the wine list is ideology

I’ve been away for a few weeks and it’s nice to be back at the keyboard. I was out of town for work, but don’t feel too bad. I was in Italy. It’s hard to imagine getting too upset at anything while living along the Amalfi Coast. But I digress…

Rajat Parr is a Master Sommelier and the wine director for the Michael Mina group of restaurants. His recent book, Secrets of the Sommeliers, has become one of my favorite wine books in part for the frank and intensive discussions on tasting, serving, buying, and pairing wine. Needless to say, I am a fan. I say that in the interest of full disclosure.

Rajat has a policy at Michael Mina’s flagship restaurant, RN74 in San Francisco, that limits Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays on the wine list to 14% alcohol or below. Rajat is a noted Burgundy lover, and Burgundy’s reds and whites, made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay respectively, are renowned for their depth, power, and grace delivered in a lighter-bodied, lower-alcohol format than many of their New World contemporaries.

Mark Squires, a contributer to Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, recently wrote, “I must confess that I have to wonder whether I’d be willing to eat in a place where the sommelier had such highly ideological/evangelical views on what I was allowed to drink.”

Excuse me, but isn’t a wine list supposed to represent the sommelier’s vision? To capture the spirit of the sommelier in a selection of wines that complement the menu and set forth a particular ideology?

Dining out at a restaurant where the sommelier has taken the time to express his or her ideology is an opportunity that every wine lover should embrace. Given a choice between sitting down to a wine list that was thrown together with little thought to regions, vintages, or the chef’s dishes, and sitting down to a list that was well-designed by someone who focused on lesser-known selections that he or she enjoys and wants to share with others, I’ll take the latter every time. It is that sommelier’s ideology that draws me in and excites me.

In the interest of my own “to each his own” ideology, I do not criticize Mr. Squires’ personal opinion. But I think it unfortunate that someone with his readership would mislead others into thinking that Rajat is anything other than genuine by allowing his ideology to guide his wine selection.

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