Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Joe Dressner

Joe Dressner and I met once and talked once more on the telephone. Each time, it did not turn out well.

Fact is, Joe and I didn’t much get along, and I am sorry for that, because I am certain that his crazy sense of humor and his impeccable taste in wine, not to mention his outspokenness, would have helped me to solidify a personal relationship with him. I am less certain that my personality would have done much to get him to that same point with me: Joe held a grudge as tenaciously as he held his passion for “real wine.”

Joe Dressner died on September 17, 2011 after almost three years living with brain cancer and all the injustices that the disease throws at those who have it. During that time, Joe was gallant, funny, morose, vicious, beautiful under fire, which is to say that he was not much different than he had been before the diagnosis.

The most telling thing, to me, about Joe and brain cancer was his passion to stand up to it. He was a passionate man to the end.

Now that I have been dealing with prostate cancer for almost a year, it’s time for me to admit that I looked forward to Joe’s entries on his blog, the Amazing Misadventures of Captain Tumor Man. When he addressed the cancer and not a member of his family, the blog was inspirational, not for any insights about the disease but insights about how to handle it. (There were times when I wanted to comment on his blog, but my IP was blocked.)

When faced with our own slow demise, many of us get religion. Not Joe Dressner. He was gruff, strident, and irreverent at times, but he was not a hypocrite. I particularly liked his attitude with those who wished him well—he objected when someone placed the weight of God on his shoulders, as he professed no belief in such things.

As I’ve said, I am sorry that Joe Dressner and I didn’t get along; I guess I figured that it was his loss, and I assume that he figured it was my loss.

What I know for certain, however, is that his death is the wine world’s loss.

It is for Joe’s taste in “real wine” that we wine drinkers are compelled to offer a farewell toast, and we should do it often.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
September 2011. All rights reserved.


  1. I never interacted with Joe, but would have loved for him to spell out to me just what "real wine" is...

  2. I don't think Joe had a rigid idea of what constituted "real wine" except that he liked to deal with winemakers who were passionate about their work and who had respect both for the land and for the bodies into which the liquid would wind up.

    In other words, Joe probably expected wine to be as free of the weight of human hands as possible--and the result of passion mixed with commerce rather than commerce only.

  3. Thomas,
    The thing I have been truly touched by and impressed with is that no one is trying to make Joe out to be a saint....not by any stretch, although wouldn't that piss him off?!

    I had two exchanges with Joe and much like yours, they didn't go very well, in fact I found that at times his passion would reel out of hand and land squarely in the down-right mean department. Not saying he was a mean person but man, when you got on his bad side it was o-v-e-r. I learned to just steer clear and silently admire the wines he imported.

    Very nice tribute.

  4. It says a lot about you, that you can still respect someone even if you don't quite like them :)

  5. Vinogirl,

    I'm like that with wines too...