Aug 19, 201012:00 AM
All there is to sip and savor in New Orleans
No doubt it has always been so, but it seems we of the Homo sapiens persuasion have a piece of our DNA devoted to being –– and this is a scientific term –– snotty.
Somewhere in each of us is a body of knowledge that we take personal delight in possessing. We are more than happy at any given moment to trot out our topic-focused education, holding forth over fellow humans who are unhappily in proximity of the reach of our voice.
There are so many specialty areas of knowledge in our daily lives that each of us can easily be made to feel inferior on a wide variety of subjects. The entire field of computers and their operation immediately comes to mind. The Internet, politics, automobiles, smart phones, world travel, cooking, child-rearing, sports of all kinds and history are just a few more of the niche topics with which friends and acquaintances can wax extemporaneously without us able to get a word in edgewise, not that we would know what to say even if the opening presented itself.
Even now, my heart goes out to each of you because through the miracle of instant publishing, you are subject to my weekly rantings about wine and spirits and all manner of information and attitude toward same.
The only thing keeping me in balance on this topic of liquid knowledge is the fact that you, no doubt, personally know someone who is more smug with information than me. Hard to believe.
Knowledge of wine and spirits is not in itself a reason for smugness. These topics are happy pursuits, with the ultimate goal of pleasing our friends in a delightful way through new sensory experiences, awakening sensations never before appreciated or utilized.
Someone hands you a glass of wine and tells you to smell from within the vessel flowers, the earth and fruits. Those suggestions cannot be a bad thing. Or you receive a perfectly made cocktail from a friend who personally infused the spirit, muddled the mint, squeezed the fresh citrus and placed the garnish on the finished product. Now that’s quite a nice series of gestures.
Actually it is … unless the gesture is made not out of friendship or love but rather with a subliminal message, “Look what I can do and you cannot.”
It’s not a mean message –– after all, we are the beneficiary of the largesse –– but in the delivery, there is an air of superiority. If you are among those knowledgeable and talented people who wear your mental and physical booty like a crown: Stop it, please.
Intimidation, even when delivered with a gift, is still not pretty. Oh, sure, we are all smiling and happy for the drink, but deep down, your approach to the topic is resented by your audience.
The perfect example is a lover of wine knowledge who is more than willing to let you know that they know and you don’t know.
These in-every-other-way-lovely people undergo a mental and a physical change whenever they are proximate to a wine label. Watch them, and you will see the expression on their face change ever so slightly and their body language mutate into something resembling a game show contestant who has just realized he cannot lose.
What is even more maddening is that sometimes these let-me-tell-you-what-I-know-right-now friends have turned their backs on other occurrences that are equally as interesting.
Do you have friends who will not drink white wines? Why is that? There are some incredibly amazing experiences to be savored with white wines from all over the world. What a terrible line to draw in the sand by ignoring more than half the wine made.
Maybe you have some friends who simply will not even consider drinking anything from New York state or northern Italy or New Zealand or Canada. The incredible work being done at this very moment in out-of-the-way places is simply astounding and quite rewarding.
The other day I tasted a jalapeño wine. I was surrounded by knowledgeable wine people from all over the U.S. They could not wait to try it. Yes, it was a bit like looking at the exhibits at a Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. It attracted quite a crowd, but everyone had to try it.
In all honesty, after a single sip, that was quite enough. Yet no one turned up their nose or refused to sample. And no one pontificated about how this beverage was an aberration against nature. If you can be open-minded and gracious about jalapeño wine, then you have the correct mental approach to wine knowledge.
Some of the most knowledgeable people I know are the least pretentious. Some of the most pretentious people I know are the least knowledgeable.
I have devised a simple and pleasant test for you to determine if your wine-loving friends are lovers of wines or lovers of wine labels and status. Noted below are a few wines that have won awards within the past year at professional wine competitions, and they are all well-made, quite good, products of the vintners’ art.
Pick up a few, and serve them to your wine-loving acquaintances. These are not wines that are usually enjoyed by folks around here because these wines are often not brought in by our distributors. It’s probably a chicken-and-egg situation. Without demand, there is no need to stock the wine. And how do you create demand for fine wines? By stocking them and encouraging consumers to try them.
Nevertheless, your efforts to hunt for these wines in the marketplace or on the Internet will be rewarded by fine tasting experiences shared and new knowledge gained.
You see where I’m going here, don’t you?
Navarro Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Mendocino, California
Keuka Spring Vineyards Gewürtztraminer, Finger Lakes, New York
J Vineyards Brut Sparkling Rosé, Non-Vintage, Russian River Valley, California
Willamette Valley Vineyards Riesling, 2008, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Michael Katz Sangiovese, Cracker Box Vineyard, 2007, Livermore Valley, California
Rock Wall Reserve Zinfandel, 2007, Sonoma County, California
DH Lescombes Cabernet Franc, 2007, New Mexico
Zerba Cellars Grenache, 2007, Columbia Valley, Washington State
Charles Creek Vineyard Malbec, East Soda Rock Vineyard, 2007, Alexander Valley, California
Sunce Vineyards Ripken Vineyard Tempranillo, 2008, Lodi, California
Bella Vineyards Late Harvest Zinfandel, 2008, Sonoma County, California