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Wine Talk: Dan Abrams

MSNBC general manager stays tuned in to what's happening with wine--and hopes viewers and staff do, too

Tim Fish
Posted: July 25, 2006

When Dan Abrams, 40, was making a name for himself while covering the O.J. Simpson trial for Court TV in the mid-1990s, he found a great way to leave the drama and scandal behind when he left the studio--by discovering wine. Recently, he was named the general manager of MSNBC, which meant he had to step aside from hosting his own legal-affairs show, The Abrams Report, which aired weeknights on the cable news channel. But he remains chief legal correspondent for NBC News, where he led the coverage of the effort to impeach President Bill Clinton, the Bush v. Gore post-election legal battles and the Scott Peterson trial. Meanwhile, his passion for wine has grown. Abrams drinks wine about three times a week and has about 400 wines in cellar.

Wine Spectator: What first got you interested in wine?
Dan Abrams: I just thought wine was something worth knowing about. The first wines I was buying were the 1992 California Cabernets. Truth is I got started through reading Wine Spectator. I think young men who collect wine sometimes are the same people who collected baseball cards as kids. It's the same sort of desire to get the rare ones. After that initial fascination with the numbers, for me it has become just the pure pleasure of drinking wine. For some reason I just got hooked.

WS: What's in your cellar and what are your favorite wines and regions?
DA: My cellar is a Vinothèque, and it always seems like there's not enough room in there. It is about a third California Cab with a little bit of Merlot and Pinot, a third Bordeaux and then a third that's a mix of Australian, Italian and Spanish. I've been drinking a lot from Australia lately--Yalumba, Torbreck, the Amon-Ra by Glaetzer has been a recent favorite. I think it's the sweetness of the Cab and Shiraz blends that have been attracting me as of late. I sometimes view them as the poor man's California cults, in the sense that they have that supersweet extract, without the super-big price tag.

WS: With your busy schedule, do you ever get a chance to visit wine regions?
DA: I've been to Napa and Sonoma a number of times. I was in Bordeaux last year, in St.-Emilion. In Napa, I went to PlumpJack, Caymus, Whitehall Lane and Seavey. In St.-Emilion, I went to Angélus, L'Evangile and Cheval-Blanc.

WS: Did wine ever come up as an issue on The Abrams Report?
DA: Absolutely. With the Supreme Court battle over interstate shipping, that is definitely an issue that came up. We had Ken Starr on the show a couple times. The beauty of a show like mine is that I did an editorial at the end of the show, and let's put it this way--my viewers know I'm a wine drinker. One of the things about my show is that people got to know me, and so occasionally people will send me bottles they like. I was covering the Scott Peterson trial, and a guy brought me over a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck. He said, "I know you like wine and this thing is dirt cheap and it's great!"

WS: I've heard you had some sort of wine tradition with your staff?
DA: Every Friday at the end of the show I brought in a bottle for everyone to try, and I talked about it a little bit. We had our regular post-show meeting, and we sat for an extra 15 minutes to try a little bit of wine.

WS: Did you make any converts?
DA: To be honest, there's one big wine drinker on the staff, who follows the world of wine, and apart from that, I think most of my staff knows when they taste a nice wine. They're not taking notes, and I think that's the way most people drink wine.

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