Choosing a Partner is Like Choosing Wine
Drawn by the label, hooked by the story, but the only way to know is to open it up
I’m pretty sure I was too young to drink when I insisted on taking this bottle home on a date at Dominick’s. The spaghetti and meatballs did rival Dan Tana’s but it was my favorite restaurant for a reason that I couldn’t really put into words until now.
Dominick’s, like all my favorite restaurants, was like a really honest and intimate conversation with someone you’re intrigued by but don’t really know yet. You can try to figure out what kind of lives they’ve lived by the words they use or don’t, their facial expressions, the bracelets they wear, the backpack they carry, the photos they post of the people they love, the mountains they’ve climbed, and the things they make above elusive captions and no geo-tags, just to keep things interesting. You indulge all your senses, consuming the most intimate parts of their livelihood without even knowing their middle name.
They’re skilled at being vulnerably composed and mysteriously genuine. They show just enough of the raw and ugly to make the pretty feel real, like a stripped brick wall, an oily imprint on a craft paper menu, or this bottle of natural wine made from the season’s left over grapes wearing a label hand-painted on a wrinkly napkin by one of the regulars at the bar.
The bottle is so beautiful, it makes me want to drink it’s juice, savor every sip, and keep it as a treasure. I can’t help but wonder who made it, how long it took, what inspired the art on its chest, what it really meant to them, and what it all reveals about humanity. It represents a whole lineage of winemakers, acres of fertile land, hard work and passion, love and heartache, all within a tiny old-Hollywood time capsule serving the best sepia-toned spaghetti and meatballs you’ve ever had.
But the truth is that every half-told story becomes our own fantasy. You can choose to fill in the blanks with skepticism or adoration, but the feeling it leaves us with is entirely our creation. The guy who painted the label may have been a drunk, the wounded bird may actually represent all the hearts he’s broken, the grape pickers may have been tired and overworked, the restaurant owner may have been a fraud, we’ll never know.
The only thing I know for certain is that the back of house looks nothing like the front, and even though I drew a crayon mural on the table, it’s not my job to clean up the mess. Instead, I’ll pay the bill and go home, until the next time I decide to cancel my plans and drive across town to drink a wine that I’ll never taste again in a restaurant that no longer exists. Thankfully the bottle is what I loved in the first place and now it’s mine to keep, sitting on my shelf next to all my favorite memories until the new ones take it’s place.
A good sommelier may be an extension of your intuition, but nothing beats taking the time to visit the winery or becoming close enough to a place to see a service run from the discomfort of the kitchen on a busy night — that is, if they let you in.