One day a man came into the tasting room announcing he was from Sonoma. He was here to teach this “lil’ lady” a thing or two about wine. In fact, he was here to teach the whole state of Washington about wine. He proudly wore a t-shirt that was especially made for his trip to the state of Washington. It said:
Sonoma Makes Wine
Napa Makes Auto Parts
Washington Makes Apples.
I questioned him about Washington making apples. I thought we grew apples. Not so, said our Sonoma visitor. Washington “makes” apples. I soon learned that I was up against wine-brilliance-extraordinaire. A legend in his own mind. It was difficult, but I behaved myself. Afterall, he was my guest.
I offered the Wine Expert (WE) a taste of our various wines. He was only interested in the off-dry Reisling and enjoyed it. He sampled the unique Syrah Rose’ (dry), but it was not to his liking. It was not sweet. According to the WE, Washington has a lot to learn from Sonoma because we cannot seem to make a Rose’ sweet enough. Aiiiyiiiiiyiiii! I offered him the line up of our reds. That particular day was a rare one, because we were offering a taste of our $45.00 proprietor’s blend. Nope, he wasn't interested. Our usual varietals - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Zinfandel? The WE wasn’t interested in any of them, other than the Zinfandel. He claimed that all of the red wines made his mouth "feel like cotton. "
The WE knew his stuff when it came to Zinfandel. Most of what he said was correct. The WE explained to me that California was the leader in Zinfandels and that Washington state was a mere babe in comparison. I agreed. As I poured the WE a sample of our Zinfandel, he commented it was red. What was wrong with this Zinfandel? He asked for a Zinfandel, not a Merlot. This Zin isn’t anything like the pink color of California Zinfandels? WE mentioned that he had not seen a pink Zinfandel in any of the wineries he visited in the State of Washington. According to WE it was apparent that we had a lot to learn about Zinfandels from California. He was correct about one thing - not seeing any "pink color" Zinfandels in the State of Washington and hopefully there will never be one.
The WE continued to educate me about wines. He told me how he enjoyed the wine made from Burgundy grapes. I asked him which Burgundy grapes? Chardonnay? Pinot Noir? Gamay? No, he informed me. "Those are not Burgundy grapes, especially Chardonnay. Chardonnay is a white grape, not Burgundy color." He informed me that in Sonoma there were rows and rows of Burgundy grapes. He said he liked Chablis. I asked, "So you enjoy Chardonnay?" "Yes," he said "and the Chablis from California." Silly me. All this time I thought Chablis was a Chardonnay from France. When I told him my small seedling of knowledge about Old World Burgundy and white Burgundy, I was quickly dismissed. Whatever “they” are teaching me in the State of Washington is wrong and I had a lot to learn from California, he informed me. Riiiiiight - and Gallo of California sells jugs of red plonk illegally labeled "Burgundy" and have led the grocery store wine consumer on for years that there is a grape by the name of Chablis.
It was time to bid our WE a farewell and I did it with a big smile. I bid him farewell and told him to keep up the good work spreading his knowledge of wines throughout our fair state.
That evening in bed, I woke up in a sweat remembering a snippet of my past. I remembered serving wine to a man that looked awfully familar to me, but could not place where I had seen him before. A pleasant, but quiet man who looked like he didn't want to be noticed (and no, it was not the "Sonoma Wine Expert"). I poured our selection of wine and did my sales pitch explaining all of the tasting notes and food pairing ideas - - all the time I kept wondering who he was. Later, on the drive home from the tasting room, it dawned on me. It was James Laube - the real wine expert, Senior Editor of the Wine Spectator magazine! I was sure of it!