Wine Nerds make their mark in bars, restaurants

Written by Ross Douthat, CNN Gift-giving is just one part of wine-themed dining, a favorite pastime for Wine Nerd Dave Dee, who was recognized with the Midcentury Gourmet Award for his hosting of wine-focused…

Wine Nerds make their mark in bars, restaurants

Written by Ross Douthat, CNN

Gift-giving is just one part of wine-themed dining, a favorite pastime for Wine Nerd Dave Dee, who was recognized with the Midcentury Gourmet Award for his hosting of wine-focused parties.

True to his genes, he has a deep love of wine and quickly becomes engaged with it in small pleasures: how a wine smells, how it tastes, how it opens. He shares this passion in an offbeat way — for example, when sipping from a white wine glass he places in a bowl full of walnuts and a bowl full of white balsamic vinegar. Once a rose or red reaches its golden, fruity apogee, it’s marked by a sour-mustard-like vinegar taste. This is Wine Nerd Dave Dee’s sour side, lightened by his typically more rose- or red-tinged guest.

A sharing sheet from Wine Nerd Dave Dee. Credit: Courtesy Wine Nerd Dave Dee

While people of all ages and tastes find something of a reason to dip into the world of wine, it’s Millennials and Gen Zers that are most interested in wine at this point in time. Today, the Millennial demographic most interested in Wine Nerd Dave Dee’s French wines (which are more artisanal, textured and weightier than others), has a record high of about 44%, and Generation Z is close behind, according to Nielsen.

Wine Nerd Dave Dee found an interest in wine at the University of Oregon

In contrast, the generational group with the lowest interest is Baby Boomers, at 19%.

“One of the typical phrases that an easy drinker will use with a Gen Z drinker is ‘I just had one’ as if that’s a reason to drink it,” says Dee. “Generation Z doesn’t tend to drink the things that Baby Boomers drink because they’re never around enough to see that it happens.”

Dee finds it more desirable to search out quality wines, and while he says some things don’t translate from price to taste, he typically finds that high-end wines start to bring out more flavors in the wine and not too much flavor in the glass.

While Millennials and Gen Z are interested in wines from around the world, Dee says it’s not a matter of age difference, but instead culture difference.

This cultural discussion extends to English wines, like those from England, Australia and New Zealand, as in Dee’s case. Dee says he’s more of a Scotch drinker, noting that Scottish whisky is hard to find in the United States, but American whiskies vary.

At Dee’s Fire E’Fire Bar, chef/owner Rocky Kelley’s signature dish is the “dice of a Dalmation,” a rectangular fish nod to Dee’s heritage as a seafood lover and as a fan of fish and chips. Kelly throws “a hake out (on a spit) on the grill and flips it (and) adds the word ‘Dalmation'” to the name of the dish.

The chef likes to involve the diners, serving plates of food as a vessel for wine in his cooking. (The charred bait is sometimes paired with a Cognac.) Dee enjoyed a relationship with this vision, so when he recently started working at Supper restaurant, a Brooklyn-based chain, he was in for a major surprise.

“The COO approached me and said, ‘You have to bring wine in here,’ and he goes, ‘You’re going to do fish.’ I was shocked,” says Dee. “I already have my idea for fish so I said I would bring in some wine and show how I thought you do.” Dee sought to replicate food items at Supper’s six to seven iterations of the diner fare of the 60s — the white mussels (a nod to some of the black barbecued fish at St. George), a rolled oyster sandwich with a potato mash (reminiscent of a rib-eye steak), pizza (nostalgic for this invention with toppings like prosciutto and fig) and a “stinky” chopped salad, a raspberry slaw over pecan meatballs.

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