I remember sometime in the '80s, standing at the bar in a favorite wine bar in Paris, when a young American with the look of a Mormon missionary came through the door. He looked around warily, smoothed his hair and approached the man behind the bar, setting his briefcase on top.
He opened it. Inside were three bottles of wine bearing the Wente Vineyards label. Oh, no, I thought. This is going to be a real car wreck. He’s going to try to sell Wente Vineyards Chardonnay to the French.
His French was practically nonexistent, I remember. His accent very broad. He was polite, but tenacious. He just wanted the guy to taste his wines. The bartender rolled his eyes and complied, swishing the wine through his mouth in time-honored fashion — and, of course, spitting.
He turned away while he did this, so the salesman couldn’t see his expression. I did. It was everything you’d expect from a French wine connoisseur at the time: dismissive. But then again, Wente wouldn’t have been the wine I’d chosen, then, to make an impression on the French. Maybe no California wine could have.