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How (Not) To Bring Wine To Dinner


Waitman
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Is it me? Or is this a snotty little piece that makes you hope this woman never darkens your door and vow that, if she does, you'll open her wine, pronounce it corked and immediately pour it down the sink so that "that corked taste doesn't ruin your palate for the night."

The bulk of the article, ostensibly about dealing with the allegedly overwhelming challenge of buying a decent bottle of wine and bringing it to a friend's house as what my wife calls a "hostess gift" is largely about how important it is that you acknowledge Lettie's excellent taste by immediately opening her gift to you and giving back to her, preferably (one assumes) in something by Reidel.

My ex-husband, Alan, spends more time trying to figure out how to ensure his bottles will be opened than he does choosing the wine. For example, Alan once brought a really good bottle of Champagne to the house of a couple he didn't know well. He chilled the wine, put it into a bucket and delivered it on ice. This would have seemed like enough to guarantee they'd open it, but the husband dumped out the ice, took out the bottle and put it away. He served something far inferior instead.

Along the way we meet her fabulous rich friends, like The Collector, who bring Magnums of 99 point Parker Chateauneufs by for dinner but practically decant the bottle before entering the house so that the hosts and their friends will be sure to have the opportunity to admire their astounding selection. And there are the people who refuse to open Lettie's bottles. They, instead, serve her cat piss. Not those funky Kiwi Sauvignon Blancs but actual cat piss. In jelly jars.

The one person described who was actually selected the wines he picked to go with the menu he planned, not only serves cat piss, but pretentiously rolls his "r" while pronouncing Lirac.

That's how vulgar the not-rich, not-willing-to-serve-Lettie's-wine, not-sexually-attractive people in Lettie's life are.

Now, I've been blessed to have good friends bring by great wine to dinner, but I've never felt compelled serve it for fear of not offending my guests (except once, because I don't have a magnum decanter :(). We often do serve it, if for no other reason that we tend to run short at my dinner parties due to my inability to get dinner down in a timely fashion and the Falstaffian (but gracious) circles I run in. Sometimes I open it because it just seems like fun (but never in place of my selections during a course I prepared) -- that's what the cheese course is for, right? "Let's open this Burgundy and see how it goes." But a lot of it ends up in the basement cellar.

I've brought wines that were put away for another day by my host(ess) and maybe felt a twinge, but never annoyance. And, unlike Lettie, I think that friends who save the wine I bring are far more likely to be serving excellent stuff that is also better-matched with the dinner they prepared. Nice to think about them pulling it out one evening and enjoying it on spur of the moment, as well.

And, of course, a lot of us do dinners where we carve up the courses and the wines among us in cooperative fashion, where whole idea is moot.

I predict that article, and a thin vintagex with notes of whining, bragging and vanity, will not, age well.

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I only had time to skim this piece just now, but my impression is that it's written tongue-in-cheek.

Two thoughts:

1) I bring bottles of wine to parties all the time as gifts, and unless it's prearranged that it's a BYOB dinner, I never assume the wine will be opened that night.

2) If I really want the bottle to be opened that night, I'll call first and say something like, "I have a really fun wine I'd like everyone to try, would that be okay?"

I think it really is as simple as that!

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I only had time to skim this piece just now, but my impression is that it's written tongue-in-cheek.

Two thoughts:

1) I bring bottles of wine to parties all the time as gifts, and unless it's prearranged that it's a BYOB dinner, I never assume the wine will be opened that night.

2) If I really want the bottle to be opened that night, I'll call first and say something like, "I have a really fun wine I'd like everyone to try, would that be okay?"

I think it really is as simple as that!

I'm not buying the tongue-in cheek thing. It's too consistent and never goes over-the-top. If just one of the people who snubbed her wine served something great (or actual cat piss, as I suggested, going a little OTT myself), or The Collector trumped her wine with a Jeroboam of '61 Petrus I might have bought it. But it's too consistent in sucking up to the snobs and sneering at those who don't recognize her genius to be a parody.

