Been thinking about this quite a lot the past couple weeks. Several reasons but the most demanding, (I mean other than the elections) and immediate, the store’s Wine of the Year nominations/tasting/judging thingie. An event that is much anticipated by our customers, (therefore fun to do) but has never really made any kind of sense to me as I fall into Kermit Lynch’s mindset of “The best for what?” as far as labeling of wines goes.
Okay so Wine of the Year is where each of The Wine Country’s buyers is charged with selecting a red, white, sparkling and sweet wine of the year. We make our selections, based on several factors, (not the least of which is availability) get together one evening after closing, pop corks, make a case for our wines and vote. I do it and as I said, I know lots of our customers really look forward to seeing the results, so it is something I can’t help but genuinely care about and like my other coworkers, take fairly seriously but best, as in “The Best”, within the context of wine enjoyment….well I just can’t be sure that I have that kind of palate wielding power that can make any kind of proclamations of bestiness. Just can’t and moreover…I really don’t believe greatness can or should be measured in that way.
I sit at the table each year and listen as the results are read, often with a, “Really?! That one?!” look splashed across my mug, wondering who among my coworkers voted for that wine, I mean other than the one that nominated it of course, above all others in the category, my heart often breaking a little as the little bits of folded up secret ballot are discarded and with it the label “The Best” stripped from whichever wines weren’t voted for. Thankfully at our shop Randy lists all the nominees in the December newsletter, and we do a Saturday tasting that includes many of the selections, not just the “Winners” so our customers get a fair sampling of the wines we put forward as exceptional. Of course they won’t be tasting them as we did, one after the next, reds first, with slices of cold roast beef and turkey to clear, or muck with, their palates, so the wines may taste very different to them and their results could be totally different, just another reason these lists and labels make little or no sense to me….
I was feeling a little anxious last night, just bored with being home, over the television, avoiding the internet, (seems to be my new pastime that, avoiding the internet) suffering with a pretty serious case of the blahs which in turn makes me edgy. Did what I often do in those situations, headed to and got lost in my kitchen. Wrist deep in chopped veggies, the sound of my knife landing softly against my bamboo cutting block, my mind methodically clicking through the list of steps and ingredients as I prepped dinner for my family. A good sear on the pork loin, mushrooms thinly sliced, garlic smashed into a paste, vinegar at the ready for deglazing as I tossed the mushroom slivers into the screaming hot, loaded with leftover cooked pork bits pan. Watching the spongy mushrooms expand and retract, change from off white to brown, the scrapping of my wooden spoon, my nostrils and lungs pulling in thickly vinegary scented air as I poured in a glug of stock and gave a twist to the nob on the stove. Pork resting, sauce reducing, mustard and cream awaiting their turn in the skillet I turned my thoughts to wine and what best to pair with this somewhat humble but very flavorful dish. A quick rummage through my little wine fridge and my hand fell, almost magically, on just the bottle I needed….and the pairing, a measure of greatness.
I sat alone at my dining room table, the guys opting to nosh before the basketball game on television, fork and barely needed knife in hand, cutting little tender bits of pork, taking a generous stab of mushrooms and pushing as much sauce as would stay put upon both before depositing them into my open and waiting jaw. Creamy, succulent, vibrant with acidity and vinegary, mustardy tang, the dish was mouth filling, demanding and genuinely soulful. I sat there once again thinking of all the great wines we nominated this year, “The Best” wines and while I am truly proud of the wines we picked, (actually one of the deepest and most thrilling set of wines we’ve had in some time) I knew not one of them would have paired more beautifully with my dish than the Roland Schmitt Pinot Gris I was drinking. Once again I found myself thinking of Kermit Lynch and, “Best for what?”
I just cannot believe that greatness can be measured by one for all. Greatness, like wine, isn’t a thing to me….it’s a moment and in that moment, that Pinot Gris was The Best.