Online refers to wine geeks discussing and arguing about wine on an Internet bulletin board or a wine forum.
Offline refers to wine geeks physically gathering in a pre-agreed upon place, normally a restaurant, to engage in their passion: to talk about wine.
~Over the years, I’ve attended not many but a few offlines, and each time I have done so I have told myself that I would not do it again.
~It’s not that I don’t like the people—in fact, most of the people I have met through wine are decent and fun loving (unfortunately, quite a few snobby, unusually unlikable people have crossed my path too, but that happens in any gathering of people, and I am certain a few of them thought the same of me).
~It’s also not that I don’t like sharing wine with other people who like sharing wine. I love doing that.
~It’s not even that I don't like to avoid buying wine in a restaurant—pricey as many are—by choosing to bring my own wine, and my own glass, and my own corkscrew...
~For me, there are two ways to sample wine: in a professional setting or in a structured wine tasting.
~One of the worst things I can think of for sampling wine is to do it at dinner without parameters.
~What usually happens at an offline is that a wine theme is agreed upon in advance and then almost without exception each attendee brings wine that fits the theme plus wine that does not. The table winds up with an array of wines—sometimes they are spectacular wines that only a fool would pass up tasting.
~Sometimes, however, many of the wines are not friendly to the food on the menu. But that's often ok, since at offlines, the dinner becomes almost incidental. The focus is on talking about the wines—endlessly...talking...about...the...wines.
~Since I like to separate wine tasting from wine for dinner, I prefer talking about the wines at a tasting and I prefer talking about all the fun and glorious things about life that are made even more glorious when the wine and food are singing to me.
~I bring this up because last night I attended an offline. I met a couple of people in-person whom I had known only online. They were great fun to be with, open hearted people who like a good laugh and who certainly enjoy tasting wine. But.
I remember just about every wine that I tasted last night, especially the one I truly disliked.
The general theme of the offline was Rhone varieties. With the exception of one fellow who is a local wine producer and who brought the wonderful wines he produces in the Finger Lakes, and with the exception of a Provencal rosé and a Loire dessert wine, the theme was represented by three red wines from the Rhone and one Syrah from California, plus one white Rhone wine, which happened to have been TCA tainted and ruined (and it was one of the wines I brought).
The three Rhone reds comprised two Hermitage and one Chateauneuf du Papes. The California Syrah was from Paso Robles.
I loved the Rhones for different reasons, but they generally reflected the racy, almost funky aroma and spicy/peppery/full density of body that I expect from the wines. The one I liked the least was from a hot vintage (1998) and the others were from 1989.
I absolutely hated the California Syrah. It was from 2002. It smelled like stewed prunes and it tasted like two tons of stewed prunes mixed with raisins that had been stirred in a barrel of grain alcohol.
The Rhones were between 13 and 14 percent alcohol—the Syrah was listed a tenth of a percent under 16!
~The restaurant gracefully allowed us to bring the wine and did not charge us its usual corkage fee, which is a cheap $5 per bottle.
~The restaurant serves vegetarian meals, although I can never figure out why restaurants that serve, and people who eat, cheese and eggs call themselves vegetarians, since the animal products are not vegetation. But I digress.
~From what I saw on the menu, maybe one item might have been able to stand up to the Rhone wines. (I don’t think anything in this world could stand up to that Syrah, except maybe a car bomb).
~Because it sounded good to me, I ordered an Italian-style tort of ricotta filled philo pastry.
~Unfortunately, the wines were so powerful, I cannot remember what the food tasted like, which presents a perfectly valid reason for restaurants not to like BYOB: it could ruin the taste of their food.
~In all, the people were fun, the wines were generally wonderful, and the evening was fun. But on my way home, I vowed once again not to attend offlines.
You can see what kinds of things go on at offlines by reading about them at these links:
August, 2007. All Rights Reserved.