Tom Leykis isn't "blowing up" call-in listeners anymore. For the pathetically uninformed who are still scanning the airwaves looking for the controversial radio host's lurid, misogynistic antics — which include ending call-ins with offensive sound-clip send-offs such as a bomb, a bong hit, a near-orgasmic woman having sex with Kobe Bryant, or Jesus being nailed to the cross — "The Professor" is continuing to educate and entertain on a more elevated level. He is co-hosting a show about wine, The Tasting Room With Tom Leykis.
Since Leykis' other show ended last year, more and more fans who miss his linguistic levelers are tuning in to hear a kinder, gentler Tom, whose mastery of verbal skills is now being used to explain why understanding wine is as important and enjoyable as deciphering a musical masterpiece or work of art.
Leykis and co-host Adam Leemon are the perfect pairing — the former a self-educated consumer with finely honed radio chops; the latter armed with a Court of Master Sommeliers certificate, a celeb clientele that earned him the moniker "sommelier to the stars," and a seasoned palate.
The two take turns tasting the wares of a featured winemaker or chef — one week Eric Greenspan from the Foundry, another Aidan Demarest from the Edison — complete with on-air pouring, swishing, clinking and spitting sounds while interviewing their guest between sultry jazz interludes.
More important, Leykis and Leemon make wine education fun and accessible. "You can learn a lot about a culture by what they drink," Leykis says. "The type of wine produced in a specific geographic region can reflect personality, artistry, agriculture. It doesn't taste like it sprang out of a Costco parking lot."
To that end, he cites a particular fondness for what's harvested in Northern California. "The region's industry is tied to charitable work," he says. "There's a huge response to rights for migrant farmworkers."
For Leykis, the conscience of the community in wine-producing regions carries over to quality of the product.
Leemon gets down to the nitty-gritty: "The aromatics on this one are outta control. Boy, the honeysuckle, butterscotch and orange-peel notes in this will really give you a lot of bang for your buck. I'd bring this one to a party."
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Listeners get basic tips, too: "You could store this one in your car trunk, since it's only 58 degrees today," Leemon notes, "but as a rule of thumb, it's not a good idea to store wine in your trunk."
To both hosts, however, the show's mission is to take the intimidation out of wine appreciation. "Patronize businesses with sophisticated experts at retailers, wine bars and restaurants like BottleRock and Father's Office. Or go to wine events," Leykis says. "Plead ignorance. Wine people love that. They won't treat you like an idiot."
The Tasting Room airs on KGIL 1260 AM, on Thursdays from 8 to 10 p.m.