In an excellent article author Todd Kliman blasts American restaurants for their public devotion to buying local food, while snob-ily ignoring local wines. He correctly points out the superficial commitment to buying local by restaurants in Missouri, New York and Virginia, all states with vibrant wine industries and many dedicated and serious winemakers. When questioned by Kliman, sommeliers (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) noted under their breaths that the wines were not just up to their standards. That perhaps is flipped around as maybe it is the sommeliers, not the wines, that are not up to snuff as it is the job of the sommelier at a locavore restaurant to discover and offer the finest local wines to their customers.
While other American wine regions may be limited in the selections they offer to restaurants, the same cannot be said for West Coast restaurants. Certainly any sommelier worthy of the title could craft an outstanding wine list from the wines of California, Oregon and Washington. Anyone claiming they can’t is just not doing their homework.
Perhaps no more hypocritical example can be found than the famed Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame. Chef Waters can be found on national television constantly singing the praises of Slow Food, but one look at her wine list in Berkeley tells another story. I agree with Chef Waters that the vast majority of California wines do not match well with her food, but there are more than enough that do to provide her with an outstanding wine list. Toss in the wines of Oregon and Washington and she has no excuse.
Let’s give Chef Waters a break as Chez Panisse is a stones throw from Kermit Lynch’s wonderful store and Kermit’s exceptional wines can make anyone forget their locavore passions when it comes to wine. Certainly I cannot resist Kermit’s imported temptations myself. However, I am not on television saying the only way to eat and drink is by supporting local farmers. Winegrowers, it should be remembered, are farmers too.
Hard core locavore chefs in Seattle, Portland and San Francisco rant on about their local sources for eggs, cheese and meat, while their wine by the glass selections are more likely to be produced from vineyards 4,000 miles away. Hopefully someday locavore will be a term that is more than a marketing fad.
In Europe, chefs are locavores naturally, in America it is still a foreign concept. Oddly enough Europeans practice it, but don’t talk about it much. In America, we talk about it a lot, but don’t practice it well.