Sunday, January 19, 2014

It's a tough life, but someone's got to love a sommelier

I like wine. A lot. (Hiccup)

So you would think that I consider myself one lucky lady to be married to a trained sommelier. I never have to worry about what wine to serve with what I am cooking, because Hubby takes care of that. I rarely run out of wine because we have a cellar. And I go on all of these great vacations to wine destinations, like Bordeaux. What the heck is not to love!

But I gotta tell you... It's not always easy to be married to a sommelier. For instance, I can't enjoy a glass of wine without first being forced to stick my nose deep into the glass to determine its "nose". And I get in trouble when my answer is "grapes". "Come on Jay," Hubby will say with some measure of exasperation. "You must get [insert green peppers or caramel or tobacco or jam or any other appropriate wine smell here]. It's so obvious!" And heaven forbid I have a Malbec when I'm not eating barbecue meat, even if I really just feel like a Malbec. "It doesn't go with white fish, Jay. You can't have a Malbec with that. Here. Try [insert name of wine that goes well with white fish here] instead." Oh, and that wine cellar we have? I'm not allowed to take a bottle from it without first consulting the house sommelier. Seriously. I'm a grown woman, and. I. am. not. allowed. to. choose. wine. from. the. cellar. on. my. own. But don't worry. I am allowed to touch the "every day" upstairs supply whenever I want. "Every day" being code for "the stuff that the dumb girl who doesn't understand wine can have."

Perhaps the most difficult thing about being married to a sommelier is that Hubby is a member of a wine guild (sounds positively Middle Ages, wouldn't you say). I end up going to an awful lot of wine events, where I am surrounded by a whole lot of people who know a whole lot more than me. With their sophisticated palettes and their love of debating one another about the merits of a super Tuscan over a Côte de Rhone, I haven't got a chance of being the life of the party, a role I hold dear. Because you see, when you are not a wine connoisseur, going to a wine guild event is kind of like being an antelope stumbling right into the lion's den. Chances are pretty good that you will be the centre of attention, but for all the wrong reasons. You're likely to get eaten alive. Especially if the most insightful thing you can say about the glass of wine you are sipping is that it tastes like grapes.

Yes, as much as I love wine, wine events make me feel positively insignificant. And oh so very out of place.

But I am a supportive wife. So the same way that Hubby humours my blue collar passions like Springsteen and football, I cater to his love of trying to be the smartest wine professional in the room by going to guild events with him.

Some of them are really quite fun. Like the "speed dating" event where we worked our way around a room full of wineries, 8 minutes per winery table, sampling their award winning wines. Pretty effective way to get a Tuesday night buzz on in less than an hour, if you ask me.

And then there was the reception at the Argentinian embassy, where not only did I get to taste about 25 of my favourite varietal (Malbec), but I also met a talented Argentinian artist and purchased some of his beautiful art, which, one of these days, I will actually hang on a wall...

But by far, the best guild event is the yearly holiday dinner, refreshingly held after Christmas instead of before, and hosted by one of Ottawa's premier chefs. It is a five course food and wine pairing that makes foodies, sommeliers, and even regular folk like me, weep. And this year's dinner was just last night.

The first year that we went, I was seriously intimidated at the thought of being seated at a table full of wine experts and being forced into conversations about wine with them. So I adopted a strategy. Trophy wife. I was going to play the part of a trophy wife. Surely that would earn me some attention. Hubby could regale our table mates with stories about wine and I would charm the pants off of them by being the best dressed person and by making people laugh. So I went out and dropped an absurdly high amount of money on a sparkly holiday outfit, complete with new shoes and jewelry. Surely my lack of wine knowledge would go unnoticed!

It did go unnoticed. But not because of anything I did to divert attention away from my ignorance. But because wine lovers are really, really, really focused on their wine. And they don't really concern themselves with the fact that you can't contribute to the conversation, because they are happy to fill the void with the sound of their own wine-soaked voices. So I spent most of the meal in silence, a remarkably different scenario than most dinners I attend where I can't be shut up.

Still, dressing up is not something that a football-loving Springsteen fan gets to do very often. It's nice to get all dolled up for a fancy event once a year, even if it doesn't result in me being the centre of attention. So we keep going back. If for no other reason than I like to wear pretty dresses!

2013 dinner

2014 dinner - I don't know why I am squinting so much... This picture was taken before we started drinking all the wine...
And of course, there is the food. It is incredible. Where else would I ever try veal tongue pastrami. Yes, you read that right. And yes, it was delicious. This isn't a food blog, so I didn't take pictures of all of the courses so that I could describe them back to you in vivid detail. Just believe me when I say that no calorie was left behind last night. Even if I have to be in a bathing suit on the beaches of Jamaica in a mere ten-days time.

And you know what? Over the years, these events have actually become a little less intimidating. Partly because some of Hubby's knowledge is starting to rub off on me (but don't you dare tell him I said that). But mostly because those who know and love wine are simply very passionate people who love nothing more than to share their passion with you. They're not showing off. They're sharing their knowledge in the hopes that you will be as excited as they are and that you will find beauty in the sediment left behind in your wine glass just as they do. And when you finally accept that you don't have to be the centre of attention at each and every event that you attend, you can sit back, relax, meet some pretty fantastic people, laugh a little, and see a whole new and wonderful world unfold in front of you.

Oh yeah. And you can drink some damn good wine. Wine that tastes and smells like grapes. Damn good grapes.