That’s a silly headline, isn’t it? Obviously your cardiologist passed anatomy class. Cardio surgeons are anatomy people; they walk, talk and breathe anatomy; they bring up ligamentum arteriosums at dinner parties and have sexual dreams involving Scarlett Johansson’s left ventricle.
I obviously erred in naming this piece. What I should have called it was ’10 Ways to Tell if Your Wine Writer is Out of Ideas’.
But I suppose that would have been equally hyperbolic: As long as ‘Eater’ publishes articles by Levi Dalton, I will never run out of column fodder.
In sensu hoc: Dalton’s recent foray into cognitive desperation with an article entitled ’10 Ways to Tell if Your Sommelier Really Knows Wine’.
This is a Dalton tutorial aimed at an extremely small percentage of restaurant-goers making up an even more miniscule portion of ‘Eater’s’ even more Lilliputian readership. To qualify, you need to harbor a quorum of qualities that sets you apart from the average ‘Eater’ patron, of which there are about two dozen. First, you need to know more about wine than the sommelier you are quizzing, otherwise the test won’t work—you won’t know if he or she passed it—and if you know more than the sommelier, it’s idiotic to employ his or her services in the first place, isn’t it? Second, you have to want to test your sommelier rather than enjoy a meal with your date and not come off like a snooty, show-off, know-it-all, which does not grease any coital skids, believe me: Most girls find this sort of condescending twinkletwat to be a visceral turnoff.
Yes, I know I wear the mantel of a condescending, snooty, show-off, know-it all twinkletwat from time to time, but there is an important distinction: Whereas the esteemed Mr. Dalton does it at fancy restaurants and pays for the privilege to be a douche, I do it gratis.
You May Become ‘Eater’ Reader # Two Dozen and One…
So, rather than quote from the waggish wisenheimer’s wordy wasteland, I will provide a link so that you may do it at your leisure, which I am presuming you have shitloads of, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this.
Meanwhile, I will summarize Blue-Jean Baby’s ten points upon which you should rate your sommelier’s skillset rather than simply ordering a fucking bottle of wine and paying attention to your date:
1: Levi supposes that a good sign is if your sommelier ‘responds well to simple questions’. He may have mistaken wine professionals for people who have recently awoken from prolonged comas or have sustained closed head injuries, which, from reading his columns, I can understand.
2: Levi proposes that sommeliers ‘may not know their own wine list’, and suggests that if a wine steward glances over your shoulder it is a bad sign. But wine is not the only thing that makes the world go round, is it, Levi? If it is a male sommelier, he may be trying to gauge the size of your package—the one beneath the wine list you think he’s looking at. Or in the unlikely case that he is straight, he may be holding phone-shaped hands up to his ear and mouthing to your date, ‘Call me’.
Both of which, granted, are bad signs.
3: ‘Are They Listening To You?’ Nobody else is, Levi, so why should this be a litmus test?
4: ‘They know the source of their wines.’ Levi theorizes that if a sommelier actually knows the people who made the wine on the list and can discuss the region and ‘details of where they do their work’, she is probably a good sommelier. I agree, but aren’t these questions better asked if you are hiring a sommelier, not simply looking for a wine recommendation for your Duck Confit Crostini with Pickled Cherries? Do you dine alone compulsively, Levi, or exclusively with geeks sharing a driving need to know such irritatingly inconsequential minutia?
5: ‘They avoid attributing every wine characteristic to one cause.’ Why should you call upon your sommelier to attribute any wine characteristic to any cause? It sounds like a conversation better held inside a retail wine shop while killing time waiting for a bus, not while ordering dinner.
Anyway, isn’t your appetizer getting cold?
6: ‘They downsell you.’ Levi predicates sommelier cred on whether or not said somm tries to ‘downsell’ you, which means, ‘sell you a cheaper bottle than you are willing to pay for’. Levi makes a huge point of assuring us that there are ‘zero other potential reasons’ for a sommelier to downsell you other than some innate ethical duty to make you happy despite pressure from bosses, fellow waiters and wine reps to upsell you.
Of course, he ignores the real reason: They bought that Maréchal Chorey-les-Beaune on post-off for $220 a case and it’s sixty dollars on the list.
7: ‘They make you feel knowledgeable about wine.’ The WTF?-iest among Dalton’s strange listicle of WTF?s. If you aren’t knowledgeable about wine, why would you be waterboarding your sommelier in the first place? And if you are, what black hole in your psychodynamics requires the validation of your knowledge by some stranger in public setting? If I was your sommelier I’d stand on the table and say, “I forthwith turn my tastevin and Master Sommelierhood over to Levi Dalton, who in terms of wine knowledge makes me look like Boxcar Willie.”
Then I would expect the appropriate gratuity. Happy now?
8: ‘They have what is on the list’. Levi hypothesizes that if a wine on a list is not actually in the cellar, the restaurant has problems—among them, the place is in financial trouble and/or the wine is allocated and they aren’t allowed to sell it to you. All of which is an issue for upper management, not the lowly, beholden somm, so it really shouldn’t be on this list. I’d have phrased it: ‘They don’t have the wine that the sommelier specifically recommended’. Safer rock to toss, Dungaree Dalton.
9: ‘They care about storage’. So, now we surmise that after turning the dining experience into a personal test-of-wits between Levi and his wine waiter, he now wanted to bully the poor manager into showing him the wine cellar, presumably during a busy service, where he can whip out his hygrometer and measure humidity? How about saving everybody grief and simply tasting the wine you ordered, Levi? If It sucks, send it back. Problem solved.
10: ‘They remember what you drank last time’. Ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha hahahahahaahahahahahahah… Why do I get the impression that Levi ordering a bottle of wine in a restaurant is an experience that neither his persecuted sommelier, his embarrassed date, his mortified friends, and the entire harried wait staff is likely to forget—no matter how hard they try?
So, back to my cardiologist. I have one simple question that I ask him/her before my coat is even hung on the rack by the receptionist, who, by the way, has an exceptional rack:
“Fill in the blank: The way to a man’s heart is through his…?”
If they nail it, they’re not the doc for me.