“Oops” is not the word you want to hear from your surgeon or for that matter from your Certified Public Accountant. We are having the fourth installment of the “Monthly Wine Writing Challenge” and the theme of “Oops” has been suggested by last month’s winner “The Wine Kat.” As I pondered the relevance of this term to the subject of wine, I could envision the concept of pratfalls or spills of great bottles of wine, or the loss of a great bottle of wine that is now over the hill because of the misplacement of the bottle in a cellar, or from improper storage. I thought of funny anecdotes and even some sad stories that could arise from this simple four letter word. What pray tell could I write about, and then I thought of resurrecting my favorite wine story that I have relayed in the very early days of my writing, which has probably been lost or missed by people that have just a cursory interest in my writing, or haven’t used the search box to see if I had written about one of the most hallowed of all cult wines “Screaming Eagle.” To calm those that may have a thought that I may have broken or spilled a bottle of this wine, and are dreading to read further, this did not happen. The “Oops” is from perhaps a fatal flaw of your raconteur, I like to talk to people and I especially enjoy talking about wine, since a raconteur is just an old fashioned term that is not bandied around much any more, and simply means a story teller or a narrator.
“Screaming Eagle wines are not for mere mortals” was a statement that I uttered to two gentlemen, and this is from the middle of the story, that I have to admit, I do enjoy relating. My Bride and I were on holidays in the beautiful wine country of the Carmel Valley, as we enjoy staying at Carmel-by-the-Sea. As is my habit when we make our holiday plans I start making dinner reservations and one of the reservations was at a fine restaurant on the grounds of a winery that we wished to visit as well. In this retelling of the story the dinner we enjoyed, as well as the wines selected are secondary to the story under the guidelines of this particular theme. My Bride and I were dressed to the nines, as we usually are when we go out dining on our holiday trips, just to be more festive, and normally when people see us dressed up, I think most people refrain from disturbing us as they must think we are celebrating, since people do not dress up for dinner, the way people did years ago.
We had planned and ordered a great meal that evening, when two gentlemen were seated at the next table to us, and they were dressed in business attire, which tends to be more understated then when people dress up for an occasion. The waiter went to the next table and then so did the sommelier, and the two men ended up with an argument with the sommelier almost immediately and he left their table. The next moment the wait staff was assembling a collection of wine glasses of different sizes on our table in anticipation of our dinner. One of the two men then asked if I knew anything about wine, and since I like to be social, and since the question was about one of my favorite subjects, I answered in the affirmative. That was the “Oops” of the evening, as I proceeded to get grilled about wines even though my Bride and I were attempting to have a fine dinner in a wonderful venue. I was being grilled as if I was in a courtroom or giving a deposition, even though we were trying to enjoy our dinner. They were happy with the answers I gave, I guess, as they then informed me that they were business partners and they had about $3000.00 of company money that they had to spend from an account that evening or they would loose the right to spend the money. Silently I looked at my Bride and I knew that she was just as appalled as I was at this revelation. It turns out that the two men had decided to order the bottle of Screaming Eagle that was listed on the wine carte listing and the sommelier had declined their wishes, informing the men, that the wine was not ready to be enjoyed as it was still too young and had suggested a few other wines that were in their prime, as well as being very expensive bottles of wine.
The two men wanted to enlist me into the fray of battle between them and the sommelier, because they wanted to spend the client’s money and they thought this wine was the perfect expense. I told the men that I thought the sommelier was right, that the wine was too young, as this wine was made to be laid away for further aging, in the same way the great Clarets of the Medoc are made (I was also told that this was the same valid argument the sommelier had given them). They would have no part of the argument, and said that wine is listed, so they wanted it, and asked me to have a talk with the sommelier as they felt that they may have been too terse in the initial conversation/argument. I asked our waiter to have the sommelier come to my table, and I related all that I had learned since he had left our two tables. I said everything loud enough so that the sommelier and the two gentlemen could hear my discussion, so as not to have to repeat anything, and I was getting a little testy as I was not enjoying my dinner to the extent that I had hoped to, while my poor Bride had to suffer the loss of her conversation partner during all of this time. I made mention that I was a retailer and since they did have the bottle listed, and I am sure it was more for bragging rights, than for an actual desire to sell the bottle and lose it from the listing, that they must sell it, even though the sommelier had done his due diligence to inform them the wine was really not ready to be drank. The sommelier agreed to my conversation and decided to serve the wine, even though he felt that it would be a waste of money, when he had other wines that were at their peak of maturity and would have been a fine investment for dinner.
After my “Oops” moment, my Bride and I were finally free to salvage the rest of our meal and our own company. After dessert, wine and coffee I had called for our bill. The sommelier return to our table with a tray with the finest wine glass I had ever seen; the longest stem and the most perfect shaped glass atop of it, with a deep red wine in it. I mentioned that I had not ordered anything else and was waiting for my bill. The sommelier told me, that the two gentlemen wished for me to have the first glass of the wine after it had been decanted. I hastily requested a fresh glass of water and a piece of bread to cleanse my palate after such a fine dinner. I asked my Bride if she would like to try it, and she declined claiming that it was all mine. I felt, even though I had tried to be discreet about the events that all eyes were upon me. As I swirled the wine in the glass, inhaled the nose of the wine and finally poured the first drops to kiss my taste buds. I whistled in the last bit of air and then I chewed the wine to get every bit of taste from that first sip. I smiled at my Bride, the sommelier and finally the two gentlemen and said that the wine was delicious, but it would have been monumental and awe-inspiring in about ten years. I nursed the wine, the men proceeded to enjoy their wine and dinner, and I felt that the world continued to revolve and life went on. Oh, may I have another “Oops” like this again.