Wined to Impress

By Thomas Madrecki

Eddie Osterland was the first American to achieve the title of Master Sommelier. He is also more than adept at the art of cool business deals and political maneuvering, as shown in his new book, Power Entertaining: Secrets to Building Lasting Relationships, Hosting Unforgettable Events and Closing Big Deals.

In clear, accessible prose, Eddie gives us insight into an all-too-frequently forgotten aspect of entertaining — the need to impress guests with a mastery of the things they don’t know (or do know, and will thus critique you on). For some baffling reason, this isn’t a skill most businessmen have. They’re fine in the board room, but at the dinner table or the bar, they’re not quite as calculating and on top of their game.

The good news, then, is that Eddie’s book reads like a how-to for the uninitiated. Having spent the last several years in Washington working for lobbyists and advocacy groups, I’ve had the luxury of living in a world where “making deals” and “wining and dining” are treated as an essential skill. But elsewhere, the need isn’t quite so clear, and so Eddie more than adequately drives home the point: You need to know your wine, you need to host dramatic (if outside the box) events, and you need to schmooze and booze with the best of them. Eddie’s humor and personal anecdotes are memorable, and they reinforce these lessons.

Of course, knowing these things and being able to do them aren’t one and the same, and that’s where Eddie can’t really help you out. He can share insight about different wine regions (and he does, in a surprisingly handy way, despite glossing over regions such as the Loire Valley), he can share insight about where to buy gourmet products (and he does), and he can share insight about the kinds of events you might consider having, but what he can’t do — and nobody could do — is transform you overnight into a savvy, quotable deal-maker with a deep network of connections. In other words, the truth of the matter is that no book can replace being out in the field, needing to talk to people, shake their hands and carry on mind-numbing (but ultimately effective) conversations.

So how do you do it, then? I can’t tell you exactly, and neither can Eddie. But Power Entertaining at least goes where few books have gone before, approaching wine and food as a vehicle for business deals and getting things done. If that’s your scene, picking up a copy might not be a bad idea — after all, more information is always a good thing when you’re wine-ing to impress.

Power Entertaining: Secrets to Building Lasting Relationships, Hosting Unforgettable Events and Closing Big Deals from America’s 1st Master Sommelier is out now from Wiley for $21.95

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