So often, it is the bad restaurant experience that stays with you over the years. The one you tell friends who howl and can’t believe you survived the meal intact or left even the smallest tip. But in every life time, there are those two or three magical meals that you never forget. You’re almost afraid to return lest the second meal not live up to and mar the memory.
One of my favorite dining experiences was 20 years ago at Tra Vigne restaurant, just south of St. Helena in the Napa Valley. It was the simplest of meals, and yet the food, wine, and service combined into something unequalled. And now that I have my own wine shop, I carry this relatively unknown wine our waiter served to me that night.
Gina and I grabbed a small table in the corner as a respite from the tourists and wine tastings. The waiter could see we had run out of gas, and suggested a couple of simple dishes. We took his suggestions, and within minutes presented me with a classic Italian apertivo. The ingredients could not have been fresher – Buffalo mozzarella still warm from today’s soaking in brine. The cheese was covered with Basel leaves and delicately sliced tomatoes which had been picked from the garden moments before serving. All were drizzled with fresh olive oil.
From the moment he came to our table, he had sized me up and knew that I was ready for a little adventure. I asked the waiter to recommend a wine to pair with this dish. As he returned to the table with our glasses of wine, he said that few knew this Napa wine but he thought it was the best for my dish – Tofanelli Charbono.
The Tofanelli Charbono was the perfect companion to my dish. Complex yet simple enough to pair with the four flavors on my plate, neither overpowering or detracting from the meal. The waiter stayed in the background yet seemed to appear by magic when we needed him. We thanked him for being the highlight of our day, and made sure that the tip was commensurate with the experience.
by: John Kerr