Jan 05 , 2016
Welcome to 2016. While I love change, resolutions are not something I generally partake in due to their nature of shattering on week or day 3. Nevertheless, here are some resolutions that I feel will enhance your wine drinking and are much easier to keep than that low carb diet you're contemplating.
"Wine is a grocery not a luxury" This is a wise quote from a Master Sommelier named Richard Betts. If you go to Italy, wine is something that is just always on the table, like bread, olive oil or salt. It's not something that necessarily demands to be contemplated by continuously sticking your nose in the glass (I'm guilty) and spewing off what you perceive to be present. Wine is intended to make the meal more enjoyable, to make the conversation more animated and for the enrichment of that thing we're often oblivious to. Everyday life.
Don't buy wine where you buy your groceries - Yes, of course I'm not partial here but I am concerned about your best interest unlike grocers when it comes to wine. Their prices are high, the majority of wines they purchase without even tasting and usually there is no one there to assist you with any questions. I'm not just saying shop at Craft & Curd (although that would be nice), I'd recommend a number of other independent wine shops around the Bay where you're better off shopping than in a chain. Not because of some abstract concept like supporting small businesses is good but because it is in your best interest. One known exception: BOGO free on wines you know you like.
Try something new - I was very fortunate that when I got into wine over fifteen years ago, I wanted to taste everything and didn't get stuck on one type (OK Argentine Malbec but that was because of the women of Argentina). This promiscuity - with wine that is - lead me to the conviction that I would spend a significant part of my life learning about and working with wine. Wine is a great way to learn about the world. I wouldn't have a clue where to look for Wisconsin (sorry cheese curd customers) on our map but my knowledge of the map of Italy is beyond keen. Look, I can't force people to not just drink Napa Cabernet (I know, I've tried) but please give something different a chance some of the time. You never know what you'll find.
Drink wines of place - The French have a word with no English equivalent (many words, I'm sure) called Terroir which refers to what degree a wine exhibits the characteristics of where it comes from. This is what makes wine so fascinating to me and most of the people who truly fall in love with the stuff (the alcohol part doesn't hurt either). It is nearly impossible to replicate the taste of traditionally made Rioja or Chianti Classico anywhere else in the world besides those regions. Even when other areas use the same grapes that make up those wines, it still can't be mistaken for the original the majority of the time. Terroir can get extremely detailed like tasting the differences in one vineyard plot versus another with all other factors being equal except for say one is planted on chalk the other limestone.
Engage your local wine shop - "Hey Tom, I'm having curried lamb for dinner, what should I drink with it?" "Hey Tom, can you recommend 6 obscure European wines for a dinner party I'm throwing and put together cliff notes so I sound sophisticated." "Hey Tom, can you look at this wine list from a restaurant we're visiting in NY and tell me what looks good?" Yes, yes, yes. I'm here for you, use me (preferably via email or in person, I share the millennial's phone phobia). I've been in this business for a while, have read tons of books and while I forget a lot, I still have enough wine info in my head to bore a grown man to tears.
BYOB to Restaurants - Not everyone knows this but many restaurants allow you to bring your own bottles and will charge you what's called a corkage fee usually consisting of $10 or so (some restaurants like Ocean Prime, believe it or not, waive the fee). I was just reading something about restaurant wine sales still being stuck in the economic turmoil that started in 2008 - I don't find this surprising. Admittedly, I don't fully understand the dynamics of why restaurant prices need to be where they are but I do know that I'm not paying $60 for a wine that I know can be bought retail for $20. No way. I eat in restaurants that are BYOB friendly or get takeout so I can drink whatever I like with the food without having to read a wine list that was written by a distributor and have thoughts of the amazing bottle of wine I could have been drinking if I spent that money elsewhere. A few things to keep in mind, don't stop at Trader Joe's for some of that 3 buck Chuck or whatever it's called nowadays. Bring something special. Make sure not to bring something that's on their list and tip the server as if you had purchased the bottle from them.
Did I say 10? Well sorry that's all I got. Thanks for reading. Don't forget there is no tasting this week but don't let that stop you from stopping by to pickup a bottle or two of something different.