My roommate Anand and I just got back from a free but exclusive wine-tasting event at Jackrabbit featuring the creations of Chris Milliken, chief executive of PengWines. He is an Ohio-born chef who decided to operate a vineyard in Chile and who named his entire line after penguins (fairy, king, etc.).
There, I ended up getting a crash course on Croatia and tannins from the Croatian Ambassador in Jakarta, as well as a 7-minute passionate speech about the perils of the city’s busway from Carson Quinn, who was an impeccable host and the amazing owner of Jackrabbit.
(Note: It was my fault he went on about this because I brought up the fact he was crucified by our readers after he did a Q&A with our newspaper.)
Most of all, we actually spoke with Mr. Milliken, who told us how difficult it was to introduce wines to new markets. Observe (this is all paraphrased):
Me: We’re sort of starting to get into wines right now.
C: That’s perfect! What do you want to know?
Me: Well… what is a grape?
C: That’s funny because when I went to [place in Indonesia], it had to start with that. Like, nobody knew where wine comes from.
Me: Oh you know, when a mommy and daddy grape love each other…
C: I was really nervous when I first came to JKT because the first wine-tasting we had, the staff brought out the wine glasses and started putting papayas and fruit in them, and I was like, ‘No. Stop!’ So I had them try it like this, just in a glass, but it didn’t work. At the end of the night, people were pouring Sprite and fruit in the glass.
C: I was really glad Jackrabbit brought out a decanter.
Me: Yeah, I was curious about that.
C: Well, it’s great for wines. I mean, what if you were stuck inside a bottle for a really, really long time, and then someone pops the cork and you get a chance to come out, what is the first thing you will do?
Me: [In my mind] Have sex….?
At the end of the evening, Anand and I were compelled to buy some wine, dropping way more cash than we should have. I was like, “Why are we buying wine??” And he says, “I know, we’re so bourgeois.” We bought two rose wines, the chocolatey King wine (and Anand was particularly proud of detecting that note) and a chardonnay. This meant we’d bought six bottles in just two weeks.
Last weekend, we had gone to a wine and cheese trade show in Kelapa Gading, where we went around tasting tiny cubes of cheese in little plastic cups and going around describing every wine we tasted as “oaky.” Oh, yes, Antonio Banderas made a wine? Try not to imagine his toes or dusky hair going into the vat of grapes.
We’d actually found ourselves at odds over buying two bottles of inferior red for the price of one or investing slightly more for a smooth, fruity white wine to go with our spectacular herby feta and cumin Gouda. In the end, we decided this frivolous exercise was all about feeling sated, possibly rich, rather than getting drunk (there are beers for that), so we went for quality.
It was even broached that we host a wine and cheese party, but like the Romans did it — with toasts to Dionysius, violated livestock and laurel leaves over our ears.
So we drink the wine, savor the cheese, enjoy the conversation and hope to god that as we drool into our pillows from the heady sleep that only corked alcohol can give or as we stumble into Jackrabbit’s dining area and shovel gruyere truffle fries down our throats, we’re juuust a little more sophisticated.