Friday, September 22, 2006

Wine Whining

My taste runs along the line of Diet Coke and iced espresso. I don't like wine. Red or white, it makes no different. Simply put, it's icky. Two buck Chuck from Trader Joes or a thirty dollar bottle of Chardonnay from Napa Valley all taste the same to me; a taste somewhere between apple vinegar and cat pee. Cat pee, by the way, is an actual descriptive used by some wine experts for Riesling. A master sommelier will look at you with a straight face, describe the underlying fragrance of an expensive German Riesling as being reminiscent of cat pee, and then sell you a bottle of it for 25 dollars. Oh yeh, by all means, charge it to my account Jacques.

Be it noted, my Dana enjoys wine. She not only likes to drink wine on rare occasions but is completely fascinated by the wine-making process from vineyard to bottle. She reads books about wine. She browses through the wine section of the grocery store and wine shops like a kid in a candy store. Okay, like me in a candy store but that's not the point. She knows the variety of grapes that go into a particular wine and the regions where those grapes are grown. In other words, she's a smarty pants about the fermented juice of the crushed grape and while I. DON'T. GET. IT. I'm more than glad to cheer her on in her interests as she does with mine, those including my collection of Pez Candy Dispensers (over 300 at last count) and training for a marathon.

What this means is that I do winey things with Dana and try not to whine while doing them. I'm more successful sometimes than I am at other times. By winey things I'm talking day trips to Napa Valley to visit local wineries and attending a Wine Festival in Mendocino County where I played the role of official purse carrier while she engaged in conversations with vineyardians or whatever you call those people in terminology that sailed right over my pretty little head. We even trekked to Sears recently to purchase a small wine refrigerator that now hums contentedly full at the end of our garage which I fear will accidently be mounted on the front of my bumper one day when I pull the car in too quickly or too wearily. But rather than dwelling on a future calamity, let's refocus on the big wine happening of last night that saw me accompanying my beloved to an evening class at the Ferry Building in San Francisco entitled "Wine Tasting Technique Deconstructed."

Let it be noted for the record that I was allowed to attend but only on the condition that when sipping the wine I didn't scrunch up my face after each sip, mimic the motion of vomiting followed by exaggerated and forced gulping sounds as though it were poison (or cat pee) being introduced into my system, and conclude the performance by muttering in loud disgust "Yuck, it takes just like vinegar!" I have apparently done this. Often. In public. For reasons that are beyond me, Dana doesn't find this type of behavior charming, and all the while I thought I was a real cutiepie doing the mock gag routine. Next thing I'm going to find out is that baby talk is a real turn-off and then what will I have left with which to woo her?

Seriously, it was a truly delightful evening, and I would say that even if Dana didn't read my blog regularly. That a good report will contribute to sustaining domestic harmony within our household is not influencing me in any way whatsoever.

Okay, now I'm serious. Last night was a beautiful and comfortably warm evening and the class was held in a rather elegant conference room on the second floor of the Ferry Building with an entire wall of full length windows overlooking the Bay Bridge, Treasure Island and all the standard yet spectacular sights that make San Francisco the stunning city on the bay that it is. The master sommelier who led the class was an interesting guy and despite finding the whole spitting into a bucket thing nauseatingly gross, he was entertaining and quite funny. Funny in an intentional way, not in a "we're all laughing at you but you don't get the joke" kind of way.

We learned how to identify and describe the various components of wine from acidity to tannin, from woody to fruity, and ironically I received some of the most genuine praise of the evening from said master sommelier when I described the fragrance of Chateau Gravas Sauternes, Bordeaux 2003 as being like that of fresh Tupperware. Obviously I have a nack at this whole booze biz. So what if I don't drink, don't like to drink, don't wanna drink.

And so we swirled and stiffed and sipped, and I'm happy to report that wine that smells like cat pee doesn't necessarily taste like cat pee. I still found it's taste to be inarguably icky but at least I wasn't looking under the table for a nearby litter box. Okay, but here's the funny thing and I'm sorry but this is so funny to me that I have to dwell on it a little longer. There's an entire room of upscale people who have paid handsomely to attend this wine offering. They've traveled into the city from the 'burbs to make a night of it, probably with plans to go to a fancy-schmanzy dinner afterwards as their attire would have indicated, not that Dana and I felt underdressed in our blue jeans and teeshirts, mind you. So here you have it, a roomful of people held captive as a master sommelier instructs them to all lift each glass in progression, swirl it and sniff it while they thoughtfully explore and articulate the fragrance of the wine. "This one has a citrus undertone...a hint of black currant...a delicate floral bouquet...the ever-so distant suggestion of dark chocolate." I'm fine with these. Truly I am. But the other smells that were brought to mind with each whif of the wine and noted verbally were, and I could not make this up if I tried, cat pee, the thick scent of petroleum, the plastic coating on disposable diapers, fingernail polish remover, musty rot, wet earth, and yes, I'm proud to say, fresh Tupperware. They identify these fragrances as wafting up from their wine glasses, they articulate it as such and then, they drink it.

Does anyone else find it uproariously bizarre that the very thing one would describe as smelling like gasoline or damp dirt in one minute is sipped the next minute followed by a contented sigh of decadent delight? Maybe it's just me but I kept thinking of how someone will gulp or eat something horrible, tell you it's the worse thing they've ever tasted in their entire life and then holding it in front of your face say "Here, taste it." Obviously I'm lacking in culture since I'm simply not all that interested in taking a sip of cat pee scented wine anymore than I am of taking a big old sip of milk 2 weeks after it's expiration date. Call me crazy.

I conclude by offering you a few photos that are evocative of what I've already articulated so eloquently.

The three photos below, in order, are as follows:

  1. My wine tasting glasses at the start of the evening.
  2. My wine tasting glasses at the conclusion of the evening. (The empty glass on the far right being that of the one that tasted like liquid vanilla sugar)
  3. Dana's wine tasting glasses at the conclusion of the evening.

I will allow the evidence to speak for itself.

1 comment:

Rose said...

You are indeed, a lucky soul, to have found so true and devoted a companion who is willing to love you despite the serious and apparently incurable deficiency with which you were born - that being an incomplete palate. However, your incredible sense of humor must be enough to make up for what you lack in appreciation of fine wine. It's what saved my hubby!! (he, too, was born with that same deficiency).

And do not delete this before Dana has a chance to read it! ;-)