Just the Basics

If buying wine and pairing it with food is as easy as the experts say it is, why do they have to write book after book about it? Andrea Immer, for example: With five books to her credit, from Great Wine Made Simple (first published in 2000, updated this year) to 2004's Everyday Dining With Wine, America's first female to be named best sommelier of the year in the annual James Beard awards is living proof that you can get rich, or at least pretty darn famous, telling people over and over that there's nothing to be afraid of, that your own taste's the best taste, and that a few simple rules are all you need to find wine to suit anything you choose to eat. I remember opening 2002's Great Tastes Made Simple with anticipation—and closing it soon after. Meant to clarify the tricky business of wine and food pairing, the book links "basic food tastes"—sweet, earthy, savory, buttery, tart, and spicy— to particular wine styles. My problem: I don't happen to categorize foods that way, and having to memorize a whole new way of classifying flavors just to learn that sauvignon blanc goes with white fish seemed like serious overkill. Maybe Immer herself felt she'd gone a bit far, because her next book veered to the opposite extreme. Andrea Immer's Wine Buying Guide for Everyone, annually updated, now rates upward of 600 wines in handy purse-or-pocket format. But with very few exceptions—California's Gallo of Sonoma, Australia's Lindeman's, maybe Washington's Chateau Ste. Michelle—there's hardly a wine label you can be sure to find wherever you happen to live. As often as not, you'll find yourself asking the sommelier or clerk for "something like this"; and if you've got a sommelier or wine clerk handy to give you advice, what do you need the book for? Which doesn't mean we don't need Immer. On TV and in person, she proves to be a whirlwind of energy and good humor, harnessed by vast knowledge and experience. She genuinely seems to love the stuff she drinks, and to love her students' attempts to grapple with things that seem so transparently simple to her. The upcoming Taste Washington Education Day offers a rare chance to see Immer in action—and not just to see her, but to try out her ideas on real food and wine with her. With any luck, she'll give you so much confidence in your own taste that you won't need to buy her books ever again. rdowney@seattleweekly.com Taste Washington Education Day: Sat., April 9, at Bell Harbor International Conference Center, 2211 Alaskan Way, Pier 66. Andrea Immer's "Wine 101" seminar is at 10:45 a.m. Tickets $25; for a full schedule and information on how to purchase, go to www.tastewashington.org .

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