Perfect, Just Perfect

When hosting friends at a restaurant, my mother and father asked their guests to suggest what wine to order. Lillian Todd responded, “I know a wine that will go with every dish.”  They agreed to her making the decision and after getting the waiter’s attention, she pointed to a selection on the wine list.  As the food was being served, the sommelier poured a sweet, after dinner wine, Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry.

Her fellow diners grumbled and teased Lillian about her selection.  They complained about the wine’s sweetness and incompatibility with the food.  In tears Lillian asked my father’s opinion of her selection. His response: “It’s perfect, just perfect.”

Along with another couple, we had been invited to a friend’s home for dinner.  The other couple responded “white zinfandel” to the host’s inquiry as to what they would like as a before dinner drink.  Our host, condescendingly responded that he wouldn’t serve such a wine; that he would pour them a French white instead.

He made a show of opening the bottle, pouring and sniffing the wine, expounding on the aroma and explaining that it was produced near the Mediterranean Sea.  Obeying instructions, the couple swirled,  sniffed and tasted the wine.  They oohed and ahhed over the flavor and commented on how much they had learned.

When our host excused himself  to go to the kitchen, the couple placed their glasses on the table, glanced at each other and the woman said, “But I really like white zinfandel.”

I learned from my mother and father the secret to building relationships is by looking out for the needs, wants and likes of others: a lesson that has proven to be true in my personal as well as my business life.

Tact, diplomacy and kindness are qualities that draw people to you.   It takes little effort to build people up.  Graciousness creates many benefits, such as loyal friends and business partners.  Even more important, graciousness creates a positive attitude that leads to a fulfilling life.

In southern towns friends show up with food when someone passes away.  So, when my father died, I was not surprised to find Lillian at our door.  In her hands she carried a roasting pan containing a fragrant, beautifully cooked leg of lamb.  After inviting her in, I inquired how she had prepared the roast.  Smiling she said, “I marinated it in Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry—you know your father thought it was perfect, just perfect.”


A guest never forgets the host who had treated him kindly.” – Homer

The Best Wine

The best wine is that your guest prefers.” – Terri Tucker


8 responses to “Perfect, Just Perfect

  1. Perfect !!! Love it.

  2. Bill, you really do venture where angels fear to tread! Wine is a potentially very dangerous subject and should only be discussed between consenting adults.. Having had my first drink of wine (with added water) at a very early age I have been lucky enough to sample and enjoy the wines from every continent. I have met people who have far greater knowledge and subtlety of palate and nose than I will ever have. At the other extreme I have found a great deal of snobbery and lack of taste, so I tend to keep my humble opinions to myself.
    However, I remember, one business trip when I had the good fortune to be able to turn left upon entering the plane, I settled myself down and watched the hostess pouring the champagne for my fellow passengers. By the time she got to me the other passengers were already knocking it back, clearly enjoying it. However, even while my glass was being poured, I could tell all was not well; a good sniff and a little taste confirmed my suspicion – it was well and truly corked. I discretely called the hostess over and whispered the problem to her; she smiled, took my glass and returned with a clean glass and a fresh bottle which was fine (and wonderful). She looked around at the other passengers still happily drinking away and winked at me.

    I love the post, though and have to admire the philosophy (and diplomacy) of your parents.

    By the way, is that you in the dark glasses? 😉

    • Marcus Frank, one of my father’s best friends was a Jewish merchant who lived down the street from us. He and his wife were childless so when he came to visit I would play with his nephew. I was twelve years old when Mrs Frank served me a glass of wine—mixed with a little 7-up—before lunch. More than once I have watched friends enjoy wine that was way past its prime; the keyword is enjoy—if they didn’t know, why tell them.

      Yes, that is me in the dark glasses.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  3. It is a crying shame that more people seem unable to enjoy the pleasure of making someone else’s life a little happier, if only for the course of a meal. Too often it seems like the mental math people do resembles this: ‘ making someone else happy decreases my own happiness because there is only so much happiness to be had. If I give some away, there will be less for me’. This seems to me to be Newtonian thinking in an Einsteinian universe. Upon observation it can be proven that happiness increases exponentially when divided. Kind of like emotional fission.

    • So true. Another aspect is our self centered society: it’s all about me—I want you to see how smart and sophisticated I am; or, I want to appear clever by making you look small. If you are self centered you cannot have true happiness because disappointments come easy.

      I like your formula.

  4. Great post, Bill. The ending was poignant. Love that Lillian!

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