I think everyone can relate to the story I’m about to share. It has to do with pretentiousness that surrounds wine from time-to-time, and the people who ruin wine as they pontificate their wine know-how to perfect strangers.
Saturday we visited three of the Bainbridge Island wineries for the “Meet the Winemakers” weekend. (I’ll go into the wines we tried in a separate post).
There were a number of people making the circuit, so while we had some good one-on-one time with the winemakers, there were times when we had to share their attention.
It was at one of the more crowded stops that Jeff (my husband) and I encountered a person who, in my opinion, may have had one taste too many. She wasn’t rude; in fact she was the opposite — friendly and conversational.
But, the wine know-it-all immediately started name dropping the Bainbridge winemakers, telling us their wines sell themselves, they produce some of the best wine in the state, etc., etc. I appreciated her enthusiasm, and agree there are some great wines coming from the island, but the more she talked, the more she got the facts wrong.
Like when she tasted a Sangiovese and claimed she could “Taste the Bainbridge Island soil; the sunlight and the island’s blackberry bushes.”
Now I don’t pretend to be a wine expert, but I do know the basics. Including the fact that except for Gerard and Jo Ann Bentryn, red wines made on the island come from grapes grown in Eastern Washington. (The Bentryns grow pinot noir at their Day Road vineyard).
Mind you, the label of the wine she was drinking specifically said it was from Kiona’s Red Mountain Vineyard, which is located near the Tri-Cities.
Clearly our new wine friend was trying to show that she knows how terroir plays into wine. But if she knew enough to know about terroir, she should also know Bainbridge’s reds — except for the Bentryn’s Pinot — come from Eastern Washington.
It took everything in me not to say: “Wow you must have an amazing palate to be able to taste the island’s soil in grapes grown 218 miles away.”
Instead I kept my mouth shut, smiled politely and poured out the Sangio to wait for the next red.
She however took this as a dismissal of the wine she described as “smooth, rich and the best she’d had.” (I liked the wine, but as a 100 percent Sangiovese, the tannins and acidity were present on the finish, which did not leave me thinking “smooth”).
Didn’t we like it?
Very much but we’re pacing ourselves, I replied, secretly thinking: “Maybe you should do the same.”
Let me end this post with some advice. If you’re at a tasting, pace yourself. Don’t feel bad pouring out after a sip or two, or spitting. Winemakers won’t be insulted.
In fact, they’re more likely to get insulted when it appears you’re drinking for the buzz and not to appreciate the hard work they put in to making it.
I know I’m not the only one who has a story about a run-in with a pretentious wine drinker. If you can, please share your stories so we can all chuckle — and remind ourselves not to get caught up in how much we know about wine.