Sunday, July 20, 2008

Wine Morons

Last winter we were dining at Restaurant LuLu in the Village at Mammoth Mountain. It was just my husband and I enjoying a nice dinner without the kids. We've been to this Californian/Mediterranean bistro a few times before. They specialize in family sized servings from their wood-fired oven, grill and roaster. They also have a wonderful selection of wines with loads of California, French and Italian selections. They even offer a few flights of interesting wine types such as Burgundian style whites and Rhone style reds.
A group of six arrived and was seated next to us. They were around our age and discussing their children. It soon became obvious that these people were dating each other, singles, not married couples.
When the waitress arrived, the three men deferred to the one among them deemed the wine expert. He was expected to order in a way to impress the ladies. He ordered a bottle of Opus One. They hadn't decided on starters or main courses, they just ordered the wine.
The overpriced Cabernet Sauvignon blend arrived, was opened and then poured out into the six large wine glasses. Soon they were sipping it up quickly. The men exclaimed with gusto - "Ah, that's the stuff" "Yeah, great cab." and the like. The waitress was busy and took a while getting back to their table. They were a bit rude to her as they ordered their appetizers.
The bottle of Opus One was finished before a morsel of food arrived at the table.
Is it just me who thinks this behaviour is ridiculous?
Is it only the price tag of the Cabernet (because it always is a Cabernet) that implies wine knowledge?
Doesn't a big tannic red deserve to breath?
Doesn't a Meritage of that magnitude and over-hype need food, fatty rich food, to be enjoyed fully?
In the wine classes I've taken the first rule we learned was, drink what you like. I take this to heart, fully. Sometimes a $10 red is all a meal needs. The company will appreciate the value, the food is simple enough to shine with something basic but flavorful.
Still other times a wine needs to impress. If it's very important to pair a wine with a meal, I ask for help. I know my limitations and I also know that the sommelier or wine merchant is never used enough and is complimented by a directed inquiry. By directed I mean - know what you like. Heavy or light? Fruity or dry? $20 or $200?
If I was under the pressure of the single rich guy next to us that night, I too may have ordered the Opus One. It certainly impressed everyone at the table. But I also would have been sure to order a wood fired flat bread topped with a few cured meats and cheeses, a platter of grilled vegetables and perhaps even something beefy rich to really pull the flavors out of that bottle.
The quick slurping of that bottle made me sad.
Sad for the guy who missed the other half of his opportunity to impress.
Sad for the bottle, it wanted a slow enjoyment, to be savored and appreciated fully.
Sad for my husband and I for we had to witness their showy stupidity and it was very distracting.

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