You know you've looking at a good team when they finish each other's sentences. Even better, she talks for two minutes, and when she stops, he picks up. Without sounding the least bit scripted, they stay on topic. She talks about flavor, he talks about food. They make you want to read the book.
Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg last breezed through Seattle three years ago (!!), when they were promoting book Number 8--"What to Drink With What You Eat." Now it's Number 9: "The Food Lover's Guide to Wine." They've added a few new tricks to their repertoire. There's a list of 250 wines (varieties, origins) complete with flavor profile, recommended pairings and best producers, so you'll never be intimidated by a wine list or wine shop again. Condensed example: Sancerre. Citrus & grass flavors, goat cheese, Henri Bourgeois. There are useful sidebars, too. Chris Miller of Spago talks about wines from Washington's Red Mountain AVA ("rustic tannic structure"). There's a list of 150 wines under $15.
When it comes to actual wine and food combinations, Page and Dornenburg aren't dogmatic. Foie gras doesn't automatically mean 100-year-old Sauternes (though that does remain Page's iconic wine pairing). Sparkling rosé works very well, as does a California red.
We've come a long way. The USA is now the world's largest consumer of wine, albeit we drink but a piddling amount, per capita. Still, wine has been made in every state of the union for the past decade. Barack Obama has a thousand bottles in his cellar back in Chicago. The nation's official dietary guidelines recommend a glass of wine a day for good health. And yet, only a quarter of Americans drink wine at all, let alone with dinner.
Page and Dornenburg have their own heroes, the sommeliers who recommend specific bottles to restaurant-goers. Not the ones who look down their noses because you can't pronouce Montepulciano, not the ones who look at the brand of wristwatch you're wearing to guage now much you're going to spend, but the ones who truly care, who see themselves not just as salespeople but as guides on an exciting tour of the world's vineyards. No less than the chefs, it's the sommeliers who will lead us to a better future.
New York City's a tough place to live. It's crowded, it's hectic, it's expensive. When you're on deadline, you order in. Fortunately, there's a wide array of cuisines for Page and Dornenburg to choose from, everything from Mexican to Indian, from Italian to Thai. And of course the busy writers have a glass or two with dinner. And what's in the bottle? "Well, we're always running out of Riesling," Page confides.
Food Lover's Guide to Wine, Little Brown & Co., 352 pages, $35.