Saturday, March 14, 2009

Wine tastings and other adventures

It has been sad that I've been too busy to blog for awhile. I temporarily went to work in an office--nice pants and button down shirts instead of jeans and silk pajama tops--for a client this past week. While the project has been fun to work on and everyone lovely to work with, I am reminded of why I work for myself. So many meetings and projects going at once. Rush rush rush. How do people do it? I work best on one project at a time. Everyone seemed to be working on a gazillion things at once.

Some of the best things in life happen with an unexpected call. Last week a friend of mine had been invited to come to a wine tasting and asked if I could come too. The founder and co-owner of the Cornelia Street Café, Robin Hirsch (also an author, performer and poet with a British accent), was in the midst of his once every 6 months tasting and buying of wine for the restaurant. Apparently having someone like me and my friend along, the average (read ignorant) cafe patron, was helpful.

"Great, sure, I'll be there," I said. I went over the few things I'd learned at a wine tasting I'd been to a few years ago. There was something about sniffing it and swirling it in the glass before you took teensy sips. Rather like the cat approaches food: Poke-poke-sniff-sniff, what is it? Is it dead yet or twitching enough for playtime? And I remembered that people spoke of legs and aftertaste, which doesn't seem at all appropriate for a mealtime beverage but who am I to challenge jargon?

When I arrived in the decidedly upscale offices of the wine wholesaler, Monsieur Touton, Selection, Ltd., near the flower and fabric districts, I was led to a back wall with an enormous room-wide counter that held a thicket of wine bottles and a view of New York sky and brick. A tray of french bread and plates of tasty cheeses were on the right. Robin and his sales rep Allan Trelford, in yellow, were on the left sipping and spitting wine into beautiful round copper sinks that dotted the counter at regular intervals. A large glass urn held a cord of corks.

I was amazed by the wall decor, porcelain spittoons and antique wine objects that I can't name. The center of the large office was filled with desks and hooded computers, even the desks held some bottles of wine since everyone here was in the business of selling it. They spoke on phones in hushed voices with various accents, wine being an international enterprise.

We were given glasses and tasted the various types of wine along with Robin. Whites and then reds of many varieties. I have to admit that I didn't seem to find any of the wines objectionable and most of them tasty. Maybe it was the novelty of drinking in the middle of the day but I swallowed. No spitting for me.

Robin and Allan have a working relationship that speaks of years of respect and ease. Robin was witty and Allan affable. Their discussions on place and product sometimes flew over my head.

At one point two tall young merchants in impeccable suits with French accents stopped by and one of them was able to name off the cuff the nine varieties of one French vintner. This was part of a lively discussion of how different one variety of grape, grown in the same region, can taste. I supposed out loud that micro-climates and the vintners taste buds had their effects on the product. The experts politely acknowledged I'd uttered a basic truth and moved on. After that I kept to a more general "yum, delicious" or "sticks to the roof of my mouth dry" for me. Also noted that the California wines tended to a sweeter and blander "Disneyland" mix that I didn't like as much as the more subtle and sophisticated tang of the South American bottles.

I discovered the taste difference between a good wine and a very very good one was not an exponential leap. Only the price took such a jump.

The best part was when Robin and Alan talked about wine pairings, rather like setting up a dating service for a red and a white wine. Since I can attest that the food at Cornelia Street Café is excellent, I will now have to go back and have it with that pair of wines, I'd love to see what meal would compliment the two Robin selected. He staggered out with a box filled with the opened bottles of the wines he had bought, to share with the staff and to help them devise the latest wine menus.

My friend and I walked out and complimented ourselves on being such excellent representatives of the average customer. We were like the non-foodies that help judge the meals on Iron Chef. Except we weren't twenty-something Japanese actresses. And I didn't giggle until the very end. I estimated I'd had one very full glass of wine. How sparkly the plants and cheap jewelry looked through well scrubbed windows, how light, how red and white, my mood.


Anonymous said...

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Claudia Carlson said...

Thanks for letting me know you are enjoying the blog. I know my father reads it, a few friends, but most of the time I feel as if I'm singing in the shower.