NYC wine power list #5: Joe Dressner

Screen shot 2013-03-24 at 9.18.01 PMAccording to our survey of industry elites, polling for the fifth most influential person in NYC wine today was extremely close. But the award goes to Joe Dressner, the pioneering importer who died in 2011 after a battle with cancer whose influence continues to be felt.

Dressner started importing wine over twenty years ago. He scoured France and brought in wines from growers using minimal intervention in the vineyard and the cellar. He dubbed these “real” wines and pitted them against “spoofulated” wines that dominated the market at the time. He generated enthusiasm for his simply made wines on the internet (he was one of the first wine bloggers), with his gruff wit, with tours of America for a dozen or more vignerons (“the real wine attack!”), and through his relationships with key people in the trade, such as David Lillie of Chambers Street Wines. Dressner marched to the beat of his own drum and, in the process, rubbed some people the wrong way. But he also served as a model for many independent importers who came later and he won an outsized following while never spending a dime on advertising. His legacy, while multifaceted, contains many drinkable, joyous wines.

The portfolio continues to thrive under Denyse Louis, his widow, and Kevin McKenna, their longtime business partner.

A remembrance and image credit at Diner’s Journal

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9 Responses to “NYC wine power list #5: Joe Dressner”

  1. This is a travesty! he should be #1.
    Joke aside, Joe was one of the greatestest wine importer of all time. I miss him dearly.

  2. Not sure that JD is a great choice, but I am not going to disagree with it. If for no other reason than it is bad form to speak against someone that has recently passed after waging a very brave and public battle with cancer. Kind of hard to tell the emotional impact if you are talking to people that worked with him on a regular basis. I will say that the wines penetrated into my market. Many times the wines were interesting with, great success and failures. But the market was better for it.

  3. My introduction to the Dressner portfolio was a bottle of Thierry Puzelat’s “Le Telquel.” It was a real Joe Dressner experience: The wine was phenomenally good, and also phenomenally fragile. If you got a case with 9 good bottles, you were doing well. I really do believe that many of his wines should never have been imported–they just didn’t travel well. But the ones that made it intact were eye-openers, for sure.

  4. Gary

    I agree, not on my list, either, but tough to argue with the sentiment.

    The portfolio recently lost Dagueneau, one of the jewels.

  5. Daniel- yes, I’m sure Dagueneau was a loss. But LDM has had a high retention rate overall and recently added the Mosel Wine portfolio. There was a lot of interest in the wines at the recent Bowler tasting.

    Dave- I unearthed a Puzelat wine that was about four years old recently and it was over the hill. Their wines tend to be low sulfur and fun young, so probably best not to forget them in the cellar as I did.

    Gary- just a reminder that it’s a tally of responses, not a top-down, editorial “choice.”

  6. Joe was unique, contradictory, passionate, angry, a visionary, relentless and stubborn. He was a New Yorker to the core, except that he often spoke with the French ‘euhh’ at every pause. I never got over that. I loved it.

  7. >>>He dubbed these “real” wines and pitted them against “spoofulated” >>>wines that dominated the market at the time.

    Just curious, did Dressner come up with the word “spoofulated”. I’ve been curious who said in first, and in what context.

  8. Hi Douglas,

    Joe popularized the term. But in a post on Joe’s blog from years ago, Harmon Skurnik said that he and his brother invented the term.

  9. […] Colman highlights the five most influential people in New York City’s wine industry. On the list? Joe Dressner, Daniel Johnnes, Michael Skurnik, Paul Grieco, and Eric […]


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