If Sommeliers Talked Like Politicians

June 28, 2011

Sommelier: Good evening. I’d be happy to answer any questions you have about the wine list. I believe the last sommelier you spoke with failed you, and if you take my advice I’ll get you back on the right track.

Me: Uhm. Wow. Okay. Well, I’m having steak and she’s having the pork. Can you recommend a good Californian wine?

Sommelier: No. American wines have gone to pot. We need to get back to making wines like our forefathers.

Me: That sounds serious. Okay, what about an Italian wine? Could you recommend an Italian wine for us?

Sommelier: If you keep drinking Italian wine, in two years America will have a deficit of nine point two bazillion bottles and three out of every four bottles we produce will go to just paying off the Italian producers. That’s why I’m implementing my three point plan to bring America back to American wine.

Me: But I thought you said American wines have gone to pot.

Sommelier: You took that out of context.

Me: But you just said it.

Sommelier: It depends of the meaning of the word “have”.

Me: Okaaaay, will it be American or not? What do you recommend?

Sommelier: I don’t think the American people want to hear about my views on wine.

Me: Why can’t you just answer the question? Why can’t you recommend something?

Sommelier: Because if I’m going to be your sommelier my number one priority will be to repeal the corkage fee. Did you know the corkage fee costs patrons two hundred million dollars a day?

Me: But what do you recommend? I’m asking for a recommendation!

Sommelier: If you take a look at my record, you’ll see I’ve already recommended something.

Me: That’s it. I’m going to alert the management.

Sommelier: It was a sommelier who alerted the British.

Me: What?

Sommelier: That they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our wine, uh, by ringin’ those bells.

Me: I give up.

Sommelier: Mission accomplished.

No skirting the issue or dancing around the subject with this week’s recommendation.

Talbott Kali Hart 2008, Pinot Noir ($16.99): Let me just speak plainly: This Pinot Noir is one of the best I’ve tasted. Talbott takes every flavor profile known to wine and stuffs it into the light body of a Pinot Noir the way creationists are crammed into the front row at a Palin rally. This quality is often not even found in a bottle twice this price.


A Quick Lesson on the Gender of Drinks (or “What Not to Order in a Lumberjack Bar”)

June 14, 2011

Before I was aware that some drinks have gender, I walked into a bar on the Iron Range in northern Minnesota, a bar filled with lumberjacks and steel workers, and ordered a pink squirrel. I know, it should have been obvious but I grew up in a home without booze and was new to drinking so I ordered the only drink I was familiar with–the one my friend’s mom drank. For anyone who tells you that it’s never too late to change your image, I can tell you that in some cases, it is. In this case there was no recovery and in spite of quickly recognizing my error and adding “and make it in a dirty glass!” my masculinity could not be saved that day.

Now anyone who reads this column knows that I don’t really believe that a drink defines you. I repeatedly preach that you should drink what you want. But there is a perception out there in the general public that begs the question, what determines whether a drink is male or female?  To help you sort it out, here are a few basic guidelines.

If a drink: can’t keep the TV on one channel for more than three seconds, won’t buy new underwear until the old ones look like a tattered flag from the civil war, cleans it’s ears with the car keys, or has at least one picture of itself holding a fish—it’s a male drink. If a drink: believes the cat is inconsolable because it doesn’t like its collar, keeps you waiting for everything, owns a miniature tool kit containing nothing more than three tools that are almost broken, or requires four times the closet space of other drinks—it’s a female drink. Remember this when you’re ordering in a Lumberjack bar.

This week’s recommendation definitely leans toward the male gender.

Rosenblum 2008, Richard Sauret Reserve Zinfandel ($27.99): A bit pricy? Yes, but it really delivers. This wine is big and masculine and powerful but at the same time is so surprisingly refined it reminds me of a lumberjack you meet at a party who suddenly begins speaking eloquently about impressionist art. It carries those macho flavors of smoke, tobacco, dark fruit, and leather and then presents them in a way that makes them seem almost feminine. Rosenblum is also the perfect match for barbequed ribs while watching the baseball game—just don’t hand it the remote.


A Simple Plan

June 7, 2011

In high school I had a plan to land a dream date with that girl who was way out of my league. The plan wasn’t foolproof. For it to work, certain things had to happen first. The list was as follows:

–She must be dumped by her boyfriend the day before. Oh, and as he’s walking away he has to say something like, “I’ll take you back if you go on a date with a tall skinny guy first.”

–All her friends have to date dorky guys the week before, and then spend the week saying stuff like, “Dorky guys are so awesome” or “I’ve never been happier since I started dating dorky guys.”

–She must know another guy with my same name. He has to be wealthy and handsome. She must confuse the two of us when I make the call.

–My picture must somehow mistakenly appear in the “Newest Millionaires” section of the yearbook.

–As I pull up to her house in my 1974 Ford Pinto, someone must mistake it for a Lamborghini and yell, “Oh my God! A Lamborghini! She’s so lucky!” (I would prefer this person to be a popular movie star but a parent she’s rebelling against will also do).

–The collective image of the ideal catch must change from striking, strong, and confident, to fastidious, clumsy, and plays the accordion.

If this list seems unlikely, consider the list of what must happen to create a good bottle of wine. Not only do you have to plant the right grapes in the right place, but you have to pick them at the right time, sometimes within a couple hour window. After the grapes are picked, they have specific potentials determined by the vintage and the skills of the grower. The wine maker then has to understand these potentials and be right about his/her decisions regarding blending, aging, and bottling, and all this has to be correct before you even touch the marketing and distribution challenges. Making good wine is a lot like asking out the impossible dream date: if your long list of difficult conditions is not met, you get the wine equivalent of “sorry, I’m washing my hair that night.”

This week’s recommendation:

Flipflop 2009, Chardonnay ($6.99): At seven bucks you don’t mind filling the woman’s glass who adds Mountain Dew to her wine because “bubbles are fun.” At the same time, you aren’t embarrassed to serve it to the snob who “doesn’t drink wine made for peasants.” This wine is creamy and fragrant and a wonderful surprise—like hearing your dream date say yes.


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