After a brief stint in academe and several years in the restaurant business, David Schildknecht logged more than a decade as a wine retailer in Washington, DC. with the late Rex Wine & Spirits (from 1982), with Mayflower Wine and Spirits, and lastly with Pearsonís. This was an exciting time to be Washington-based and David, who grew up nearby, rediscovered his personal roots while discovering wine in company with the many luminaries who were then regularly passing through or who, like Robert Parker, were establishing their formidable future reputations from a Capital Area base. It was Davidís pleasure to repay some of Bobís enthusiasm, information and assistance in kind when he regularly assembled and presented wines from German growers for Bobís reports in the Wine Advocate from 1990 through 1996.
In 1993, David moved the scene of his retail operations and his family of six to the banks of the Ohio River, establishing the wide-ranging wine program at Bellevue, Kentucky-based The Party Source. From 1997-2002, he divided his time between reporting from Austria, Germany and Hungary for Wine & Spirits and the International Wine Cellar, and importing wines of France (as well as fulfilling numerous other roles) for Cincinnati, Ohio-based wine importer and distributor Vintner Select.
Almost from the beginning of his career as a merchant, David has published articles on wine, beginning with a 1984 piece on Alsace for the long-departed magazine Friends of Wine. His commentary began appearing in Stephen Tanzerís International (then New York) Wine Cellar with coverage of Alsace in 1986 and expanded to include Germany, Bordeaux, and occasionally California and Hungary. His comprehensive vintage reports from Germany (beginning in 1989) and Austria (from 1997) became a staple fixture of that journal.
David's familiarity with and championing of the wines of Alsace, Burgundy, and the Loire has been a constant feature of his quarter century as a merchant. Like Robert Parker, Alsace was the first wine growing region David visited, and in the June, 1990 issue of The Wine Advocate, he was headlined as "The force behind ... this country's greatest selection of Alsace wines." David's fascination with and annual trips to Burgundy began in the early eighties as a result of his contacts with Robert Chadderdon, Robert Haas, Robert Kacher, Becky Wasserman, and other pioneering American importers, and Anthony Hanson, in the second (1995) edition of his seminal book Burgundy, took time to acknowledge and "warmly thank" David. In an October 31, 1995 profile in the Wine Spectator, Matt Kramer wrote "Probably no other retailer so ardently promotes such an array of Loire ... wines as well as Burgundy." Over the past fifteen years, David has also devoted increased attention and travel time to the Languedoc, Roussillon, and Champagne (too often viewed only as a branded celebratory beverage rather than as one of the world's great wine regions).
Always anxious to spot trends, champion little known regions, and lead consumers to unanticipated vinous riches, David enthusiastically accepted Robert Parker's invitation to report on wines from wide tracts of Central Europe and of North America east of the Rockies that have been unjustly neglected by many of the world's wine journals. His report on the wines of New York appeared in the June, 2006 issue of the Wine Advocate and commentary on wines from Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia will soon follow. It is in that same spirit of adventure that David has accepted responsibility for covering wines of New Zealand and South Africa, two growing regions which he will only now visit for the first time.
David has been a James Beard Award finalist for his wine journalism, the recipient of the Vinea Wachau's 2006 Steinfederpreis, and has authored the material on German wines in the newly released 3rd edition of the Oxford Companion to Wine. In recent years, his observations and opinions on wine - soon to include a column as North American correspondent - have begun appearing in The World of Fine Wine (U.K.), and been regularly posted on the ethereal pages of erobertparker.com and jancisrobinson.com. Beginning in Autumn of this year (2006) his musings as a columnist also appear, for a German speaking audience, in Vinaria (Austria). David is currently engaged in bringing his early work in philosophical fields to bear on wine, in which connection he was recently invited as a guest instructor in a pilot course in Aesthetics at U.C. Davis.
Davidís inaugural (vintage 2004) reports in the pages of Robert Parkerís Wine Advocate were based on his twenty-first annual tasting tour of Germany (averaging more than seventy winery visits) and his ninth to Austria. He seldom breaks a sweat until the number of wines (or their score) breaks three figures, and only once caught himself napping on his numb feet, glass in hand, in the middle of a freezing cellar. Since that day, he has taped thousands of hours of tasting notes with nary another inexplicable silence. With the Wine Advocate as his new sounding board, that record bids fair to continue.
After one memorable mid-Ď90s session, Robert Parker wrote to compliment David on his "legendary tasting abilities" and "laser-like precision", concluding: "I am delighted that you are content to be only a part-time wine writer." That will now no longer be the case, but only on account of the unique opportunity afforded him by full time work as a member of Robert Parker's team at The Wine Advocate.
He currently covers the wines of Germany, Austria, Eastern Europe, Americaís Eastern & Midwestern wineries, Alsace, Burgundy, the Loire Valley, Languedoc-Roussillon, Champagne, New Zealand and South Africa.
Photo: Faber and Partners -- Riesling: 1893 Forster