Monday, July 29, 2013

Begging You

Can You Let Me

Be Me?

Be that me that only you can see

Let me say what I want

Feel what I need

Let my heart fall out

Watch as I unbutton slowly and step out from behind the cover of kindness

Run your cold metal key along my armor and expose my gentle flesh

Can You?

Can you let me be the me I sometimes need to be?

Will you run your tongue along my steel

Let me shimmy and warm to your touch

Hold my head while I tell you that I’m tired….

Tired of being strong

A fighter

Tough enough.

Can you let me tuck myself into you

Nurse from your soft and full nipple

Remind me that I don’t care what they think

Hold me tight while I writhe and curse

Plant your calloused thumb across my lips

Touch me just enough to inspire my legs, mind and heart to spread

Can You?

Will You?

Won’t You…

Please, I need you more than you know




Five seconds ago…

I need You


Hold me

Fill me

Reassure me 

Feed me

Feel me

Use me....

Kiss me goodnight

Can You?


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sometimes It Just Needs To Be Wet

Wednesday evening I got home from work and kicked off my scuffed brown shoes…my favorite shoes. A pair of men’s somewhat squared toed lace ups that are beginning to take on the look of one of those old trunks you might find in your grandparent’s guest room. Tucked in a corner or at the foot of the bed, hidden under a knitted blanket that has been tossed over the top in an effort to cover all the years of dings and scratches. I never untie them; just use the arch of one foot to peel the heel off the other, used to slip them on the same way but an unfortunate, somewhat Pinot Gris soaked evening in Alsace caused a spinal injury to the backs of my beloved shoes. I have to untie them to put them on now. One would think a normal person might, oh I don’t know…remember this at night when she is balancing herself on the arm of the chair, arch of one foot scrapping the heel of the other. Nope, never crosses my mind, like ever.

I bent down and did the two pronged shoe gather, slipping my pointer and middle finger into my still-warm-from-my-feet shoes, the fragile backs settling against my fingers and tossed them in my “shoe area”. Flipped open my laptop and finished the last little bit of an article on some new wines from the Jura that I needed to get to Randy before The Wine Country’s newsletter deadline. Time to tackle the next task, Rose, I wanted to try and get Randy some write ups on the new 2012 Roses that have either already arrived or will be here by the time our newsletter lands. I sat there in front of my laptop for about forty minutes, (well, I was bouncing back and forth between that and making dinner) blank fucking Word document glaring in my day weary face. As much as I wanted to beat the Thursday deadline I just could not bring myself to try and wax rhapsodic about the flavor profile of each and every French Rose I’ve tasted in the past two months. Any guesses why?

Because it’s Rose people! When I am tasted on these fantastic refreshing little wines I take very copious notes, (um because I know I am going to be charged with having to write them up) and they are very detailed. So here’s the thing, when you lay week’s worth of tasting notes…on Rose in front of you they kind of look….similar. Now I can write up a bunch of Loire wines, Rhone wines, even Burgundy and I can point to all the delicate and subtle differences with those wines, the history…the rarity, the vineyards but with Rose the range and scope are a bit narrower. These wines are not profound and they were never meant to be.

For years Rose was dismissed here in the US and with the vats of crap pink wine that people sucked back, and in some cases…ended up horking up I don’t blame folks for being resistant, hell I still have a hard time even nuzzling a man with Bourbon on his breath….long very bad evening that I still refuse to talk about. But with more travel, more interest in food and seasonal eating, importers, restaurants and retailers bending the ear and palate of the consumer, people have opened their minds and hearts to these gulpable summer sippers and now, well now they are all the rage. Our store has been touting Rose for years, Randy climbed atop his soapbox like 17 years ago and challenged people to forget what they thought they knew about pink wines. Took a few years but now we sell around 700 cases of Rose between April and September. People make pilgrimages to our shop, driving from Arizona and Las Vegas, (um perfect places for Rose by the way) to stock up on a summers worth of “Pink wine” also part of the reason I am slammed with suppliers wanting to sample me on this new Rose they are importing….sigh, freaking band wagon. Always ends the same way, “Yeah it’s okay but the ones we have are so much better…and cheaper” we hooked up with the guys that were in the know like years ago, so “Johnny come I better get me one” just isn’t gonna cut it for our customers.

