In a dining area lined with dark wooden bookcases at Paesano's restaurant, a group of about fifteen people sat rather stiffly around a table laden with what I can only call a royal feast. In addition to the five wines (all Italian) to be presented, discussed, and described, we were also fed four of chef Isabella Nicoletti's master creations.
Wine director Chad Thomas, whose attitude and appearance in no way betray his all of thirty-one years, utilized an enormous Wines of Italy chart with a colorfully coded map of Italy's twenty-some regions. We received handouts listing the names and prices of the wines, with room for notes. A small group of coworkers, all women, sat nearest to me. They weren't too friendly, but I figured either they were as scared as I was or they were attempting to look like wine snobs. It was then that I decided not to spit out my wine.
First, we learned that Italian wines are named for their location (hence the map). As Chad served the first wine, a 1999 Pojer e Sandri Traminer (white, yummy), he encouraged us to "give it a while to release the aroma." Watching the others, I swirled, sniffed, and sipped.
I sampled grilled polenta and beef tips with the next wine, a 2000 Conti Contini Sangiovese. Chad began to describe the wine in terms like "earthy," "natural," and "woody." Another sip. Yep, he was right. You see, that's part of it being able to describe the subtleties.