Wine tastings are tricky. And they can become tetchy, intellectual jousts, if you let them. The scene at W Wine Boutique that fateful Friday night was no different, but of course, there’s a story.
So, I arrived a little after 7 p.m. and I was feeling pretty cute - faded black, skinny jeans, a vintage, biker-patchwork top, red platforms and a jean, baseball hat cocked to the side. And as usual, I was the anomaly of the group (or so I thought). The tasters consisted of Lady Rusty Nails — a short, feisty, older British woman who described the first whet-your-palate wine as “scrummy,” which I hear, is a good thing. And, I have to say, this was one of the most exquisite white wine experiences I’ve had all year. The 2006 Ataraxia Sauvignon Blanc has a very light color that betrays the sour sop and papaya aromas. On the palate, it’s medium body bursts with sweetness then glides into a zesty minerality that lingers. Yum.
There was an unassumingly pretty, petite woman in a sea green, mini dress. From the front, she looked like a younger version of the lady in the Glade commercial. But, when she turned around, I suddenly understood why some of the men looked like they were masturbating (on the inside). Two lovely, bread-doughy, cheeks embraced what looked like a radiant, white, lace thong.
“Wow,” I thought. “How bold. How brazen. I hope she’s a Master Sommelier from Gstaad. That would really trip things up.” We’ll call her, Lady Cheeks. So, once I recovered from that shock, I took in the scene. W Wine Boutique is a set a small industrial space along Alton Road next to Quiznos. And it’s not the typical Miami wine shop. Inside, wine bottles are like Cirque du Soleil acrobats protruding from every angle of the space. In front of the store, there are funky-designed wine bottle cases in weathered leather accented with big buckles among other thoughtful, creative designs. From the entrance, the left wall is a bargain wine, flavor map with fruit and spice images to assist customers in making a selection. And perhaps, to keep low budget-winos from disturbing the rest of the delicate mise en scène. Let’s quarantine The White Zinfandelers, right, Eddy? (Eddy is the owner).
There’s a cold room (a walk-in refrigerator) in the back with all the Bed Wetter-wines—Burgundies, Barolos, Bordeauxs, etc. You know, Château Petrus and Château Cheval Blanc. These are the bottles collectors fight over and low-budget winos (like myself) have wet dreams about.
The cold room is like a safe, so that’s why I was surprised to hear about a man stealing a bottle of 1990 Lafite Rothschild valued at $1000 from the shop. And that’s sorta why we were all gathered here.
Since the theft, W Wine Boutique had gotten some fame—coverage from NBC, etc., so that night, Eddy had transformed from an astute, reserved, wine Frenchman to Diddy. During the tasting, he randomly started singing what sounded like a farting tuba version of “My Poker Face,” and one of the tasters advised Eddy to never, ever do that again.
Eddy also asked me if I was taking notes about 100 times, greatly agitated that I was not accompanied by a big, brawny cameraman, and so I felt more like his secretary than a reporter/ taster. But, this was Eddy’s 15 minutes, so I giggled and made sure I took adequate notes.
The tasting took place outside of the boutique on Alton Road—bright orange Veuve Clicquot orange chairs squeezed between bikers and passersby. And it was a blind tasting, meaning the bottles were hidden in numbered bags, so we didn’t know the identity of the bottles. This evens the playing field (if you’re playing).
We were each given tasting sheets to rate the wines, but filling out the sheet was more like filling out the eHarmony questionnaire (not that I’ve ever done that). We had to rate the wines from 1 to 20, and the whole thing just made me dizzy, so I just filled it out my own way.
Other tasters agreed and by the third bottle, I think some of them were also doing their own thing. Among them was Sir Hard-of-Hearing. Every time I offered a thought about a wine, he looked at me quizzically and said, “What?” or “Huh?” Then there was Lady Cheek’s date--a stubby, Jason Alexander-esque man who wore a butterfly collar, polyester shirt. Then there was Nice Lady. Nice Lady is the stereotypically nervous wine lover-wife who accompanies her wine knowledgeable-husband, meekly standing aside while her husband snuffs and offers haughty feedback about the wine. Every once in a while, she whispers to a fellow nice person, “I like this one,” never, ever saying anything negative.
And I engaged in one of those annoying, but sadistically satisfying wine jousts with a short, Steven Spielberg-looking gentleman. Here’s a translation of my conversation with Steven Spielberg:
SS: I know wine.
D: Me, too. Me, too. I know wine.
SS: I mean, I know good wine.
D: Me, too. Me, too. I know good wine.
SS: Sure you do.
D: I do. I even went to Bordeaux.
SS: Well, I sit on the board in Bordeaux.
We tried seven wines. I liked numbers 3, 6 and 7, but I was really disappointed with number 4. I could tell by the rusty color that it was an older wine, but it was a linear, anticlimactic wine that tasted like boiled veggies. Interestingly, most of the women didn’t like it, but most of the men did. Lady Rusty nails said number 4 tasted like rusty nails. One guy said it smelled like his grandfather’s farm and a race track (A good thing, I think). By the end of the night, I learned that #4 was the 1990 Lafite Rothschild—the previously abducted $1000 bottle that was later returned to the store.
Eddy said that it’s not that we didn’t like the Lafite Rothschild bottle, but that we just weren’t used to it. But, our palates were cloaked in big, wooly wines before we tasted this gauzy wine. I wondered what would have happened if we had had the wine first? Also, if the same group of people gathered together the following evening, would we rate the wines differently? So many things can impact what the palate is drawn to at a particular moment—PMS, what you ate, how deep your thong is hiding, what your wife said about your performance last night. Unless, you taste wine for a living or are clinically trained to taste wine, the average Joe is usually operating on mood.
But, the bottom line is this. I had no plans to try a $1,000 bottle this year, yet I did. And as the wine sat in the glass, it began to open up like a virgin’s legs and suddenly, there were flavors of cloves and cherry chutney.
And as the evening came to a close, we were all becoming “nice people” with the munchies—shamelessly inhaling down soppressata and swiss cheese cubes, smiling and savoring the moment.
“I’m not sure what I’m supposed to like,” chuckled Lady Cheeks.
BONUS: Guys, if you want to see the wine theft online, check it out by clicking here. It’s hilarious! That dude must be so embarrassed.
The wines mentioned in this blog are available at W Wine Boutique, 1328 Alton Rd., South Beach, 305-673-8282.
#3 2001 Izadi Expresión ($85) ON SALE $50
#4 1990 Lafite Rothschild ($1,000) ON SALE $649
#6 2007 Antu Ninquén Cabernet Sauvignon ($20) ON SALE $15
#7 2004 Domaine De La Janasse Chateauneuf du Pape $99 ON SALE $75
2006 Ataraxia Sauvignon Blanc $20 ON SALE $13
A dame, a bottle and a story.