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Thoughts on a quick trip to Florida


Was in Miami Beach where I hadn’t been for a long time. South Beach is hot, pulsating and sexy. The Art Deco district is languid by day, throbbing at night with [mainly] young, good-looking people of every nationality

In the heavy, mid-afternoon heat and humidity, when sweat breaks out at the slightest exertion, it was pleasant to sit for an hour or two in a little cafe, nursing beers and cooling off and watching the passing parade. But nighttime is when South Beach wakes up.

We (my friends and I) hung at a place called SushiSamba, on Lincoln Avenue in the heart of the action. One of my friends had been the previous beverage manager of the restaurant cum club; the other was the incoming. The food — sushi meets Brazil via Peru — was as exotic and delicious as anything I’ve had lately. I’ve always been a Champagne pairer with raw fish, but sake also works. Fino sherry, too.

SushiSamba had a dance floor and they let the kids in from the street to bust moves, providing a sort of floor show. Their bodies are made of rubber. We drank a lot of wine until the wee hours. One night, back in our beachside hotel, all we had left was a bottle of Robert Mondavi Coastal Cabernet, but all agreed it was fine; to have complained because it wasn’t a “great label” would have been snobbish. But then there was the lady, who joined us at one point for drinks, who pointed out that the wine we were drinking (not the Mondavi) must have been good because it had “legs”; and my friends and I smiled at each other but said nothing.

“Legs.” There’d been an article in the United Airlines magazine I’d read on the flight down on how to be a wine snob. It included a glossary that had, not only “legs” in it but “ullage,” and I had to wonder if these articles don’t do more harm than good. Yes, we want to break down the barriers to wine enjoyment so that everyone can feel comfortable with it, but do people really need to memorize the word “ullage” and then actually use it in a sentence? I can just see it.

Average guy: This looks like a good bottle to get for the steak.
His wife: Yes, but what about the ullage?
His wife: I read it in the United magazine.

Anyway, my friends drank a lot more than I did, and a lot of different kinds of stuff. Wine, beer, cocktails, things I’d never heard of. They started a lot earlier in the day, too. I’m not big on alcohol before dusk. But then, they’re in the restaurant business, where the traveling, schmoozing and, yes, drinking is a lot more demanding and expected than in my relatively sedate world of wine writing. I had an uncle who was in charge of regional distribution for Seagram’s, and he drank a lot, too.

I’ve always liked people on that side of the industry. They have a rowdy, randy good-natured spirit, and they laugh a lot and make people around them laugh. God loves people who make people laugh.

Then there was this quote from yesterday’s New York Times I read on the flight back to Oakland: Classic and common are concepts up for grabs; my notion of quality may leave you cold. Many of our masterpieces owe their origins to the distinctly immoral ambitions of power politics, their survival to prosaic strokes of luck, their present pre-eminence to institutional marketing, critical attention and popular sentiment. Even so, survival can be chancy. Fine wines are tossed out and crummy wines are kept all the time.

Granted, the essay was really about who determines what is “art” as opposed to any old scribble. I changed a few words in the above quote to make it about wine, but the concept is the same. How does one wine get universally accepted as great while hundreds of others, which may be its equals or near-equals, are left by the wayside? More on this later.

P.S. To those of you who commented while I was gone and didn’t get them approved until last night, I apologize. For some reason I don’t understand, my laptop lost Internet connectivity.

  1. Regarding:

    “How does one wine get universally accepted as great while hundreds of others, which may be its equals or near-equals, are left by the wayside?”

    Did you read How Brands Become Icons by Holt? It’s my second favorite marketing book:

  2. I think I’ll write an article on how to be one of the writing snobs who writes articles about being a wine snob…

  3. The universe was sending you the “Be here now” message, and it sounds like you followed the message. Sounds like you had a ball! ;^)

  4. Hugh Gardner says:

    I’m really enjoying your screeds. I need to ask of one who would know: what’s the story on “LeBeast”? I came across his video blog and am enjoying his Franco-vino-satire–at least I think it’s satire. Are you familiar with it?

  5. Dear Hugh: No. Never heard of LeBeast.

  6. I haven’t followed LeBeast since I heard of him, but he’s essentially a direct rip-off from Triumph the Insult Comedy Dog. The only difference is his niche focus on the French wine industry. As for laughter, Steve–I need it every day and make a lot of it for myself thanks to the great people around me.

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