The life and times of a waitress in Cool Cape May… by Molly Stone
I never saw anything wrong with the economy-size jugs of wine I used to buy from the clearance cart at Acme. My six-dollar bottle, a mindless romantic comedy, and my most broken-in pair of sweatpants have made for some splendid off-season evenings in this snowy beach town.
I loved drinking from my jumbo bottle blind, with no knowledge of finish, nose, or malolactic fermentation. I didn’t know the difference between a corked Pinot Noir and an aged Opus One, and I didn’t care.
Last winter, my manager had her servers take classes which explained some of the nuances between varietals and vineyards and vintages. The lectures were a whirlwind; Alsatian Reisling and Argentine Malbec didn’t strike a chord with me, but I tried my best.
“I bet this one is expensive,” I said, after a big swig. “It’s delicious.”
“No,” an exasperated coworker corrected me, “that’s the cooking wine.”
“Well, of course,” I said. “What I mean is that this must be the most complex and flavorful of all the cooking wines.”
Realizing that I’d learned next to nothing from all my nights sipping on White Zinfandel while Leonardo DiCaprio boarded the Titanic, I decided to keep my mouth shut for the rest of the class.
“In this one,” my manager said as she poured from a bottle of red, “there are hints of tobacco and leather, a nice complement to the beef tenderloin.” I tried to remember the last time I’d heard anyone mention a hankering for leather.
Though most of the day’s lesson was lost on me, I did adopt certain words from the class – earthy, fruit-forward, effervescent – that I keep in my bag of tricks for when I need to describe a wine to customers. Still, I often have to improvise.
“Can you tell me about bottle 479?” asked a woman yesterday.
“Do you really think I can tell you about bottle 479?” is what I wanted to say. Instead I glanced at the menu. The wine was listed as a Meritage blend, whatever that meant. “Hints of tobacco and leather,” I said, “Great with the beef tenderloin.”
The couple ordered it. Four sips in, after a few minutes of sniffing and swirling and “letting it breathe,” they called me to the table and said, “Yes! We really can taste that tobacco and leathery finish!”
“And a little cinnamon as well?” I said.
“And mango? And marshmallow?”
Okay, I never told them that last part, but I was tempted. It’s true, I don’t always know what wine to pair with the beef tenderloin, but I do know what best complements a cozy evening with Leo, and what’s more delicious than that?