I get asked this question a lot. Or, I get labeled this way. Why?? Is it because I want to look at the wine list of a restaurant? I want to decide my entree before I choose what to drink? I don’t automatically ask for the “house” wine? Or, when offered a mass produced wine, I say, “No thanks”?
I don’t want to be a “snob” about anything. But, I’ve had experiences from which I’ve learned: learned good flavors, learned preferred flavors– but most importantly, I’ve had experiences.
My favorite wine writer, Eric Asimov (NYTimes), in his book “How to Love Wine” talks about the experience of wine. It’s not about scores or blind tastings. It’s about the experiences that surround the wine: the wine’s origin story, its expected character; the culinary experience you’re about to have; and, to me, the most important, with whom are you going to share this wine/culinary experience. That’s right- it’s not just the juice, but who are the people you are sharing this wine and why. Are you going to talk about the wine? What thoughts are in your head as you come together in conversation? How does the moment affect the mood or direction of your conversation?
We should be drinking wine to share the experience of wine and everything thing that surrounds it.
We have several friends that we regularly share wine with, and, since we serve the wine, they ask us about the wine. It’s our responsibility to know something about the wine to make the experience that surrounds the moment meaningful. It’s NOT about who knows more about what’s in the glass. It’s about not wasting a moment of experience and the depth it can create.
For example- we had dinner with good friends for New Year’s Eve. Our menu was steak, salad, pasta with mushrooms and cheese. We served a Four Graces Doe Ridge Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley. Why? We’ve learned that Pinot from Oregon pairs well with meat (especially when there’s a porcini mushroom compound butter) and mushrooms. But, this Pinot is from a region that’s special to us: our son went to college in the Willamette Valley, and we have been to this winery, learned about the grapes, soil, winemaker, and region to where we “taste” the region in the glass. So, sharing this at the table became just that– a sharing of special times and special places, and enabled the dinner conversation to have the same themes.
We also like to ask our guests what they think about the wine. This brings a wonderful spin of conversation that leads to the ultimate question– “Do you like it?” To me, this is where I have to really be careful and not appear to be…wait for it… a wine snob. In doing so, I respectfully let our guests describe whilst I don’t judge.
That’s where the problem lies– Those who judge or appear to judge the “house Chardonnay” drinker get labeled “the wine snob.” However, what is forgotten is that everyone is entitled to their own opinion– including me. Just because I don’t “like” the house Chardonnay doesn’t mean I’m a wine snob. What’s frustrating to me is that I know so many other options (that even might be cheaper) for the house chard. But, again, that doesn’t make me a snob– I’ve just had more experiences with those options. So much so that I prefer to pass on the house chard rather than endure.
Do you have the same meaningful experiences with a “house” wine? Do you like the house wine offered? Then, tell me about it–don’t just drink it with out experiencing the moment– life’s too short.
Are their house wines that I like? Yes! Try the wine on tap at L’Oca D’Oro or the box wine at Bufalina. The wine people at these restaurants know how to pick good wines regardless of the price point – or experience level of the drinker.
Don’t miss or waste a wine experience.