Steve Pinheiro walks to a table at The Creek Club with five bottles of wine woven between his strong fingers. This might not seem unusual considering Steve is the Director of Platinum Dining Services, except that it's 10 a.m. on a Tuesday.

"Never too early for a little wine," he says, pouring a small sip for a guest and one for himself. He won't be opening all five bottles, but he is about to shed some light on why the wine connoisseurs among the Reynolds Members can trust his judgement.

"I'm American made with Portuguese parts," Steve says. "Wine is embedded in my family tree."

Start right there. It so happens that his last name, like most in Portugal, is derived from the name of a tree (Pinheiro means "pine tree" in Portuguese). But it's the grapevines that rule the landscape in his family's homeland.

"There's a good chance the cork I just pulled came from Portugal," he says, referring to the fact that the country is the world's leading producer of cork.

Steve's grandparents exemplify the national lifestyle. Their home is up on the terraced banks of the Rio Douro, where every family has a clothesline and a vineyard out back. Basements are used for escaping the heat to play cards and for making wine. The wine is served, not sold.

"Wine bottles on the table are as common as salt and pepper shakers, but it's never about overindulging," Steve says. "Dad will drink a little wine at each meal. I remember watching my uncle use wine to cool down his soup. Now I do the same thing. It adds a little sweet flavor."

The summers Steve spent in Portugal gave him a unique perspective on how to pair wine with food. He remembers hearing what sounded like an ice cream truck, gathering some coins, and running to where the music was playing, only to see ladies buying something a bit less exciting than Klondikes and Bomb Pops.

"Sardines," says Steve. "Something salty to go with a glass of homemade wine."

That's how he began to learn the real purpose of wine.

"My family showed me that the best wine is whatever wine you enjoy. When I'm grilling at home, and it's hot, I like a cold glass of chardonnay. It might not sound 'proper,' but ultimately, you should drink what you like, whether you're eating salmon or steak."

Or collard greens soup and sardines.

Steve shares a story about getting in trouble for eating grapes off his grandparents' vines before they could be pressed into Vinho Verde, the sweet, slightly effervescent wine indigenous to the region. Behind him is The Creek Club's iconic wine wall, with more than 1,000 bottles on it. "Like jelly beans in a jar," he says.

There's a $30 bottle of Pinot Grigio and a $1,400 bottle from Harlan Estates. There are none, however, from back home. Steve tried to slide a few bottles through customs recently, but had them confiscated at the airport in Lisbon.

"I've run out of my family's wine," he says, holding up a green bottle without a label. It's empty. He doesn't sound sad, though. Like everyone who enters The Creek Club, he has lots of choices.

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