My friends and I like to pretend that we are winos, and to the extent that we probably know at least a little bit more about wine than the average Joe buying a bottle of Cupcake out of the bargain shopping cart at the front of the store (Cupcake wine is delicious BTW, not knocking it one bit!), we probably at least qualify as wine connoisseurs. But would I go toe to toe with a sommelier at a restaurant arguing the merits of specific label, or the superiority of a given vintage? No…no I would not.
I would not, that is, unless I was sure about a wine that I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I had nailed what was right or wrong, good or bad, about it. I would not, that is, unless I was going toe to toe not with a sommelier, but rather with a waiter who was pretty sure that he and his buddy the bartender knew a thing or two about wine…despite the fact that there were only four options on the restaurant’s wine list.
There are maybe two wines in the entire world that you could hand me a glass of blindfolded, and I’d bet money on being able to identify. Prairie Fume from Wollersheim, and Four Daughters Pinot Noir. Prairie Fume is this really interesting, semi-sweet white wine that’s crisp and delightful and really different than your ordinary white options. And Four Daughters Pinot Noir is completely unique as pinot noir goes because it’s semi-sweet, lightly sparkling, and can be served at red wine temperature or chilled to white wine temperature. There was also recently a glitch in the distribution of Four Daughters Pinot Noir, which made it difficult to find for a while. So when this wine list of limited options included the aforementioned pinot…I was all in.
The problem was, as one of two wines that I can blindly identify with complete confidence, when my wine came to the table I instantly knew that either: A. The wine was not Four Daughters or B. It had gone so bad that it was beyond recognition.
Because I had ordered this wine on purpose, and not just because I happen to like the taste of a generic pinot noir that has sat behind the bar for a day (or week) too long, I had to call the waiter back over to ask for something else. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: “I have some bad news. This wine is bad.”
Him: “Oh, you mean you don’t like it?”
Me: “No, I means it’s bad. Like it’s gone bad.”
Him: “Oh, how do you know?”
Me: “Because Four Daughters Pinot Noir is an American pinot noir that’s semi-sweet and semi-sparkling, and this tastes like red wine vinegar.”
Him: “Wait. If it’s sparkling shouldn’t it be chilled?”
Me: “Not necessarily. It can also be served as red wine at red wine temperature.”
Him: “You mean room temperature.”
Me: “That depends on the temperature of the room.”
Him: “Well I’ll ask the bartender, but I don’t remember it ever being sparkling or chilled. Let me bring you something else.”
He returned a few minutes later with a different glass of wine, something red, and kind of generic, but not otherwise bad from having all the carbonic acid dissipate into bottle.
Him: “Yeah, I talked to the bartender and he said that he doesn’t think it’s chilled or sparkling.”
Me: “It wouldn’t have to be chilled. But it’s definitely sparkling. It says so on the bottle. Unless you’re not really serving Four Daughters?”
Him: “We’re serving Four Daughters.”
Me: “Then you’re ruining every bottle that you open and don’t store correctly.”
And then he left the table…though later still charged me the price of the original glass of wine that I didn’t drink, not because I didn’t want it, but because it was actually bad and undrinkable. This is to be my shining moment as a wine snob. I will likely never have a chance to be so confident in a wine pick or wine critique again. One of my wine drinking besties immediately suggested that I had missed my opportunity to break out a faux French accent and declare “You expect me to drink such swill!” in disgust as I poured the wine onto the waiter’s shoes. I never could have pulled it off, but if ever there was a moment, that would have been it!
My wine for your weekend reviews are always suggestions meant to be filtered through your own tastes and preferences. If you like something white, pick a white. If you like something red, pick a red. I won’t argue with you if you try something I did and didn’t come away as excited about it as I did. But let’s all agree not to drink bad wine that’s sat on a shelf to long and tastes like terrible salad dressing. We all deserve better than that, and you should confidently know it!
Wine for your weekend
Coming off the heels of last week’s white zinfandel recommendation, I feel obliged to admit that my Bachelorette premiere did include a bottle of Arbor Mist Exotic Berry White Zinfandel because one of my dear friends genuinely did not know what Arbor Mist was. And really, everyone should at least know what Arbor Mist is!
Let’s go to the other side of white wine this weekend. Another excellent choice for a warm late spring weekend, but something on the dryer, more acidic, and citrusy side of the palette, is 90 Plus Cellars Sauvignon Blanc: Lot 2. This winery, based in Marlborough, New Zealand, harness the cool, coastal weather to grow and harvest grapes high in minerality. That produces a taste distinctive to New Zealand, with strong notes of lemon and grapefruit, a potent acidic bite, and a hint of earthiness that helps to smooth out the finish. Serve well chilled, and pair with rich cheeses like goat cheese with cranberries, or fatty fish on the grill.