So, in the test kitchen today, our extraordinarily talented test kitchen director Marcia Kiesel had whipped up one of the potential recipes for a story we're doing together for our October issue, on the subject of wine and food pairing. The dish was smoked sable, served with red onions, slices of boiled potato, capers, lemon and a crucial drizzling of extra-virgin olive oil. Seriously delicious, though I've now determined that if you snack on too much smoked sable at one go, you start to feel somewhat like a large smoked sable yourself.

Anyway, the point of this was that I felt this dish would be a classic pairing for an unoaked white, and sure enough (not exactly an Einstein-level insight) it worked like a charm with both an appealingly citrusy Girard Sauvignon Blanc and a somewhat more austere and stony Feudi di San Gregorio Greco di Tufo. Then, on a whim, I decided to open a distinctly oaky, pineappley, ripe Villa Mt. Eden Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay and pair it with with sable.

This proved to be the pairing equivalent of hammering yourself on the side of a head with a mallet, just to see what it feels like. Whoof! What a truly horrific combo—the wine ramped up the fishiness of the sable to a sort of old-tidepool level, while the fish extracted in some black-magical way every last possible iota of oakiness the wine possessed, so much so that my mouth was overwhelmed by the distinct taste of peanut butter. And it lasted—in fact, this old fish-cum-peanut butter taste kept intensifying in a mysterious and awful way, even after swallowing the wine. Seriously. You could get would-be terrorists to confess to anything by feeding them this.

For my part, I just passed out on the floor after about five minutes, and was only able to be resuscitated by having someone pour me a glass of 1996 Krug. Ah well. As Henry James said, "We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art."

I'm sure this is the sort of thing he was talking about.