When we go out to dinner, my friends often look in my direction when the waiter comes around with the wine list in hand. Then, they tell me to order whatever I think is good, and at whatever price. They trust me—probably not a good idea, but they do anyway.

My usual response is to ask each what meal he or she plans to order. I’m trying to balance the varying orders with the offerings on the wine list. Generally, we wind up with red and white on the table and after a few oohs and aahs over the wine, everyone fills their glass with whichever wine they like best, damn the pairing with their food.

Last week, over dinner at the home of a friend, he served a Merlot from the Dolomiti of Italy. Boy, was I impressed by this non-wine geek’s selection.

The wine comes from the Dolomite Mountain range located in Northeastern Italy. It is an impressive mountain range, known by us for climbing and skiing more than for anything else, unless you are a wine person.

For wine people like I, who has visited the region, it is as exciting as visiting another mountainous ski area in Italy, Valtellina, the home of Sforzato, a red wine produced from the nebbiolo grape—in Valtellina Italian, sforzato means “strained,” a reference to the way the grapes are dried like raisins to make the intense wine, which is similar to Amarone produced in the Volpolicella region.

What makes these two regions, plus Piemonte located in the country’s Northwest, is that the mountains face due south; the sun beats down on them in all seasons, and that makes for intense red grape growing; hence, a fine Merlot from a mountainous region.

Merlot has been growing in Northeastern Italy for more than a century, yet we hear little about it, and we get to drink even less. This wine was a delight: bright, cherry-like acidic fruit qualities and with a medium body normally ascribed to mountainous wines that was accompanied not by powerful but by fine enough tannin structure to hold its own and to offer a lingering finish.

The wine is Mezzacorona 2005 Merlot (Imported by Prestige Wines, NY). It’s not a powerhouse wine, just a stable, good drinking Merlot that paired with skirt steak, and it cost my friend $10.

The skirt steak had been marinated in soy, garlic, and pepper. I liked it so much that I got me some of the wine and some skirt steak and tried them at home later on, and got the same result.

My friend is a wine person—not a geek. He loves wine with his dinner but he hasn’t much education concerning winemaking and he cares little about wine producers. He just likes wine with his dinner. He searches for wines unknown to him.

It makes me feel good that my friend sometimes asks for advice, not about a particular wine or wine and food pairings, but about general wine categories that he knows little or nothing about and that I think he should try. This time, he went after the Merlot without my help.

It’s certainly nice to know that I can get through to someone in this world, but it isn’t a given. Let me explain.

The wine forum called Wine Therapy is no more. The forum got its start, I believe, because some wine geeks wanted a place where they felt secure and, apparently, where they could act like the prep boys they may once have been, complete with four-letter ramblings just for the fun of seeing them on a screen, although without hearing the guffaws and sniffling that often accompanies an adolescent burst, I don’t understand the appeal of typing them out online.

No matter. They got what they wanted.

I made fun of Therapy, but I also participated once in a while. I’m no prude, I can take the snappy riffs of infantile swear-wording, and every so often, I felt the desire to enter into a conversation.

Admittedly, I can become a pest to those who seem to know all there is to know, because I am always asking questions. Immature people often take a question as a challenge to their knowledge rather than as, well, a question so that I might learn something or—heaven forbid—that I might be able to point out what I consider an error in thinking.

There were many problems with hackers getting into the Wine Therapy site, so a cabal got together and created a new site called Wine Disorder—don’t blame me for their penchant for cutesy monikers!

I call it a cabal because, well, that’s almost what they want us to think of them. They call themselves the politburo, and when you register to become a posting as opposed to just a lurking member, you must deal with the politburo—I don’t know by what method, but they decide who gets in and who does not. Guess who does not.

I think I became a pest on Therapy, although I hadn’t posted much at all. (I know I pissed off one fellow, but that was well before Therapy existed, and I thought he had accepted my explanation.) Whatever, the fact that I am barred from registering at Wine Disorder bothers me only in a small way—there are people there with whom I love engaging, but I can find them on a few other forum sites.

I am, however, disturbed by this particular cabal that speaks an egalitarian message about wine, but obviously holds an apparatchik mentality.  But then, maybe I’m being too critical. After giving the situation some thought, it is to be expected.

If I remember correctly, schoolyard bullies loved to talk dirty and they also preferred to hang around together so as not to offend the gene pool. They didn’t let many outsiders in, and when they did let some in, it was mainly to torment and laugh at them with a disorderly display of giggling four-letter words and inside jokes.

I’m sure there is a place in this world for private clubs, but if you want to give it a shot, click below; before you do, brush up on the bawdy side of Kant and Kazantzakis: the cabal members may act like frat boys, but they are smart nonetheless.

Disorderly Conduct

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
September 2008. All rights reserved.

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