“Wine is a grocery, not a luxury.” — Richard Betts
Richard Betts (@yobetts) served as the wine director at The Little Nell in Aspen from 2000 to 2008. Much more interesting to me, Richard passed the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Masters Exam on his first attempt, becoming the ninth person in history ever to do so.
I first met Richard through investing wunderkind Chris Sacca, and we immediately hit it off. Richard can help you train your senses for anything, including wine, whiskey, his current love of mezcal, and far beyond.
He’s also done a lot of wild experiments, gotten a lot of tattoos, almost been shot in Mexico, and developed an incredible ability to simplify the complex. We get along.
In this conversation, we talk about nearly everything, ranging from the value of quitting to tricks of the trade, travel tips (he’s traveling 300+ days per year), and “starter” wines.
We also drink a boat-load of whiskey, me tasting and Richard teaching. The pictures below show a sample. Side note and cool rule of thumb: did you know it’s spelled “whiskey” when from countries that have “e” in their names (e.g. America) but “whisky” when from countries that don’t have an “e” in their names (e.g. Scotland, Japan)? Richard taught me that.
Last but not least, Richard is the author of a brand-new book, “The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Whiskey Know-It-All,” which is sitting on my kitchen table with whiskey stains all over it. It distils (see what I did there?) a couple of lifetimes worth of study down to 24 pages…then makes them smell good. Definitely check it out. At the very least, it gives you a bunch of rules of thumb (like the whiskey vs. whisky trick), so you can impress your friends and not look like a dumb-ass at the bar. Sweet! Less dumb-ass and more smart-ass is always good. Get ‘er done.
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Want to hear another conversation that leaves no topic uncovered? — Listen to my conversation with Chris Sacca. In this episode, we discuss being different and making billions (stream below or right-click here to download):
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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What is your favorite whiskey or wine? What is it about the brand(s) that make it a favorite? Please let me know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
Selected Links from the Episode
- Learn more about Court of Masters Sommelier Testing
- Check out The Little Nell, one of the best places in the world to drink wine
- Visit world-class San Francisco restaurants, flour + water and Central Kitchen
- Pick up some Kimbal Kimax Beakers (go with 250 ml)
- Learn more about hurling, the fastest field sport in the world
- In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizaki
- Check out Sombra mezcal
- Preferred tequila:
- The Crossroads of Should and Must by Elle Luna
- A Fan’s Notes by Frederick Exley
- The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
- Learn more about Donors Choose
- Favorite Movies:
- Learn more about Dennis Scholl
- Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikant
- The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Whiskey by Richard Betts, Crystal English Sacca and Wendy MacNaughton
- Connect with Richard Betts:
Wine Mentioned in this Episode:
Whiskey/Whisky Mentioned in this Episode:
- Jack Daniels
- EH Taylor Rye
- Jameson Irish Whiskey
- Nikka Whisky (17-year-old)
- Edradour Distillery (10-year-old)
- Ardbeg Uigeadail
- Bulleit Bourbon
- Why Richard Betts got into wine? [7:22]
- Characteristics of those who would excel as line cooks [20:15]
- On the decision between culinary school and getting a job [21:40]
- The story of falling in love with wine and becoming a sommelier [22:55]
- Lessons learned as a sommelier [36:55]
- The importance of the observation process [43:50]
- Visual cues for seeing alcohol levels in wine [44:45]
- How to correctly taste wine [36:50]
- Understanding wine flavor characteristics [52:20]
- Favorite zinfandels [45:50]
- Common misconceptions about wine [58:15]
- The sweet spot in terms of cost and value of wine [59:35]
- What is the difference between bourbon and whiskey? [1:11:29]
- Taste testing whisk(e)y [1:18:54]
- The story of the convoy: explaining mezcal [1:52:14]
- Rapid fire questions: Who is successful, when do you lose track of time, most gifted books, and fear of failure [2:00:24]
- If Richard Betts was teaching a 9th-grade class, what would the subject be? [2:05:14]
- Morning rituals for staying healthy while traveling [2:10:24]
- A purchase of $100 or less that had the biggest impact [2:16:24]
- Favorite movies and documentaries [2:18:09]
- Advice for your 25- and 30-year-old self [2:23:54]
- If you could put up a billboard anywhere and write anything on it, where would it be and what would it say? [2:30:39]
- Describing The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Whiskey [2:31:29]
- An ask of the audience [2:35:39]
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