Posts Tagged ‘In Pursuit of Balance
I moved to Westchester two years ago. It’s been great for our kids, jury’s still out on how it’s working for the grown ups. One thing I can say for sure though is that it’s taught me a lot about wine. Not what’s in the bottle, but the context around it — how people drink wine and what they think about it, outside the very insulated community of Manhattan and what a friend calls the “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” areas of Brooklyn.
Some thoughts so far:
Wine in many suburban restaurants = disappointing. More often than not, the selection is boring, the pricing unjust, and the wine service non-existent. One local place that calls itself a wine bar — as in, the name of the place actually includes the phrase “wine bar” — doesn’t list the producers on its wine list. Make fun of people all you want for always drinking the same Malbec or Sancerre, but they’re not wrong to be risk-averse. The odds of being disappointed and feeling ripped off if they try something new are high.
Wine retail, on the other hand, is kind of awesome. I’ve found more than a few great stores, and great prices, in the most unlikely places. One of my favorites, the Wine + Spirit Discount Warehouse, sits next to a Salvation Army in a sad New Rochelle strip mall. Walk past the aisles of Alize and Mike’s Hard Lemonade and you’ll find a good selection or wines at a steal — if Wine Searcher is to be believed, it’s the cheapest place to pick up wines from Kermit Lynch’s portfolio in lower Westchester. My local store, Blue Dog Wines, is a little gem. It’s a tiny space filled with crowd pleasers, a few esoteric finds and IPOB-approved Pinots. Full disclosure: the owner is helping me out with my latest wine project, a local Facebook group page where I lead an online tasting every few weeks. It’s young yet, but lots of fun.
“Drink local” means something else entirely. When it comes to wine selection, people really are beholden to the skill and tastes of the wine stores and restaurants in their immediate vicinity. (Yes, people order wine online, but shipping can be an expensive deterrent, plus wine.com is no help when you need to run out and buy some Prosecco for your neighbor’s dinner party starting in 45 minutes.) The universe of wine is vast and thrilling, but you’d never know it if your local wine store stocks the same boring bottles year after year.
The wine industry is insanely out of touch with how most people actually choose and consume wine. Do a better job telling people what the thing tastes like and give them a good story to hang their hat on. Stop with the overly precious food matching. No one is drinking your $15 Pinot Noir with game. They’re drinking it to accompany a burger or leftovers or an episode of Scandal. Get over it.
I will never stop being amazed by the smart questions I get from people who think they don’t know “enough” about wine. Sometimes the “average wine drinker” (whatever that means) is a lot smarter and more adventurous than they’re given credit for.