Quick Recipes and Easy

A Simple Approach To Wine And People

I worked in the restaurant business for more than 15 years and what I loved most about my job was the interaction with new people… lots of new people!

For six years I managed a very busy restaurant on the upper west side of Manhattan with only 30 tables. Averaging 4 customers per table, a slow night could mean more than120 people! But since the goal is turning tables: seating as many customers as possible in one night, it took some finesse but it also meant seating sometimes over 300 people.

Hard work, yes but we were rewarded with bonuses which made it well worth the effort.

My partners, Jack and Steve were incredible when it came to getting people to wait “a few minutes” for their reservation. While the reservation people were in “limbo” waiting at the bar, we would seat “walk-ins” from the neighborhood who may not have waited.

I was the sugar and spice manager who would befriend the customers who were dining, make sure that they had everything they needed, then rush them along when the check came. I would also cool people down who were waiting at the bar. I would chat with them and make introductions to the other people waiting in limbo.

With ample opportunity to hone my introduction skills, I found that the simplest approach was often the best. A simple introduction. No more and no less.

After a while, word got out that this was a fantastic place to meet people. Sometimes as much as thirty percent of the people I introduced finished up giving up their reservation entirely, in favor of eating at the bar with their new found friends.

Business was booming, the bartenders were thrilled now handing a $50-$100 check to a customer in stead closing out a $20 tab for two martinis.

To make it more personal, I would keep a mental note (And a back-up book) of information on our regular customers. Greeting them by name and sometimes with their preferred drink if the table was going to be a long wait.

People loved me but they loved being treated with V.I.P. status more than anything. I questioned about wives, children and vacations. I remembered birthdays, favorite meals, sports teams and regularly offered to buy flowers on behalf of the regular customer who was running late but most importantly I remembered people’s occupations.

Knowing people’s business or career choice was powerful information for me to have. Being able to network for people and help them make more business or more business contacts became my forte. More and more often people would call to find out “who” would be in the restaurant when they used to call to find out the specials.

The restaurant hummed with a different feeling when I worked. Now strangers were chatting away at the bar, seated guests were exchanging reviews on their meals or current movies and people passing each other were exchanging business cards. My introductions led to friends introducing friends and everyone seemed to know one another.

Before and after our peek service hours, distributors would come in and have us sample wines, coffees, meats, cheeses and spices. We all had a pretty solid knowledge base when it came to wine and our chef helped us to know more about pairing foods with wine.

One day I was sitting with our wine distributor, David, and sampling a pretty wonderful California pinot noir. With my nose deep in the glass I told him “on the nose” it reminded me of an ocean breeze. “On swirl” I said, “Wow! Now the berries are really coming through!” After a small sip and rolling it around my mouth for about 5 seconds I said,

“Excellent mouth feel – not too dry and not flabby.” After a minute it occurred to me that I still tasted it. When I remarked that it seemed like a long end for a pinot noir he just started laughing. When he finally stopped he said, “Holy cow! You really know your wine!”

For the next twenty minutes David told me how fantastic I would be at a job like his.

We finished about twenty minutes after that with me not ordering anything new. When we clasped hands to say our goodbyes, he gave my hand an extra small squeeze and said, “Reckon about it. You would make a lot of money.”

I did reckon about it. I thought about it until the bartender told me that the ice machine was broken. Then I thought about it until one of my waiters told me he forgot his black shoes and questioned could he were his filthy sneakers tonight instead. Then I thought about it until I realized one of my busboys had not yet arrived and we were nearly out of napkins and Pepsi. That was when I realized I had no time to reckon about it.

Later that night I was doing my usual “Hostess-With-The-Mostess” routine when someone remarked, “I wish I could hire you to follow me around and introduce me to new people all day long!” (Flattering, yes, but not my first career choice.) And although it was not the first time I had heard some variation of this compliment, it was the first time I really listened.

Between David’s comment and this new one, it occurred to me that it might be the formula for a new simple business; Introducing people to new people while introducing them to new wine. Help people network and get comfortable with “wine speak” at the same time.

What David didn’t know was that I didn’t know that much about wine at the time. I knew nothing about terroir, the character of grape varietals, the process of vinification, fantastic regions vs. average ones etc. I did know what I liked and I could describe what I smelled and tasted. Simple. Now after having my own wine tasting business for nearly two years, I can tell you that I knew nothing back then compared to what I know now.

I have read so many wine related books. I receive wine articles daily through e-mail. I subscribe to Wine Spectator magazine and Wine Enthusiast. I am a member of the American Wine Society and have a wine related Meet-up group with over 1,200 members. I read and post on wine related message boards, write articles for wine related websites and throw wine tasting events twice a month which attract sometimes 100 wine enthusiasts.

With all of the wine knowledge and opinion I am exposed to every day and all that I have learned, wine tasting still comes down to: know what you like and describe what you smell and taste.

For those of you who feel daunted by wine and wine tasting, keep this in mind: wine is fun. Tasting many different wines and talking with new people about what you are smell and taste is not only fun, relaxed and educational, it will help you increase your “wine speak” vocabulary and confidence.

Keep your expectations for wine events simple: 1.) Smell the wine. Breath deeply with your nose in the glass. See if you can find particular “notes” or flavors wafting up. 2.) Swirl the wine. Holding the stem of the glass, make “O’s” with the glass quicker and quicker until the wine resembles a small whirlpool. Smell the wine again. It should now be MUCH more fragrant! (“On swirl”) 3.) Taste the wine. Sip a small amount and let it roll around on your tongue. How is the “mouth feel”? Is it super dry? (“Too tannic”) Not dry enough? (“Flabby”)

What are some of the flavors you taste? Are there hints of black or blueberry? Can you taste grass? How about leather, pencil lead or vanilla?

You may taste nothing but wine for months until one day you will smell and taste that flavor that everyone is talking about. Don’t be hard on yourself. You can’t learn French in just one class! You shouldn’t expect to pin point flavors straight away either. 4.) Swallow the wine. Is it a lasting flavor? Is it lingering after sixty seconds for a “Long end” or did it disappear straight away? Which do you prefer?

Those are 4 simple steps to stick with. I would add that you should look at your wine as well. Holding your glass up to the light or a cocktail napkin may seem like an affectation at first but whether you are buying one bottle of wine for yourself or cases to stock your restaurant, you want to know everything about your buy. Young red wines, those with recent vintage years 2002-2007, will be more opulent and colorful. Some young white wines are vibrant and brilliant, some nearly colorless! Older vintages will start to “show” their age. Red wines start to loose that fire and have a more mellow tone. With age they will slowly exhibit a browner hue. Whites too will mellow in color and “show” some orange/brown tones rather than vibrant yellows.

During the process of looking at your wine (which you can do before or after any of the above steps) you should also look at the “legs.” To do this simple tilt your glass on it’s side to let the wine roll nearly to the lip of the glass. Next just let the wine fall back to the bottom of the glass. Holding it again to the light you want to see where the wine has been. Is there still wine clinging to the glass, slowly coming down? (Medium to “full bodied” wines do this.) Or did the wine sheet right down and back to the bottom of the glass, leaving virtually no trace on the side? (Light bodied wines do this.)

My simple approach to wine and people: Know what you like. Describe what you smell and taste. Introduce people to one another and the rest will take care of it’s self.

LeeAnne Homsey
Silver Platter Parties
Exciting Wine Events!
LeeAnne Homsey Silver Platter Parties Website: silverplatternyc.com silverplatternyc.com E-mail:
mailto:Info@silverplatternyc.com Info@silverplatternyc.com Phone: 1-917-981-9474 Fax: 1-212-595-8631

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