A Tip from Your Server

They should make a reality show about being a bartender in the Napa Valley.

You would not believe the things I’ve overheard at the bar, and the people I’ve seen.Lucas Farmer of Euclid Wine in Napa Valley

First thing you notice is all the locals are the people eating early at the bar. Why? Two reasons: First, typically there is decent happy hour food, and second if they bring their own wine, usually winery owners are not charged corkage.

It is wonderful to grow up in an area that has more Michelin star restaurants per square mile than anywhere else in the world, but, it can get pricy if you just want to grab dinner after running errands all day. Thus, this frugality is understood. We don’t have too many mid-priced family restaurant chains in Napa so naturally you find the locals at the bar eating hamburgers with their own Merlot.

Then you see the younger tourists. They may be here on a date, or a bachelor party, or a girl’s weekend away. This is the tentative group. They are not as comfortable as their older counterparts in fine eateries and are maybe a bit star struck from the Food Network. (Interesting phenomenon the Food Network, huh? Chefs are now rock stars and restaurants like hot dance clubs.)

These hipsters order wine by the glass and something safe, like the pasta special. They are appreciative and energetic and joy to serve because, like a child, you can see your surroundings through their eyes. And, it is beautiful.

Mike Farmer of Euclid WineThe older tourists are also fun, but there is a different vibe with them. These guys love peppering the Sommelier with recently learned tidbits from the day’s adventures. “What is the percentage of malo-lactic fermentation?” They are typically more adventurous with the menu, trying wild boar, sweetbreads or other local delicacies. They are living it up on vacation and not afraid to flaunt it.

But my favorite customer is still my Dad, a regular at the bar for a quick beer after work. Ready with a story or a smile and dodging my mom wants him to mow the lawn before dinner.

Who has a better job than me?

Let’s Go Streaking….

I’ve always been a leg man.

A gorgeous set of legs will get me excited every time. I’ll just want to lick every last bit.

Streaks on a glass of wine can can tell you how the wine will taste and old the wine is.

I’m talking about the legs in a glass of wine. (Where did you think I was going with that?)

It always amuses me to watch tourists and locals at the bar swirling and looking at the wine slowly run down the glass. Known as “legs”, these hypnotizing drips say a lot about a wine, but very few know how to interpret them.

We are visual creatures. We seek mates, food, entertainment and, yes, wine with our eyes.  (Our sight center in our brain is also closest to the verbal center, which is why we can describe yellow in a hundred ways, but have a hard time describing what a peach smells, or tastes, like). So, we naturally will probably notice the color. The color can give you and indication of how the wine will taste and old the wine is.

glassesA bright wine is young, versus a browned wine, which may be old (or prematurely oxidized as a defect). If the white wine has a greenish tinge, chances are it will be on the more acidic, or herbaceous, side, versus fruity. A butte-colored wine has seen oak and will seem fuller in the mouth and creamier. A dark stained red that leaves purple tears has a lot of phenolics floating around (those good things that help your heart) and a red that runs down the glass  quickly and doesn’t leave a stain is likely a more fruity wine.

The second thing you’ll notice is how fast those little legs are running down the glass, or viscosity.This indicates either sweetness, or alcohol. Since our brain interprets alcohol as sweetness, this is sometimes hard to separate.  But if you have a dessert wine, it should be more viscous in the glass. If you have a 15% alcohol Zinfandel from the Central Valley, you should see a similar effect.

So, the next time you are absent-mindedly twirling your wine at the bar, observe the legs and see if you can get a profile for what the wine will taste like before you enjoy it… then see if you were right.