Fellow wine geeks, has this ever happened to you?
Randy and I were going to have some friends over for wine and cheese, and wanted to decide what to serve. Randy opened the wine cooler and began listing things off.
“The Jaffurs Syrah?”
“No!” I exclaimed. “We’re holding onto that for a couple years.”
“The Frog’s Leap Zinfandel?”
“Don’t you dare!” I yelled. “They wouldn’t understand or appreciate it.” (Of course they would. Everyone likes good wine. I was just being stingy.)
Everything else in the top half of the fridge was equally worth holding onto. So we went to the bottom…
which was plonk.
Australian shirazes valued at $10 or less, large-production domestic rieslings and chardonnays, red blends for glugging without thought after a long day–all bought from our neighborhood big box grocery store. Our friends were coming soon, and we didn’t have time to go to a tiny wine shop and pick out something thoughtful. Being too hesitant with our nicer bottles, we resorted to serving the plonk.
Our friends were curious about the wine, and we did our best to rationalize and explain why these wines were good (they were fine, but unmemorable), but ultimately, I think we were disappointed in ourselves. Once you become a wine geek, your friends expect to taste something unique with you. And you don’t want to let them down. The same thing has happened to us a couple of times when going to a party–running out of time to stop by a boutique, we just run to the grocery store and get whatever we can find. And this is a habit we want to stop.
Wine geeks have a certain responsibility to uphold when entertaining, and that is to serve/gift wines with personality and a story. We will get better at it, but it will require stocking up on bottles that aren’t so precious, but are a step above plonk. We will have to go to more wine tastings, and explore more independent shops. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.
We’re already halfway there by signing up with NakedWines.com, the company that funds independent winemakers. We’ve already found several notable bottles there–recently a Carmen Stevens Chenin Blanc, and a Stephen Millier Lodi Merlot. Most bottles cost between $10 and $20, perfect for everyday drinking.
As I evolve as a wine lover, I will pay better attention to this category. I will go to more wine shops, and build a better memory for what large-production, easily-found wines are worth remembering. There are some by Robert Mondavi and Peachy Canyon that fall into this category. Because it’s really awkward trying to explain that Yellowtail, that tiny little winery you found in the Outback, is doing amazing things with shiraz.