Last week, in-between tasting flights of wine, there was plenty of hilarious table talk. While we waited for each new set of wines to be poured, we got a chance to hear some great stories from our fellow panelists. Here are two favorites.
Evan Hufford, head sommelier of Healdsburg’s Single Thread restaurant, sat on our panel, and amused us with a story about the conspicuous rich.
Hufford said when he was working as a manager sommelier at Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas back in 2012, he witnessed some crazy-making mixed drinks. Someone ordered a $12,000 ’67 Chateau Petrus, only to mix it with diet coke.
“It was conspicuous consumption,” Hufford said. “The idea was to show his guests, ‘I’m so rich.’ It strikes us as offensive, vulgar – the word is sacrilegious.” Of course Hufford had his hands tied. “He asked me to pour the wine over ice and diet coke, and when the guy is spending $12,000 for a bottle, I can’t tell him no.”
Randy Ullom, Kendall-Jackson’s winemaster, also sat on our panel and had a great story to share. Once during a tasting at the Wine Center on Fulton Rd. some of the tasters began an Asian custom that reminded Ullom of zealous college drinking.
The Japanese word “Kanpai” means cheers, with its literal meaning “dry cup.” The custom is to drink the entire glass. When Ullom saw this custom gaining momentum, people swilling and shouting “Kanpai!”, he didn’t stick around. “I thought oh my God, this can’t be happening,” Ullom said. “Maybe late at night but not at lunchtime.”
Tasting 100-plus wines in a day is serious business. It requires plenty of concentration, which is why judges like to exchange amusing stories like these in-between rounds. The palate would grow weary without humor.