Once upon a time there was a sommelier who worked in Hollywood. I was scouting stories for The Hollywood Reporter, for a deep throat-like column, dishing on what people drank, but all anonymous. The column never materialized, but I loved this one young wine geek's particular story and so here you go.
There are all sorts of people who come in here and it’s hard to sell a wine under 14% alcohol. The people who are creative, the true talent, not the producers, they are incredibly fun to talk to. Like even though Bruce Willis wanted a cabernet, we talked about it. Like Gwyneth Paltrow? When I brought out the Bermejos from the Canary Islands she was like, Oh, I love Lanzarotte. My Nana is from there.
Other people? They are trying to seem important and they’re the ones who don’t talk and treat you like the help.
But one of the most interesting evenings I had on the floor was when the rapper Lil Wayne came in with a few friends.
This was a very funny situation.
He frequently stays at the hotel and his tour bus packed out back. He dressed like a skater with skinny pants and Vans, dreads pulled back in a hoodie. Our wine list was as large as an eagles wine spread. It really is a list that you need help with, and that’s what we’re there for. He was flpiping through very carefully, literally, he read it from cover to cover. I went over and asked, and can I help you?
And he said no. Not really.
Then he pointed to the last wine on the list and said, I want this 1902 Verdelho.
Ok. I’l be right back.
It was the D'Oliveiras.
I brought the bottle over and I showed it to him, had he had it before.
Do you know anything about it?
Well, he said, it’s pretty old.
And I asked, are you familiar with the term borracho? I told him that for many Spanish speakers it means drunk but it is the kind of old wine making on the highland of Madeira, where the farmers used to press the wine in the field old goat skins.
Ah that’s interesting, he said.
Meanwhile he’s with three other people who couldn’t give a shit. They were all texting, completely ambivalent to time and space and place and not drinking anything, not ever water, and space but Lil Wayne? He was very present.
I decanted the bottle and realized he ordered it all for himself and while he waited for me to finish, he had a cocktail. It was a Halle Berry, a vodka, with jalapeno infused blackberry juice. He told me it was the closest thing he's had to a Purple Drink (Robitussin + grape Kool-Aid).
I found this quite funny, there’s a whole doc done on it.
To go with the madeira he also ordered a cotton Candy Foie Gras (a torchon cube of foie is rolled in corn nuts and dipped into a cotton candy machine so a shroud covers it and it’s served on a long stick, and drank down the $900 a bottle of 1902 down in 22 minutes. He even left a little for me.
What I find endearing is that the liver dish he chose and Madeira was obviously a brilliant pairing. And that Verdelho is one of the most dynamic complex wines I ever tasted-- so incredibly full of flavor at the same time, a prevalent sweetness, and people in our current era they don’t drink sweet, because of the stigma. But, here’s a guy, a progenitor of all kinds of social value and he is the only human being who I sat in front of who I talked wine at the table, who bought a bottle of sweet wine!
He drank one one of the most fascinating creatures on the list. Whether or not he appreciated it he did it carefully, thoughtfully and quickly.