You are holding a wine menu. Across from you, sitting expectantly, is your client / boss / the brunette with secretary glasses who shares a cubicle wall and who you’ve been desperately flirting with all year.
You would really like to have a suave moment and pick the perfect wine. So perfect, in fact, that when it touches the lips of your tablemate, they swoon with delight at your knowledge of just how to pair a mandarin-orange-and-asparagus summer salad with a white wine. Specifically, “Clarity” Sauvignon Blanc from Johndrow Vineyards. It’s like summer salad’s BFF.
So here: I’ve broken it down in five easy and loquacious steps, because that’s how you write for the Internet:
- Buy a bottle. Don’t be a little ninny and wuss out with a glass. Gross. What is this? A kindergarten tea party with your great aunt? No. This is the most important account landing / promotion-procuring / procreation-ensuring dinner of your life! Be you guy or gal, show you have a pair and bottle up.
- If you are dining with someone you’ve sufficiently stalked on social media, then you may see a bottle on the list that you recognize from their Instagram feed. Easy. Choose that one. Or, if their status update from Monday was all like, “Oh Earthquake Cab Sauv, how I long to hold you! Miss you already! #imsothirsty #weekendwine-o #tanninsaremylife,” I’d say you’re pretty good to go with the Earthquake Cab. You can’t go wrong with that wine. Ever. I am pairing it right now with a two-week-old jelly donut. Still good.
- Find any malbec from Argentina and point to it. If you’re the kind of person who likes to “make it rain” with a fistful of $20s, then try Catena Zapata. If you can only afford to throw around fistfuls of Lincolns (that means pennies, and that’s how I roll) then let’s go with the Terazas. Either way, malbec is the new merlot, but just a tad sexier because it’s all Spanishy.
- There is a certain art involved when painting with flavors and pairing wine with food. A Rembrandt-esque mastery can make your food and booze sing together in Trappist-monk harmony. Let’s shoot for color-by-numbers for our purposes, shall we? Few people disdain a solid Chardonnay, and it pairs with many things. I know you may have read something in your newsfeed last month that slapped chardonnay as passé, but nobody puts chardonnay in a corner! It’s a staple, so just deal with it and learn one tiny thing about it. There are two genres: first, the buttery chard from California. Rombauer is melted “butta” in a glass, and it’s divine, if you like that sort of thing. Second, the mineral chard from elsewhere. (Try Domaine William Fevre Chablis.) One simple trick you can employ is to say confidently, “Let’s start with a chardonnay! Oak-aged or stainless steel?” There. You look like you know things. And anyone would be eager to hire / make million-dollar deals / go to third base with someone so confident and knowledgeable. For your edification, “oak aged” means your wine will have flavors of bread and butter, and “stainless steel” signifies it will have notes of rock or rose. These are two very different camps, so don’t get caught streaking through the wrong one. Anything that sounds French will definitely be stainless and should meet your minerality needs. But not everything from California is oak aged. So, without being super snooty, ask your skilled servers about the oak aspect in that Duckhorn chardonnay. If they are worth their salt, they will explain it is a delightful blend of both oaky caramel and white peach flavors. Yep, yum. Then, order the scallops for an appetizer and, voila, you did it! You paired a wine with a food. You are so sexy.
- Now you may need a red wine to go with your feature, because you will order the feature. You are brave and bold and don’t need to read a menu like it’s the sports page. You know how to restaurant. Unless the feature is a seared white fish in a white sauce, (and, if so, please see above) you will need to complement your steak / pork / lamb / duck / salmon with something tannic. The juice is going to be with you through dessert, because slaying a chocolate mousse is not about if you’ve “saved room.” It is about doing dinner like a boss. To make this so simple — and I promise you’ll look slick — go with a pinot noir. Yes, it’s a bold move. You can do it. Pinots are going to bring you some jammy fruit as well as an earthiness. So whether the pork has a cranberry, goat-cheese chutney or the duck breast is covered in curry, pinot noir’s got your back. Try Antica Terra if you won at blackjack last night or Planet Oregon if you didn’t.
Come the end of your evening, if you managed to employ at least one of these jedi-wine tricks, everyone should be seduced by you and, probably, in need of hydration. Focus, and make sure to give a good, strong handshake / professional two-back-tap hug / kiss on the hand and little wink. (Wait, no, don’t do that. Gross.)
If, however, the wine was great but the boss / potential new client / hottie you’ve been hard-crushing on chews with his or her mouth open, do not be forlorn. But also, never call them again.
Take your fistful of Lincolns and finish the night with a bottle of Thunderbird. Makin’ it rain, y’all.