Saturday, February 13, 2010

What I Don't Know About Wine ...

Longtime readers of this blog will remember the story of G. It was a good story, while it lasted. And then, one day – February 1, 2006 to be exact (it's not seared into my memory, I had to look it up, thank you very much) – it ended, two weeks shy of Valentine's Day.

But one day, before then, out shopping, he took my hand and pulled me across the street to a jewelry store where I proceeded to pick out a pair of earrings that closely matched the pin on my coat and he proceeded to buy said earrings. He told me that they were an early Valentine's Day gift, as we wouldn't be spending the actual day together. At the time, I thought he meant that we wouldn't be spending the day together because his mother was going to be in town from Germany. But maybe he meant that we wouldn't be spending the day together because he had decided to break up with me. Regardless, the earrings were more akin to a lovely parting gift, like on a game show: You're goin' home, but you have something nice to remind you that you were there.

Perhaps he wanted to be sure to be done with me before Valentine's Day because of all the expectation it brings, but dude really should have stuck it out if only because his gift from me was going to be this.

He already knew a fair amount about wine but wanted to learn more, and I was happy to give him the gift of knowledge.

But since he broke up with me before the big day, I kept it for myself. It resides, heavily, on my bookshelf among my many, many cookbooks. Too many, really, but hey, a girl's gotta have a vice.

At the moment, speaking of vices, I have a bit of dark chocolate within reach – 72 percent cacao is ideal for me, anything less is too sweet, anything more is too bitter – and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, poured from a bottle given to me by Qusai for my birthday. The label is very pretty, which is one of the ways I choose wine.

I don't read wine magazines My knowledge of wine is all first-hand. I drink it and if I like it, I try to remember what it is I'm drinking so that the next time I'm out to dinner or at the wine store, I can order a bottle or pick one up.

Happily, the folks at the wine store are usually good for some recommendations, but I'm perfectly happy to gamble on a bottle based on a pretty label and decent price.

My palate can distinguish between good wine and bad wine, but when it comes to really good wine, I'm at a bit of a loss.

A couple of years ago, I had dinner with a group of co-workers at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Dallas. Our party had the private room adjacent to the wine cellar, which was not a cellar as it was not underground. We had a wine tasting before dinner, and I wasn't a fan of any of the three and the room was too dark to properly see the wine anyway, but after dinner, the sommelier invited us into the cellar. A few of us joined him and he offered a brief tour, pointing out, among other bottles, a few that cost many multiples of thousands of dollars.

I've had some nice wine in my life, glasses from bottles that cost a couple of hundred dollars. But at some point, I'm quite sure my palate wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a wine that cost $200 and a wine that cost $2,000. Does the $2,000 bottle taste 10 times better? Perhaps it does. I expect I'll never know. I can't imagine me or anyone with whom I'd be having dinner ordering that kind of bottle. If I have $2,000 to spend, I'd rather take a trip.

The bottle from which I'm drinking right now tastes like it exists in the $20 range. And I just looked it up, and it does. (Gauche to look up the price of a gift, I know, but it was in the name of research.) It paired well with the dark chocolate, and it's fine for sipping as I clack away on the laptop and strains of Miles Davis emanate from the other room.

But there is much more research to be done. My friend Steve and I once whiled away a long winter afternoon at a wine bar on Michigan Avenue. With his favorite go-to Cab no longer on the menu, he asked the server for a recommendation. Steve was a regular. We were treated very well. She poured tastes for us from the first wine she suggested. We tried it. We didn't like it. She tried again. She tried four times before she hit on a wine we liked. Two glasses (plus the four tastes) later, I was happy for a walk in the winter air.

Sadly, Steve's since left the job that brought him to Chicago on a regular, extended basis. And my wine-drinking habit waxes and wanes. Often, I open a bottle, seduced by the idea of a glass, and then pour most of it down the drain a month later, having forgotten about it. I have a vacuum-sealer pump and rubber stoppers but those keep a bottle drinkable for a couple of days, not several weeks.

Something about the past few days, though, has me in the mood for these heavy reds and for now, all that goes down the drain is whatever's left in a glass on the coffee table once I've fallen asleep.

And someday, I want to visit some Greek isle, find a taverna with a charming view (this could do nicely), and while away an afternoon with many glasses of Roditis, along with a loaf of bread and a plateful of taramasalata. In fact, I'd like to do that right now.

Alas, the cold night is here. And Greece is a quarter of a world away.


Anonymous Alison said...

There's nothing like a glass of red or two on a cold winter night. :)

8:51 PM  
Blogger Martha Kelly said...

february is the major rainy season in greece anyway. much colder and rainier than one thinks of it being. i think i had two sunny days in two weeks, so don't feel too bad about not being there right now.

9:42 AM  

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