A rare New Year’s Eve experience for me in San Francisco last night; we found ourselves in a venue (Ritz-Carlton Hotel) where the wine list was awful and the cocktails $25 apiece. I came home sober! I actually drove our party of 6 home! Those who know me can attest to how unusual this is for the occasion.

My Christmas gift to myself (& birthday, since Christmas is my birthday) was 5 cases of wine, mostly Bordeaux and Chateauneuf and a case of Central Coast Pinot Noir. During the process of picking up the wine I heard a comment from an experienced wine store employee which summarized what many in the wine industry feel. It happened when I was picking up some 1999 Chateau Clinet (Pomerol) from Wine House in San Francisco. I told the clerk checking me out that ’99 Right Bank Bordeaux is drinking well right now. I found this out when I began opening whatever few bottles of this vintage I had in my collection. One in particular, Ch. Larcisse-Ducasse (St. Emillion) was strikingly good. So I went scouring for more ’99 Right Banks anywhere I could find, internet, wine shop flyers etc.

The clerk seemed to admire that I was following my own personal palate in seeking new wine purchases. “If only more would trust their own palates instead of the “experts”, she said, longingly, below her breath. I heard her. “I don’t listen to any experts, or care for any numeral ratings of wine”, I told her, “I subscribe to Wine Spectator primarily to follow the buzz about given vintages”.

But then I have of two separate wine tasting groups where I can engage in a collective, communal judgement of wines, both with my own selections and those of others. If done regularly, this enables me with the advantage of not needing the Robert Parkers, wine magazine scorers, and other so-called pundits, whose declarations seem to drive so much volume and price in the bussiness of wine nowadays.

If only, indeed.