Monday, October 22, 2007

In Vino Veritas

Japan is the world's second-largest economy, but is certainly second to none when it comes to the effort it puts into retailing. Where else could you find people waiting in a neat, security guard-controlled line for two hours to buy Krispy Kreme donuts?
For some reason I don't understand, donuts are a very fickle bellwether of retailing trends in Japan. Almost as fickle as ice cream. Dunkin Donuts pulled away from Japan a dozen years ago, to have most of its store locations taken over by the Yoshinoya beef-bowl chain. They left the field to Mr. Donuts, which is run by a company that distributes doormats and here sells Chinese dim-sum and noodles. And now, thanks to the newly opened Yurakucho Itocia shopping and office complex a short walk from Tokyo's Ginza district, we have Japan's second Krispy Kreme outlet. And people are willing (or were last Friday) to line up for the policeman's choice.
Also in the underground shopping and food portion of Itocia is a neat little wine shop that was featuring wine from thousand-year-old grapes. You may not believe me, but I was more interested in the display at Vinos Yamazaki than in standing in line two hours for donuts. There is a wine-tasting bar much like we find at wineries, where, at least in the first few days, we could get free samples. Now, the bar charges for samplings of up to 10 featured wines, and offers a nice variety of cheeses from the selection nearby.
The thousand-year-old grape come-on worked well for me, as I was in the market for pretty good, not-very-expensive wine for a party. What goes well with Mexican food? I can say that one answer is the Orvieto. It's trendy enough that Frank Prial wrote about it, and it seemed to disappear quicker than the Yellowtail, although to be honest, all the wine vanished before the night was done. (So did the tequila and most of the rum, and I could swear I had another bottle of shampoo somewhere.)

For more about the wine:

While I am on a full-disclosure kick here, I should admit that perhaps part of the reason people came to my party is because I profess to be good at cooking and know a little bit about wine (with help from friends who know waaay more than me). I could establish the cooking cred, but it wasn't until I popped the corks on the ancient-grape wine that people, especially the young ladies present, began to notice I was in the room (It was, after all, MY party.)
I remember the clever Latin quote on the labels of one of my favorite wines, the fine Zinfandel produced by Doug Nalle, family and friends and kept in a rosemary-covered bunker in the Dry Creek area near Healdsburg, California. ``Vinum sapientium tibi dat. (Wine makes you think you're smart.)''

See more about Doug's wine labels here:

Now I have another important insider tip on the benefits of wine from Dr. Ruth, to the effect that wine also makes you sexier. Or at least knowledge of wine makes you more attractive to the opposite sex. I admit that once people get a few glasses of wine down, everybody at least seems a little bit sexier. Anyway, Dr. Ruth should know. She is the author of Sex for Dummies, The Art of Arousal, Dr. Ruth's Guide to Erotic & Sensuous Pleasures and Dr. Rruth's Guide to Good Sex, among others. (I kept my copy of Sex for Dummies hidden away during the party.)
Maybe I should keep this hidden away too, but here are a few tips on how to seem sexier:
1. Learn about wine and drink lots of it. (Remember that it's wine knowledge, not just the wine, that makes you sexier.
2. Go to wine tastings and pay attention to more than just the wine. They are worth the price, even in Japan, because there are hordes of singles at large. When you find (or corner) an appealing suspect at the same table, strike up a conversation. Ask what they have tried and what they like. Offer your recommendations. Maybe more will come of it if you follow up with a date invitation that involves sharing wine.
3. If you get the chance for a second date, wine and roses make a memorable combination. If you get the chance, ask beforehand whether your date prefers red or white.
4. Don't assume too much about your date's wine knowledge if you don't know (and don't waste a nice bottle on an evening that might end up being a downer).
5. Convince one of your friends to hold a singles wine tasting party. Go.
6. Take a wine class and be nice to the cute people in it. Don't be a know-it-all; ask them, and LISTEN to their ideas.
7. Never, ever get sloppy drunk on wine with someone you haven't had sex with yet, unless that is the goal.

(Read about Dr. Ruth Westheimer's notions of sex, wine and videotape here: