The best wine bar I visited this year was in Tulsa.

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Normally at this time of year, I’d be leafing through my photographs and notes from the last 12 months and picking out favorite shots from my top visits, tastings, and meals.

As far as 2020 is concerned, the pickings are slim but not without some wonderful memories.

In late February, Paolo Cantele, one of my best friends in the business, and I made our last road trip for the entire year to promote his family’s wines. We started in Houston with a great event at Vinology. Next was Dallas with a sold-out dinner at the legendary Jimmy’s. And since we were on our way to Boulder for another packed wine tasting at Boulder Wine Merchant, we decided that we should try to organize an event in Tulsa, a city where I’d never been but where, I had heard, there was (and is) a vibrant progressive wine scene.

After researching possible venues, I cold-called Matt Sanders (above) owner of the fantastic Tulsa wine destination Vintage Wine Bar.

After a roughly 10-minute conversation, he agreed that he would let us host a tasting of Paolo’s wines there.

There’s not really anything so remarkable about that other than the fact that Matt, such a gracious and massively talented wine professional, took a chance on a couple of complete strangers.

Paolo and I ended up hanging out all night after our event (no surprise there), drinking mostly high-end California Chardonnay (one of Paolo and me’s shared loves).

The offerings at Vintage Wine Bar would have been right at home in Oakland or Brooklyn. And meeting and interacting with Matt reminded us of how wine and the global wine community never fail to bring us together — even when on a first date with a new city. We had such a blast that night.

Matt, if you’re reading this, please take it for what it’s worth: a love letter to one of my favorite wine bars in the country and one of the coolest wine people I’ve met in a long time.

I know Matt and co. are doing well thanks to their Instagram. And I can’t wait to get back there when Paolo and I make our next trip. It’s one of the first things he and I are planning to do once we can connect in person again.

Earlier in the day, Paolo and stopped to eat chicken fried steak at Marilyn’s in McAlester, Oklahoma.

It was everything we dreamed it would be: a cozy, homey all-American dinner serving biscuits and gravy at all hours of the day.

We even got trolled by a very large and farty Trump supporter who took us for a gay couple (Paolo’s leather may have been the trigger). It was right around the time that Rush Limbaugh was huffing and puffing about Pete Buttigieg being gay. So I can understand our fellow diner’s concern.

The lady behind the counter (below) seemed to feel bad about it. And she even gave me an ice tea (unsweetened) to go.

Man, I love America. And I miss it even more.

Thanks for being here and be sure to check out Matt Sanders’ super wine program in Tulsa! I can’t wait to make it back!

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