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andd sneering at those who don't recognize her genius

Honestly, I get that from a lot (most?) of her columns...I tend to second-guess myself, figuring I must just not be in on the joke and that she must be writing tongue-in-cheek, but I honestly don't really know, especially after this one.

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I'm not buying the tongue-in cheek thing. It's too consistent and never goes over-the-top. If just one of the people who snubbed her wine served something great (or actual cat piss, as I suggested, going a little OTT myself), or The Collector trumped her wine with a Jeroboam of '61 Petrus I might have bought it. But it's too consistent in sucking up to the snobs and sneering at those who don't recognize her genius to be a parody.

Silly man, everyone knows that there were no Jeroboams bottled in '61 at Petrus.

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When I go to parties of that nature I wear my Valentino mink and just wait for the chance to say "mahvelous, Darling" and "Cheerio." Oh wait, I am never invited to parties like that, I like the people I drink with... But if I ever was invited to a party like that lots of, "mahvelous, darlings." But I find with people of that temperament the more I can seem like a southern version of ab-fab the better.

Her life actually seems a little sad though, it makes me thankful for all my really wonderful friends.

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I've never cared much for Lettie Teague's columns, but that has to be one of the most appalling things ever written about wine, being a guest, going to parties, or anything else. Yeesh. Now, to be fair, she doesn't seem to be writing explicitly and exclusively about dinner parties. Maybe if you bring wine to a standing-around-drinking party it's more reasonable to expect the host to open the bottle you've brought. But to expect the host to substitute your surprise bottle of wine for what he or she has already chosen for the dinner that has been thought about and planned for three weeks and worked on for eight hours is utterly outrageous, especially if you go on to sneer about how superior your wine is. It's like showing up for a dinner party with an unexpected leg of lamb, saying "here, I've brought your main course", and then sneering at the lasagne. Not what a lady or a gentleman would do.

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1) I bring bottles of wine to parties all the time as gifts, and unless it's prearranged that it's a BYOB dinner, I never assume the wine will be opened that night.

I almost always take a Champagne and always unchilled so that the host or hostess will not feel any obligation to open it that night.

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I almost always take a Champagne and always unchilled so that the host or hostess will not feel any obligation to open it that night.

I don't "almost always" do that, but I've done that, and the impulse is one I've often felt: I'd love to bring someone a bottle of wine, and I want to make sure they understand that I don't expect or even want them to serve it to me. Because of the possibility of misunderstanding, flowers can be simpler. Nobody thinks you want to eat them.
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I don't "almost always" do that, but I've done that, and the impulse is one I've often felt: I'd love to bring someone a bottle of wine, and I want to make sure they understand that I don't expect or even want them to serve it to me. Because of the possibility of misunderstanding, flowers can be simpler. Nobody thinks you want to eat them.

You can always gift-wrap it and say "open this later."

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I don't "almost always" do that, but I've done that, and the impulse is one I've often felt: I'd love to bring someone a bottle of wine, and I want to make sure they understand that I don't expect or even want them to serve it to me. Because of the possibility of misunderstanding, flowers can be simpler. Nobody thinks you want to eat them.

You can always put it in a gift bag with a card that says "for your next date night" or something like that.

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I don't "almost always" do that, but I've done that, and the impulse is one I've often felt: I'd love to bring someone a bottle of wine, and I want to make sure they understand that I don't expect or even want them to serve it to me. Because of the possibility of misunderstanding, flowers can be simpler. Nobody thinks you want to eat them.

What can I say, I like to spread the word about RM Champagnes, and giving them as gifts is one of the easiest ways to do it.

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Feels a little like a case of "when you care more about the wine than the company" - I would rather drink crappy wine with great friends, than great wines with crappy friends. I was once at a wine dinner where tons of good Italian wines were served like Giacosa etc., and I could distinctively remember feeling, these people don't really care about being with each other, they just want to drink good wine.

I looked across the restaurant where I dined not too long ago at a table where good friends and I shared a humble bottle of Valpolicella off the list-- and longed for that kind of an evening.

BTW, Stitch, what is an RM champagne?

