If you’ve ever wondered how to handle the delicate matter of telling a hoity-toity sommelier or wait staff that the wine you ordered isn’t up to snuff, without making one or both of you look like a total douchebag, you’re in luck because we tackle that very topic over at my latest Wined Down column for Playboy.com.
For that article, I interviewed one of the sommeliers (a quality dude named Jeff Taylor, who also happens to be a true master of the “disco nap,” a skill which I witnessed first-hand having traveled a good bit of Australia with the guy) from NYC’s Eleven Madison Park – and in terms of hoity-toity restaurants, it doesn’t get much more hoity-toity than the award-winning EMP. So you’ll want to read what Jeff had to say about the right – and wrong! – ways of navigating that vinous territory.
I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how the Playboy.com gig is going, so I should probably offer a quick update on that. The important thing to remember when you read the following “status report” is that neither my recent jaunt through the wine worlds of Oz nor the Playboy.com gig are nowhere near the most surreal things that have transpired in my life lately (that honor belongs squarely to Auction Napa Valley)…
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In this long (long) overdue addition to the episode list of 1WD TV, I report from a beautiful area of Barossa in Australia, & talk with Penfolds winemaker Stephanie Dutton. Is Aussie Shiraz poised for a comeback in the U.S.? Find out Penfolds’ view on the matter in today’s vid!
Watch it on YouTube.
Fill a van with half a dozen Right Coast sommeliers traipsing through Australia’s Eden Valley en route to Henschke, and the on-road proceedings will take on the air of a group of pre-teens after a full night’s sleep and a breakfast of Sweettarts that were about to enter Disney World.
Initially, I didn’t “get” why this group (who, along with me, were visiting as guests of Wines of Australia) was so amped up for a winery visit. I knew Henschke made very, very god wine, but so what – a lot of producers make very, very good wine. There was, of course, that thing about Hill of Grace, clocking in at $600 or so a bottle, but I’d had plenty of expensive wine that didn’t live up to the billing on its price tag and so I was actually firmly in the “skeptically optimistic” territory about tasting it that day. What the hell was wrong with these people?
But here’s the thing about good Sommeliers, particularly those from the big drinks like Boston and New York: they have access to world’s most exclusive wines that far exceeds their pay grade levels. It’s more intimate access than most of us get, and often it means that they enjoy an understanding of the world’s best wines that few others can readily grasp for having simply lacked the experience – and I include in that unlucky majority most pro wine critics, because they don’t have wealthy patrons ordering the better vintages of the world’s most difficult-to-obtain juice several times per night, as the somms do (depending on what rich-and-famous clientele might be forking out the cash for the good stuff that night on the floor).
[ Editor’s note: My favorite such story doesn’t involve drinking wine at all: as one of my newfound somms told me, he once served a group that included Robert Downey, Jr. After offering Downey the wine list, before he could finish his opening sentence Downey cut him off: “Oh, no, no, no, no NOOOOOO… take that away… we would tear this place APART.” ]
And so it turns out that the somms were all justified to have been so giddy, because I was about to be schooled – big-time – in what it really meant to have sommelier-level access to one of the world’s finest fine wines…
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