So with that “hottest thing” deal with regards to wine you get the over analyzers. The folks that feel the need to geek out on anything and everything wine. These are the same folks that grill me about Nouveau Beaujolais, ask about brix and insist on knowing what the wine is made from. I wouldn’t mind this so much if these folks were really even listening or talking notes or something….they aren’t, they just want to show you how serious they are about wine. I dig that, I understand it in a way, I too am really serious about wine but….not all wine is “serious”.

To spend your time and energy breaking down Rose is missing the point entirely. These wines were made to just drink. Yeah I said it…just drink. Designed to quaff during the warm summer months when it is a tad too stifling to suck back heavy reds, it’s like ninety degrees out and you are grilling up steaks in the backyard….sure a Cabernet might go with that steak but the heat has you aching for something just a bit more refreshing, brighter, and fresher. This, this is where Rose belongs and what it was created for.

Rose is much like a Martini in that it is as much as a feeling as it is a beverage. Rose is about lingering in the yard, warm afternoons, picking at little bits of food while talking about Tiger Woods or whatever with family, neighbors and friends. Rose is a grownups summer break, our time to let our over active brains take a vacation. What goes best with the bounty of ripe, succulent summer produce, um Rose. What shall I serve with barbecued chicken, ribs or fish…um, Rose. It’s so easy that I simply cannot understand why anyone would look to make it harder. “Is it more like white or more like red?” is really all anyone needs to know.

When you start over analyzing Rose it is like looking too closely at that trunk in your Grandparent’s guestroom or my scuffed up, spinally compromised shoes. Asking yourself why all those dents, dinks, scratches and scruffs are there instead of seeing that life has happened to them. Those trunks hold years worth of art projects, photos and letters….my jacked up shoes have been with me all over France and Spain and when my feet are in them my head is held higher. Life, history and memories are all over those trunks, my shoes and your next bottle of Rose. Pop the cork, sip away at something easy, refreshing and life enhancing.

Sometimes it just needs to be wet, let your life, your memories be your tasting notes.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hitting My Sweet Spot

Okay so those of you that have been reading this silly blog for any length of time are fully aware of my somewhat odd aversion to almost everything sweet. I drown my fruit in lemon juice and salt, I avoid dessert and dessert wines like I owe them money and I am one of those freaks that has absolutely zero love for chocolate. I was once kind of challenged by a friend’s wife when I mentioned that I hated chocolate. She seemed perplexed and even more so when I mentioned that maybe once or twice a year I would get a craving for peanut butter and chocolate ice cream….something I threw out in order to keep from looking like a total freak. “But chocolate tastes its best at palate temperature. When it melts in your mouth” she explained and as I sat there trying not to look like an ass I thought, “Exactly. It gets more intense, creamier and in my opinion more flaccid when it’s warm which is why the only way I can and do crave it is in its chilled and rigid form” it’s not that I don’t get it, I just don’t like it…flaccid and palate coating sweetness just doesn’t do for me.

I prefer Madeira to port and cream sherry, finding that bit of savory almost beef broth like and citrus thing in a Bual Madeira far more enticing and craveable than berries, cassis and caramel. I will happily trade you my dessert for your cheese plate, I find many new world wines a little too sweet upfront (Charlie, I said many and that in no way implies all) and the only cookie I really dug as a kid was Gingersnaps…but with a little pile of sharp cheddar cheese to wash down each bite. Just a freaky quirk I’ve had for I don’t know….the past thirty something years. That being said I am a wine buyer and wine specialist so there are times when I do have to suck up my preferences, like when I was taken to Spain with a group to learn about and taste (like a million) Sherries and where each estate fed us not one but two desserts at each meal….dude, you would think I was working the New York Stock Exchange with the amount of trading I did there. But like I said, I have to forget for a moment what I like personally to taste things I’m either presented to bring in the shop or to educate myself on the things we already have. Part of the job and it’s not like I have to drink them.

