One of my guiding lights at Horns is the phrase “High Bar, Low Fences.” High bar means that I want to introduce you the best wines. On the other hand, low fences means I want to destroy the snooty, stuffy, self-serious air that’s common in the wine world. It’s a delicate balance, the yin and yang of wine drinking.

I meet a lot of people who think wine drinking is for someone else, someone they’re not even sure they want to be. Despite several waves of democratizing efforts, in America we’re still fighting the perception that wine is primarily a hobby for the rich, old and out of touch.

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Unfortunately, food and wine professionals sometimes deepen this perception. Intentionally or not, many high end restaurants function as a venue for diners to demonstrate their sophistication and good taste to the rest of the people in their party. This pomp and circumstance can be fun, but it’s not a great environment for taking chances and learning. We’ve all felt the that awkward twinge of anxiety as the server approaches while we frantically scan several pages worth of unfamiliar names.

I’ve also met a lot of sommeliers that treat their knowledge of wine as if it’s a marker of their great intellect and sophistication, when it’s really closer to run of the mill nerdiness. I don’t think memorizing the vineyard aspects in Volnay is materially different than obsessing over sports, movies, or video games. It’s just not that serious, you gotta keep fences low.

That said, I don’t want to ever surrender to the “I like what I like and I want what I want” attitude. While pizza, fried chicken and ice cream are all amazing, part of becoming an adult is learning to enjoy foods that reward you less immediately and obviously. Over time we discover that eating our veggies and trying cuisines from other parts of the world can be not only novel but delicious. Think of all the incredible meals you’d miss if you spent your whole life as a “meat and potatoes only” person!

The same is true with wine. At Horns, I’ll always have some big Napa Cabs ready to pair with steaks fresh off the grill. But if you hang around me long enough, I’m going to invite you to go elsewhere with me. We could start with a tour of other great Cabernet regions in the world like Coonawarra in Australia and the Medoc in Bordeaux and then try some other robust reds like Barolo and Chateauneuf du Pape. Then we might zag harder a try St. Laurent from Austria or Lagrein from Northen Italy. Whether you fall down a new rabbit hole or not, I promise I can get you hooked on exploring. You’ve just gotta take that first step.

There’s a tension between high bar and low fences - it’s hard to make everyone feel comfortable and still inviting them to occasionally try something new. But when you get it right, there’s nothing better.

April 23, 2024 — Chase Beakley
Tags: Wine