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It's like showing up for a dinner party with an unexpected leg of lamb, saying "here, I've brought your main course", and then sneering at the lasagne. Not what a lady or a gentleman would do.

I've had that very thing happen--a last minute invitation to a friend, who was coming over with her two teen-aged kids. She always wanted to "contribute something" whenever I invited her over, so I suggested that she bring some rib-eye or sirloin to add to the steaks I was planning to grill. When she arrived, she unwrapped a small leg of lamb, because when they were at Whole Foods her kids told her that they wanted to eat lamb, not beef. I had to drop everything else I was doing to trim up the lamb, so that it would have some kind of similar cooking time to the steaks that I had already rubbed and prepped for the grill. GRRR.

For T-day this year, my BIL and SIL who usually bring champagne as their contribution to the meal (always welcome for aperitif sipping), instead brought a magnum of Morgon, with the expectation that we would have it with the turkey. I had already purchased Seghesio zinfandel to serve with the main course (smoked turkey). We polished off the Morgon with the afternoon charcuterie board and it worked out ok--the zin was great with the turkey. I have another friend who always brings something wonderful from her cellar--often as not, I tuck it away for later enjoyment and she doesn't mind. Sometimes she calls in advance to ask what I am preparing so that she can bring something that will pair well.

On a few occasions, when I have been invited to large family gatherings or off-campus school functions where I know that swill will be served, I sometimes bring a bottle or two of something decent to open and share with a few others who will know the difference.

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I almost always take a Champagne and always unchilled so that the host or hostess will not feel any obligation to open it that night.

But as a note you are one of the best dinner companions/guests one could ever hope for. If only people like you wrote entertaining columns, well they wouldn't be very salacious and not as many people would read them so the magazine would go under, but at least they would be considerate of the people who lovingly invite others into their homes and company. Isn't that what a hostess gift is supposed to be about anyway.

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Question experts-I'm going to a neighbor's Holiday Brunch next weekend. It's an open invite to friends and neighbors, so it will be an "open house" of sorts from 12-3. I was planning on bringing a bottle of bubbly, either champagne or Prosecco. My first thought was to bring it chilled so that if they thought it a good idea to offer it to their guests immediately, they could do so. My intent is not to have it replace anything that they are offering, but to allow them to have the choice of whether to serve it.

What do you think? Give it unchilled so there is no mistaking that it is for them? Give it chilled for their flexibility?

Thanks.

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The RM means récoltant-manipulant, they are small producers that grow all of their own grapes on the estate where the wine is made, you can read more about them here.

actually, RM means all or some of the grapes are grown by the producer. Purchased fruit can be used but a certain percentage? has to be home grown to be labeled a RM. If you likechampagne, try some. Terry Theise brings in a number of good ones and will be at MacArthurs tomorrow afternoon pouring a few. Also Germans but they ain't my thing.

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Question experts-I'm going to a neighbor's Holiday Brunch next weekend. It's an open invite to friends and neighbors, so it will be an "open house" of sorts from 12-3. I was planning on bringing a bottle of bubbly, either champagne or Prosecco. My first thought was to bring it chilled so that if they thought it a good idea to offer it to their guests immediately, they could do so. My intent is not to have it replace anything that they are offering, but to allow them to have the choice of whether to serve it.

What do you think? Give it unchilled so there is no mistaking that it is for them? Give it chilled for their flexibility?

Thanks.

Just bring it chilled but, as you hand it off, say something like, "this is for you for after you've finally gotten all the rest of us out of the house."

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Based on that video, I think the best hostess gift for Lettie would be some anti-frizz serum and the number of a good stylist.

That said, if it's a dinner party, I usually ask what the host/ess would like me to bring, and if its a bottle of wine (with my friends, there can never be too much), would a red or white go better with the meal. I think because I'm not in the habit of going to dinner parties with people I don't know, let alone at the homes of people I don't know, I generally have a good sense for whether or not the wine I'm bringing is meant to be consumed that evening with the meal or not. I will often bring something fun that most people will not have had before (my go-to is a dry tokaji furmint) and I'll simply say (as Don suggests) that I brought something fun, if people want to give it a go. If it doesn't get opened, then that's okay too.

