Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Dr. Oldman channels Oprah to expose a doping scandal that will rock the wine world...

After his surprising Boxing Day interview, Dr. Harry Oldman thought that today would be the perfect day to share his next interview with us.

I had so much fun with my interview with my anonymous wine critic friend (though I hope the interview wasn't the real reason he is no longer a critic...), that I thought I'd try my hand again at asking another famous wine personality some tough questions. Bobby P and I go all the way back to his early days as the world's first blogger, a camp which I too have fallen into. Together, Bob and I would take on the heathens of the wine world on Prodigy's Wine Forum. It had been some time since we last talked, but I've long defended him from the many sheep of the Interwebs. When Bob agreed to sit down with me I decided that I had better improve my interview skills, so I watched countless hours of the best interviewer I could think of: Oprah. I've followed Oprah from her very start on AM Chicago, but spending a week straight of watching reruns gave me all the insight I'd need to make this a newsworthy interview sure to cause a ripple in the space-time-wine-blogger continuum. One day, I am sure that this interview will be as talked about as any interview Oprah did with Tom Cruise, Lance Armstrong or Lindsay Lohan. Make sure that you are sitting, because what I'm about to share with you will knock your tastevins off!

HO: Thank you very much for sitting down on this beautiful couch with me. A lot has changed since we last spoke. You've sold your newsletter, stepped down as Editor-in-Chief, and you are now launching a new lifestyle magazine!

BP: Yes, things are looking up. Since giving up the mundane responsibilities of proofreading I've been free to travel around Asia and taste the best wines ever produced. I also spent a few hours doing community service by speaking to a group of starving artists in Napa Valley in February.

HO: So, how did that keynote speech go?

BP: I haven't heard any complaints. I think I really won over a lot of hearts. My new boss and my protégé were there with me. They actually spent time time interacting with the rest of the attendees. I really think that was good for our public image.

HO: Speaking of your new boss, how are things going with her?

BP: I honestly haven't had this kind of feeling before.

HO: Bob, please stop jumping on the couch. Your walking sticks are going to put holes in the vinyl.

BP: I don't want to disappoint her... I've spoken with her parents....she's an extraordinary woman...very, very special woman...her generosity, her life force, she has a spirit...she cares about other people...she has a real joy about life....the two of us together are just -

HO: A force to reckon with...

BP: Yes, together, with our legion of reviewers we're going to own the world of high net-worth individuals and corporate leaders.

HO: Bob, that's great, but you mentioned something to me earlier that I think a lot of people will want to hear about. This announcement is going to completely rewrite the history of the 100-pt system.

BP: Yes, I suppose it is time that I get this off of my chest.

HO: Did you ever take banned substances to enhance your tasting performance?

BP: Yes.

HO: Was it humanly possible to award so many 100-pt wines without doping?

BP: Not in my opinion. That generation. I didn't invent the culture, but I didn't try to stop the culture.

HO: For 13 years you didn't just deny it, you brazenly and defiantly denied everything you just admitted just now. So why now admit it?

BP: That is the best question. It's the most logical question. I don't know that I have a great answer. I will start my answer by saying that this is too late. It's too late for probably most people, and that's my fault. I viewed this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot of times, and as you said, it wasn't as if I just said no and I moved off it.

HO: You were defiant, you called other people liars. You mocked the wines they enjoy.

BP: I understand that. And while I lived through this process, especially the last two years, one year, six months, two, three months, I know the truth. The truth isn't what was out there. The truth isn't what I said, and now it's gone - this story was so perfect for so long. And I mean that, as I try to take myself out of the situation and I look at it. You overcome surgery, you discover so many perfect wines. You have a happy marriage. I mean, it's just this mythic perfect story, and it wasn't true.

HO: Was it hard to live up to that picture that was created?

BP: Impossible. Certainly I'm a flawed character, as I well know, and I couldn't do that.

HO: But didn't you help paint that picture?

BP: Of course, I did. And a lot of people did. All the fault and all the blame here falls on me. But behind that picture and behind that story is momentum. Whether it's fans or whether it's the media, it just gets going. And I lost myself in all of that. I'm sure there would be other people that couldn't handle it, but I certainly couldn't handle it, and I was used to controlling everything in my life. I controlled every outcome in my life.

HO: You said to me earlier you don't think it was possible to taste so many wines without doping?

BP: Not in that generation, and I'm not here to talk about others in that generation. It's been well-documented. I didn't invent the culture, but I didn't try to stop the culture, and that's my mistake, and that's what I have to be sorry for, and that's what something and the sport is now paying the price because of that. So I am sorry for that. I didn't have access to anything else that nobody else did.

HO: It is amazing that not even Jim Budd was able to uncover the most sophisticated, professional and successful doping program the wine world has ever seen. Was it?

BP: It definitely was professional, and it was definitely smart, if you can call it that, but it was very conservative, very risk-averse, very aware of what mattered. Points mattered for me. But to say that that program was bigger than the British doping programs in the '70s and '80s? That's not true.

HO: What was the culture? Can you explain the culture to us?

BP: I don't want to accuse anybody else. I don't want to talk about anybody else. I made my decisions. They are my mistakes, and I am sitting here today to acknowledge that and to say I'm sorry for that. The culture was what it was.

HO: Was everybody doing it? That's what I've heard. Was everybody doing it?

BP: I didn't know everybody. I didn't live and taste with everybody. I didn't dine with everybody. I can't say that. There will be people that say that. There will be people that say, 'OK, there are 200 bloggers out there, I can tell you five guys that didn't, and those are the five heroes', and they're right. I mean, I see other critics leaving the field and taking jobs with wineries to hide from the mistakes they made.

HO: But you knew that you were held to a higher standard. You're the Emperor of Wine!

BP: I knew that, and of course hindsight is perfect. I know it a thousand times more now. I didn't know what I had. Look at the fallout.

HO: What do you mean by you 'didn't know'? I don't think people will understand what you're saying. When you and I met a week ago you didn't think it was that big? How could you not?

BP: I see the anger in people, betrayal, it's all there. People who believed in me and supported me and they have every right to feel betrayed and it's my fault and I'll spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologize to people.

HO: Bob, you need to face the truth and get yourself together. Jon Bonné and Eric Asimov are threatening to take you down.

BP: Yes, I know. But I think my new team and my new magazine will prove that history and truth are on my side.

HO: I believe that you believe that this is your time to turn this around for yourself. I believe that. I believe you when you told me that.

BP: It is.

HO: Ok. Alright, if that is the case, then you're not going to be fucking up. And I know you're surprised to hear me say Fuck.

BP: I actually love it. It's awesome.

HO: You're not going to be doing that!

BP: I need to hear that from you, because it helps. It empowers me.

HO: Yes. And, so, you need to cut the bullshit. You really do. 

BP: Ok. 

HO: Just cut the bullshit. 

BP: Ok. 

HO: You know what to do. Because what I really feel, deeply from you and profoundly, that you just don't have head intelligence, you have heart intelligence. Phenomenal things are going to come from you. If you don't continue to block them. 

BP: Right. 

HO: Because I don't want to hear again about the... You know this. You make an agreement, Keep your commitments. I can't stand up for you, I can't back you up, I can't be there for you if I can't trust you. Your loyal subscribers can't be there for you if we can't trust you.

At that point, a tear started to seep from his eye. He tried to wipe it, but it got lost in his lumberjack-esque beard. He stood up and walked over to a table and poured himself a glass of Châteauneuf-du-Pape - from magnum. I knew the interview was over, and I put down my notebook and just walked over and gave him a big hug.

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