Name: John Majeski
What's your position at K&L and how long have you been with the company?
Well, I’m often standing or climbing... oh, you mean “that” position? While not making bad puns, I’m the San Francisco liaison for both Latin and Southern Hemisphere wines, which keeps me on my toasts in a vicarious state of travel to far flung vineyards, bodegas and fynbos. Seriously, I’m very fortunate to work with an amazing group of audacious, inspiring, talented people. And I started working at K&L on my birthday in 2007.
What did you do before you started working here?
Most recently I worked the wine department at Trader Joe’s on Masonic. Before that I wrote slogans and made buttons advertising the novel concept of world peace. Sold expensive fountain pens that mostly went unsold. Another life ago I designed zip, transit and city maps for the phone company, the front of book stuff that no one looks at anymore. Prior to that I worked as a Yellow Pages artist. Cared for a gang of goats in northern Norway. And sometime before that I was small. Life is strange.
What do you do in your spare time?
I never metaphor but I remember her face. Word play, even while unconscious, which may be more often than I think. There are books unread, films unseen, wines uncorked, meals un-et, people unknown, memories unmade. Early Tibet! I am always playing catch the moon—ask my cats, they won’t lie to you. Vito and Harley, they’re cool.
What's your favorite movie?
Amelie. Serendipity is the antidote to apathy. A joyful lesson in that if you say “Yes” to the Universe, it will answer.
What was your “epiphany wine"— the bottle or glass that got you interested in wine? Is there a current wine that you consider the equivalent?
My earliest epiphanic experience involving wine? 1974. I found myself sitting tired and alone in a cafe in Siracusa, Sicily, chin on my backpack while watching the “Thrilla in Manila” carnage between Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier. Suddenly in walked a rowdy group of oil workers who, seeing my sorry state, asked me if I wanted to join them and their English girlfriends for dinner. Sure! So we all piled into their tiny windup Fiats and drove 30 miles over the mountains to god-knows-where we were, piled out into a courtyard that held a long platform table lit with candles and platters of rich red pasta and langoustines, bread and inky squid, prawns the size of one’s fist, and unlabeled flasks of dark volcanic peasant wine that tasted like all the gods poured their blood into it. Still the best meal of my life, so I guess that qualifies.
At K&L, recently the 2007 Château de Montfaucon “Vin de Monsieur Le Baron de Montfaucon” Vin de Pays du Gard seduced my palate in a mini-epiphany. The Rhône shone supreme. And every day there is at least the possibility…
Describe your perfect meal (at a restaurant or prepared at home). What wine(s) would you pair with it?
I remember a wonderful Spanish-Peruvian dish once served at the long-closed Alejandro’s Restaurant on Clement Street in San Francisco called Zarzuela de Mariscos, a stunning seafood stew perfumed with garlic, tomatoes, saffron and all manner of shellfish cooked in their birthday suits. Today I would pair it with a bottle of 1981 Lopez de Heredia Viña Bosconia Gran Reserva.
How do you think your palate’s changed over the years?
When I arrived in California years ago, I discovered the sweet heady hedonism of overripe Zinfandel and bought into the buttered gospel of over-malo’d Chardonnay. There was also a time when Cabernet Sauvignon was the standard bearer. As exposed as I am to so many different wines here, my palate now gravitates to distinctive wines, often made from obscure or near-extinct varieties.
What do you like to drink?
Apart from the many incredible wines I strongly endorse from my sections, both the Loire and French regional wines have managed to keep me sniffing, questing and guessing, which is a very good thing. I love wines from Bandol, Arbois, the Jura and much of the Languedoc, and will never turn down a perfect flute of Franck Bonville “Cuvée Les Belles Voyes” Champagne when offered.
What words of advice do you have to offer people just getting into wine?
Don’t go into a wine store with preconceived notions based on “fear of trying,” bottle price or cult iconic labels. Be open; think of wine as a journey of the mind as well as the palate. Educate yourself by tasting everything you can. Our great Saturday tastings offer an ideal place to start learning. And remember, it’s never wrong to ask for friendly advice.
If you could have dinner with any three people in history, who would you invite? What wine would you serve each of them?
Ok, Rod Serling. Louise Brooks. And last but not least, Ignatz the Mouse from the old 1940s Krazy Kat comic strip. I know he’s not human, but so what? Mice gotta drink too. Back to Rod. A bottle of Macallan 18 year would probably put him in the Twilight Zone, but wine? I don’t know. Louise my dear, 1982 Salon Champagne, nothing else would measure up to your incandescent charm and pure joie de vivre. As for Ignatz, a 1966 Latour, brick red at the rim and still in its prime, perhaps.