I admit to being an oenophile. Before you judge me, the last time I checked it is only illegal in Saudi Arabia. An oenophile is a person who enjoys wine, usually a connoisseur, which I don’t claim to be. In France they name streets after oenophiles. I did not major in oenology, though in hindsight that would have been more enjoyable, and useful, than my USC Urban Studies degree. Nor can I hold a corkscrew to a sommelier. My endless attempts to remove wine stains from favorite shirts will attest to my love affair with wine. So will my annual wine tasting excursions to Napa Valley or California’s Central Coast; “Sideways” country.
SoCal has a wine shop in the Silver Lake area called Psychic Wines. The Los Angeles Times wrote it up a while back. One of the co-owners likes to travel to visit the people who make the wine, claiming it to be a conduit between winemaker and wine drinker. “Drinking wine can offer an unmediated experience of another person.” Is this something like a first date? The French term for this go-between role is “caviste”. Another co-owner says, “It’s like an “afineur” for cheese.” Too French for me. But, enough of this cultured psychic dive into fellow SoCal oenophiles.
Guy’s hams are not compatible with delicate crystal. As cook and chief bottle washer, do not waste your hard-earned money on expensive goblets. You will break them within a year, especially those with the stem thickness of linguini. Even when you buy an inexpensive set, take one and sacrifice it. Then maybe the kitchen gods will grant you dispensation and allow you to stretch a set to several years.
If your snobbery will not allow cheap wine steins, at least follow this simple rule: rinse but never wash the linguini stems after you have savored a few. Wash them in the morning when you have clearer vision and steadier hams.
For the 99 percent of wine drinkers who don’t own a wine cellar, or some hybrid of a storage facility, I recommend taking white wines out of the refrigerator thirty minutes before serving, and putting reds in the refrigerator thirty minutes before decanting. This assumes that you remember to put the white wine in the refrigerator a couple of hours before serving. Do not put them in the freezer. That is a misdemeanor in most wine-growing states and countries. It’s a felony in France. White wine is not vodka. Buy a wine cooler sleeve instead and keep it on standby in the freezer — the sleeve, not the white wine.
Do not discount decanting. Decant, decant, decant even the less expensive bottles of red wine. Test the difference and you will become an instant decanter. Wash the decanter as well the morning after use. Over time, decanters become cloudy. Mix a weak solution of water and bleach and let it sit overnight. Later, rinse it very thoroughly, unless you want to see how wine tastes with a hint of bleach.
Like most guys, my preferences are very simple, something red, and that doesn’t include white zinfandel or rose. If I can only drink one wine, right now it would be Petite Syrah, or a Syrah. After those two, Cabernet, Zinfandel and Merlot. I am not a fan of Pinot Noir. This doesn’t mean I don’t serve and enjoy an occasional Chardonnay (I even cook with it now and then), Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. I do, especially when entertaining. I am giving you my preference when I am not entertaining, especially on the patio with my dog, though he prefers cabernet. Fortunately, my wife also loves red wine.
Speaking of entertaining, do not, I repeat, do not, ever stock White Zinfandel. If a guest requests it, take your cheapest Zinfandel and put water in it until it looks like a light Rosé. Then never invite her back. I don’t care how drop-dead gorgeous she is. (I say ‘she’ because I have yet to know a guy who drinks White Zinfandel. That would be faux metrosexual.) You’re stuck if she’s your wife’s best friend.
Your wine pricing choices are spit-it-out, inexpensive, moderately expensive, expensive and a French chateau vintage you cannot pronounce. Restaurant wine prices are moderately expensive, French chateau expensive, and thanks for paying for my second home — a French chateau. Corkage fees are now the price of moderately priced wines twenty-five years ago. At least you still get to keep the cork.
You could easily stock your den just with wine books. I suggest you split the space with the BBQ and Harley maintenance books.
The health benefits of wine have been well documented and reported. Sadly, those benefits come from consuming one or two glasses per day, not one or two bottles. If your wine glass holds up to half a bottle, that is not the definition of one or two glasses.
I remain a skeptic about this psychic wine thing, though my wife and I have toured vineyards and met winemakers and owners. I do recall meeting the winemaker at a winery tasting room near Paso Robles, CA a few years back. The man could have been a double for the old Marlboro Man cigarette commercials, sans cigarette. My wife drank him in and suddenly loved the Cabernet we were tasting. We bought six bottles.