Pairing wine with food is a vexed process at best, or so it's always seemed to me. There's so much mystification and mumbo-jumbo involved that you're seldom allowed to rely on your own sense of flavor just to think, This goes nicely or, That not so much.

But there goes my wine-speak prejudice! Plenty of sommeliers live on their ability to demystify wine and claim to extend those services to pairing it with food.

Grant Achatz, who makes some of the most complicated food in the country, turns out to have the ability to extend his gift for speaking simply about that food to speaking simply about wine. And, as he reveals in the beginning of a new series on wine and food, he worked at a winery for more than a year while apprenticing at the French Laundry, in the Napa Valley.

His reasoning was simple: if he was learning to cook at the highest level, and learning more about preparing food to professional standards than he'd ever had the chance to, shouldn't he learn winemaking from the bottom up too? As soon as he spells out the reason he quit a great job in what was already a legendary restaurant, it seems clear that every chef de commis up and down California's winemaking belts should do the same.