In Vino Veritas

A short biographical article by Steven Cuffari

Sun Dial in the Chateau de Pommard, France, by Bidoj via Wikipedia licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

“If you know anything about that gorgeous southern clime, then you know they are known for their wine.” –Me, referring to Argentina

In vino veritas. In wine, there is truth. But I’ll get to that in a moment. I’m a drinker. Always have been. Always will be. Sometimes I am selective, sometimes not. For example, when I was a baby, I gave up on the bottle (of milk) then gave up on milk altogether. And I’ve never looked back. To this day I don’t drink milk (unless it’s chocolate milk).

Since then my relationship to drinks has always been complicated. When everyone else was dipping their cookies in milk, (I shit you not) I was dipping my cookies in orange juice–seriously, don’t knock it until you try it. Some might say that this preference for juice over milk comes from some deep-seated mommy issues… Maybe.

I took my first sip of beer at the age of seven if I remember correctly. It was a Heineken. It was bitter. I didn’t like it. But I didn’t hate it. The adults around me were all drinking it, and that sip was simply a matter of curiosity. Fast forward 10 years later and I was loving beer in all its available forms: 40s, 12-ounce bottles, 12-ounce cans, tallboys, mugs, glasses, malt liquor, stouts, lagers, imported, domestic, draft beer, light beer and so on. Whiskey was also on the drink list at that time, but nothing was as cheap and available as beer.

This obsession with drinks soon spread to other objects of imbibition like bitters, liqueurs, spirits, cocktails, and of course, wine. I sought out places where I could get the tasty tipples, and as I got older bars became my preferred location. No surprise there. I fell in love with the atmosphere as well as the liquid love shelved on the other side of the bar. So much so that I wanted to be in the business. (I should mention that the idea of being in the business was first instilled (or distilled) in me via the classic TV show Cheers, but that’s another story.)

However, in my early adult years I didn’t make much of a foray into the competitive New York City bartending scene. Maybe it was laziness. Maybe lack of confidence. Maybe I was too busy with other shit. Doesn’t matter. It didn’t stop me from learning as much as I could about everything to do with drinks, their production, preparation, serving and of course, enjoyment. Finally, years later, in 2009 to be exact, I tried again and got a job at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Tribeca, which shall remain nameless. There, at the ripe old age of 31, I worked my way up in 10 months or so from busboy to runner, to server, to bartender. But before I knew it, I had my fill of NYC and left for Argentina to take my life elsewhere.

At that nameless Tribeca restaurant, I learned and relearned many things about the food and beverage industry. I won’t go into too much detail (yet), but it really was a pivotal point in my life. I realized that one can truly do whatever one wants as long as the opportunity is there and you work at it and of course, have a lot of luck. I also learned that it is never too late to start something new or go back to something old.

You might be wondering what the hell this article is about. The strange title may have given you some insight into that, but its vagueness probably looms over anything you can surmise from it.

Let me get to the point. One of the most surprising things I learned during my time at that heretofore unnamed Manhattan resto is that I love wine. Before that, I was drinking some basic stuff, mostly Italian, mostly red, some French, some Sicilian, a dry white every now and then. I enjoyed a nice Nero d’Avola, a tasty Côtes du Rhône, a big Chianti. But all that was second to my first true love in beer. It was only when I worked with a sommelier, who shall also go without appellation, for the first time that I understood the charm, the mysteries and the stories that go along with every glass, every bottle of wine.

In all honesty, looking back through the fog of time, I cannot be one hundred percent sure of the sequence of all these events. But this is more or less how things happened. After I left NYC for Argentina, my love for wine only increased. (If you know anything about that gorgeous southern clime, then you know they are known for their wine.) I have been looking for a way to live my life with wine ever since. It is like a close friend that you wish could be there for all the most important moments of your life. And that is not to say I have forsaken my other friends. They are all coming along for the ride.

Let this little piece of writing be a confession of sorts. I love wine. I want to buy it, drink it, share it, sell it. I want to know it. I want to know it from seed to sip. From grape to gullet. From terroir to table. I am by no means an expert. By no means. Let this little piece of writing be the start of the record of my journey with wine, wherever it takes me. It has taken me a time to get here, to these words. It may take longer to get wherever I am going. But as the cliché goes, the journey is the destination.

So… in vino veritas.

I will fill up these pages with truths that I find in wine: including but not limited to notes on wines I drink, commentary on books I read, stories about people I meet. If it comes about from my experiences with wine, it goes here. Join me for the journey. And on the way, for a drink.