SFoodie is calling up food types around the city to ask them about
their favorite discovery of the past year, whether it's new or ancient,
an ingredient or a person. We'll be running their responses through the end of the year.
Yoon Ha, head sommelier at Benu, astonished SFoodie last year with his precision and flair for the expected in his pairing of wines, beers, and sakes with chef Corey Lee's food. So when we asked Ha about his favorite find of 2011, it was not a total surprise when the sommelier asked if he could share the story of the encounter that made the biggest impression on him.
"A couple of months ago," Ha said, "I had the pleasure of meeting the wine writer Matt Kramer. He's had a regular column in Wine Spectator for many years, and wrote the "Making Sense" series of wines, a sort of "Wine for Dummies" series back in the 1990s. The book of his that really made an impact on me was Making Sense of Burgundy. I came across it some 20 years ago, when I was a complete ignoramus about wine. For someone who didn't know anything about wine, reading a book on burgundy is the last place you should ever start. But I was an English major, and had entertained the idea of writing. So despite the fact that the content was over my head, I loved Kramer's writing."
"With many wine books," Ha continued, "you thought you had to study the book to unlock the information there. But reading Kramer's writing, I felt like I was already nestled in the book. All the facts are there, the technical data is there, but the readability of the book is so different. It was unique in that he wrote about these human stories, the sensibility of each village and commune.
"So when I met Kramer in the restaurant just a couple months ago, it made sense that he was this warm person. He's based out of Portland, and writes for the Oregonian, but he told me he and his wife have purchased an apartment in San Francisco and will be spending more time in the city now.
"It was an honor to wait on him. I live a few blocks from the restaurant, so I ran home and got the book, and had him sign it. He was flabbergasted. He was really humble, and said, 'I hope I didn't confuse you any more, that data's all outdated' -- but for me, Kramer's prose will never be outdated."