"You're turning into a star-fucker, Steven."
"Steven, nobody cares that you served some famous people."
"I came here to read about wine, not for celebrity gossip."
Fine. But let me finish.
Yeah, I've served wine to a few famous people. Not a big dealll. I've written and spoken out in the past, sometimes formally, sometimes anecdotally, about what money can buy and what it can't buy when it comes to wine.
Let's start with what money can buy:
•Tables at restaurants with fancy sommeliers to choose wine for you
•Personal sommeliers and people to buy wine for your personal collection
•Entrance to icon wineries that nobody has access to
•Influence and attention from wine people looking for influence and attention
•Well known wines with lots of accolades and points and expensive price tags
Are we done here?
Here's what money can't buy:
•A genuine understanding of how your own tastes, perceptions, and attitudes influence your experience of wine
•An interest in anything other than what you think you "like"
•Putting yourself in the shoes of a winemaker, a grape-picker, a viticulturalist, a sommelier, a waiter, or a winery owner in order to understand why they made wine the way they made it
•Thinking about the influencing factors on the price and status of a wine, whether that price or status is high or low, and developing the ability to identify true quality and value independently
•A desire and genuine need to hunt for wine regions that deliver genuine and interesting wines but have not been vaulted into commercial fame by some kind of marketing phenomenon so that you can enjoy great wines but not spend money that you don't have
The short point here is that being famous and generous and spending lots of money and proclaiming to your millions of followers that you love wine is all fantastic and yes, it can sell a boatload of Miraval (Pitt & Jolie), but it doesn't mean that's the person you need to rely on.
I've never seen LeBron post a $20 bottle of Anjou or Vouvray and wax poetic about it.
But I wish I had seen him do this, because I would trust him a little more than if he were just posting about verticals of Masseto. Catch my drift?
Anyone can buy expensive (and often very delicious, no doubt) wine if they've got the dough.
Not everyone can enjoy the wine in front of them be a sincere student of the grapevine.
Regardless, here are a few of my celebrity experiences, what they drank, and how I felt about it.
1. Rosie O'Donnell
What a gem Rosie was to serve. Probably the most gracious and generous celebrity that I encountered in my service days. She asked if we carried Caymus. I politely informed her that we did not, and proceeded to recommend a bottle of Hoopes Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville. She quickly and openly accepted, proclaimed to enjoy it, and the table of eight shared two bottles. $250 (Canadian) per bottle on our list.
2. Iron Maiden
Now, I personally don't know any of the members of Iron Maiden. They were lovely fellows. For the duration of their time in our hotel, they cycled through a variety of local British Columbia wines, which were all under $100 per bottle. They loved the local stuff and were excited to see what we had to offer. Full points.
3. Vince Neal
Mr. Neal ordered a bunch of Veuve Clicquot for his table, but he also ordered a bottle of Di Lenardo Friulano from Friuli in Italy. It cost $46 and was one of the least expensive white wines on our list, but alas, quite delicious. I was impressed by this. What a nice guy.
4. Tyler Stewart
Drummer from the Barenaked Ladies. I am a big fan. He drank a British Columbia wine called the Laughing Stock Blind Trust, which is a Meritage-style, powerful but accessible red wine. The thing I loved about him was that he ordered it by the glass. He probably could have handled the bottle. We suggested it, he loved it. I think he might have loved anything we put in front of him. Superb.
5. Will Champion
The drummer saga continues. Mr. Champion stayed in Vancouver for a number of days and much like his Iron Maiden countrymen, enjoyed a variety of sub-$100 British Columbian wines over the few days he spent in Vancouver with his family. White, red, rosé. Never too much. I think it says something about England traditionally being a non-wine producing country but being a serious wine appreciating country with exposure to wines from all over Europe. I remember Jamie Oliver talking about appreciating the openness of the British palate as opposed to certain Italian palates, which may have been better trained to quality but were much less open to experimentation. Interesting, to say the least. No assholes so far.
6. Wayne Gretzky
The hockey legend and GOAT had a glass of red in our lounge (I didn't bring it to him, personally) after he had done a launch party for his line of spirits at the Vancouver Canucks game. It was a nightcap, and I believe it put him to bed. He proceeded to unsolicitedly autograph our hardwood table and cooperated kindly for a selfie with our head chef, although he looked like he needed a nap in the resulting photo. We had the top of the table sanded and refinished. I am a fan of Wayne. I thought it was very funny and a hilarious story.
7. Michelle Rodriguez
When Michelle walked into our restaurant, I felt like I was transported 15 years into the past into the original Fast and the Furious. We chatted briefly as I showed her to her table. I felt like Paul Walker or Vin Diesel. She looked and sounded identical to the movie. Terribly polite and sweet.
She drank tea.