In Vino Veritas
The culture of making and drinking wine is steeped in snobbery and idle ritual: The sommelier at a good restaurant, for instance, will always pour the first splash of a bottle into the glass of the person who ordered it (or who otherwise seems to be the table's big cheese), so that it can be sloshed and sniffed critically. As if anyone (except an expert or poser) will be able to tell much of anything, unless the wine has really turned bad — in which case the restaurant shouldn't be serving it or cellaring it.
An unglamorous fact is that most people are happy most of the time with $5 bottles of wine. “It has been my experience as a winemaker and consumer that even sophisticated aficionados do not drink $38 bottles of Pinot Noir on a daily basis,” says Paul Kreider, owner of the Ross Valley Winery in San Anselmo and publisher of a new subscription newsletter, Northern California Bonanza, that represents a kind of neo-realism in oenophilia.
Kreider is “a strong proponent of wine being consumed with meals,” he says; “While there is a permanent market for rarer, more elegant, and expensive wines, the really big market is with people who just want a couple of glasses of good red or white to go with their lunch or dinner.”
Kreider “can talk the wine talk with the best of them,” he says, but he's a little wary of the flowery talk so many people use in discussing wine.
“I decided early on the difference between hints of currant and hints of raspberry depended more upon what I had eaten than what was in the wine,” he says — a frank statement that came as a considerable relief to Dish, who seems to detect hints of currant and raspberry in almost all red wine.
One basic fact about inexpensive wines, whether white or red, is that they're meant to be drunk now, or soon, and not in 10 years. As Kreider wrote recently of a low-priced, 3-year-old cabernet sauvignon: “Age has not helped it; not worth buying.”
Kreider tastes all the wine himself “in the blind” (knowing the varietal but not the vintner), and he also performs a basic chemical analysis — including levels of pH, alcohol, sulfites, and residual sugar — on all wines he considers. The result is bluntly unpretentious and wryly funny, but mostly useful. He tells you what to buy and what to avoid, and the wines he writes about are widely available in supermarkets and other chain retailers in the area.
For more information on subscrib-ing, call Kreider at 454-5468, fax him at 454-2490, or e-mail him at winesotaol.com.
And if you have any dish for (or to) Dish, e-mail it to sfwdishaol.com.