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Alive November 2016

That was the moment that wine suddenly became fascinating. It happened about eight years ago when I decided to throw a big holiday dinner celebration on Christmas Eve. In the Italian tradition, I decided to serve a lucky “Seven Fishes” dinner and planned my menu carefully, incorporating a festive medley of seafood. I was having a wonderful time until I came to including the wine for the event. I panicked. What could I serve? What went with seafood? White wine, I guessed, but what if I wanted to serve some red too? Would that be unbelievably gauche? What would my price point be? I wanted to buy nice wines but not break my budget buying expensive wines in a futile attempt to impress my guests. I was at a loss until I learned that Shannon, one of my guests for the evening, had been a sommelier in Canada several years earlier. What luck! I was thrilled and called her immediately. Shannon was a delight and came to my house to discuss the details of my soiree. “Tell me your menu and your guest list,” she instructed. I gave her the names of our guests and details of the fish dinner, including the preparation of each dish. Shannon cheerfully launched into an elaborate monologue of recommendations. “I would definitely go heavy on the white wine and you can split the difference with light, minerally whites like a Sauvignon Blanc, a Muscadet Sevre et Maine, Chablis, or maybe even a brut Champagne to start. We can go with a rounder, more full-bodied white like a white Burgundy, a California Chardonnay, or an Italian Vermentino to complement the main course. Of course, Michel and Dominique are coming. They’re French so they will want red wine. You should avoid big, tannic reds like Cabernet Sauvignon because that will make the fish taste metallic. Let’s go for a light Pinot Noir, a Grenache, or maybe a Beaujolais Cru.” We went on to discuss dessert and the possibility of having a demi-sec (slightly sweet) Champagne, as the sugary crepes would make a brut Champagne taste bitter. As Shannon examined my glassware, she recounted the legend that the old-fashioned, flat, saucer-like Champagne glasses had been fashioned after Marie Antoinette’s breasts. I was captivated by her knowledge. How did my smart, cool friend know so much about the snooty, seemingly unapproachable world of wine just off the top of her head? She laughed and told me she had the Diploma from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) out of London, England. She said the WSET had classes all over the world and surely I could find one in Los Angeles, if I were interested. Suddenly, I WAS interested. I wanted to learn more about this mysterious world of wine. Sure enough, a class was starting up in January. I signed up immediately and that’s where it all began. Years of wine classes and academic degrees followed. How wonderful it is to study a subject where you are required to drink! I met the most amazing set of wine enthusiasts along the way. I learned that snobby wine lovers usually have no idea what they’re talking about. Many simply have deep pockets so they know what they’re supposed to buy and what they’re supposed to say but not much more than that. They like to impress people by buying what they perceive to be the “right” bottles of wine and can be rather tiresome. I’ve found that if you start throwing around terms like malolactic A L I V E E 24 A S T B A Y n o v e m b e r 2 0 1 6


Alive November 2016
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