Q&A with Kevin LoVullo

The wine spieler is still learning—and taking his audience along with him



Photo by kc kratt

 

Put down the pinot grigio. Skip the cabernet sauvignon. Take a chance on something different—there’s a wide world of wine out there. Buffalo native Kevin LoVullo, host of WGRZ-TV’s Spiel the Wine, has an easy manner and a natural inquisitiveness that leads viewers on a weekly exploration of varietals, old and new. LoVullo, a perpetual student, prefers to interview experts—winemakers, distributors, collectors—to get their take on values, innovations, and the ancient traditions that endure. He’s talked to nationally known winemakers as well as local restaurateurs, and has been spieling about (and swilling) wine on TV for six years, with 250 shows wrapped—a rarity for local programming. (Airing at 7 p.m. on Saturdays, Spiel the Wine returns on Sept. 22 after summer hiatus.)  LoVullo’s personal mission is to get folks to broaden their wine horizons.

 

“Everyone is so attached to what they already do—but you can always do better,” says LoVullo. This philosophy has led the former insurance salesman (“Leaving that family business was one of the best things I ever did”) and horticulturist (he and his wife owned ProGardens, which supplied unusual plants to area gardeners) to a hobby as wine collector and then a midlife career as TV host and writer. Not such a leap, LoVullo says, noting that wine production involves plantings and people: “I gravitate toward earth and people.” LoVullo and his wife of thirty-four years have raised four children here in Western New York. We asked him about his work and what’s next.

 

So, why wine?

I started collecting wine as a hobby in my mid-forties. I enjoyed reading the interviews in Wine Spectator. I began to think about doing something like that—I like pushing and testing myself. I thought of writing a book titled Spiel the Wine. That’s from the Eric Burdon song, a play on “Spill the Wine.” I’ve had him on the show, by the way; I’m a big rock and roll fan. After we’d sold our plant and garden business, I started doing a radio show, talking about wine. After a couple of years, I pitched a TV show idea to Channel 2. They bought it. It took off.

 

Is there a dream guest you haven’t booked yet?

Diane Keaton. She has her own line of wines. Seems like a very interesting person. Steve Winwood is also into wine, and I’m a fan of his music. I’d love to sit down with Frances Ford Coppola again.

 

We hear you’re self-taught about wine. That’s surprising.

I have a twelve-year education, and was a C student in school. I just didn’t care for academics. I don’t have a college degree or a master’s degree. But I do have a way of figuring out how to get things done, and I like to think out of the box and be original. I surround myself with people who know more about the subject than I do. It’s an ongoing learning experience; you’ll never know all there is to know about wine.

 

You’re like a motivational speaker, with wine as your subject.

When I get passionate about something, I am bursting at the seams. I like to reinvent myself at times. I like telling stories, and I love to teach. One thing I don’t want to have is regrets. I tell people, go do what you want to do, what you love. In the back of my mind, I picture my father, and how I learned from him about relationships. I used to go to his insurance office in the Genesee Building when I was a kid, and just sit and watch him, listen to how he talked to people.  A book I read when I was twenty really affected me: How to Win Friends and Influence People. For years my dad taught the Dale Carnegie course. My mom, my four siblings—we all took the course!

 

You travel for work and could live anywhere—why here?

I thought about moving, but no. Buffalo, New York, is where I want to be. This is where family is.  Favorite places to visit include anywhere tropical, especially Palm Beach. And San Francisco and New York City are top of my list.

 

Biggest change you’ve seen over the years in the wine world?

In the past five or six years, we’ve seen a lot more value wines available. They taste like forty dollar bottles of wine, but maybe cost fifteen dollars. And the evolution of new wine-producing regions is tremendous. Every state in our country now produces wine. The public has definitely become more aware. That’s why I say never stop learning about wine. Ask the questions and listen.

 

Favorite wine?  Or other drink?

I’d take champagne any day. It pairs with anything. Other than wine, I like bourbon and whiskey. And I love tequila.

 

Ever drink wine from a paper cup?

Sure. It’s not exactly the right thing to do, but I’ve also drunk wine out of the bottle. There are no rules. Yes, if you want to enhance the wine, drink from a proper glass. But it’s not the end of the world if your wine is in a Solo cup!    

 

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