Master Sommeliers And Their Pranks

Any day is good for pulling pranks and making people laugh, but April Fool’s day is just another great excuse do to so. I’ve been pranked more than a few times. But it’s more fun to do the pranking than to be the prankee. And, boy, can you have fun with wine!

About 10 years ago my boss played a really good prank on me. He knew that I had a particular favorite wine that I had been waiting for to come into inventory so I could purchase it. We were on our way to lunch and on the way out the door, he stopped and mentioned to me that we had received the wines. He went on to say that there was a glitch in the system and that we had already sold it and at a discounted price no less.

David Hirsch

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David Hirsch of Hirsch Vineyards

At that point, I stopped and told him that I’d better skip lunch and go tend to this “accident” so that I could go and buy the wine that I had been waiting to buy for months. He said I should just wait until after lunch. I told him no and that I’d catch up with him later. I was just about to go back upstairs to the office when he looked at me with a dead pan face and asked, “What is the date today?” I replied, April 1. He slowly smiled and walked out the door.

But I can give as well as I get. I was in Bordeaux in 2006 for the En Primeur tastings. These are the tastings where wine buyers and critics from around the globe descend on Bordeaux to taste the barrels of the previous vintages wines. In this case it was the stunning 2005 vintage. Let me just say that it was an absolutely amazing trip and vintage. The wines will provide those fortunate enough to have some in their cellars with fabulous drinking wines for decades to come.

I was with a group of buyers from our company and it just so happened that a fellow Master Sommelier and friend of mine was also on the trip. We were at Chateau Lascombes, a second Growth in the commune of Margaux. We had just toured the winery and chai where we tasted some of the barrel samples. They were quite successful in 2005. The Chateau was hosting us for dinner that same evening with wine-maker Dominique Befve. Speaking French, Dominique and I struck up a conversation, and I inquired as to what we were going to taste that evening and he mentioned that he was going to serve us some younger wines, then blind taste us on some older vintages from the cellar.

The naughty gears in my head started spinning and I requested that they pour something different for my friend and that I would ask him to tell everyone what vintage he thought the wine was. Dominique, having a great sense of humor was an accomplice, so we sat next to each other during the course of the dinner. As the wine was poured around, I immediately asked my friend (who shall remain anonymous) to deduce the wine. He began by saying how dark the wine was, how fresh it smelled of dark fruit, sweet oak and spices. The faces of the others turned perplexed and they started whispering to each other. It was plain to see that everyone else had a wine with a more rusted and brown color with much more secondary and tertiary aromatics. So my friend looked up and realized that everyone else was questioning everything he was describing. He finally realized by looking at his neigh-bor’s glass that he had been poured a different wine.

The jig was up, and we all had a good laugh!

My friend was a good sport. I guess you have to be in order to be my friend. It’s all in good fun and, in the end, the wines were great.

No April fool’s wines here: 2009 Hirsch San Andreas Cuvee Pinot Noir ($65) Jasmine Hirsch told me that this may be one of the best she has ever made, and after tasting it I believe her. It is silky with verbose ripe fruit, superb balance and flavor that keeps going and going. Very impressive. 2010 Chamisal Stainless Chardonnay ($13) There are some wines that are serious with depths to explore. This is not one of them. But what this wine does offer is delicousness: beautifully ripe tropical and citrus fruits with a smooth and round texture without any oak. It over-delivers for the money.