My level of wine expertise falls somewhere between red wine neophyte and casual red wine drinker. While I enjoy drinking [red] wine, just pronouncing “Tempranillo” or “Sangiovese” gives me quivers of self-doubt. Over the years, I’ve developed some “tricks” to make it appear as if I know more about wine than I do. In fact, I once wrote an article for Urbanspoon (on their now extinct official blog) called How to Order Wine Like a Boss. The article consisted of 600+ words of advice on how to successfully order a bottle of wine at a business meeting without looking like a schmuck.
Despite this light-grade wine anxiety, one of my favorite nights-on-the-town is spent sharing wine and small plates with friends. Recently, I did just that with Frank Vafier, co-owner of Corkbuzz, a restaurant and wine bar in South Park. You’d think drinking wine with a wine bar owner would be intimidating but Frank is an easygoing sort of guy. We spent the evening talking about ping-pong tournaments, karaoke, and our shared interest in dinner parties while we tasted several dishes on the Corkbuzz dinner menu.
According to Frank, the idea for Corkbuzz was hatched by his niece, Master Sommelier Laura Maniec. Laura is one of about thirty female Master Sommeliers in the world, and at one point in time she was the youngest Master Sommelier, period. Despite these rather impressive credentials, the Corkbuzz philosophy on wine is relaxed, with a focus on “enjoying wine and talking about wine in a way that makes everyone feel welcome and never intimidated.” Their approachability is exemplified by their knowledgable unpretentious servers, the restaurant’s no-corkage-fee policy, and the “ask the Master Sommelier” link on the website that invites website guests to send their wine questions Laura’s way.