The Monthly Wine Writing Challenge; My Best Friend Wine.

“Writing is a lonely job, unless you’re a drinker, in which case you always have a friend within reach.” Emilio Estevez

wine-stain1-3If you’re a wine aficionado, at one time or another you’ve probably said, “We can’t open the good wine when they come over.” Sure you love your friends but you rationalize your decision with sentiments like “they couldn’t possibly appreciate the wine we drink”.

Obviously these wine locusts are three rungs beneath you on the evolutionary ladder and the only thing they have in common with you is opposable thumbs – which they’ll use to drink all your expensive wine.

Let’s be honest here. You don’t share the good stuff because you like your wine more than you like your friends. And why not? Wine is a sensual joy to behold which is more than I can say for the rest of humanity. I’m not afraid to admit that wine is my best friend and I sometimes keep this friend for the inner circle. The rest of mankind can drink the magnum of Yellow Tail they brought to the party.

Don’t get the wrong idea; I’m not some weird anthrophobiac shut-in or even worse, a wine geek; I do have other friends in my life. When I’m in a pensive mood I’ll share my time with Elijah Craig and George T. Stagg. When I feel like getting a little crazy I’ll hang out with Don Julio and Jose Cuervo. When I feel like being seduced I turn to my old flame wine.

Wine and I go way back. I remember sharing a bottle of Ripple Pagan Pink with my juvenile delinquent buddies back in junior high school. Ripple was a big step up from Boones Farm apple wine because it was made of “grape wine and natural fruit flavors”. The others didn’t seem to notice its unique candy-like quality between retches but I noticed and I was intrigued. I vividly recall the lollipop flavors were just as pronounced going down as they were coming back up.

As I matured so did my tastes, and when I learned that girls like wine and guys who didn’t drink it straight out of the bottle, I went out on a limb and bought a couple of wine glasses and some wine made entirely from grapes. I was soon on the soggy road to wine appreciation. My “wine epiphany” came years later when my wife announced, “Tonight we’re going to try some Cote de Beaune.”

I wasn’t sure where she was going with this so I replied, “Coat the bone with what?”

“Knock it off Winestein.” she replied, “Don’t you know that as we mature our tastes become more sophisticated? That means it’s time we start drinking French wine and you start throwing away your Nehru jackets.”

My friendship with wine quickly blossomed into a full-blown love affair. Eventually I bought a fine wine store and went to school to become a certified sommelier. I aced the class on “Terroir; Between Medoc and a Hard Place” but I struggled with “Condescending Comments 101” and “How to Demean, Disparage and Patronize 102”.

I’m certainly attracted to wine because of the way it smells, tastes and feels, but like any good friend I mostly like wine for the way it makes me feel. Early man discovered that when grape juice is exposed to yeast, fermentation turns the sugars into alcohol. Now I don’t know about you, but to my mind the discovery of fermentation ranks right up there with the wheel, the lever, and the Wonderbra.

Alcohol stimulates the part of your brain that’s responsible for pleasure, laughter, aggression and fear or as I like to call it, a typical weekend with my mother. I always bring Chardonnay to dinner at moms because it pairs so well with condescension and guilt.

Alcohol also triggers the reward system in your brain, so you actually feel good about slapping your new boss on the back at the office party and slurring into his ear, “Hey bro, your wife is smokin’ hot! I wouldn’t kick her out of bed!”

Alcohol is the component in wine that makes people boisterous, sometimes even causing them to swear. I once woke up and swore to never go to another office party.

You don’t have to be a scientist to know that alcohol acts as a depressant on the brain’s higher functioning; you just have to be the only sober person in the room.

Some people say wine is nothing more than fermented grape juice but I know it is so much more. Wine is a part of my life and helps mark the milestones of my existence. I drink wine in times of celebration, like weddings, birthdays, or the time Aunt May finally kicked the bucket.

Wine comforts me in times of sorrow like separations, funerals, or having to watch reruns of What Not To Wear with my wife.

Of course wine is also an integral part of my religious celebrations such as Christmas, Easter, and March Madness.

Wine bridges the generations of my family and binds me to my past as well as my future. Do you remember that special bottle of 1963 Vintage Port your father shared with you on your 21st birthday? Yeah neither do I, but when my son was born I bought a bottle of 1992 Fonseca Vintage Port in his honor and lay it away for two decades. When he turned 21 we opened the bottle and toasted his birth and his growing appreciation of fine wine. He then went out and bought a bottle of tequila and soon learned that like Ripple Pagan Pink, tequila tastes the same going down and coming back up.

I love wine for all these reasons and more. Like the pencil marks inside the pantry door that mark my son’s growth, tasting wine on any given day is nothing more than a snapshot of that wine at one moment in its evolution. It fascinates me that grapes grown in flinty soil can smell like gunpowder and wine aged in American oak can taste like dill. I’m amazed that the resolute roots of a grape vine can squeeze through hairpin cracks in a solid rock cliff, seeking moisture one hundred feet underground. I marvel at the wine blenders skill and the barrel coopers craftsmanship. These are just a few reasons why wine is my best friend. In short, wine gives my life meaning; it’s the reason I climb out of bed every afternoon.



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