Oeno Files

A Stupid Question for a Sommelier

Met Grill’s Thomas Price weighs in on vintage.

February 10, 2010

Washington is in the middle of a great run of vintages right now, says Thomas Price.

The questions in this series aren’t really stupid. But the whole wine thing can be so (unnecessarily) intimidating. Good thing for you I have no shame.

This time our expert is Alaska native Thomas Price, head sommelier at the Metropolitan Grill. Price got his break in the restaurant biz at the tender age of 14, dishwashing at a Juneau diner.

By 21, he was a server and bartender at an upscale burger joint in Anchorage called Harry’s, that’s where he fell in love with wine. In Seattle, he has worked at Ruth’s Chris and Etta’s. He and his wife Jessica were the owners of since-closed Luau Polynesian Lounge in Wallingford.

Here, a stupid question for Thomas Price.

I know that a wine’s vintage year is listed on the bottle and on restaurant wine lists, but what does it mean to the drinker? Are there good years and bad years? Does vintage matter more with European wines than American and Aussie bottles? Also, if I love a wine, can I count on loving it in future vintages?

In my opinion, wines from the Old World (Europe) are generally more vintage-driven and vary more from year to year than wines from the New World (North America and the Southern Hemisphere). Washington State is in the middle of a spectacular run of vintages (excluding 2004, when Walla Walla was wiped out by a freeze). I was talking with several different winemakers recently who are already ecstatic about their 2009s in barrel! I personally think the 2007s are delicious across the board.

A question about vintage is a great opportunity to involve your sommelier or server: This is what these people do, they should be thrilled to help you in this confusing component of enjoying wine in a restaurant setting. Additionally, vintage charts are available online or from a variety of wine periodicals.

As to liking a wine consistently from vintage to vintage, if you like the style of a producer—Old or New World—you will probably enjoy those wines year after year.

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