This past Saturday night found the husband and I invited to a dinner party at the home of a couple that we have hung out with, casually, a couple times and enjoyed so much that we didn't think twice about accepting the invitation from. I somehow knew their home would be one of those magazine ones in all its perfectness. I'm cool with that and I rather like feeling the extra heavy clunk of my uncivilized heels as I walk, invited, though a home like that. I was looking forward to it the entire afternoon at work but there was one itchy bit that made me slightly uncomfortable....I had offered to pick the wines for dinner.

Normally this would be a non issue. I'm not so much with the cocky but I am pretty confident when it comes to food and wine pairings, thing was, I only had a rough draft of the menu, which in of itself can be unnerving but there was to be not one, but two guys at this dinner party that have been deeply immersed in the studying for and taking of sommelier exams. Fuck. Me. This is not the same as just picking wines for dinner, even my own dinner. Picking wines, to pair with food, for these guys that have had their noses, brain and palates so twisted around the studying of wine, as a supposed wine specialist?! Yeah, unnerving doesn't even begin to cover it. Saturday morning I walked the aisles of the shop for thirty minutes before we opened. Just quietly walked through the rows, my eyes falling upon this bottle and that, stopping when I wanted to consider or hover over a wine just a little longer. I ran flavor profiles through my aging mental Rolodex and quicker than I thought, I had wines chilling in the back fridge. 

I was all set and feeling mildly smug until I thought of the one course I had offered to bring, the cheese course. Dammit. Again this would be, in any other situation, an easy one for me. Cheese is my longest passion and wine and cheese is easy when I get to pick and don't have to try and beat the fuck out of a round peg and try to cram it into a preconceived square hole. There were no rules or boundaries to my course and selections and that kind of freedom, for the well learned and recently saturated palate...too much freedom and too many thrilling options as it turns out. Grabbed a luxuriously gooey round of La Tur, (Italian cow, sheep and goat milk blend), Fiscalini Cheddar, (rocking domestic cow's milk cheddar that makes me swoon) Pilota, (with all its sexy, salty, creamy sheep's milk salinity) and St Agur, (quite frankly the best blue cheese, ever) shoved them into the fridge with the preselected dinner wines but now, what wine...of all the hundreds we have to offer, to serve with cheese? Or, did we need wine at all?

It was while running cheeses to my son to prepare for the store's Saturday tasting that I stopped in the liquor department and remembered a wicked cool, sweet but hauntingly seductive liqueur...

My first encounter with the thick, luscious and shiver inducing liquid rattled me. Shook my bones, the Louis Roque Liqueur de Chataigne, (Chestnut Liqueur, $25.99) stunned me with it complexity and shook my....well all my bits. There was something so alluring about the aromas.....sure there was clearly a nutty thing but it wasn’t the dominate aroma. The nose was loaded with wild honey, cinnamon, clove and allspice, reminded me of the incense my stoner friends would burn as to not alert their parents they were smoking pot…wicked smart those stoners. I remembered taking the glass to my lips and recalled finding myself a little impatient with the speed at which the thickish stuff moved up the glass and into my mouth but fuck, once it got there all was forgiven. No doubt the stuff is sweet but just for a brief second really as all that clove, sandalwood, cinnamon and allspice, this massive middle of warm cooking spice becomes not only the middle of the liqueur but the center of attention, you can feel it coating the inside of your mouth and creeping up into the nasal passages. Never had a wine or spirit do that, not so intensely anyway and to call the finish haunting is an almost criminal understatement. As unique, alluring and sexy liqueur as I have ever had the pleasure to taste. Sort of sick actually...and just what I needed. 

Left the party with every bottle, including the rare liqueur, emptied. Felt kind of successful and stuff. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

How Dare You Use The "S" Word?!

So I have been wrestling with this post, not the writing part (which is my usual issue) but if I should even bother. It’s been done, the argument had and the outcome is always the same…nothing is ever resolved, both camps believing they are right and the other must be high. So why bother bringing it up again…just not so good with the whole, “leaving well enough alone” deal I guess. After tasting and commenting on a bunch of California wines this past weekend the whole thing came up again….sweetness.

