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06.05.2009

Let the Good Wine Take a Back Seat

Last night I went out for dinner with a couple of colleagues from a business strategy course that I've been taking for a while. One of them has taught me an awful lot in the past couple months, and I've been working with them both to create a presentation that we successfully delivered to a group of 34 of our fellow students today.

Naturally, I brought a good bottle of wine to dinner, and we drank it while getting to know each other better, and talking about the challenges and opportunities we each face in our businesses. The conversation was animated and engaging and just flowed, to the point that the waiter had to remind us a couple of times to look at the menu so we could order. And we were some of the last patrons in the restaurant when we left a few hours later, still engaged in conversation.

As we hopped into the car, one of my dining companions offered the first comment about the wine that had been made all evening since I asked the sommelier to cool down the bottle a little bit for us before he poured.

"That was a really great wine tonight," said my friend. He was right. So good in fact, that it simply did what great wine should do: become part of the fabric of the evening.

While I derive great pleasure from the intellectual aspects of wine, and enjoy talking about it, I also enjoy just being able to ignore it.

But ignore is not quite the right word. In these situations I enjoy every sip from my glass and appreciate the changing character of the wine as it warms slightly and aerates through the evening. But this enjoyment takes place in the background, slightly receded from conscious thought, and distant from the conversation. Like a pleasing background melody from faint speakers we find ourselves humming after a while, wine can be immensely pleasurable when it isn't in the spotlight of conscious thought.

Like a movie critic that has a hard time turning off the analytics even when he takes his daughter to the latest animated film, I'll admit that such moments aren't nearly as frequent in my life as they used to be. But I do know the formula to produce them (good food + good conversation + good timing + good wine, all with people who love wine but don't geek out about it), and I always jump at the chance to enjoy them.

Sometimes wine makes for a better dinner when it's not the dinner-table conversation.

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