Then I met Sean Coetzee, a classically styled South African with equal parts surfer affability, double windsor knot manners and a zealous patriot's pride for his homeland. We were introduced by a mutual colleague at 'Plume', the Jefferson Hotel's lavish ode to the former White House occupant's Versailles tastes. He could count barely three decades of life to himself and given his own job description, Regional Manager for Cape Classics (the largest US importer of South African Wines), I had expected him to be slightly less fit and grossly more cranky. The responsibility of regional managers is to promote the wine brands of their agency at Concorde pace in a large territory, often at hours-long, indulgent affairs including six course dinners at top restaurants, multiple tastings and receptions per week, in addition to visits to the wineries themselves. Consequently, these same managers are among the purchasers of car/airplane seat belt extenders to fit these many grand nights beneath, while seeing sleep a few months after death. As Sean was my age and a rare find -- his South African rugby star looks hardly a deterrent -- I agreed to a later meeting to taste the highlights of his portfolio, negotiate pricing and possibly purchase a few brands for my shelves.
DC's demanding social calendar and 'round the clock work ethic bore ample missed calls and cancellations between us until desperate, covered in horse poop and clad in a satire's outfit, I called Sean on my way from dressage lessons and asked him to meet at my place a few hours later. I'd cook. We'd Taste. I'd negotiate and purchase on the spot. He'd be a breath's pace from my bedroom. Everybody wins. As I drove home after a number of errands, it dawned on me that, not only was I running about an hour late, I had invited two other friends for dinner earlier that week for the same night! In an attempt to save my professional posterior as well as not make my friends feel like they were being entered in an involuntary focus group, I called both parties, asked if they'd mind meeting one another and whether the already booked friends would mind tasting 15 different wines. After I hung up, I realized how stupid the last question was but applauded my consideration.
While cooking, I enjoyed a '10 Beyond Sauvignon Blanc ($10) from the sea mist covered slopes of Constantiaberg, one of South Africa's coolest growing areas. This wine exhibited the zipping smack of New Zealand, the subtlety of Sancerre but the wholey unexpected flavors of passion fruit, kiwi(!) bathed in a lemon squeeze, causing a stove-side jig to come over me.
After a few more whites, it was dinner time. The red decanters were trembling with expectant "Wow!" factor...(To be Continued in Gedeelte Twee...)