You can love hamburgers, go out of your way to eat them, even buy books about them, but nobody "collects" hamburgers or pretends you need an advanced degree in culinary science to "appreciate" them. Restaurants don't need a "burger master" with a fancy apron to expound on the subtleties of smoked bacon and cheddar. Nobody makes much of a fuss about the soil where the cows were raised.
So why is wine different? Except for the most rarified palates, except for the most exceptional bottles, wine is nothing more than fermented grape juice that's served with food. Basta!
However, as one whose living depends, at least in part, on teaching people something useful about wine, Cornichon hereby welcomes the prestigious Wine & Spirits Education Trust program to Seattle. One of Canada's top wine educators, Vancouver-based James Cluer, MW, is coming to Kirkland's Yarrow Bay Grill next month for two series of public classes: a four-session "Foundation" program followed by a nine-session "Intermediate" program. Not cheap ($444 and $850, respectively; register online), but there's plenty of superb wine plus excellent food from YBG chef Vicky McCaffree.
How'd this come about? Turns out that Cluer, one of just 26 Masters of Wine in North America, is pals with Allan Aquila, Yarrow Bay's general manager. Aquila's a wine enthusiast whose 5,000-bottle list at YBG has earned an Award of Excellent from Wine Spectator.
Nor is this the only wine destination at Carillon Point. bin vivant (that's the name, so help me) has just opened virtually next door, in the Woodmark Hotel. Sommelier Dawn Smith, late of Canlis, has a list of 80 wines by the glass (and many, many more by the bottle) to pair with food from Lisa Nakamura's kitchen; it's a wine-first dining experience unique to the region.
So, from one whose lunch today consisted of a bacon-cheese burger and a Pandan brown ale (at the Deluxe, on Broadway), this injunction: go ye forth and drink wine. It need not be complicated, expensive or snobby. If you insist on predictability, order a Coke. If you're looking for something slightly unpredictable, ask for the wine list. And if the guy or gal who brings it is wearing one of those fancy aprons, listen up. You might learn something useful.