Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Interviewing Sergio Vazquez about Wine Selection at Sorrento Restaurant - Brunello di Montalcino

Sangiovese grapes in Montalcino region are used for Brunello di Montalcino

"'s quite common for customers to want to see vintage years, and he is happy to accommodate them" (Sergio Vazquez Sorrento Restaurant) Virginia Billeaud Anderson - interviews Sergio Vazquez about wine selection at Sorrento Restaurant after choosing the Brunello di Montalcino.)

Interviewing Sergio Vazquez about Wine Selection at Sorrento Restaurant - Brunello di Montalcino

Distracted by conversation with Maria and my straight-up Manhattan, I didn't notice John officiating over wine selection. He directed our waiter Sergio to stack four bottles of wine on the table, which in itself looked absurd. 
John’s nose was two inches from a Darioush Napa Valley Cabernet, a Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet, a Far Niente Russian River Pinot Noir, and a “mild” Brunello di Montalcino, Col D’Orcia, 2012, DOCG

“Wine snob,” I said. “Untrue, it’s critical to see the labels, so we can make a good choice,” using his corporate legal counsel 
oratorical tone. After label inspection, we agreed to drink the Brunello, which turned out to be an excellent choice with our food. Not overpowering, the Brunello complimented John’s lamb, Donnie’s osso buco, Maria’s seafood stew, and my lobster tortellini, with bread.

We enjoyed the shindig. Conversation was naturally brilliant, at times too loud, then we Uber-ed home. The next day however, with a clearer head, I wanted to know more about our wine selection process. Admittedly I know very little about wine, except I adore it, and that my friend Barry appears as if he's in a religious trance when he opens one of his “good” bottles. To gain greater insight, I called John, and I called our waiter Sergio to ask a few questions.

First, I’ll tell you why I like Sorrento, over and above its location in our neighborhood. The bread! Normally I restrict myself to low carbohydrate foods to maintain a normal weight. However when I go to Sorrento, I don’t give a damn about weight. None of that low-carb foolishness at Sorrento. Sorrento’s waiters serve bread like Edwardian butlers. You’ll detect a decorous head bow while offering the bread basket, which has elegant choices, seven or more bread types, each with a different texture and color. I never know which to choose. And you can eat as much as you want.

Sorrento Restaurant’s Bread Basket

Another reason I enjoy Sorrento is the piano. It’s classy. Makes me feel hot-to-trot. Also, the painted mural of the Amalfi Coast. Sorrento’s mural brings memories of spending time in Sorrento when I traveled along the Amalfi coast. Can’t remember if I was going to Pompeii, or into the Campania.

“Uh, I have a question about when we drank the Brunello. Why were you carrying on about the labels?” It was crucial to see the labels, John said, because Sorrento’s wine menu did not list vintage years for those particular bottles. Our intention was to enjoy “a decent” red, so we needed to know the vintage year to be able to make a good selection.

Yea, but why?

John gave me a lesson on “fruit.” The best reds have a “fruity flavor coming at you, and not high is tannins.” Certain vintage years had right conditions for “big fruit.” In California for instance, in recent years, conditions have not been optimal for fruit. California had bad fires in 2017, so a California red with a 2017 vintage year, he believed, “is to be avoided.” Ditto 2016, “Hit me with a 2013, or 2012.” John is partial to certain California “Cabs” with vintage years of 2012 to 2014, fruity, not tannic, the way he likes his reds, “coming at me, right out the bottle.”

An important step preceded label inspection. According to John, the first thing we did was choose a price range. Did we want to blow $100 on a bottle of wine, or, did we want to piss away $300? “Don and I decided price range, you were busy chit-chatting with Maria.”

Next, I called our waiter Sergio. I began by thanking Sergio for taking care of us, his service was superb. Then I asked him why he carried four bottles of wine to our table. He did that so we could read vintage years on the labels. Is this something he ordinarily does? Yes, it’s quite common for customers to want to see vintage years, and he is happy to accommodate them when they do.

A few more questions. I wanted to know more about Sergio. What was his name, and how long has he worked at Sorrento. His name is Sergio Vazquez, and he has worked at Sorrento “for thirteen or fourteen years.”

Sergio was born in Dolores Hidalgo in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, in central Mexico. He has lived in Houston for “about thirty years.” When I said his table service was highly professional, Sergio told me he learned good service as a child watching his mother who had a small cafeteria, or café, in the Mercado in Dolores Hidalgo. His mother’s tiny business allowed her to raise seven children. Sergio worked as a “server” there when he was young. He believes that despite the business’ small scale, it was profitable because of his mother’s warmth and attention to her customers. Sergio’s mother had four girls and three boys.

Did Sergio remember which bottle we ultimately selected? Indeed, you selected the Brunello, an excellent choice. “You actually drank two Brunellos.” Sergio felt the need to be exact.

Four “Reds” Sergio Vazquez put on the table for
label inspection at Sorrento Restaurant

Here’s a piece of philosophical wisdom I found on Sorrento’s wine menu: “Age and glasses of wine should never be counted.” (“non si contano!”)

According to John, we chose the Burnello because it complimented the food. “It had less punch, so it suited your pasta and went well with Don’s veal, and my lamb, and Maria’s seafood stuff.” Maria’s seafood stuff was Cioppino," I said. It’s the Italian version of bouillabaisse, a very elegant dish.  “Whatever.”

I was beginning to think John would have preferred to drink one of the California “Cabs.” Why did we choose the Brunello?

“You wanted it.”

Damn right I did. The hilly Montalcino region where the Brunello’s Sangiovese vines grow is one of the most sublime places in Italy. Moreover, the region’s wine making dates back to the Etruscans.

Sorrento Ristorante Italiano

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