I am sure that many of us have seen the movie Sideways. And, for any wine geeks like myself, it is akin to Citizen Kane. I was so obsessed with this movie, that I went out and purchased the novel. And, as with most movies, the book was infinitely better. That is not to say that the movie wasn't still great, but I longed to see the additional chapters and scenes in the book played out by the two characters in the movie.
The initial chapter of the book starts with a Friday night tasting at a local wine bar that the main character, Miles, routinely attends. The narrative of the cast of characters at the tasting was genius.... You had the wine snob that carried around his Riedel Sommlier Grand Cru Burgundy glasses in a velvet lined box; only to end up drinking $15.00 Pinot in his $90.00 glass. Then, the frightened wine rep huddled in the corner grasping the last bottle of the tasting as if she was guarding the lost arc. And lastly, the various drunken oenophiles causing general disruption while arguing the nuances of the wine. As I read the chapter, I found the exaggerated scene completely entertaining if not a bit over the top. That was until Craig started working at a new wine bar in town as a consultant.
Friday night tastings usually showcase one or two wineries with several varietals from each. If the bar is really lucky, a rep from the winery will be in attendance with wine in tow as they work the room. Generally, I stay away from the Friday night tasting. After a long week at work, I really don't want to fight for a spot at the bar to drink my $5.00 flight, when I could be relaxing at home with my very own bottle of wine and catching up with my TIVO . However, I had dropped a co-worker off near the wine bar and decided to bite the bullet. As luck would have it, there was an opening right in the middle of the bar next to one of the regulars, Tom, and right in Craig's line of pouring. Since I am an avid people watcher, I looked forward to checking out the scene. Tom and I had meet a couple of times before and he remembered that I had catered the Champagne tasting the previous month. We chatted back and forth about wine and local restaurants, the general foodie chatter.... During our conversation, a large group to my left waved to get my attention.
"Are you Michelle, Craig's girlfriend? We were starting to think that you didn't exist."
They were all staring at me with smiles. I felt obligated to do or say something brilliant.... But, all I could come up with was.... "Yes; did you think I was a figment of his imagination?" They sent over a pour from the bottle they were consuming. Now I had three glasses of wine in front of me. The evening was looking better and better. I raised my glass to them and thanked them for the gift. They went back to talking amongst themselves and I resumed my conversation with Tom. However, Tom and I were having a difficult time hearing one another over a pompous ass sitting on the far right of the bar.
I turned my attention to the ass... I noticed that he had two open bottles sitting in front of him that I did not recognize, two glasses that had writing on them that the bar did not carry, a stack of business cards, and a wine bag (usually a insulated backpack that most wine salesmen use). My mind immediately jumped to a conversation that I had with Craig a few weeks earlier about a local vintner that had shown up one Friday bringing in his own wine and pouring it into glasses of the bar's patrons while asking the bar owners if his winery can be showcased in an upcoming Friday tasting..... This was that guy!!! And, he was up to the same thing even though he was asked to not do so.... He was trying to make eye contact with me after he noticed that my wine glass was on the verge of being empty. Was I then next intended victim to have his swill poured into my glass???
Soon enough, the large party on my left was opening up their second bottle and the noise level was beginning to elevate. Eventually, the majority of patrons had abandoned the flight tasting and were now taking full bottles from the retail side to open and enjoy. Mr. Ass and Mrs. Ass were debating about what to do for dinner. They decided to order sushi from the restaurant a few doors down because, as Mr. Ass put it, "I still have three bottles of wine in my bag". This guy was unbelievable. He comes in, brings his own wine, starts pouring his swill into the glasses of others and he is going to hunker down with a plate of sashimi from the sushi restaurant. Doesn't he understand how this looks? If you're pouring free wine into people's glasses, they won't buy anything from the bar, let alone purchase anything from the retail side.
Eventually, the asses were ambushing patrons, criticizing the bar's pour and offering up their swill. When they had run out of wine glasses, they sent their ambush victims to request empty glasses from the staff. This became a bit of a production after the staff questioned why they needed an empty glass and what wine were they drinking. The gentleman explained that he was being offered wine from a patron and they had run out of glasses. The staff was fuming and the asses realized that they had been spotted.... The staff was now huddled together questioning the ambush victim and discussing the audacity of Mr. Ass amongst themselves. Around this time, one of the owners of the bar had just arrived and was informed of the disruption (more huddling). She went over and requested that they cease and desist, so to speak. Mr. and Mrs Ass get an earful as she explains that it's disrespectful to their business as well as the winery that they are showcasing during this evening's tasting. She coolly levels the final blow by asking them, "And how would you feel if we allowed someone to do this to you during your tasting or conducted ourselves this way in your place of business? Please do not pour anymore of your wine for our guests. Please just put it away." Dirty Harriet was in the house.
Following their tongue lashing, the asses finished their sushi in silence, settled up their bill and quietly limped out of the bar. At the other end of the bar, other forms of ambushing continued, at least for me. The rowdy party to my left had moved closer to my direction and started to engage me in a conversation about Wal Mart and Costco. One of the ladies slurred her hatred for the big W and informed me that she was from Marin....."iiss hard when you come fro where I come from. iiss not easssy to shop in those shhtores." I swear I felt a bit of her spit hit my face. No longer was this scene reminiscent of "Sideways"....I was getting a definite "Barfly" feel. Any moment Mickey Rourke was going to saddled down beside me.
It may have been my first and last Friday night tasting......