10 Questions with ... David Wilson
October 28, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Founder, The Right Angle, Inc. marketing/advertising firm. Host of shows including at KNWZ (KNEWS)/Palm Springs. Creator and host, Grape Encounters Radio, the Uncorked wine feature, and "A Quick Bite" on KKAL (The Krush 92.5)/San Luis Obispo.
1. You've been a public speaker and marketing guy for years -- when did radio hosting become a part of the mix and what prompted you to do radio?
It had always been my plan to get into broadcasting... and with many years of competitive speaking experience and speech communication training both at the high school level and at Pepperdine in Malibu (I also coached speech and debate there) I was pretty sure that's where I would end up. I was recruited at a young age by various political campaigns to speak on radio, TV and in person to young audiences. I can't pinpoint how or when it happened, but gradually, I found myself doing less and less speaking and more and more marketing and the next thing I knew, I was running a marketing firm that was buying an enormous amount of Southern California Media. I worked with scads of on-air personalities and even though I probably made a lot more money than most of them, I secretly coveted their jobs and always thought about how I might do it differently.
In the weeks following 911, we became the agency of record for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation and my task was to build a campaign to stop the economic hemorrhaging in the wake of the attacks. Within days, we built a coalition of radio and TV stations, newspapers, etc. that united to push a campaign to get people back into shopping malls, restaurants, traveling and generally back to life as it once was. This enormously successful campaign needed a spokesperson and I wound up being it.
After that experience, I found myself kicking around show ideas with the likes of David G. Hall, Dave Van Dyke, George Green and others. Grape Encounters actually evolved from a food show idea that had a real comic twist. The idea both evolved and languished for years until, one day I had a casual conversation with Shawn Knight, owner of Knight Broadcasting in Santa Maria. I asked him why his news stations in the thick of wine country had no wine show. He said they tend to be to pretentious and put people off to which I responded that I had an idea for him. And that is how it began.
2. Wine has always been a big business and hobby; why do you think it's taken so long for radio shows to concentrate on the topic? Do you think the market's growth led to more receptiveness for shows about wine, or has the market always been there and radio is just catching up to it?
If there were only 10 models of cars to choose from, we would not have car magazines, car TV and radio shows, consumer auto shows, etc. It was only a few decades ago that, for the most part, 99% of the wine consumed in America consisted of a small stable of brands. How much can you say about Blue Nun, Paul Masson, Mateus and Gallo Hearty Burgundy? It wasn't until the later '70s that the America wine industry found its place and it has been growing and evolving ever since. Even as Napa and Sonoma, Washington, Oregon, Missouri, New York and other areas began to develop formidable wine countries, the lion's share of wine drinkers were not quick to leave their comfort zone and wine as a finely-crafted product is still a new concept in many parts of the county. Having said that, 3 years ago, much to everyone's surprise, wine passed up beer as the most popular adult beverage in America... and a new generation of wine drinkers who don't have a comfort zone are driving much of this growth. It's hard to imagine, but in just a couple of decades we have seen that tiny stable of brands mushroom into tens of thousands of different wines and we are drinking every drop produced. It's a delightful obsession.
3. One of the things about wine is the intimidation factor -- you walk into a wine store and you're looking at a sea of bottles, and it feels like you need to have taken courses before you can even know what to pick off the shelf. (And you assume the employees are snickering at you while you quizzically look at a bottle. For a neophyte, what's the best way to start (besides, of course, listening to your show)?
Taste absolutely everything you possibly can... and not from the supermarket shelves. The single best thing someone who wants to sort things out can do is go to a major food and wine event where there are 50 or 100 wineries in attendance. They should be from around the globe not just a single state or region.
Wine used to baffle the snot out of me and with endless varietals and thousands of wine countries, I'm sure none of us use more than about 1% of our wine brain. I never get flustered when I don't know something that someone presumes I should. I once owned a very successful art gallery and people would come in and start talking about artists I have never heard of. That used to torque me because that's like questioning someone who listens to classic rock about rap. How many artists are there in the world? A hundred million? Understanding the origins of wine... the family tree is far more useful than being able to name all the offspring. Heck, I think if you understand Tannins, Alcohol, Acid, Residual Sugar, Oak and a couple of other things, you'll do just fine. And as for those store clerks? Real, true wine lovers love to teach novices. The pretentious wine drinker is the guy taking his Match.com date out in his new Porsche. Winemakers tend to be the single LEAST pretentious people I know. Dirt under your fingernails and purple stains on your feet can be very humbling.
