“Are you sure you want a beer guy to order the wine?” said friend and bookseller Jay Rohfritch, as I scanned the vast and mostly incomprehensible (to me) wine list at Sauvignon Wine Locker & American Trattoria in St. Petersburg, Florida. It is Sunday night, March 12th, and the 2023 Florida Antiquarian Book Fair has just finished. Celebration is in order. I’m sitting with Jay, Dennis Melhouse of First Folio Books, and Bryan & Kelly Young of Grayshelf Books.
Dennis is a man who knows his way around a wine bottle. He asks if the restaurant has a sommelier. I’ve never heard this term actually spoken before. Only read it in books. We’ve already polished off the first bottle selected by Bryan & Kelly, a Napa red that I can’t recall the name of, but I drink heartily. Bryan and Kelly are into wine like I’m into craft beer, so the selection is a good one.
But now I’m feeling cheeky. I intercede and say I’d like to select the next bottle. There is a brief look of consternation from the others. I insist and I find a moderately-priced (okay, relatively cheap) bottle of cabernet from Paso Robles. Dennis diplomatically says he has had some good cabs from Paso Robles in the past. I seal the deal by guaranteeing to drink the whole bottle if it doesn’t meet expectations. The merriment continues as we talk books and Jay once again expresses skepticism of my selection abilities.
The waiter is an interactive, humorous fellow with hair like Albert Einstein. We don’t know if this is a trending fashion look, or he was simply running late to work and forgot to comb his hair. He arrives with my bottle and ceremoniously unscrews the cap, no cork removal needed. Muffled laughter ensues and the waiter places the cap before me and pours a glass to have me approve.
Bryan states in my defense that many better wines have screw tops nowadays, but I know he is lying. I swirl the wine around, inhale the bouquet (“Smells like wine to me”) and take a swig. Tastes pretty good, actually. The rest are soon swirling their glasses and sipping.
“It’s getting better as it opens,” Kelly says.
“I can drink it,” Jay smirks.
“It’s a bit tannin-forward,” Bryan chimes in.
I’m not sure what to make of this comment, but Dennis, who is sitting next to me, leans in and clarifies, “That’s not a good thing.”
More funnin’ continues at my expense, but I asked for it, and rather enjoy it. Just one of many memorable episodes from a bibliophile’s escapade to St. Petersburg, Florida. But how did I get here? That is a serendipitous story.