Sunday, November 25, 2007
What Wine to Bring to Someone's House
We recently had a party, the name, date and time which will remain anonymous to protect those involved, from which I had the sheer joy of actually having unopened wine leftover that my generous guests brought with them. For me, this is a rare but delightful occasion - my adult version of a visit from the tooth fairy. Just as losing a tooth can be traumatizing to a child, post-party cleanup can be traumatizing to an adult, so finding bottles of unopened wine is the grown up equivalent of finding cash under your pillow - it just helps you get through it.
Another reason I love finding leftover wine is because it's like a mystery potluck for oenophiles. People never bring what I would bring and I love that. I tend to stick to your California classics like Cabernet and Chardonnay so it forces me to try something new, even if it's just a different brand. Some of these little strays have even become my favorites.
But occasionally, the mystery tastings backfire. And that's where my rant begins. I recently opened a 'mystery' bottle for a nice dinner I'd cooked. Again, to protect those involved, I'll leave the name and variety out, I'll only say that it was red. I opened it and poured dipping my nose in for a hint of what was to come. It smelled like boy's gym socks, after they've been marinating for a few weeks in a damp locker.
My husband, who doesn't drink that much wine, is fairly convinced I've become one of those annoying wine snobs that likes to pretend to pull smells out while swirling that don't even exist (he once stopped talking to me, momentarily, after I asked a waiter for an 'earthy' red) so he naturally thought I was up to old tricks again. Let me assure you, however, that I am not a wine snob. For one, I can't afford to be and for two, really expensive bottles are wasted on me. I get nuances in wine up to a point, but then it's all Greek, or Japanese, or even Slavakian to my tastebuds. The most expensive bottle I buy is Rutherford Hill's merlot, which on our current budget, is never.
Anyway, I went ahead and tasted said 'stinky' wine, just in case it was one of those bottles that just smelled strange but actually tasted good. To this moment, I still wish I'd just poured the cursed liquid down the drain.
I stewed about it all through dinner, insisting someone would actually have to go out of there way to pick a bottle that bad. After all, there are plenty of wines, especially Washington based, in the $10-14 range that are quite good. Even Two Buck Chuck has its place now and then, when times are tight. And if you don't know a thing about wine - you can always ask the sales clerk for a suggestion in any price range. I wasn't budging - there was NO excuse to bring a bottle that bad. Bring flowers, bring a six pack, bring ANYTHING besides liquid rubber.
After dinner, I snuck onto the internet (and I'm still a bit embarrased by this) and looked said bottle up. It was $5.99 at an online retailer, cheaper in bulk. I shut my computer, satisfied that my assumption had been correct. It was an awful, awful wine.
But it was more than the quality of the bottle that bothered me. It was the message it sent - like someone saying 'please don't invite me EVER again. I didn't really want to come anyway so here - CHEERS!'
Before you think I'm an evil person, hear me out. When you have people over - wether for appetizers or a full on dinner - it's a lot of work. (If you entertain a lot, I'm preaching to the choir.) But even if it's just appetizers and drinks, I've never pulled a cocktail party off for less than a few hundred bucks.
Of couse I'm not suggesting that you put out a tip jar by the door. It's just that when you spend the money to have people over, not to mention the time cleaning your home (and cleaning up the next day), the least your guests can do is bring a decent bottle of wine. Chateau St. Michelle makes a lovely cabernet for about $16 bucks. $16 bucks versus the money your guests would spend going out to eat. So please, when you attend a dinner or party at someone's house, bring a decent bottle of wine. It doesn't have to be expensive, and if you're unsure of youself, ask the clerk for their advice. Or skip the wine and bring a nice beer instead. Or some flowers, or some cheese. Show them, with whatever it is you bring, that you're glad to be there.
There - I'm done and I feel much better. Now to end on a positive note. Someone recently left a bottle of Cabernet from burch hall winery in Paso Robles (2005.) This tasty wine went so, so well with a pot of chili I recently made, I thought Kris was going to walk out the door if I didn't shut up about it. It's big, fruity, and juicy - in my opinion a good holiday wine. (Speaking of the holidays, I'm already planning my Christmas menus - coming soon!)
So as the holidays, and holiday parties, kick into gear - remember to put some thought into what wine you bring to someone's house - even if it isn't wine at all.