Cody Burkett: That’s a tough call, in terms of favorites. I can narrow it down to three: the One Stone Syrah from Saeculum Cellars, the Capra Tannat from D.A. Vineyards, and the Sand-reckoner 2010 Malvasia Bianca.
In terms of what I drink regularly, I’m always expanding my palate, and I try to drink new wines from everywhere on a regular basis. You can’t learn otherwise. But a perennial favorite is Arizona Malvasia Bianca (I love it so much I set my Facebook status to “in a relationship with” that grape. I also am super fond of Dry Rosé in the warm summer months. Real men drink pink.
FGN: How many bottles of wine do you currently have in your home?
Cody Burkett: In my tiny hobbit hole apartment, I currently have, at last count, 106 bottles. It’s stabilized at that amount, but I need a new wine fridge soon. Summer is coming.
FGN: Where can our readers follow your wine pursuits? Any recommendations for wine with dinner tonight?
Cody Burkett: In terms of food and wine, that really depends on what you’re eating. Rhone blends tend to be a good overall pairing for anything, however, and Arizona produces some of the best you’re going to find outside of France.
Arizona wines aren’t exported much out of state yet, but Arizona Stronghold and Caduceus do export, and their wines are pretty tasty. Another suggestion I would offer is Sangiovese. Sangiovese is… it’s your best opposite-sex friend. You’ve never dated. There’s no chemistry. You’ve known them for years, though. You always feel safe around them. They are there for you when Tannat, or Sauvignon Blanc, or anyone else breaks up with you.
If you’re in Northern Arizona, you can also find my reviews in The Noise, which is the local arts and culture magazine.
The Wine Monk podcast can also be found on Soundcloud.