Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wine is not Kryptonite


"Wine Guy" to the rescue!

I wrote this wine blurb over a year ago and since it seems like I am being asked the same basic questions about wine by friends and acquaintances alike, I decided to re-post it.

When I go out to a restaurant I often see people treating the
Wine List like it has been infected with the Ebola virus. I am sure many uncomfortable diners would love to be able to have a wine super hero "Wine Guy" fly in and make a wine selection . While there are more and more restaurants who have a Sommelier or a knowledgeable Wine Steward who can assist in making a selection, I get the feeling that many of you have a fear of asking for directions when choosing a wine (kind of like not asking for directions to the Freeway and spending an extra hour driving in the wrong direction).
Well, I am here to say that the wine list is not made out of
Kryptonite and if you want to think of me as a wine Super Hero (but without the cape and the tights) that is up to you.
The next time you are figuring out what to serve with dinner or are going to dinner and you are looking at the "Wine List", just keep in mind a couple of things when trying to pair your wine with your meal.

1. If it grows together, it goes together. Italian food goes well with Italian wines. Oregon Pinot Noir goes well with Salmon, mushrooms, truffles and game. When eating well prepared fresh local cuisine look for the wines of that region as well.

2. Forget the Red Wine w/Red Meat -White Wine w/Fish or Poultry Rule. While a Bordeaux or a California Cabernet go well with a steak you are absolutely allowed to drink whatever your palate says you should drink. If you want to drink a Sauvignon Blanc with a steak ..... do it! Personally anything that hits my grill is getting paired with a red wine that has the backbone to standup to some smoke and spice.

3. Don't be afraid of asking for directions. If the restaurant has a Sommelier use his/her expertise. These people have spent years training their palate (like a runner training for a marathon) and they can be a wonderful resource. Also, don't be anxious about ordering something less expensive on the list. The restaurant doesn't care if you order the most expensive bottle or the least expensive bottle, they want you to have a great dining experience and they want you to come back.

4. Take your own wine- My group of friends are very wine savvy and we all take wine to restaurants. Keep in mind that the restaurant will charge you to open the bottle. The standard term is called a "Corkage Fee". These fees will range between $10-25/bottle. The reason to bring wine is not to save money, it is to enjoy wines that are not on the restaurants wine list. Older wines, limited production wines, wines from mailing lists, etc.

5. Upgrade your stemware- As geeky as it sounds, different wines taste and smell better in different style glassware. If you want to maximize your drinking pleasure use a proper glass. While you can have an almost infinite variety of stemware if you are just starting out, purchase Cabernet/Bordeaux style glasses. These glasses are the most versatile for both red and white wines and by the time you get around to really enjoying Burgundy or new world Pinot Noir you will already have notched up your glass collection a stem or two just by osmosis.

6. EEE-Experiment, Expand your palate, Enjoy!-The more wine you taste, the better your palate will become and the more you will enjoy what you drink. Not to go all Forrest Gump on you, but the wine world is like a 1000 piece box of chocolates-try them all!
Wine can and should be first and foremost a fun experience.

7. Watch a couple of episodes of Wine Library TV- Trust me, Gary Vaynerchuk is doing more to take the "snob" out of wine than anyone I know. Follow the Three-E's and remember as Gary says: "You, and a tiny bit of me, is changing the wine world".

6 comments:

Alex Rushmer said...

'If it grows together, it goes together' is such a great tip - I'll file that one away under M for 'must remember'

Norm Schoen said...

Alex,
Thanks for dropping by. If you think about it, all great wine producing regions have their own great local cuisine. Enjoy!

Jenious said...

Great tips! Thanks for popping by my site as well (palatetopen.com). Feel free to touch base about vino anytime.

Foodycat said...

We went to a wine dinner the other night and they paired a pinot noir with barramundi. It worked brilliantly, and I was just so impressed that they would pull that out for a pretty conservative crowd.

You also forgot the other wine rule to live by: champagne goes with everything except chocolate.

Heather said...

My problem with the wine list is usually the prices. I'm always thinking the waiter will think we're cheap if we go for a lower-priced bottle. That, or sometimes I see a bottle I know and get so pissed at the retail vs. restaurant price difference that it affects my evening.

Norm Schoen said...

Hi Heather,
I wouldn't worry about ordering something less expensive on the wine list. They really don't care and if it wasn't decent it probably wouldn't be on the wine list.
Also, if you are celebrating something special, go ahead and bring a great bottle (like Saxum) and pay corkage.