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For Joel Bleskacek, the best way to understand a wine is to learn the story of its origin.  Bleskacek gains a deep sense of place by traveling to wine regions around the world, and visiting with California winemakers at local tastings.  He brings that unique knowledge back to his customers at Ruby Wine, a boutique wine shop in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill district.  “I don’t speak winespeak,” he says, “I’d rather tell my customers what was happening in the Anderson Valley that year, or the story of the people who hand-harvest the Grüner Veltliner in Austria.” 

Bleskacek spent 20 years working his way up the ranks in some of the Bay Area’s top restaurants (Campton Place, 42 Degrees, Oliveto), where he had the good fortune to befriend several top sommeliers.  “They introduced me to wines that wowed me,” he recalls, “and we started to put together tastings.”  After marrying his wife Maxine, then a chef, it’s all in the family.  “It’s hard to separate food, wine, and entertaining friends and family.  I’ve incorporated my passion into my work, and there’s not a big distinction between my home life and work life,” he says.

Seven years ago he opened the boutique, named for daughter Ruby, bringing Bleskacek’s ambitions full circle.  “We sell wine and offer tastings, Ruby Wine is really a hub for the neighborhood,” he says. Rather than selling by points, which are nowhere to be found in his shop, he sells by his palate.  He prefers to get to know his customers, and help them cultivate their own sense of what they like. He notes, “Everyone has their own palate, and until you actually try a wine - which is half the fun - you don’t know what you like.” His advice to wine lovers: trust yourself, try new things, and be open to suggestion. 

Joel Bleskacek Thinks:

A fair restaurant corkage fee is: 

Depends on restaurant, $10 - $20ish

A tell-tale sign of a wine snob is: 

Someone who asks a group a question and then gives their own answer to that very same question.

The wine region I most want to visit: 

I would love to return to Wachau, Austria.

My "wish list" of wines I want to acquire soon: 

Acquire? Sounds like purchasing stocks and bonds. I prefer to drink my wine.

My biggest wine pet peeve: 

An empty glass.

My favorite wine quote: 

"The great evil of wine is that it first seizes the feet, it is a crafty wrestler." —Titus Maccius, 190 BC

My dream wine to one day taste or own: 

1811 Chateau d'Yquem. Can a wine really live for two hundred years?

The best wines I have ever tasted: 

The ones that take me back to the place and time when I first drank them.

The people with whom I most often enjoy wine: 

My friends and family; who else?

The last wine I had that I absolutely loved: 

The last bottle I drank.

What I think of the movie Sideways: 

It made me laugh out loud.

My thoughts on the 100 point rating scale made famous by Robert Parker and emulated by seemingly everyone: 

I don't sell by points, but to each his own.

My wine travels have taken me to the following wine regions: 

Europe, Greece (is Greece still Europe?), China (yes, they grow grapes there), and up and down the west coast of America.

Joel Bleskacek's Tasting Notes