What to Drink When a Winemaker Comes a Calling

Last night, I was a bit of a nervous wreck, but that is nothing really all that earth shattering. The reason? Well, there was a Napa winemaker coming over for dinner and I had no idea what wines I should serve. I have plenty in the basement, er, I mean ‘cave’ but I had no friggin’ clue which one(s) to chose. I had put my wife in charge of dinner, which is usually my bailiwick, but I was on child pick-up duty, so I would not have time. She told me to “just worry about the wine.” Worry? Check.

Let me back up. I certainly have met a few winemakers over the years, and I would say that I might even be ‘friendly’ with a few of them. One might naturally think, then, that one of my preferred ‘drug pushers’ was in town for business and through relentless pursuit, I convinced the poor bastard to come over for dinner and let my kids jump on his head and kick him in the crotch which the boys seem to love to do. (Yes, I do know that I referred to the nameless winemaker as ‘him’. I also realize that there are numerous very talented female wine makers–I even know several. And yes, I am just as likely to invite over a female wine maker, but I was trying to be funny and the thought of my boys kicking a female winemaker in the groin is neither funny, nor is it socially acceptable, so I said ‘him’–sue me).

The winemaker in question is actually the husband of my wife’s college friend, but I take full credit for our ‘relationship’.

Let me back up a little further. Several years ago, we were out visiting my wife’s family. My wife, in order for me to agree to come along, assured me that we would spend some ‘quality time’ in Napa Valley without the kids (there was no way that I was not going to go along with my family, but it is always nice to get a concession along the way to do some boozing.) This was by no means the first time we had been to Napa—we had driven up and down Route 29 and the Silverado Trail countless times, stopping at old favorites, trying to find hidden gems. There was even the time that I went to great lengths to meet up with a winemaker that graduated from my alma mater ten years before I did—several phone calls, driving to the remote location of the winery, all to get the ‘inside tour’.

This particular time, as we we were leaving St. Helena (for perhaps the 40th time in our relationship) to go back to her parents’ house, my wife says casually: “My friend from college has a winery around here somewhere, I really should give her a call.”

I try to remain cool.

Screw that.

I slam on the breaks and pull to the side of the road.


“Oh, I never told you that? I thought I did.”

“Nope, you most certainly did not.”

“Really? I thought I had—she married a guy from college whose family bought a vineyard along here somewhere and now he is the winemaker”, she added nonchalantly.

We had been together for eight years or so, made countless trips to the valley, spent far too much on wine, and here she was holding the golden ticket all the while.

I considered calling a lawyer.

Instead, I tried to convince her that we should stop by the winery and say ‘hello’ (and get the private tour, the special treatment, the whole nine—but I conveniently left that part out). My wife said she wanted to call first since the winery did not have a proper tasting room and you had to have an appointment to get in.

Even more juicy details that had been kept from me all these years. I should have that lawyer on speed dial….

Seeing that we were already on our way back to the in-laws, the visit to her friend’s winery (my wife has a friend that owns a winery?!? Still hard to get my head around that one) would have to wait until the next time we were in the Valley.

Fast forward a year and on our next trip to see her parents, I made sure to email my wife’s friend at the winery and set up an appointment—I may not remember to take out the trash, but when it comes to wine…. (For the women out there—it’s not that we don’t remember, we just don’t want to do take out the trash—but we also know that saying that is much worse).

My wife was surprised that I remembered.

“Who are you? And what have you done with my wife?”

We went to the winery, had a grand old time, and we all vowed to get together more often. None of which would have happened if I were not the raging alcoholic that I am (Thank you very much).

Alright, that pretty much brings us back to today, and they were coming to our house to spend the night, catch up, visit the city a bit, etc.

Thus, I was in a bit of a panic. They make mostly Bordeaux varietal wines at their winery, so we decided that we would have some skirt steak with a nice cab. As I was riding home I started to really stress out—I was going to serve a cab to a guy who makes them for a living? What was I thinking? I don’t even have that many cabs from which to chose!

Right before hyperventilation was about to start, I settled on a couple of older Bordeaux since I figured they probably did not have Bordeaux all that often.

I got home and my wife informed me that the Whole Foods was pretty much out of skirt steak, so she decided to go with pork instead.

After a moment of further panic in the change in plans, I realized that this meant I was back in my comfort zone—Pinot. I went down into the basement and grabbed a couple of older Burgundies that were waiting for a moment like this.

And they were fabulous.

Maybe I do not need that lawyer just yet….

Unfortunately, I could not stop there. I went down and brought up another wine: 1985 Inglenook Reunion Cabernet. Since they made wine in the Valley, I thought they would appreciate a bottle from Napa’s past–and I was right, they were excited to try it.  After 10 minutes of cork extraction, I poured.



Why can’t I ever quit when I am ahead?


About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
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17 Responses to What to Drink When a Winemaker Comes a Calling

  1. What I like about your anecdotes is that, although your life is charmed and charmingly witty, you aren’t one of those bores who believes he’s entitled to a charmed life. Your self-depracating humor saves the day!

    All good stories need frustrations and adversities to make them readably interesting. Without failures, stories turn into pompous, didactic, gloating, self-congratulatory rants. And, of course, you realize, that you’ve had so many interesting and fabulous experiences, that you could, if you weren’t careful….. no, never mind, YOU never would be one of THOSE kinds of writers…. (I’m serious; it’s the reason I enjoy your blog–I love wine; I hate pretentiousness).

    And I’m sure your wine-owner friends are delighted that you fed and wined them well. I’m envious. I want to be invited for dinner! (after the children have grown up; you’ve got me scared of children now, and I’m too frail to be a jungle gym).


  2. talkavino says:

    Great story, Jeff, as usual. 1985 corked? Very sad, but it comes wit the territory, unfortunately. I hope you found something else to compensate for that…


  3. Some very impressive pours, let alone to have the will power to keep them in the cellar to age properly. First Growths of the Beaune are wonderful and I would have served them with a good cut of beef as well. Sounds like I missed a great meal.


  4. beduwen says:

    It’s funny that you felt so anxious when you seem to be pretty knowledgable about wine! I say, serve what you love and those who are privileged to share will be happy. 🙂


  5. Reblogged this on the drunken cyclist and commented:

    It’s the Friday before Christmas and while I had another post planned for today, it is not quite ready. So I thought I would re-blog a post that I first published almost exactly two years ago today. Be sure to let me know what you think….


  6. I like your aside about the inherent issues around your kids kicking man vs woman in the nether regions – ‘tackling’ the big issues even then I see 🙂

    As for the wine selection, I can sympathise to a point; I have similar panics when my old man comes around for dinner, although this is a guy for whom anything other than a rich Rhone red elicits a snort of derision…

    …and so I insist in serving him anything but, just to be provocative of course!


  7. Superb! We recently had a winemaker visit us for dinner and I went through the exact same thing – surprisingly stressful! We started with a couple of cheeky beers and I stuck to screw caps! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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