by Tom Finkel
If you haven't already made plans for happy hour this evening, Gut Check has a suggestion: Sally your bad self forth to the Wine Merchant, Ltd. (20 South Hanley Rd., Clayton; 314-863-6282).
Tonight from 5 to 7 p.m., the wine store hosts a tasting of bottles imported by Robert Kacher (you can call him Bobby). That all by itself would be a productive use of your time; the Merch ups the event to a must-do by bringing in Kacher himself to preside over the pouring, swirling, sniffing, sipping and spitting.
For decades Kacher has done his wine-mining the old-fashioned way, scouring the French countryside, tasting all the while and, most important, establishing one-on-one relationships with individual growers and producers whose approaches to winemaking best match his own ideals.
Gut Check likes to think of Kacher, who operates out of Washington, D.C., as the east coast's version of Berkeley, California-based Kermit Lynch, who charted a similar course at about the same time (the early 1970s).
If your wine budget is anything like Gut Check's, some Robert Kacher Selections will be out of your price range. But (probably) not all of them, and the Wine Merchant assures us they've got plenty of bottles at the bargain end. (Gut Check's wine budget, by the way, is a complexly weighted system whose top priority is ensuring that there always is wine to be drunk -- and in sufficient quantity. But that's another blog post.)
Hearing someone like Kacher talk about wine is what makes this little field trip well worth your while. Getting familiar with and enjoying wine doesn't require a fancy, esoteric vocabulary that turns a beverage into something that more closely resembles an Expressionist painting. Paying attention to someone who has spent time on the very ground where the grapes are grown and harvested and crushed and transformed -- that'll learn ya something to take home.
And next time you go wine shopping, look at the back label on a few French bottles instead of the purty one on the front. If you see Kacher's name, take note.