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Ray Isle

Title: Executive Wine Editor

At Food & Wine since: 2005

Born and Raised: Houston

Background: Before Food & Wine, I was the managing editor of Wine & Spirits magazine. Prior to that I was a freelance journalist who sold Port during his daytime hours.

What I Do at Food & Wine: Write the Tasting Room wine column, appear frequently on various TV and radio outlets, think up ideas for wine feature stories and often write them, blog, lure other editors into our regular wine tastings.

Career Turning Point: In 1997 I was working as a cellar rat during harvest at Clos LaChance Wines, up above Saratoga, California, while teaching creative writing at Stanford. I was at the winery at about 7 a.m. punching down fermenting Pinot Noir grapes, which is hard, tedious work. But the mist was clearing off the mountains in front of me, the air smelled of new Pinot Noir, and I thought to myself, the hell with academia. I'm switching to wine.

Most Memorable Wine Experience: Walking up the hillside slope of Miguel Angel de Gregorio's Calvario vineyard in Spain, while he explained to me that local pilgrims used to follow the same path, and each turn represented a different station of the cross. Calvario is a great Rioja, but that insight into the history of the region and how it is embodied in the wine encapsulates why I love writing about the stuff.

Favorite Obscure Grape: Black St. Peters. It's actually an early 19th-century name for Zinfandel, and I wish they'd go back to it. Drinking a glass of Black St. Peters sounds so much more dangerous than drinking a Glass of Zinfandel.

Biggest Wine Pet Peeve: Expensive wine aerators. Buy a jug. Pour the wine in it. Presto! It's aerated.

Fantasy Wine Splurge: A case of each of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti's wines from the 1990 vintage. Though I'd settle for a case of each of Roumier's wines from the 1990 vintage.

Guilty Pleasure: BBQ. Particularly brisket (as a Texan). Particularly from Louie Mueller's, in Taylor, outside Austin.

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Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

Run with chefs and wine experts in the Celebrity Chef 5K and dance all night at Gail Simmons’ Last Bite Dessert Party during the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, June 20-22.