Mark Oldman is the ideal mix of wine connoisseur, showman, and everyday dude. Case in point: at a tasting at a private club in Manhattan’s West Village last Tuesday night, he held a glass of rosé up to the candlelight, took a whiff, and told the small group of New Yorkers who were seated at the room’s two long tables, “When people think rosé, they think Mount Airy Lodge. They think Mariah Carey’s hemline. They think Donald Trump’s hair. Rosé has a bad name outside of New York. But you guys—you guys know rosé is cool.”
Oldman, who also happens to have a law degree from Stanford, knows his stuff—he gives educational wine seminars around the country, promising to help people “outsmart” wine. His first book, Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine (Penguin, 2004), won numerous awards. He’s a consummate performer, totally comfortable in front of a group but not overly slick, with a personality that has landed him gigs as a wine columnist for Every Day with Rachael Ray and as a judge on the PBS reality show The Winemakers. And he uses phrases like “don’t let people tell you beaujolais is lame stuff”—which go a long way towards endearing him to the coveted 18- (well, okay, 21-) to 35 audience.
At last week’s tasting, which took place in a well-appointed townhouse on West 14th Street that has been turned into a swank private social club, Oldman led tasters through eight wines, including a prosecco (“I call it ‘Prozacco’ because it makes people happy”), moscato d’asti (“it’s dessert wine for people who think dessert wine is Aunt Jemimah-y”), and madeira (“the least expensive way of drinking old wine”). Oldman reassured everyone in the room that there were no wrong answers when it came to answering his questions about what certain wines tasted like, and by the end of the 90-minute session, he declared, “Well, I’m drunk now.”
Norton will publish Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine: Pleasure, Value, and Adventure Beyond Wine’s Usual Suspects in September, as a $19.95 paperback. Oldman will go on a 12-city book (and wine-tasting) tour, and will promote the book on his Facebook page, as well as in the pages of Ray’s magazine.