By Guy Stout
Recently I was sitting at the Blanco Rose Chess Café eating Eggs Florentine, and it took me back to 1982 and my first meeting with Gerald Asher. I was in search of a rare white Italian wine from Piedmont. It was a breakfast meeting at Upton’s on Lombard in San Francisco, an old school café that is long since gone. Gerald had picked the place. I should say Mr. Asher; he is so highly respected in the industry. I ordered Eggs Florentine.
We met and exchanged niceties. He is very British; proper and distinguished in both manners and speech. It was hard to tell his take on me, but I’m sure he was not impressed. I was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts and he was in a sport coat.
What got me to this point of having breakfast was a search for La Scolca Gavi di Gavi. I had moved to Houston from Dallas the year before and found an incredible Italian restaurant call D’Amico’s. Their wine buyer, Ed Doklan, was searching for wines that no one else in Texas was bringing in and La Scolca was at the top of his list. I was trying to be at the top of his list of distributors. La Scolca was imported by Mosswood Wine Company. Their president was Gerald Asher and he was living in San Francisco. I called and set up an appointment to meet on my next visit to California.
His name was familiar. Before the internet and Google, you would call around and ask about people and contacts and get the inside track if there was one.
Gerald Asher was the wine writer for Gourmet magazine and I had just purchased his book On Wine. I dug out back issues of Gourmet and reread the wine articles. Yes, I took Gourmet back then. I am still lamenting their closing two years ago.
Gerald is an amazing writer. His has a story teller style of writing that takes you with him on his wine journey. You feel that if you met the people and drank their wines he wrote about, that you were friends. He scribed impressive articles for Gourmet. My efforts at writing would come later in the 1990’s when I made a run or two at the Masters of Wine exam. It was an intense essay writing exam. My essay writing is still no better than fair, but reading Mr. Asher’s articles again made me think of those past days.
We had a nice visit and knew many of the same people, which helped solidify our relationship. We bought 25 cases at a time and D’Amico’s was happy. Gerald wanted us to take both the white label and the black label. The black label was the one we needed, but compromised and took both.
I have spoken with Gerald a few times over the past years, but the last time I saw him was at Mondavi winery when he and Robert Mondavi were having lunch.
It was a great time for California wine, which was really starting to pick up momentum. We were bringing in many of the now household names like Silver Oak, Rafanelli, Forman, Dunn, Glen Ellen, Morgan, Sanford, Matanzas Creek and Newton.
After my breakfast with Gerald, I continued to eat at Upton’s until they shuttered. I would always order the Eggs Florentine, just for old time’s sake.
Ed. Note: La Scolca Gavi , happily, is still brought into the U.S. by Frederick Wildman and Sons, a New York based fine wine importer.