Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sommeliers, Simple Pleasures & Screwtops

I count myself as one of the lucky ones . . . I truly love what I do for a living, and rarely think of it as a job. Rather, I feel I spend my days and nights sharing my passion with others and - incidentally - someone pays me for doing so! But, from time-to-time it is just plain work, and like most people I have a desire to leave my work ‘at the office’.

My circle of friends is heavy with sommeliers, chefs and other food & beverage professionals, as we share a lot in common: unusual schedules, night-owl tendencies, and strong, gusto-driven, obsessive personalities to name a few. Meals shared with said work-buddies are often of the pizza and beer variety, as we don’t generally like to mix work and play. But once and a while it is totally worth the admiration we receive from the engineers, accountants, and computer programmers we hold dear when we agree to bring our work home, and put on a wine-centric dinner party.

Just such a time happened last night, as a fellow Savvy Sommelier and his better half joined in on an impromptu, intimate dinner party I hosted. Reflecting this morning (after copious cups of coffee cut finally cut through the post-revelry fog), I can say that there were many highlights of the night. What made the evening for me was how much pleasure was gleaned from a relatively simple effort. A stroll down to the local farmers market in the morning to decide what would be on our plates hours later, and a last-minute wine selection of a white and a red from the ‘house selection’ completed the menu. And before jumping to conclusions about the elite contents of a sommelier’s cellar, I’ll have you know both wines were under $25 and under screw caps.

I will admit to one epicurean indulgence that belies the humble vibe of the dinner: a mid-meal tasting course of roasted maitake mushrooms ($15/lb, gotta love North California farmer’s markets) and a full, nutty Champagne, Diebolt-Vallois NV Brut Tradition, what I consider one of the most versatile, reasonably priced and elegant non-vintage Champagnes.

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