Party Favors

This is not your momma's wine and cheese.

For some, kissing- booth trysts are the stuff of distant high-school memories. Not so for friends of DAVID LECLAIRE. His guests were kissing and telling just last month at his annual "Summer's Last Gasp," wherein 150 people inhabited his two-bedroom Green Lake spread for more than just the average end-of-summer barbecue. The festivities included a sanctioned food fight, belly dancing, tarot card reading, jugglers, fire performers, a Jell-O eating contest, limbo, celebrity bartenders, an Iron Chef-style cook-off, a manicure and pedicure tent, a confessional booth complete with a naughty "priest," blind wine tasting, two live bands, a DJ, a hot tub, and the kissing booth. When it comes to throwing parties, LeClaire doesn't believe in doing anything halfway.

It's this all-or-nothing attitude that allowed LeClaire to quit his job at the Library Bistro (92 Madison St., 206-624-3646) after serving as the wine director thereand at its predecessor, the Painted Tablefor the past decade. Just this year, the certified sommelier went solo and became a full-time wine and food party planner. The gig has seen him handing out towels in the Playboy Mansion Grotto, driving with a busload of four-star generals from Salish Lodge to the former Four Seasonsnow the Fairmont Olympic Hotel (411 University St., 206-621-1700)and pouring wine at Bill Gates' high-tech home. But most of the time, LeClaire's parties aren't quite so lavish.

Quite often, in fact, they're private wine tastings held in the living rooms of local wine lovers. Recently, under the sponsorship of a California vineyard, LeClaire conducted a tasting for about 15 guests in a modest Green Lake home. As the attractive, easygoing LeClaire began his spiel, it was clear that this life-of- the-party thing comes pretty naturallyespecially considering his casual employment of the phrase "bada bing." But LeClaire's something of a charmer, too. As he began pouring half-glass tasters of the first wine, he joked that he'd be handling the anxiety of public speaking by picturing everyone in the room naked.

"Good, 'cause we'll be picturing you naked, too," teased a Bronx native with close-cropped black hair.

Throughout his half-hour discourse and the sampling of three varieties of wine, the mostly blond, mostly female party-goers seemed smitten, nodding their heads ravenously and chuckling at LeClaire's frequent jokes as he doled out information on oak aging and added useful tips on avoiding corkage fees. Leclaire also offered advice on how not to be a major wine snob.

"You don't want to be a geek about it," he warned, and followed up with savvy information regarding pricing, packaging, and the "all-important" (or maybe not so important) swirl-and-sniff.

After the lesson, LeClaire was mobbed with flirtatious inquiries and invitations to continue the night salsa dancing at the Century Ballroom (915 E. Pine, 206-324-7263). Instead, he suggested the host turn on some party tunes (he says he feels responsible for the ambience and fun factor) and the wine party morphed into a salsa fiesta; the Century was soon forgotten.

LeClaire may be a professional partyer, but he takes his fun job very seriously. He almost always passes up wine in favor of water, and is staunchly against driving drunkhe brought it up twice at the Green Lake tasting. But still, this is a guy who knows how to turn even the darkest of occasions into celebrations. When he and his former wife negotiated their divorce over "Tom's Special" at Pegasus Pizza (2758 Alki Ave. S.W., 206-932-4849) in West Seattle, LeClaire brought along a bottle of wine they'd been saving for a special occasion.

And no, he didn't pay a corkage fee.

Join David LeClaire's e-mail list by writing to him at winelover99@comcast.net.

kmillbauer@seattleweekly.com

 
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