The XOJET 10: Anthony Giglio, Wine Wise Guy
Anthony Giglio is a sommelier, educator and author of several books, including Cocktails in New York. He’s also a regular contributor to Travel + Leisure and Food & Wine. Talking with him, you can’t help wanting to hear more, learn more, and most of all, drink a lot more wine. In the hopes of mixing it up a bit, we tried to ask Anthony a non-travel question to end the interview, but he had other ideas. “Wait, wait, hold on a sec, what about luggage? I thought we were going to discuss luggage—I have my answer all ready! Go on, ask me my favorite luggage.” So we did, which was perfect, because he had his bags packed for the 2012 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.
1. Growing up, what was your first dream destination?
Rome. When I was growing up, my grandmother was always talking about going to Rome and seeing the Pope. That stuck with me. We didn’t travel much, so it was this far-off, exotic dream to go back to the Motherland.
2. Tell us about the first time you flew on a plane.
I remember exactly when: I was 20, and I went to Rome to study for a year in 1987.
3. How many days a year do you travel now, and what percentage is for business?
On average, I travel maybe 100 days a year, and 90% of that is for business.
4. When you travel for business, what’s most important to you?
Expediency and comfort. It doesn’t necessarily work out that way, but that’s the goal.
5. What’s the biggest difference between how you travel for leisure and how you travel for business?
It used to be very different: Business travel was business class, and travel with my family was whatever we could cobble together with miles. But with the economy, everything is coach, so there’s no difference when I travel for business except that I have no kids next to me.
6. What was your most luxurious travel experience?
It’s too perfect an answer, but clearly, it was my private XOJET ride home from Pebble Beach to New York City. I mean, it was just preposterously fast—it took four hours—and fabulous. We had Dom Pérignon, a wonderful Burgundy, California Pinots, and caviar. We were spoiled just rotten. I highly approved of the fact that they served white Burgundy, because it would just be too cliché for a California airline to serve a California Chardonnay.
7. How have your attitudes about travel changed over the years?
My first flight to Rome was pretty luxurious, because it was Alitalia in 1987, when flight attendants were like supermodels in these beautiful Armani skirts with jackets and little pill-box hats. They served drinks on little hand trays.
Travel since that day has gone completely downhill. Commercial American flying is hideous. Coach class is getting smaller and tighter; amenities are non-existent. Flight attendants don’t seem really interested in providing excellent service as much as in just doing their jobs. What also bugs me is that given that wine is the number-one beverage consumed in this country today, when flight attendants ask you whether you want a glass of wine, they say, “Red or white?” And if you say, “Tell me about your red,” they can’t answer. There’s no training, no investment in staff or knowledge.
8. How do you spend your time in flight?
I’m a nervous flyer. I don’t sleep well because I’m trying to sleep sitting upright on what’s basically a felt-covered ironing board. I try to get some work done and read a little bit. I’m a sucker for TV—I get sucked right into the movies that I otherwise wouldn’t have the time to watch.
9. What’s the best piece of advice anyone’s ever given you about traveling?
Someone once taught me how to get everything into a carry-on. Which is pretty much my rule of thumb now when I’m not traveling my kids. If it doesn’t fit, it’s not coming.
10. What’s your dream destination now?
I’m dying to get to Hong Kong, although I’m torn between there and Tokyo. I’d love to eat the best sushi on the planet. But believe it or not, I’ve never had an opportunity to go to the Far East. And I’m available, if anyone out there needs me . …
THE XOJET LIST
Favorite city: My wife and I always talk about buying a pied-à-terre in Rome one day, when the kids are grown. I just love Rome—it’s chaos, but I’m a city boy. However, I can’t imagine living anywhere but New York.
Favorite hotel: Alvear Palace in Buenos Aires.
Favorite restaurant(s): If you’re paying, and it’s an expense-account meal, it would definitely be Daniel. If I’m paying, The Nomad. I want to throw in Anfora, a little wine bar in the West Village. And Prune—I love Gabrielle Hamilton.
Favorite resort: This is an aspirational answer, but I’m just going to go for it. I’m dying to get to Blackberry Farm. I’ve been invited to speak at the Wine Geek Weekend, but it’s December 2013, so I have a year-and-a-half to wait. By every account I’ve ever heard, it’s the best resort in the country.
Favorite spa: Wow, this is actually a hard question. I’m not much of a spa guy, though of course my wife is. So I’d say The Remède Spa at The Ritz Carlton in Grand Cayman is beautiful. And I love going to Bliss just about anywhere, though my “local” is in SoHo.
Favorite museum/gallery: The Frick Collection, hands down. I just love the intimacy of it.
Favorite publication(s) to read on a plane: This is where I get in trouble if I don’t say the right ones. I love to read Food & Wine, and Travel + Leisure. The other answer is the New Yorker, which I can actually finish in the air. They pile up in stacks and stacks in my office, but I can really do some damage on a flight.
Favorite travel device: I’m prone to ear infections, but the cure is to put my Bose noise-reduction earphones on over a pair of those equalizing ear plugs called EarPlanes. It’s incredibly stabilizing at takeoff and landing. I don’t use the little mini Bose. I use the big 1970s-style ones.
Favorite cocktail in New York: I’m a diehard Old Fashioned fan. I love Negronis—anything with Campari really turns me on, so they have them ready when I walk through the door at Prune.
Favorite luggage: No one would ever mistake me for a biker, but I look pretty cool strutting around with my black-and-red Tumi Ducati luggage.