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"There's something that fires when your taste buds are dazzled in a certain way with wine that is almost beyond words," says Mike D. "It's the same thing that happens when you listen to Miles Davis's On the Corner in the right setting, at the right time." In this exclusive preview of the September issue, the hip-hop icon tells F&W about his wine obsessions.
Did touring the world with the Beastie Boys get you into wine?
As a traveling musician, you have the opportunity to explore great food and wine regions. But unfortunately, I wasn't interested then. I often look back wistfully and think to myself, If only I was super-into wine when I was in France in 1987, I could have bought tons of 1982 Bordeaux for, like, under $20 a bottle. Today, all of those wines are probably $1,000-plus. But the wine game is not necessarily something you get into when you're that young.
You hang out with some serious wine writers, like Jay McInerney and James Suckling. How do you keep up?
I try to be cognizant of what I don't know. That's when you get the most out of an experience, I think. But the truth is that wine is like music—it's completely subjective and experiential. So your experience is just as valid as mine, or that of someone who has tasted far more wine than you or I have. But it's a great thing to taste a bottle with people who have had that same wine with the winemaker, in the vineyard. They have seen what the winemaker puts into it.
Can you pinpoint a single peak wine experience?
I had the good fortune of having this ridiculous lunch with some wine writers, and we had a bottle of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Montrachet, a white Burgundy. I believe it was a '73. It's one of the most sought-after whites, and I have to say, with good reason. It was transcendent.
You became a vegetarian, then a vegan, and then a pescatarian. Why?
I became a vegan for ethical and environmental reasons; I think they go hand in hand. But, ultimately, I dialed back because I needed the protein in my diet. I know there are many ecological arguments against eating fish, and I don't disagree with them, but I need the eggs and the fish to keep the motor running.
Do your dietary restrictions make it harder to pair wines?
It is a bit more challenging. Because it's a lot easier to have a bigger Rhône wine, or a more tannic Bordeaux, if you're having rack of lamb or a steak. Those big wines are not gonna work with the subtleties of vegetables. This is where sommeliers are your friends. I've only eaten at Le Bernardin [in New York City] a couple times, but there's a reason the wine staff there are so acclaimed for what they do.
You've eaten at Momofuku Ssäm Bar in Manhattan. How did you manage to pull that off, given that practically everything on the menu has pork in it?
David Chang is tricky like that. But at the same time, at Ssäm Bar, they're pretty good about working around my restrictions—though maybe I shouldn't publicize that, because I know they try not to make exceptions. But I still haven't eaten at Momofuku Ko, because I can't eat the tasting menu.
Did you, as your lyrics once suggested, enjoy drinking Thunderbird back in the day?
I don't want to dispel rumors, but I have to admit that we really weren't messing with Thunderbird. Blue Nun, maybe. Blue Nun is closer to bug juice than it is to Riesling.