One of wine’s greatest attributes is that it is such a convivial instrument and, in perhaps a nontangible way, could be considered a non-electronic, drinkable version of social media if it’s purposed within the right setting of course. The medium of wine sparks curiosity, exploration, social gatherings, the search for like-minded people, information sharing, consensus, controversy, academic journeys, and pretty much everything else that Twitter and Facebook can do except all the while, there is the bonus of some sort of party going on in your mouth.
I am grateful and fortunate to have like-minded friends that share my full-throttled fixation with wine. Because life is full of work, social, and family obligations we don’t get together as often as I’d like but when we do the time is certainly embraceable. We have these very intense spirited sessions that leave me processing information for many days after. One of us decides it’s time and sends out an email to somewhere between three to eight of us, inviting us to attend a wine event planned by the host/hostess. Wines presented by the inviter always consist of a truly stellar and seamless lineup, carefully planned to have a cohesive beginning, middle, and end to the event. Some of the more memorable wines include a 1925 Domaine de la Coume du Roy Maury, a 1947 Giacomo Borgogno Iserva Antichi Vigneti Barolo, a showdown between 1996 Penfolds Grange and 1996 Château Mouton-Rothschild, 2000 Tua Rita Redigaffi, and a mini-vertical of La Conseillante, but there have been many more, including a few in the above pictured menu.
At a recent event, Mark Patterson, Susan Thomas, Brian Owens, and I convened in the private dining room of the chic Trace Restaurant in The W Hotel, downtown Austin. This is part of the typical setup in our soirées, in that there is great food paired with great wine. Here, The W’s visionnaire Beverage and Food Director, Sean Bradshaw, teamed up with haut cuisine Chef Ben Hightower to present us with incomparable pairings in this gorgeous, swanky, if hip environment. My wife Victoria was also there this particular evening and she simply enjoys slinking back into her chair, listening to the animated discussion, while being served up great food and wines of importance.
The wine was very good, sometimes great. But the absolutely irreplaceable ingredient that makes something like this so special is the people in attendance. After exchanging brief niceties everything changes. From the moment the first glass is poured, the evening bursts into an intense conclave of ardent and erudite wine talk, non-stop for five hours or more. Like tag-team wrestling, it is relentless, even in hushed tones. The current bottle we’re drinking from is placed in the center of the table, accessible to anyone that wants more because wine service would just be a bother, an unwelcome interruption (fortunately The W’s team graciously understood this odd request and acquiesced, quietly serving only food in the background with formidable professionalism). The pursuit of sharing and gaining more thought-provoking information, whether it’s about what’s going on in the glass at the moment, or what happened in a cave in Burgundy last week, or a trip up the coast of Spain, or ‘did you ever have the 1982 vintage of château fill-in-the-blank’, is nonstop – and moving a hundred miles per hour. Honestly to me, being around people like these that have the knowledge and expertise to maintain such a focused pace is exhilarating. They are benefactors in my world and I am truly honored to contribute in any small way.
The point is that anyone of legal drinking age can buy wine. Anyone with a few dollars can buy fine wine. But getting together with like-minded collectors with many years of combined experience is something else altogether and should be actively sought out by anyone that truly loves wine. Wine is great but knowledge is king, and wine without knowledge just becomes lost on most. Sharing wine combined with sharing knowledge and experience with those you trust is the very best way to get the most that wine has to offer us. Events like this give new meaning to the ubiquitous and popular app, Words With Friends – I’ll take this version anytime.
Photo: menu from a great event