Now before anyone goes jumping on my neck let me just say, sweetness, perceived or actual is all in the palate of the beholder. I don’t wish to continue the argument about what is sweet and what is not, or if the, “perceived” sweetness is from actual residual sugar, alcohol or oak…wanna know why? Because it doesn’t freaking matter! Who cares what is giving the “impression” of sweetness, if the wine tastes sweet, it is freaking sweet. This thing drives me nuts, every time I taste something and say, “it’s a little sweet” I get to hear the speech again, “Oh no, that wine is not sweet, there’s no RS on that wine. If you are getting a perceived sweetness it might be from the oak” this speech is always delivered with the slightly aghast, how dare you say that, face.

Two things about this whole thing twist my undies; one is the arrogance of one person telling another what they are tasting or worse, that they are tasting wrong…who the hell do you think you are?! What I taste, how I taste and my perceptions are correct…for me. Would I turn around and tell a customer that the wine is sweet, probably not, not unless I knew their palate well enough to know that it would likely taste sweet to them. All taste is subjective, some people have a higher threshold for sweetness than I do, matter of fact I think most do. I don’t drink soda, will take cheese over dessert every time and I even put salt on my fruit for balance, I don’t find pleasure in sweetness but I would never call it a flaw. The other thing that gives my knickers a twist is the fact that those people that scrunch up their face when I say I am getting sweetness on a wine, see that as me pointing out a fault or flaw….when did, “sweet” become a bad word?!

I just don’t get it, some of the world’s greatest wines are sweet, some of the most respected, most sought after, most expensive…but I mention that I got sweetness on a Marcassin Pinot Noir and I get the scrunchy face and speech. Did I say I didn’t like the wine? Did I say that it was in any way jacked up?! No, as a matter of fact I rather liked the wine, it was sweet to me but I still liked it, was still able to taste things beyond the initial, “perception” of sweetness…so what gives? Why the defensive attacks on people’s palate when they mention sweetness? Why be defensive at all? Somehow we can talk about animal pee and poo but mention sweet and the fancy pants wine police thump you about the head and shoulders. Fruit is supposed to be sweet right; I mean you rarely see a shelf talker that says, “aroma of nowhere near ripe cherries” now do you?

"This wine was sort of created for the U.S. market. You know, to be a crossover wine" the second the words leaped from my lips I could feel the fur beginning to gather around the neck of the woman I was pouring it for. "And what is that supposed to mean?" the lips pulled into the start of a snarl, the eyes now narrowed and suspicious as they honed in on me like heat seeking missiles. You know that high-pitched sound that a landmine emits right before it blows up....this felt a little like that. And Ms. What'sWrongWithMerica was clearly on the verge of being offended. I went on to explain to the now way-too-focused-on-my-every-flipping-word woman, that the wine in question, the one with the edgy label sporting in big chunky script the word Grenache on it, that it was made in a more fruit forward, flashier, more showy...on the fruit side, style. "What does that have to do with American palates?" she asked, those eyes taking in my every wrinkle and laugh line, nose raised high and alerting me of just how bent out of shape my words, or moreover the implication, was making her. Now this is where a salesman/woman might have started a tappy dance of, "Looka this way!" but it was the educator in me that ached to have the woman understand, so I went for it, "Well the American palate tends to favor things on the sweeter side" yeah, took less that half a second to know that I had peed all up in her Frosted Mini Wheats. 

What followed was a sort of tennis match of comments, hers assuring me that she didn't like sweet things in the least as she sucked back Banyuls like it was iced tea and mine, trying to be soothing and far from accusatory as I brought up things like pancakes, waffles, cinnamon rolls and breakfast cereal all of which are foods so sweet they might be served as dessert in other parts of the world.....not that there's anything wrong with that. The soda pop and catchup culture that has shaped the American palate and how even our wine culture, which is younger than most, has been shaped and molded to suit a particular critic's palate that is very much drawn to ample, supple and ultra-ripe fruit. Maybe I should have worked on my tap dance moves because this woman was about a million miles away from cutting me any slack. I felt a little defeated but as I watched Ms. America grab her bottles of Rombauer Zinfandel and Peach "Champagne" I realized that it wasn't sweetness in wine that offended her, it was simply the word sweet that put a hitch in her get-a-long....really?! What the hell gives? When did sweet become a dirty word?  I mean, it's not like we use sweetness to make things like medications or vitamins all candy like so we'll take them....oh wait. 

