Saturday, January 17, 2009

Automat








I received an E-mail from a friend of mine asking me if I had heard of wine bars with pre-paid cards and gas systems meting out samples of wine. "Is it heresy?", she asked.

My Response:

I have heard of wine bars like this, they have been around for years. People love them, especially people who like gadgets, gizmos and technology in general. In the 1940's and 1950's the same type of thing was very popular in New York with food. They were called Automats. They looked like a room full of post office boxes. You would drop in your dime and open a little door and pull out a sandwich.

As the idea of eating a post office box egg salad sandwich seems unpleasant to us now, drinking wine from little spigots will probably seem unpleasant to future generations. There is a novelty aspect, the longevity of which is questionable. I'm sure it was once very exciting for people to pump their own gas or run an elevator by themselves.

Furthermore, I'm uncertain if these places ever become the fine dining destination their owners hope for. My feeling is that they do well in an area with heavy foot traffic, and within close proximity of other restaurants. For many, this type of establishment becomes a pre- or post-dinner stop. In L.A., with a large affluent populace of West Coast types milling around, a restaurant like this can do quite well. The point of business is money, and these things can and do make money.

As a serious wine drinker however, it's not for me. More often than not places like this serve 72 different brands of wine, not 72 types of wine. The difference is huge, although would likely be overlooked on the West Coast. For instance, to taste Chalk Hill Sauvignon Blanc and Stag's Leap Sauvignon Blanc head to head is unenlightening. However tasting, Sancerre and Pouilly Fume head to head is quite.

Then there is the issue of fatigue. Maybe they put Gaja Barbaresco on the wine list just to silence assholes like me. I would still be thinking, how long has that bottle been open? how clean are the lines?

The advantage of buying wine from a machine instead of a person escapes me. I don't find it exciting to drink with the same type of card I use at the laundromat to wash my clothes.

Heresy? No, a gimmick yes.

Now if you are going to tell me I'm an arrogant prick, save your breath I know.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you had actually been to such an establishment you would know that such venues as “Tastings” have both Sancerre and Pouilly Fume that you can taste side-by-side if you should so desire. Since you are served by a person and not a machine at the location in Connecticut (contrary to your implications), such a comparison of neighboring terroirs would not be a stretch. As a serious wine drinker I was a little hesitant at first, but I at least gave it a chance before claiming to be the critical authority. So maybe instead of basing your blogs on prejudicial fabrications, you should stick with telling the rest of New London County how to spell different brands of Prosecco.

January 19, 2009 at 4:37 AM  
Blogger jim morrison said...

Thank you for reading my writing. As you might imagine I have already plastered my opinion all over New London County. With this piece in particular I was shooting at a slightly broader audience, specifically California

The piece I wrote was in response to an E-mail sent to me by a friend of mine on the West Coast. It was a PR release for a place called Splashes in San Diego. I changed it to L.A. because I am from New York and enjoy making fun of L.A., besides more of my readership lives in L.A.

In California it is legal for the customer to serve themselves directly from the machine, so that is the model that they employ. As I have stated, the appeal of this escapes me.

I write this shit to address some of the fundamentally destructive issues in my industry, in this case fetishizing technology. I have also rabidly attacked flying winemakers like Michel Rolland, omnipotent wine critics like Robert Parker, and placeless wine in general. I spent yesterday afternoon harassing the Frescobaldi representative about fraudulent Brunello. That is what I will stick to.

I don't recall correcting the spelling of Prosecco, but I do recall correcting the spelling of Segura Viudas Cava.

January 19, 2009 at 5:45 AM  

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