Cafe Society

Master, by the glass

The Master clan was back in town yesterday to do a little family-brand wine pimping at Sketch.  And guess who was there to taste the offerings?

That's right, yours truly.  And while I generally avoid things like opening-night parties, wine tastings, benefit dinners and "celebrity chef" parties like the plagues that they are, I made an exception for the Sketch/Master wine shindig for one very important reason. Though I have been friends with the Master family for years, though I love each member dearly and have been to innumerable dinners with them, it occurred to me yesterday morning that I'd never once tasted the wines to which their names are attached.

Weird, I know.  But like a chef not being particularly anxious to eat at his own restaurant on his day off, the Masters were always more likely to drink someone else's grape juice when we were out on the town--a lead that I followed gladly because Mel Master alone knows about a million times as much about wine as I do, and when his wife Jane and son Charlie are added into the mix, I'm essentially just the monkey at the table, gladly sucking down anything put before me and trying to remember not to fling my poo at anyone.

But I digress...

Yesterday, I finally got my chance to taste vintage Master family wine. Charlie caught me outside and led me directly to Mel, working the bar (standing in the very position held by his son ever since Charlie signed on with Jesse Morreale and Sean Yontz to run Sketch's bar for them) and cracking bottles. Mel, wisely, came at me fast with a glass and a half-pour of his excellent Tiamo pinot grigio. It was a nice, light, almost effervescent white, heavy on the fruit and easy on the acidity. I followed this with a splash of the Tortoise Creek cabernet sauvignon -- which was a sledgehammer, comparatively -- and then backed down to the chardonnay, a varietal I don't think I've tried since I was a kid filching sips from my parents' liquor cabinet.

I was impressed by each of the bottles, but it was the Tiamo that moved me the most -- a surprisingly complicated wine that had the effect of a perfectly balanced balsamic vinegar, each taste making me want to drink more, not less, leading me further down into the glass and, eventually, the bottle.

Of course, it didn't take long before Charlie poured me a proper whiskey (Stranahan's, over a single rock) with which to space out my tasting.  And really?  Much as I loved that Tiamo, by the third short-pour I was also looking enviously over the shoulder of Tony, the cook and butcher still in his checks down at the end of the bar, happily popping tops on PBRs and staring off into space.

No matter how many opportunities I am given, no matter how much I try, I'm just never going to be a wine guy.  Beer, sure.  And the hard stuff, absolutely.  But for a wine even to move my needle a bit, it must be something truly spectacular.

Which was why, after a nice night and a long nap, I went and picked up a couple bottles of that Tiamo for myself -- happy that I'd found a wine I could get behind, happier still that I'd finally, after six years, sat down with my friends and gotten to taste something that they've been so proud of for so long.