4. Describe what the show is like -- what's on a typical "Grape Encounters" episode? What makes the show targeted at more than just the wine aficionado?
A lot of wine aficionados listen to Grape Encounters but not for obvious reasons. The novice and the aficionado listen for the same reasons. On Grape Encounters, you will learn things that you will never hear in Somm school. Plain and simple, Grape Encounters is about how to have more fun with your wine and we encourage people to enjoy the absurdity of all that pretentiousness. Certainly, understanding pairing logic, the difference between a Bordeaux and a Burgundy is extremely useful information, but on Grape Encounters, we can tell you how to save a bottle of wine that you can't stomach. That could involve a half a teaspoon of water of a dash of sugar. Or, when all else fails, maybe you can use the wine to disinfect your vegetables or take the stain out of your garage floor.
A typical episode of Grape Encounters might tell you where you can invest $25 and be very content when you absolutely, positively love $100 Napa Cabs. We'll ask America's most important living (91 years old) winemaker why he's such a chick magnet or how his mother weaned him off breast milk by mixing it with wine. We'll teach you how to blend wines at home to create something that suits your taste perfectly... or how to create a kick-ass margarita using a cheap Chardonnay... or why Cabernets taste 60% better when you play Jim Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower."
5. OK, gotta ask: Your favorite wines of all time? You can only pick one bottle... okay, you can pick five. It's your Desert Island wine list. Go!
Unfortunately, seasons, environmental factors, mood, etc. have a huge impact on what we drink. But since you asked, her goes. 1) Any really good Amarone from Italy. This wine takes twice as many grapes because they dry half the fruit and then add grape juice to it to make it so rich with fruit and dark in color that you just want to drink it forever. A decent bottle starts at around $80 bucks and $200 will satisfy me more than almost anything. 2) At the risk of being clichÃ©, Napa Cabs are awesome. They are also awful. I don't think there are many bargains out there because a great Napa Cab will cost you and since All Access is buying, lets start in the $150 price range. We can find plenty at that price. 3) Next up, a Bordeaux blend. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot and some Petit Verdot to give it some guts. 14%+ alcohol and enough tannins to make a persimmon pucker. 4) I'm thinking German Rieslings...an Auslese with that hint of sweetness and musty European quality that you don't get from Rieslings in the states. 5) Finally, a 200-500 year old Madiera from the Island of the same name. These fortified wines are babied for generations, are surprisingly affordable and when you drink one, you are consuming living history that makes your mind wander back to the time when they were made. Best of all, they are syrupy sweet and would go great on top of my desert island Banana Coconut Pancakes.
6. Of what are you most proud of?
That I had the balls to give up my marketing career mid-life and make a career of a personal passion. I'm also proud of the fact that I don't get hate mail even when my over-the-top maverick ways may deserve it at times. (Don't write me)
7. Who are your mentors, influences, and heroes?
George Green who, on a client incentive cruise while he was running KABC and KMPC, asked me if I would be interested having a show. He got canned by Disney before we could put something together. Probably for having the hair-brained idea to put me on KMPC.
Dave Van Dyke who, along with a bottle of amazing tequila one New Years Eve, spent hours conceptualizing talk radio shows with me.
David G. Hall, who came on a listener event with me and later sent me an email telling me to quit marketing, suffer the financial consequences and get into broadcasting full time.
John McMullen, then PD at KNEWS in Palm Springs, who put me on afternoon drive because he and Hall believed I could do it. I did it all right and finally understood why people take Xynax.
Sir Richard Branson who, in a single afternoon, taught me that innovation is far more valuable than imitation.
Legendary Winemaker Mike "Miljenko" Grgich, who reminded me that he was in his 50s when he won the Judgment of Paris that put lowly Napa wines in the spotlight.
8. What do you do for fun?
I invent. It may be food, wine or a wine gadget. My favorite thing in the world is to write 3 or 4 songs for my amazing wife each morning while I'm in the shower.
9. Fill in the blank: I can't make it through the day without __________.
...doing something in excess. My mantra is "All good things in excess."
10. What's the best advice you've ever gotten? The worst?
Best advice was from my older brother Bob when I was 13. He said, "Stop being a dick. Nobody likes you."
Worst advice was from my brother Bob's daughter Kelly who told me I should marry the woman who became my ex-wife after 3 years of marriage, stole the entire contents of my beloved wine cellar, destroyed my house and my career. I can still remember her words, "You should marry her Uncle Dave... you'll never do better." The fact is, I not only did better, the career change worked out just fine.