A volunteer sommelier with the image of a corkscrew tattooed on his upper left arm poured two ounces of the Italian red wine into the glass David and I were sharing. We chatted for a bit, learned his name (Woody) and the various places around town that he currently works. Throughout the evening, the most interesting and scintillating conversations were with the volunteers pouring wine or the employees of Urban Kitchen, which was hired to cater the affair. Like all of the others we'd spoken to before him, Woody mentioned something about how "nice" we were.
The consensus of the volunteers was that, regardless of the earlier announcement that the people pouring wine were not "just" bartenders, many tasters had treated them as second-class citizens, not asking, but demanding their pours and stopping just short of impatiently snapping their fingers. Woody, who works in the food-service industry, was not as surprised by the dismissive behavior as some of the other volunteers, one of whom actually said, "I'm not just a bartender, you know. I'm volunteering because I love wine and this happens to be one of my charities. I'm a retired CEO."
Having decided that we were his kind of people, Woody invited David and me to join him for after-drink drinks at Tastes, a restaurant in Encinitas that pairs fine wines with menu selections created by wine-loving chef and owner Sean Fisher.
When we arrived, the restaurant was closed, but staff and friends were gathered around the bar. Once inside, introductions were made, corks let loose, wine was poured, and glasses appeared in our hands. Matthew, the bartender, asked David how the $1500 bottle of Bryant Family Cabernet Sauvignon had tasted. David smiled and took a sip of Inniskillin's Vidal ice wine. "It was okay," he said. "But I'll tell you this. No matter how good a fifteen-hundred dollar wine is, it will never taste better than a five-dollar milkshake."