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I’ve been drinking wine for decades, and if I’m really honest with myself, I would have to say that I haven’t learned a damn thing about it.  Seriously.  As with other things, I just don’t have the time to.  Work, family, friends, going out to dinner and watching reruns of Breaking Bad all take up too much time for me to study soil qualities in the Loire valley.  And, according to my wine expert friends, soil matters.  A lot.  As do phases of the moon, days of the week that you choose to drink a particular wine, rainfall in August, stainless steel vs. concrete, and so on.  I just want to drink something that I’ll love, that will impress my date and won’t cost me a second mortgage on my house.  Who has time for all the rest of it?

Wine experts, that’s who.   Sommeliers, wine directors, wine store owners, importers, waiters studying to become sommeliers.  The people we wine drinkers run up against when we’re lost in the wine store staring blankly at a line of hundreds of bottles that we’ve never seen before or looking at a wine list – that might just as well be written in Sanskrit – hoping to recognize something…a grape varietal (that just means type) or producer’s name that I’ll butcher terribly if I try to pronounce or, oh the hell with it, just pour me a glass of white and let me get on with it.  I just want to drink a little of it.  They LIVE IT.

And that’s the group we have to learn how to talk to if we want to drink better wine.  And since I do, I have.  Or I’ve started to.  It’s an ongoing process that wouldn’t be possible without someone on the other end of the conversation who’s just as interested in ‘learning’ how to talk to a non-expert as I am in learning how to talk to an expert  (there are some experts that aren’t, and I can’t for the life of me imagine why they’re in a business that depends on interaction with the public).  Those of us who are lucky all have one, we cherish them and when they move on to other jobs/restaurants/stores/careers  we’re bereft.  The wine store guy who knows what we like, a bartender who remembers the wine you had last time and pours it for you without making you pronounce it in French…my feelings for them can border on the illicit, as if we’re carrying on a secret relationship in the coded language of ‘wine’.  Years ago my girlfriend overheard my phone call with Jerry when he told me he was leaving the store I bought wine from and she consoled me as if I was being dumped by my high school crush.

The guy on the other end of my conversation for the last decade has been Michael Nelson.  We met at the restaurant where he worked – Gotham Bar and Grill in NYC.  I won’t bore you with the glasses and bottles that I wouldn’t otherwise have enjoyed, not because I wouldn’t love to but because I either don’t remember them or can’t spell them, but what I will say is that the conversation became so important to both of us that a business – thewinearry.com – was born from it.  And if there’s one piece of advice I would like to give any and all of you who like to drink wine but couldn’t give a damn about what side of the mountain the grapes were grown on is this;  find a Michael and get started talking, and listening.

Of course, you’re welcome to borrow mine.  He’s the other half of this blog and of thewinearray.com, and he and I are happy to have you listen in on our conversation.  It’s my guess that as you do you’ll find yourself more confident about describing what you like and don’t like about wine, which may lead you to your own expert who’ll translate your tastes into actual glasses of wine.  Which ultimately is the whole point….ending up loving the wine right in front of you.

Fortunately, you don’t have to become an expert to accomplish that.

C.