Page 5 of 5
JM: Oh, thank you! And that may be simply be my personality. I still fear, after almost two decades of teaching, that one of my students might get up and say, 'You're a fraud! J'accuse!' I think we all have that in our minds. You know, I would never buy, say, an ice-cream from somebody who makes me feel like I don't have the right taste: 'Oh, you like vanilla? Oh, you really shouldn't like vanilla; you really should like this other stuff.' Or talk down to me — I won't shop at places where people talk down to me. And I don't think that sort of thing should happen in the wine industry, either. Now, I'm not saying that it does, but people feel that it would. Whether or not it does happen — and I think it happens probably less than we think — the perception is there, that 'I'm going to go, and they're going to look down on me' or that 'I'm going to reveal my ignorance,' rather than 'I'm going to discover something new.'
NM: Alright, last question: You've just been told that the end of the world is exactly 24 hours away. But you've also been told that during this last day, you can have as much wine as you like, from anywhere in the world, but of only one varietal or region. What is your Armageddon wine?
JM: Wow!… Well, whatever it is, I'd get it in a to-go cup…
JM: Hmmm, what would I drink?… Well, before I answer that question, I'll tell you something else. I often feel guilty, as somebody who writes about wine (occasionally, though not professionally), that we don't have a wine cellar. We don't stockpile wines. So, it's not like I can do down to my cellar and say, I've been waiting for such a moment. And I've often felt guilty about that. But then I realize that I have so many other things to take care of — my family and two small kids, our house that was built in the 1920s — I don't feel like I can establish another long term relationship with bottles of wine. So, there's nothing that I would have that I've been waiting to have. My fear is that I would pick a Bordeaux, or something I've heard about for decades, and I'd open it up and be disappointed in it. And I'd think, "Is that what all the fuss was about?" And so I have a great deal of anxiety about that, so I'm actually going to do a cop out and say: I would love to have a bottle of my Grandpa Joe's wine again as the last thing.
And on that poignant note Joseph Mills and I wound down our conversation about people, passion, and poetry… and a bit of the magic that brings it all together for him: wine. With that, I was left with a sweet and fragrant reminder that amidst all the ins and outs of varietals and styles, the facts and figures of vineyards and cellars, the ups and downs of trade and marketing, the one thing to never lose sight of in my enthusiasm for wine is its power to transcend our separation from one another. Or, as Joseph himself wrote to me, most eloquently, "To write about wine is to write about the complexities of human relationships. At its best, it also deals with philosophical questions — how do and should we live in this world."
[After being featured on Garrison Keillor’s “The Writer’s Almanac,” Angels, Thieves, and Winemakers earned a place on a couple of bestseller lists for poetry. Recently, Napa's Robert Craig Winery has begun to stock the book of poems and include it alongside its wines in the gift baskets it sells. I've reprinted a few of Joseph Mills' wine poems on the Vinterviews Gallery page. On the rotating right sidebar of that same page, an image of Angels, Thieves, and Winemakers can be found, acting as a link to purchase a copy of the book.]