Sweet in no way implies inferior when I use it and it is miles away from a negative sensation or flavor when it comes to wine but pretending that certain things don't leave the impression of sweetness is just silly and creates an even bigger divide or hurdle when trying to get the consumer what they really want to drink. When you've been selling wine to the general public for a long time you start to pick up on the little reads or tells, pulling the important, (to the person that will in fact be drinking the wine) names from in between emphatic assurances of "I like a big, bold, dry red!" nodding when the name "Opolo" or "Rombauer" follow, I have figured out how to do it but it would just be so much easier if we stopped treating sweetness as if it were a suggestion of an immature palate or somehow a bad thing....dang it.

That feels better.  

Sunday, July 14, 2013



But things like this give me hope. Thank you Wesley Hall for posting this and understanding. You make me proud young man.

(Shared on Facebook)

"Man, I'm just glad I had a mom who gave me the realness from a young age. I can remember thinking she was so stuck in the past for telling me that I couldn't do or say or wear certain things, that I could not stay out as late as my white friends could, that I could not "experiment" with any of the things my white friends did. I struggled so much with her for trying to impress upon me the fact that I was different. Because I'm supposed to be. I lived in a nice house, spoke more than one language, was well educated and well socialized and I did not understand why I needed to constantly act in a manner designed to disarm another person's suspicions about me.

But wow, I get it now. Every black kid has that moment where he has to decide to accept the armor that his parents present to him to get through life as an American black male, or walk around naked. And the crazy part is, it’s probably something most people outside of the black community never see. I can remember my mom talking to me over and over and over again about what to do and who to call if I was ever picked up by a police officer. She made sure I knew that I needed to declare that I was exercising my Miranda rights rather simply evoke them without notice. If you were in JNJ your mom probably made you take a WHOLE FREAKING CLASS on how to deal with police officers and other people who were perceived to be threatening.

And I say that to say that as scary as people think black males are, black males are conditioned to be ten times more afraid of everyone else. We’re conditioned to be afraid of goin to certain parts of the country, afraid of people with certain political view, afraid of police officers, and sometimes even afraid of other black and latino males. The most sickening thing about this whole trial has been the deliberate campaign to rob Trayvon of his right to be afraid. I know I would have been.

And I owe her the deepest of apologies for all of the times that I accused her of overacting or impressing a vision of a society long since passed on the one that exists today.

It doesn’t matter how well traveled you are or how many languages you speak or who where you went to school. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have or how much good you’ve done in the world. From afar we are all the same.

It used to hurt when my mother would tell me I couldn’t put my hood up or that I couldn’t stay out as late as my white friends. She told me I was a young black male and I couldn’t afford these things and I figured she never knew how much it hurt for be to know that she did not have faith that I could transcend the many stereotypes that swirl around me and be seen as an individual.

But when I think about my own mother having to come down the police station, and Identify my naked body and come home and go in my room that would feel strangely empty. She would have to walk past my favorite custom built aquarium and the framed boards my class in japan made for me on my last day of study abroad, she would have to open my closet and go through all of the clothes I would never wear again and find my favorite suit and then walk out of a room where every object holds a memory.

She would have to go on interviews and meet with lawyers and try to be strong in the face of unimaginable tragedy. While people picked apart my character and found every facebook status where I cursed or every stupid picture I was ever captured in. She would have to sit in court and dignify people who sought to put me in the ground with not a shred of justice with her presence and her silence. And then on top of that, after a year of pain, to hear from 6 other mothers that my life meant nothing........

