Pick The Wrong Wine: An Exercise in Pairing

If I worked real hard and chiseled my body (I got close once) and got a tan (twice) and grew facial hair (still trying) I would seriously consider challenging Salt Bae™ for whatever title he undisputedly carries year after year.

Yeah, that's my striploin. Yay me.

I made it for lunch the other day, and something funny happened. Something I constantly advocate for, yet almost talked myself out of.

See, I was doing two things at once. Something I never advocate for but find myself attempting all the time. Such is life.

I had just cracked a zippy, pacific-coast pinot grigio for inclusion in some braising liquid that would eventually become some turkey soup for my one and only love who's been feeling under the weather. Not like, covid under the weather. Just, like, under the weather. OK?

Anyway, I suddenly found myself finishing this striploin in the pan and in need of an imbibe to go along, as I might have had to kick myself out of my own house if I was to enjoy such a thing sans-vino.

The only hitch here is that I really didn't like the idea of opening a second fresh bottle, presumably red, and I really didn't feel like knocking myself three hours into the future and waking up on the sofa. The bedhead is just not worth it.

So I just danced with the one I had brought to the ball.

There's an important lesson at play here which is essential to nearly everything I do with this project.

That lesson is to embrace the wine in your hand and the context of your surroundings.


I can never say it enough. It's kinda funny, because I like to try to create perfection. I strive for perfection. I rarely, if ever, get there, and I know how many mistakes I make in that striving. But the thing I've embraced in the past year or so is the willingness to be messy. The willingness to take messy action.

It's an odd distinction, because people on the outside might not even notice a difference in what I do. But, it's the mindset that, for me, inspires creativity in any given moment.

Like when (god forbid, and this would actually bother some wine people, sadly) you've only got airy, crunchy pinot grigio open and it's steak time.

It's important to remember that an attitude un-fussed with being perfect lends itself well to enjoying and appreciating wine and food on a deeper level, as well. At the end of the day, most wines will help you digest most foods. Even if it's not a combination you'd necessarily dream of or reach for. Just think of the wine as a rinse between bites. Sure, as a general rule, the more you know, the less often you might be surprised, but if you stop seeking surprise entirely, you'll just get bored and stale. Fast.

Who needs that?

I'm constantly challenging myself and those around me to not only try what might be theoretically sound, but also to try and do what's considered theoretically wrong. On purpose. If anything, doing things wrong intentionally is a great way to help focus your vision on what might be closer to right, whatever 'right' is. Think about it.

Let's say I ask you what wine to pair with an oyster.

You might say something like, "I have no fucking idea."


But, what if I asked you what wine would you not want to drink with an oyster?

All of a sudden, I bet you could think of something. You might say, "I don't know, Amarone?"

When the question is asked to evoke a negative response, you have permission to be wrong. This is related to the power of "no".

If a stranger says to you, "do you have a minute to talk?", your reaction might be something akin to, "Ehhh...", for you don't know what you're committing yourself to. You don't want to say yes, because you don't know what's at stake.

But, if a stranger approaches you and says, "would I be completely out of line to ask you a quick question?", you'd probably think, "Well, no, you wouldn't be completely out of line to ask me a question."

They expect you to say "No, don't be so hard on yourself. Go ahead". And your "no" is actually a "yes". They get to ask the question to an open ear.

You saying no keeps you in control. It's a comfortable way for you to offer consent.

Just like it's easier for you to think of what NOT to pair something than feeling the pressure of choosing a singular, perfect pairing for something. When you think of what might be completely off-base as a selection, it does two things. One, it gets you imagining wine and food in that certain 3D way, where you put yourself and your palate in a sensory mode. You become visual. It also gives you a baseline from which to work off of. And it allows you to feel right about being wrong, on purpose. You're supposed to think of the wrong thing. You win by being wrong, and you feel good about participating.

Even if you only have a small level of knowledge, freeing yourself up to start with the wrong answer and work towards something more suitable is a great way for you to kind of scale the breadth of your knowledge. You find out how much you actually know. And you allow yourself to stumble towards an answer, rather than no answer at all if you had to carry the weight of correctness on your shoulders.

Be messy. Be wrong.

It's the best way to find out what might be right.

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