Monday, March 06, 2006

I Finally Met The Wine Expert

I finally met the "Wine Expert," and here I thought it was just another urban legend.

The front door of the winery suddenly opened and there was this very tiny woman. She had a big smile on her face, and as she held the door open, she exclaimed, "My brother in-law is here from Sonoma. He knows a lot about wine." She continued to keep the door open, as if she was holding it open for royalty. Then, to my surprise, in plopped this large and rather massive man, and he was here to teach this “lil’ lady” (moi) a thing or two about wine. In fact, he was here to teach the whole state of Washington about wine. He proudly wore a t-shirt that was especially made for his trip to the State of Washington. It read:

Sonoma Makes Wine
Napa Makes Auto Parts
Washington Makes Apples

Oh this was going to be fun. I couldn't contain myself, so immediately I questioned him about Washington making apples. "I thought we grew apples," I said. "Not so," said our Sonoma visitor. Washington “makes” apples. I soon learned that I was up against wine-brilliance-extraordinaire. A legend in his own mind. It was difficult, but I behaved myself. Afterall, he was my guest.

I offered the Wine Expert (WE) a taste of our various wines. He was only interested in the off-dry Reisling and seemed to enjoy it. He sampled the unique Syrah Rose’ (dry), but it was not to his liking. It was not sweet. According to the WE, Washington has a lot to learn from Sonoma because we cannot seem to make a Rose’ sweet enough. Aiiiyiiiiiyiiii! Next down the line up was our selection of reds. Oh this was going to be fun, as that particular day was a rare one, as we were offering a taste of our $45.00 proprietor’s blend. 

Nope, he wasn't interested in our reds, at all. Odd for a wine expert. Usually self-proclaimed wine experts enjoy reds and steer clear of white wines. Today's line-up was our usual varietals - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Zinfandel. The WE wasn’t interested in
any of them, other than the Zinfandel. He claimed that all of the red wines in Washington State made his mouth "feel like cotton. "

The WE knew his stuff when it came to Zinfandel. Most of what he said was correct. The WE explained to me that California was the leader in Zinfandels and that Washington State was a mere babe in comparison. I agreed. As I poured the WE a sample of our Zinfandel, he commented it was red. Well yes, Zinfandels are red. He wanted to know what was wrong with this Zinfandel? Silly me. The WE asked for a Zinfandel, not a Merlot. This Zin isn’t anything like the pink color of California Zinfandels? WE mentioned that he had not seen a pink Zinfandel in any of the wineries he visited in the State of Washington. According to WE it was apparent that we had a lot to learn about Zinfandels from California. He was correct about one thing - not seeing any "pink color" Zinfandels in the State of Washington and hopefully there will never be one - - or at least like the boxed ones from California. 

In the mean time, his sister in-law beamed with pride, and the same time looked at me with pity that I didn't have the wine knowledge as her wine connoisseur brother in-law 

The WE continued to educate me about wines. He told me how he enjoyed wine made from Burgundy grapes. I asked him which Burgundy grapes? Chardonnay? Pinot Noir? Gamay? No, he informed me. "Those are not Burgundy grapes, especially Chardonnay. Chardonnay is a white grape, not Burgundy color." The WE "edumacated" me that in Sonoma there were rows and rows of Burgundy grapes. He further went on to tell me he enjoyed Chablis. I asked, "So you enjoy Chardonnay?" "Yes," he said "and the Chablis from California." Silly me. All this time I thought Chablis was a region in France known for their Chardonnay. When I told him my small seedling of knowledge about Old World Burgundy and even white Burgundy, I was quickly dismissed. Whatever “they” are teaching me in the State of Washington is wrong and I had a lot to learn from California, he informed me. 

Riiiiiight - and Gallo of California sells jugs of red plonk illegally labeled "Burgundy" and have led the grocery store wine consumer on for years that there is a grape by the name of Chablis.

It was time to bid our WE a farewell and I did it with a big smile. I bid him farewell and told him to keep up the good work spreading his knowledge of wines throughout our fair state.

That evening in bed, I woke up in a sweat remembering a snippet of my past. I remembered serving wine to a man that looked awfully familiar to me, but I could not place where I had seen him before. A pleasant, but quiet and rather distinguished-looking man who gave me the impression he didn't want to be noticed (and no, it was not the "Sonoma Wine Expert"). I poured our selection of wine and did my sales pitch explaining all of the tasting notes and food pairing ideas - - all the time I kept wondering who he was. Later, on the drive home from the tasting room, it dawned on me. It was James Laube - the real wine expert, Senior Editor of the Wine Spectator magazine! I was sure of it!

All of a sudden panic crept in. Did I blab on and on to Laube like the "Sonoma Wine Expert" did to me? Was Laube rolling his eyes at me in the back of his brain? Did I say anything stupid to the Senior Editor of the Wine Spectator? Will he write a column titled "The Walla Walla Wine Expert Hick" that blathered incessantly about something she knew nothing about? Did I pronounce "Meritage" like "heritage" or was I trying to be cool and pronounce it like I was from France with "Mari-taaaahhhhjj?" Did I say "War-shington Murr-lott?" Paranoia was surging through my body and voices were running wild through my tin-foil cap and metal teeth fillings - -"They're laughing at you in the coffee room of the Wine Spectator!"

Since then, I have been soothed by my wine peers with pats on my head, pathetic stares and glasses of wine assuring me that I am going to be okay. The difference between me and the WE? While I woke in a paranoia soaked sweat, he was probably sleeping very sound dreaming of being Superman saving the wine world in a gold lame' outfit trimmed with grapes. I wish for a cold and frosty breeze to go up his toga skirt.

PS: Before the WE left the building, he signed the mailing list. For those of you who live in the Sonoma area or in any part of California wine country, would you like his address? You need to replace him and get a new representative for your California wines.
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