And the thought that after 24 hours of labor, thousands of dollars on tuition and extra curriculars and trips and summer activties, and millions of tiny sacrifices that she could be left with the dust of my memory and the guilt of having not prepared me for this thing called America.

I joke about it, but I know how much I mean to her. Before I go parasailing I think about her, and before I jump in the ocean I think about her, and when I had tigers crawling all over me and licking my face I was thinking about her. But I did those things because I knew that even if I got poisoned by a cobra or mauled by a tiger, I know it would have been hard.......but she would have derived comfort from knowing that I died pursuing happiness, adventure, and experiences that are worth their risks.

But I know that she would never ever be able to recover from knowing that I died the way that Trayvon died. And so I understand so well why she taught me to think about the world in the way that I do. To remember how to love life, be open to others, but to always remember who I am and to be so secure in who I am, that I accept that I must constantly think and behave with consideration for that one person who might think they already know.

I have fought with my mom, dad, and stepdad about what it means to be a young black man in 2013. And I have at times been annoyed at all of them for presenting me with my constraints. But I am so lucky to have been armed with the truth at such and early age. The world can be so confusing for us. So much kindness, and so much cruelty. We've all accused our parents of over estimating the dangers out there. But they managed to teach us not to allow this country to fill us with fear, while simultaneously not allowing it to rob us of our vigilance. Shout-out to all of the parents out there, giving that extra course on how to keep your children from being victimized in a society that does not believe that they can be victims"

Friday, July 12, 2013

Everybody Was Kung Food Fighting

I think I may have mentioned, like a couple seventy times, that I simply adore getting my hands on a menu and getting my wine dork swerve on. I absolutely dig the rush, the tingle really, of sorting through the onion skinned pages of my mental taste and textural dictionary…picking things up, taking a sniff, a virtual bite if you will, trying to click together the Lincoln Logs of a menu and wandering around the shop trying to find a wine that will best match, or better yet, frame that meal and give that, “Please help me” customer the best possible combination of weight, acidity, flavor and structure. This is a service that The Wine Country offers that no other stores in the area do, this not only makes me proud it pushes me even harder. My goal always being that anyone that comes in looking for food and wine pairing advice walks away feeling as if they were heard, their dish taken seriously and with bottles they can feel confident will not only be to their liking but will be harmonious with their meal. It’s what we do and it is one of my favorite parts of the job. That being said, there are times when this particular challenge, well it’s more like a mission impossible….

Now I know people are kind of in love with the idea of food and wine dinners, the romantic notion of a wine perfectly paired with each course. I get it, hell I have those notions myself but the fact of the matter is perfection in anything is rare and with food and wine, well magnify that rarity by like a thousand. There are only a handful of times that you will find that absolute perfect pairing and more often than not, it’s when there are the least amount of ingredients involved. Oysters and Muscadet or Sancerre, roast chicken and white Burgundy, goat cheese and Sauvignon Blanc, aioli and Provencal Rose, French fries and Blanc de Blanc all simple and stunningly beautiful together but add one thing; a little cocktail sauce on that oyster, a spice rub on that chicken or fruit chutney on that goat cheese, no matter how small the change might seem it does in fact change the wine options, often dramatically.
“I need a wine to go with chicken” or “I’m looking for something that will go with pasta” well those things tell us nothing really, I mean unless you are actually going to eat plain chicken or a plate of sauce free pasta, we need to have all the information to make the best possible suggestion and even then, well sometimes there just isn’t a wine up to the task. As versatile as wine is there are times, when no matter how badly you want it to be, there is no way wine and food pairing “perfection” can be attained, often…with the menus that I have come across as of late and the rather trying trend of piling on of “more” ala Emeril and Bobby Flay well wine is downright unwelcome. Trust me, kills this wine geek to admit that, to concede that no matter how much we tout wine and its place at the table that there are some tables….some dishes where wine just doesn’t have a place.

