It's no secret that I love a good red wine. I tend to prefer Cabernet, because my dad once told me that it was more complex than Merlot, and that opinion has stuck. When I first turned 21, I went to the local liquor store every Thursday after closing the college dining hall, and bought something new so that I could "educate" myself. Having grown up in New Mexico and now living in Washington, my favorite wines are from those two states. What can I say? Loyalty is one of my top personal values. I'm revealing my hand here, but I very, very rarely pay more than $15 for a bottle. I've learned that my palate is not discerning enough to care/notice beyond that point. My favorite wine of all time was a Cuvee Rose from Temecula, CA for $35 a bottle, but it was not a dinner wine.
About once a year I spring for an all out dining experience. I know some people scoff at the price of high-end restaurants, but for me it's the same as buying concert tickets, or something similar for a hobby/interest that brings you great joy. Most recently, while on a work retreat, I had the pleasure of taking my long-time friend to dinner at the San Ysidro Ranch Stonehouse. While I waited for my friend to arrive, I perused the wine book. I'm not kidding. It was a book. There was an index and page numbers. I'm pretty sure it went to at least page 70. At any rate, my job was to find a decent wine I could afford. The cheapest bottle in the book was $35. When my friend arrived I asked what she'd prefer to drink. She said red, but added "anything but Merlot. It gives me headaches" A heart-sinking moment, the bottle for $35 had to be a Merlot! Our server, seeing our indecisiveness, said he would send over the sommelier. Ahhh! I can't talk to a sommelier. I will totally look like a fool, and they'll know I'm cheap. "Ok," I said with a gulp.
The sommelier sauntered over to our table in all his glory, and asked us what we like to drink. I said we like red, no Merlot, and (trying to sound cool) that we'd like something local. He kindly explained that because of the climate, Santa Barbara was known for Chardonnay, but if we'd like a red, that Pinot Noir was also grown locally, just a bit further out. I told him Pinot Noir sounded lovely. He asked if under $100 was alright. I swallowed my tongue. No seriously, I sheepishly said that was great, and felt grateful knowing that they had a bottle for sale at the low, low price of $5,000! I feel that I have to remind the reader that I work for a non-profit.
The wine was fabulous. I didn't look at the break-down when I paid. I was scared and slightly ashamed, so I don't know how much I was charged for this bottle of Melville Pinot, but I did see it in the Santa Barbara airport for around $30, and you can buy it online for as low at $26. From my experience, many restaurants charge you $8 a glass, for an $8 bottle, so that gives me an idea of the price I paid. Where am I going with this? I had an amazing meal.
Not pictured is my friend's Parmesan Crusted California Halibut, because I took a terrible picture. Lessons learned, maybe it's ok to say "no" to speaking to the sommelier? Most importantly, when your server mentions something like house-made mint-chocolate-chip ice cream three different times, just say "Yessss!"
I'm a not-for-profit worker that loves food, both healthy and indulgent. I've eaten the 12 egg omelette at Beth's Cafe: toast, hash browns, and all. Take that Adam Richman!