In November of 2001, my wife, Karen, and I were celebrating our sixth anniversary at a small restaurant known for its up and coming chef and its diverse wine list. Sadly the restaurant has closed but its chef continues to wow diners and critics alike to this day.
We were seated at a small table for two and had the good fortune to have an attentive and extremely knowledgeable waiter serving us. We developed an immediate rapport as he was an airline pilot, just as my wife's brother was. He explained that the owner/chef was willing to work around his flight schedule (Pilots get an obscene amount of time off!) and he did this job for fun. And his enthusiasm for this "part time" job really showed! Much to our good fortune, his other calling, was wine.
Our usual M.O. was to order a drink and make our food selections, after which we would "guess at a compromise" for a bottle of wine in an often botched attempt to pair with our individual choices for dinner. Our waiter made another suggestion, get a half glass of a wine style that we like (of course he mentioned several good alternatives to wines we already had tried and liked) and then look at the menu.
After our appetizer/salad course, he brought us two quarter glasses each for our entree. The little table was starting to get crowded with empty wine glasses and we probably looked like a couple of lushes to anyone nearby. I was even starting to feel bad for the dish washer!
I remember liking the first wine, a California Cab, but it faded completely into obscurity when I tried the second. "Wow!" I said out loud, "You have got to try this wine!" Karen tasted it carefully, not knowing if I serious. Her eyes opened wide and she declared that it was the best wine she had ever had. I almost had to pry it from her hands to get it back. When the waiter next appeared, we both asked for a half glass of this wonderful new discovery. He said he would have to open another bottle since I got the last of the current one. It turned out that that was the last bottle of their 1997 Ridge Lytton Springs, a California Zinfandel Blend.
Sadly, we never uncovered the same exact bottle, but have become fans of Ridge and have even bought futures of their Montebello label, which we are cellaring now. It was a great meal and wine adventure made even more satisfying because of an airline pilot with an excellent sense of what wine is really about!