The finalists for the James Beard Awards were announced recently to great fanfare. The James Beard Awards are often referred to, mostly by dolts, as the Oscars© of the food and wine world. The Oscars© are almost never called the Beards of the movie business—Tom Cruise’s wives are the Beards of the movie business. Sadly, little attention is paid to the competing, yet equally prestigious, Jeff Smith, “The Frugal Gourmet” Awards. The Smith Awards, known colloquially as the “Frugies,” are given in honor of the late Jeff Smith, host of PBS’ “The Frugal Gourmet.” The Frugies pay tribute to food and wine professionals whose ideas and innovations virtually guarantee the end of their careers.
The 2013 Finalists in the various wine-related categories are about to be announced. I was able to obtain a sneak peek at the nominees in several important categories. Winners will be announced at a grand gala to be held May 15th at the famed Jail Bates Motel in Tacoma, Washington, official playpen of the Frugal Gourmet.
Professional Wine Service Award
Restaurant Gougé—Nominated for their corkage policy, Restaurant Gougé charges $100 for the first bottle of wine you bring, though the fee is waived if you agree to drink it out of a dog bowl (they recommend the Riedel Schnauzer). If, however, the wine you bring isn’t listed on Restaurant Gougé’s wine list, it will be after they confiscate it.
The Inn at Guantanamo Bay—An outstanding selection of wine flights awaits the lucky diner at the Inn at Guantanamo Bay. Choose the Cult Wine Flight and your server will blindfold you, bind your hands, and waterboard you with 3 oz. each of Jayer, Masseto and Harlan Estate. Near perfection, and near death! Perhaps you prefer the flight of three different Orange wines—though customers who choose this flight usually wish they’d gone with the waterboarding.
Restaurant Flaccid at the Hotel Premature—Browse the extensive wine list at Restaurant Flaccid, select the evening’s wine, and if you can guess what is incorrect in the wine’s listing on the menu—vintage, vineyard designated, appellation or price—your appetizer is free! You’re still stuck with a wine you didn’t actually order, just like you would be at any other restaurant, but at least you get the deep-fried mozzarella sticks for nothing!
Wine Book of the Year
PairingWine and Food—It Just Doesn’t Matter by Evan Goldstein MS—Finally, a Master Sommelier confesses that when it comes to what wine to serve with your food, it just doesn’t matter. It won’t suck, and it won’t be brilliant. Just open the damned bottle and see. What do you serve with duck? What does it matter? You don’t eat duck, why the hell do you care? Chardonnay won’t suck and Grenache won’t be brilliant. With Lobster Thermidor? Cru Beaujolais won’t suck and Champange won’t be brilliant. Sheesh, get over it. A good general guideline when it comes to pairing wine with food, Goldstein reminds us, is that more expensive wine just tastes better with everything. An indispensable book.
Wines of the Central Coast by Jamie Goode—A guide to the wines of the Central Coast of everywhere. Turns out, they’re all pretty much alike, from the Central Coast of California to the Central Coast of Chile to the Central Coast of South Australia, it’s all mostly plonk. Aside from very general comments on the wines (“The wines from the Central Coast of California range from dry to Sweet Jesus it’s Aunt Jemima.”), Goode also includes vivid maps detailing important rest stops, a list of the most important variety (Chile=Merlot! California=White!), and prettiest girly-boy winemakers. Don’t go to wine country without it.
Wine Scores Explained by the Editors of Wine Spectator—Finally, Wine Spectator breaks down, number by number, what the scores of wines actually mean, in simple, easy-to-understand English. 93? “93 is good, but not that good. It used to be good a dozen years ago, like airline travel, but we all know 93 was always sort of overblown, and now we’re just damned bored with it.” 84? “We always say we tasted it twice with similar notes, but that’s just so nobody thinks we have an agenda. Who’d taste this crap twice?” The Rosetta Stone of wine reviewing!
Outstanding Wine Professional
Larry Anosmia MS—Seems like Larry is nominated every year. Last year he was up for his wonderful work with Sommeliers Without Borders; in particular, his heroic work smuggling sommeliers into smarm-deprived Myanmar, where they were promptly executed (a profound work of humanitarianism by this oft-criticized regime). This year, the Frugies pay tribute to Larry’s newest charity effort, Sommelier Rescue, which finds homes for unwanted sommeliers. Which is the only kind there is.
Frank Buck—Buck has made uncovering natural and authentic wines his life’s work. He tirelessly tracks down wines made with minimal human intervention for consumption by minimal humans.
Dee Alking—One of the first woman winemakers in California, Alking was instrumental in the Biorhythmic Movement, which first recognized the role of menstrual cycles in affecting wine quality. Asshole. Don’t touch me.
Ron Washam is a recovering sommelier and former comedy writer, who also judges at many major wine competitions, whether he’s invited or not. He blogs regularly and rather pathethically at HoseMaster of Wine.