So what do we wine geek, pairing freaks do in such situations? Well much to the annoyance of some of our “Help me” customers we are brutally honest…okay not brutally, it’s not like we stand there saying, “Dude, are you high?! Why in the hell would you want to serve Moroccan spiced lamb with mango chili chutney with a side of blue cheese grits?! An actual course for a menu we were brought last week. Not only does that sound hideous to me, those two things on one plate but we could not think of one wine that was going to do anything good to that mess. When the customer was told, flat out, that there was no wine that was going to taste really good with that, that the flavors there were all pretty….um, aggressive and they might want to consider a “lighter beer” for a match to them, we were met with a shrug and a, “we want to do a wine pairing dinner not a beer pairing dinner. So whatever wine you think would be an okay match is fine” that kind of shit right there just baffles the hell out of me.
So you want to do a wine and food dinner but you pick foods that are in no way wine friendly and then try and bend a wine to fit into this crazy mixed up bag of flavors…..well no wonder there are people out there that think pairings are a load of horseshit. Kind of like the couple that kept me tied up for a solid half an hour teaching them about French wines, which they admitted they knew nothing about and after explaining harmony at the table, balance and texture they told me, “Okay so we want a Bordeaux (they had heard Bordeaux was the best French wine…best for what I don’t know) that will go with a Chinese buffet of mostly fish and vegetables. Oh and it needs to be from an odd year”….head imploding.  Or the woman that was doing a big company dinner and needed a Cabernet Sauvignon for New York steaks and grilled sea bass, (they were serving both you see) and when told that there really wasn’t a Cabernet that would be great with grilled sea bass told me, “Okay. Well just pick whatever Cabernet you think would be best with the fish then”…..picture my scrunched face here. When these things happen I get all bunched up, twisted and irked. Stomp around after they leave pointing my finger and bemoaning the fact that they “don’t get it!” but it occurred to me a few months back…sometimes it’s me that doesn’t get it.

Many of these people just don’t care. It’s the doing of the dinner, the planning the menu, the having friends over, the mere idea of it all that pleases them. It’s fun and for some, makes them feel kinda fancy, the actual balance of flavors….well that’s not the point for these cats, (I mean c’mon, Moroccan spiced lamb, fruit and chilies AND a side of blue cheese grits?!) and no matter what we dorks say, how often we tell them that Opus One and oysters is a bad pairing, it doesn’t matter. It’s what they like and honestly, we have no business telling them anything different. For someone that preaches balance all the time it became very clear to me that I needed a little of my own. So what if our Stella Rosa, (a sweet sparkling red that tastes kinda like marshmallows) customers drink that wine with their steak or spaghetti and meatballs. It may give me the gag shivers but they dig it and putting a bottle of Barbera d’Alba or Cotes du Rhone in their hand, while a better match for the food…is not a match for those people and all that’s gonna do is turn them off wine, not the smartest move for a store that relies on return customers right?!
So while these pairing deals are a favorite part of my gig they can, at times, be little more than a head cracking dance of frustration and bewilderment. It’s a fine line between offering assistance and just being an ass and for all my talk about harmony and balance there is nothing more harmonious than watching a customer walk out the front door, bottles in hand, grin on their face because their local wine merchant actually listened to what they wanted. Oh I’ll still offer my suggestions, tell them why I think that Petite Sirah they have in mind might be a “Little much” for the Bacalhau dish they are making and suggest something more along the lines of Pinot Gris or Pinot Blanc….try my damndest to get them to take both and experiment for themselves, (which is how I snag em’ and end up with return “please help me” customers) watch them leave with my fingers crossed that the little switch will go off for them when they have an actual pairing moment.

Teaching not preaching…..rough but if it brings more people to the wine drinking table, I’m all in. Baby stepping our customers into the world of food and wine pairing, explaining the wine should be a component to the dishes on the table and not some afterthought or accessory. This too is a service that The Wine Country offers, that no one else in town does, and for the ten people that shrug off our recommendations there are fifty that willingly take our suggestions and have faith in our years of figuring this shit out. Good odds and the more we handle these “food fights” with grace and not dogma….well the more people will come to trust that we like know what we’re talking about and junk. 

Now if I could just get those chefs and “Food & Wine” writers to quit making my job so goddamn hard! Fuckers…..