I’m going to start wine classes for the staff at the restaurant. (Reflected in the wine glass is my preferred method for keeping notes: the marble notebook. I have my whole college education on a shelf.)
I’ve found that people in the restaurant really appreciate having someone who knows something about wine, especially when they have questions about what is going on in the local wine region. People ask me about subclimates, when harvest happens, what works best here and, of course, which wineries to visit.
I always give the same answer: If you’re going to just two, check out Bedell and Lenz, because they represent the two ends of the spectrum here on the North Fork. Lenz is fiercely old-school. Traditional methods, rustic tasting room (one phone line, no cellphones) and an opinionated winemaker whose been at it for decades who believes that any intervention is going over to the dark side. Bedell is up-to-the-minute modern with a young female winemaker and a tasting room filled with modern art. In addition, the wineries are close to each other on the same road and on the same side of the street. Easy to find.
Back to the classes. We have some new younger members of the staff, and I can’t help but thinking “What did I want to know first about wine?”
I remember wishing I could decipher labels. This was before critter wines. In the mid ’80s I went into Astor Liquors with a friend’s French boyfriend (he was a plombier, a fireman) and I envied that he could reach toward a shelf of French wine, consider the label and choose one.
I remember a short wine tutorial when I was a waitress during graduate school at Prix Fixe, Terrance Brennan’s first restaurant in New York. The manager, a Frenchman, had everyone smell some wine and asked us what it smelled like. People threw out the usual suspects — berry, oak, etc. I said it smelled like dirt, and got that “bing, bing, bing, right on the nose” look from the manager and looks of ah ha from the rest of the staff.
The Frenchman used my comment to launch into a discussion of terroir and pretty much lost us, but another bee was put in my wine bonnet.
I’m going to stick to basic techniques of wine tasting, appearance, nose, palate, conclusions and remind everyone that the best way to learn about wine is to drink it and ask lots of question.
Also, pick up a copy of Hugh Johnson’s World Atlas of Wine. It was the first book I cracked as a refresher for my upcoming spanish wine class.