I think the “X for Dummies” book series is pure genius. Most of us can do pretty well for ourselves with a broad understanding of a subject, while leaving the deep knowledge to a select few. After all, we just want to avoid embarrassing ourselves versus mastering auto repair, string theory, and the Russian language. Hence, the “self-help” sections of book stores and libraries are truly hopping places. Myself, I have three books devoted to helping me improve my wine palette. I have to say, sometimes the things I am purported to experience elude me. Hints of blackberry, earth, lemongrass? Most of the time I’m just thrilled when I swish some liquid fruit of the vine around in my mouth and like it. But then, I don’t come from a wine connoisseur background.
I come from a childhood that witnessed the swilling of Mogen David (my great grandmother, in her favorite jelly glass, for medicinal purposes only), no-name burgundies in bottles festooned with raffia (my dad, with some smacking of lips), and then in a box sitting on the side board (again, my dad).
My first experience with wine was in Interlaken, Switzerland. It was Easter and my flat mates and I decided to splurge during our travels across the continent. We would have been better served saving our money. Even my non-existant wine palette knew we’d been duped. Instead of wine, we’d been sold a wine bottle filled with rubbing alcohol. Or at least a close approximation of it. It was my first lesson in “you get what you pay for” when it comes to wine.
Yes, it is possible to buy a pretty drinkable bottle of wine located on the lower two shelves at the store. But your success rate is not guaranteed. It helps to read a lot on the subject and be willing to take some risks.
After my Swiss wine experience, I really didn’t drink much wine. And yet, somehow, it seemed a right of passage I should embark upon right along with purchasing a coffee machine. First I became the owner of a box of wine. Then a bottle of zinfandel, then a $10 bottle of a house red. A bottle here, a glass at a restaurant or bar, and slowly I began developing my preferences for wine. I do not like chardonnay, but I do like a cabernet sauvignon. A merlot is lovely, especially with a hearty meal, but a pinot gris is hit and miss for me.
My first real plunge into the wine pool came in 2004 when my sister and I went to San Diego for a girl’s weekend. One of our activities was a wine tour to six wineries. A novice wine drinker. 5’2″. Average weight. Six wineries. Yes, you are absolutely correct in assuming I poured myself out of that Lincoln Towncar upon our return to the hotel. And while I’ve drank plenty of wine since then, I’ve really cut back on the stuff. Of course, the time I spent gestating and lactating played a role in that.
In light of my current “light weight” state, I was a bit nervous about taking a wine tour this past weekend to celebrate my sister-in-law’s birthday. There were some glitches to the great plan so we ended up hitting three wineries in the Willamette Valley and I managed to maintain a pretty good grip on my sobriety.
My credit card took a hefty ding however. First we got a few bottles of syrahs at Duck Pond in Dundee, Oregon. And then when we stopped at Cana’s Feast and tried their 2007 Sangiovese, we bought a case. Talk about some yummy stuff. Now that I’m the proud possessor of over a case of good wine, I think I shall need to dust off my wine glasses and wine tasting self-help books. After all, I’ve got some drinking and finding of “hints of blackberry” to accomplish. Since I’m pouring, shall I set out an extra glass? We can laugh together over our inability to find any hints of dirt aside from in the corners of my living room.