If it's just a party, then the wine goes on the table with all the rest, and if it gets opened, great; if not, great. (And if it's an oaky Chardonnay that doesn't get drunk, it goes in the corner to be regifted at a later date.)

I have a good friend - one of my wine drinking buddies - who has for the most part, very different tastes in wine than I do. (She'd be on the receiving end of that aforementioned Chardonnay.) We usually can happily split a bottle of red, but when it comes to whites, we don't have much common ground. (It does happen though.) When I bring wine to her - or to others who I know appreciate it - I'll go out and shop for her tastes, often buying something that I know I wouldn't like - so unlike Ms. Teague, I am not eager to open what I've brought. When I give it to her, I usually explain that I chose it for her and she'll say, "Is this for me or is this for tonight?" which is code for "Is this for tonight, or is it too good to share?" (especially if it's a large group, where each person will only get a sip).

I just feel like unless you're socially awkward and/or tend toward passive aggressiveness, you know in advance if you should expect your bottle to be opened, and plan accordingly, but you don't write a snotty column in Food & Wine.

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Is it me? Or is this a snotty little piece that makes you hope this woman never darkens your door and vow that, if she does, you'll open her wine, pronounce it corked and immediately pour it down the sink so that "that corked taste doesn't ruin your palate for the night."

The bulk of the article, ostensibly about dealing with the allegedly overwhelming challenge of buying a decent bottle of wine and bringing it to a friend's house as what my wife calls a "hostess gift" is largely about how important it is that you acknowledge Lettie's excellent taste by immediately opening her gift to you and giving back to her, preferably (one assumes) in something by Reidel.

Along the way we meet her fabulous rich friends, like The Collector, who bring Magnums of 99 point Parker Chateauneufs by for dinner but practically decant the bottle before entering the house so that the hosts and their friends will be sure to have the opportunity to admire their astounding selection. And there are the people who refuse to open Lettie's bottles. They, instead, serve her cat piss. Not those funky Kiwi Sauvignon Blancs but actual cat piss. In jelly jars.

The one person described who was actually selected the wines he picked to go with the menu he planned, not only serves cat piss, but pretentiously rolls his "r" while pronouncing Lirac.

That's how vulgar the not-rich, not-willing-to-serve-Lettie's-wine, not-sexually-attractive people in Lettie's life are.

Now, I've been blessed to have good friends bring by great wine to dinner, but I've never felt compelled serve it for fear of not offending my guests (except once, because I don't have a magnum decanter ;)). We often do serve it, if for no other reason that we tend to run short at my dinner parties due to my inability to get dinner down in a timely fashion and the Falstaffian (but gracious) circles I run in. Sometimes I open it because it just seems like fun (but never in place of my selections during a course I prepared) -- that's what the cheese course is for, right? "Let's open this Burgundy and see how it goes." But a lot of it ends up in the basement cellar.

I've brought wines that were put away for another day by my host(ess) and maybe felt a twinge, but never annoyance. And, unlike Lettie, I think that friends who save the wine I bring are far more likely to be serving excellent stuff that is also better-matched with the dinner they prepared. Nice to think about them pulling it out one evening and enjoying it on spur of the moment, as well.

And, of course, a lot of us do dinners where we carve up the courses and the wines among us in cooperative fashion, where whole idea is moot.

I predict that article, and a thin vintagex with notes of whining, bragging and vanity, will not, age well.

Ms. Teague has found a new home

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I am suddenly the recipient of a lot of wine -- thanks to my boss clearing out his wine rack (mostly reds) to make room for what they actually drink.  Most of it is $10-$12 bottle grocery store stuff that most likely came from friends as a hostess gift sort of thing, but hidden among there were a couple of relative gems -- a 2008 Napa Valley Atlas Peak cab, and a 2004 Clos de la Roilette (which, from my web search, is probably now on the downhill slope but still good).  In the meantime, though, I'll have to find some way to drink or divest myself of Dancing Bull Zin, Old Fart Red and Rapidan River Chocolate wines, plus a massive bottle of Vendange Chardonnay. 

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