Sunday, February 10, 2008

Girls Night Out

Where do restaurant reviewers go when they all just want to let their hair down and enjoy a good meal? Many folks would like to know who they are and where they are. Last night, I was invited out to Chinese New Years with a whole bunch of them.

Yes, they do talk to each other and yes they are passionate about food and wine. And yes, they do love to dress up in disguises.

There are a few curious parallels between the world of the restaurant reviewer and the wine distributor. For one, there are many folks who think they can do a better job. I hear it all the time. Someone says to me, “I love to eat, I think I’d make a great restaurant critic.” Or “I love wine; I think I’m going to start importing it.” Knock yourself out.

A friend cast a sideways glance and a raised eyebrow at me the other day when I recanted some of my recent road trips. I got the impression that he didn’t feel too sorry for me. Not that I was looking exactly for sympathy, although I detected a hint of disgust in his gesture that said to me. “Look, you may call it work, but it isn’t hard work like I do.” That person would be correct, although to make the commitment to spend the amount of time I do, one would be better off if they didn’t have a wife and children. There is plenty to do and not all of it takes place between the daylight hours and in one’s home town. It is incessant and constant. And I do enjoy it.

Back to Chinese New Years. The meal was a three hour succession of small and communal plates. Jelly fish, duck gizzard, drunken chicken, flounder, a wonderful lobster and egg dish, plenty of protein and some dessert of little warm doughy balls that had a sesame paste inside that reminded me of an Abba Zabba.

Wine wise – I brought a few bottles. Among them were a Bruno Giacosa Brut, Joel Gott Chardonnay, Greco di Tufo from Mastroberardino, a couple of bottles of 1970 Chateau Latour, a 1990 Barolo Riserva from Cascina Bruni and a 1986 Zinfandel from Mazzocco (Cuneo and Saini Vineyard- 70 cases made). Of the '70 Latour, one was in prime form, the other was vinegar. The Barolo was a bit young and the Zinfandel was a graceful grandma, more wise than pretty. They didn’t really match too well with the food, but I didn’t know what to expect. I would love to have brought a Pigato and a Gavi, some of those dry Chenin Blancs from the Loire and maybe an oxidized white old-school Rioja.
Friday night, at the Dallas Morning News Wine Competition reception, I sampled a Vidal Blanc from Cedar Creek Winery in Wisconsin. The grapes were grown in New York. I found myself going back for more of that and another strange wine from Domaine Pinnacle. An ice apple wine from Quebec. Maybe I am in the sweet mood, maybe they were just different. They were tasty and delicious and righteously well made.

Early this morning at the Dallas Morning News Wine Competition, I sat in for Guy Stout who had to leave to proctor at the Court of Master Sommeliers in San Francisco. Good news, another one from Texas got his M.S. That would be young ‘un, Drew Hendricks, who worked himself beyond the limits of time and sanity. But he made it – A huge congrats to Drew Hendricks, M.S.

Back at the competition, at our tasting table this morning, there was a whole slew of Italianesque reds. I can’t say too much, for the whole morning sailed rapidly.

A decision soon for Vinitaly and what and who will be on the bus. I have a dear old friend who has never been to Italy. A serious wine person who sits at the table and takes the lesson from the grape as often as the rest of us who have been treading in the cellar of life. At one time a devout Francophile, now wanting to dip his hand in the font of Italian wine.

We twirl, we sniff, we sip and we spit. We taste, we make notes, recommend this or that and then someone goes to the café or the wine store or the internet and the march of progress goes forward. It’s not anything for the Nobel committee, but it’s a good livelihood, hard work, fair compensation and a life lived with a little joy and the hope for another sunrise to see and another bottle to open.

Romantic holiday heading our way this Thursday. It would also have been the birthday of dear Lizanne, who will be missed a full seven years, this coming Sunday.


  1. I would have very much liked to have met her too.

  2. How interesting to hear your comment about the Vidal Blanc, using NY grapes. Living quite close to the Finger Lakes, I recently found Standing Stone's Vidal table wine (rather than ice wine). I've enjoyed it immensely, particularly in the summer in the Finger Lakes, a glorious combination of time and place indeed.

  3. Your Lizanne. My Phillip. And we each get - embrace - the sediment. If we cannot love the ones we have lost, we can at least love the ones we are with. Happy V-day, big tree.


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