OK I have to admit it – – my two great passions in life are enjoying food and wine. As a chef for more than 35 years I’ve had a chance to cook and sample all manner of food, but the topper, the epiphany if you will, for me was to have that food in the company of an interesting wine. I can still remember the first “serious” wine that I had many years ago. I remember that it was serious because it had a cork rather than a screw top! It was an old bottle of Inglenook Cabernet, one of the original and great wineries in California. A friend pulled it from his cellar to share at a dinner that I was preparing that featured some wild game. I’ve forgotten what I prepared but I’ve never forgotten that wine. It was a perfect accompaniment – – the wine made the food taste better and vice versa.
I learned that day the most important rule about enjoying wine: It should also be seen as FOOD. It’s just another part of the plate of flavors in front of you, all to be enjoyed together. It’s why I have such a problem with “wine weenies” that insist on rhapsodizing about the wine and ignoring the food. Or, competitions in which wines are compared without bouncing them off against food. The two are meant to be enjoyed together with neither being more important than the other, and they do change in each others company.
When I discovered how much I loved wine with my food, I began to collect like a mad man. I got on everyone’s mailing list and went to endless tastings. I plunged in, tried everything and kept a few notes so that I could document what it was that I liked. One of the great tragedies I think is trying to recall a great meal with wine and because the memory fades after a while, not being able to recall the specifics. It’s why I think the practice of keeping a daily journal is such a good practice. It helps you recall life’s adventures more vividly, including your most memorable food and wine pairings.