Doug Frost is a Master of Wine and Master Sommelier as well as an author and wine consultant based in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1991, he passed the rigorous Master Sommelier examination, and two years later became America’s eighth Master of Wine. He was the second person in history to complete both exams, and more than a quarter century later he is still one of only three people in the world to have achieved both these remarkable distinctions. According to USA Today, “Frost likely knows as much as anyone in the world about how to make, market, serve and identify wines.”
The Wine Spectator has bestowed the accolade of Master of Spirits on Mr. Frost. In 2006 Frost, along with partners Dale DeGroff, Steve Olson, Paul Pacult, Andy Seymour, and David Wondrich, created BAR (Beverage Alcohol Resource), a spirits and cocktail educational organization; Cheers Magazine selected BAR and its founders as Innovators of the Year for 2007. Frost was awarded Beverage Innovator of the Year 2009 by Cheers Magazine. He continues to teach and examine for BAR and within the Master Sommelier and Master of Wine programs.
His first book, Uncorking Wine, was released in the summer of 1996, and Frost’s next book, On Wine, published by Rizzoli International, was released in the fall of 2001. The Washington Post called it “fabulous, witty, engaging and wise… conveys more accumulated wine wisdom than most books 10 times as thick.” Frost’s most recent book, Far From Ordinary: The Spanish Wine Guide, was released in October 2005; the third edition was released in 2011. He is currently working on his many contributions to the upcoming Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails, due to be released in 2020.
Frost is a contributor to multiple wine, food, and lifestyle publications and has founded and judges many wine competitions over the years. Additionally, Frost is the creator and host of the KCPT-TV hosted short series called FermentNation; the show has garnered two Mid-America Chapter Regional Emmy® Awards, in 2015 and 2017. His previous TV show, Check Please, Kansas City!, was also nominated for a Mid-America Chapter Regional Emmy® Award. He also appears as a featured judge on Public Television’s The Winemakers, PBS’s first nationally broadcast reality show. After a decade and a half Frost continues as United Airlines global wine and spirits consultant, selecting tens of thousands of cases of wines and spirits each year for service aboard the world’s most important worldwide carrier.
He consults with many retailers, restaurateurs, wineries, and distillers in the realms of marketing, merchandising, sales, education, and sensory perception. Mr. Frost lives with his wife and two children in Kansas City, where he spends his spare time listening to his massive punk rock, vintage jazz, and weird music collection.
1. How did you get into the wine business?
I started washing dishes in restaurants when I was 15 and I quickly figured out that there was better money in the front of the house. In the late 70s, I started at a restaurant in Kansas City where there was a wine steward named John Skupny. He took me to my first wine tasting and I was pretty much hooked at that point.
Skupny and his wife today own Lang & Reed, a dedicated Cabernet Franc producer, so I had a pretty great first mentor. There were a lot of good wine people in KC and one of them hired me to be a salesman for a distributor with a ridiculous book – you name it, we had it. I just kept going from there.
2. What are the most frustrating and rewarding parts of your job?
3. What is your most memorable/funniest/craziest wine experience?
That list is absurdly long – early visit with Jim Clendenen at Au Bon Climat or Randal Grahm set my mind whirring in ways it has never stopped. Marius Gentaz-Dervieux, Manfred Prüm, Paul Pontallier, David Lake, Stephen Cary, Paul Draper, Aubert deVillaine, Francois Jobard, Leonardo LoCascio, the list goes on and on for me of people with whom visits were really life-changing.
Maybe most importantly, Kevin Zraly used to come and teach in Kansas City. I learned from him how you can inspire people with wine.
4. What is an upcoming trend you see in wine?
The younger drinkers are insisting that we wineries [Doug owns Echolands Winery in Walla Walla] do more than talk when it comes to restoring nature in the vineyards, respecting the wine as it is, and being responsible to future generations in our choices from grape to glass. I don’t believe in using meaningless buzz words like “clean” or “natural” but we are trying to plant as much bio-diversity on our property as there are vines. We make one pet-nat without sulfur (though most wines require a touch of sulfite) and we’re going to keep going down that path. The trend towards demanding that wineries be respectful of nature, be responsible to its community and to its workers, and to give back whenever possible isn’t going away; it’s gaining strength.
Master of Wine and Master Sommelier
5. What is the best piece of advice someone has given to you?
6. What is one tip you have for someone just getting into wine?
It’s difficult to taste alongside other people these days but it’s something that helps you quickly sort out your sensitivities, preferences, and interests. Other people who are as enthusiastic as you are can teach you a lot even if they don’t have fancy letters after their names.
Oh, and wear a mask. For goodness’ sake, people, put on a mask.
Nominate someone for Wine Pro Wednesday: