On Thursday afternoon The Wine Country had an, "All American" commuter tasting, we featured Zinfandel and Burgers, a classic of sorts but I have to tell you that my eyes were rolling the second I saw it on the calendar. I know people love Zinfandel and I know there is a lot to love about it, big juicy fruit, spicy and loaded with flavor but with food.....I'm sorry I for one am not drinking the Kool-Aid. I watched a sizable crowd come breezing through our door that afternoon, I watched them munch on piles of tiny burgers and wash it down with California's wine darling and then I watched them walk over to the cold box and pull out bottle after bottle of cold Rose to take home with them, "Now that makes sense" I thought. After mouthful after mouthful of fatty meat and dough ones palate might be in the need of a little refreshment!
I also witnessed Randy tasting through the wines while taking a bite of burger with each and I swear he just looked so disappointed. I walked over to him in an almost maternal manor, he looked a little lost standing there with a half eaten slider clutched in his hand. The crowd was filtering out and the rest of the staff was busy cleaning up but there he stood amidst the nearly empty bottles of Zinfandel looking like someone just told him there was no Easter Bunny.
"These wines do nothing for this food" he said and it seemed like just uttering the sentence pained him. "The wines taste great but after I take a bite of the burger they just taste hot and thin" I just stood there nodding at him and feeling like I could see the shell I had been trying to crack for years peel away like a perfectly cooked hard boiled egg. Randy kept sputtering his shock and disappointment all over me and when he paused I slipped in, "I personally like Rose or white wine with foods like this" to which he replied, "Well yea, to cut the fat" now I was standing there looking like I just saw the real Easter Bunny! He is agreeing with me?! White wine with meat, I talked about white wine with meat and he not only listened but is agreeing with me? The world of Wine Country just spun around us for a minute while the two of us tried to adjust to this whole new way of thinking.
I'll admit to being a bit on the fringe of the wine world in that first of all I think people should drink what they want and all of us "professionals" need to respect and understand that there are different levels of palate sensitivity, just because I find it sharp, unbalanced or clunky does not mean everyone does. I also think that many of the old school wine rules are bullshit. I'm sure at one time they made sense but lets evolve already! White wine with fish and chicken....um what about Salmon, Tuna or chicken braised in red wine...still white? Not to mention all the fish and spices that are available to us now, times they are a changing right? Red wine with meat now this is gonna be the tough one but you ever squeezed lemon on a grilled steak? Tastes really good and the lemon adds a little snappy freshness to a fatty steak...know what else would...Sauvignon Blanc! The protein matters much less than the preparation and with all the fantastic foods that we eat now the wine pairing possibilities are endless....
Thirty something years ago when California wine was just starting to make a name for itself and Americans were beginning to really take an interest in wine we were limited by what we knew, not so much Thai, Korean, Indian, Cajun, Spanish, (you get where I am going with this?) food at our fingertips and the fresh food movement was just getting started. It has been a long road with plenty of bumps along the way but this country has come a long way in the evolution of our palates and it is time for the wine world to catch up! We have moved on from T.V. dinners, 8 tracks, leaded fuel, Polaroids & Spandex so our cars, radios, cameras and wardrobes are on board.....come on wine people...wake up, the world is waiting!