Whenever I go on wine tastings at local vineyards, (Haley’s Comet comes to mind) I always make sure to bring my sixty-four ounce, pewter Chicago Cubs beer stein with me with the hope they’ll fill it up. Just a heads up: they won’t. Instead, they will dispense into your glass, an amount approximating two thimbles full. You will then be expected to swirl it around for a minute, hold it up to the light as if you might have just discovered some alien being floating on top, sniff it for thirty seconds, then sip. From that experience you should be able to tell everything there is to know about that particular wine. “Hmm, I believe this wine comes from the Fishkill region of New York with sixty year old grapes that were grown under the blazing sun next to Route 9…near a traffic light.” Look, consuming wine should be enjoyable, relaxing and stress free. It should never become a science project. “May I help you?” “Yes, I’m looking for a wine that after two glasses will make me macho, good looking and worldly. What isle is that in?” “I’m sorry, Bob, we have nothing on our shelves that can accomplish anything even close to that.”
I’m not trying to diminish the wine pros that really do know what they’re talking about. These people study it and truly appreciate the inter workings of every facet of the wine making process, and that’s great. They generally either own or operate their own wine business or they are master sommeliers, or both. Then, of course, there is the person who tries way too hard to impress but, in truth, the only thing they know for sure is which end of the bottle to open. My friend, Mark, falls in this category. I implore you to stay away from them at cocktail parties because they will drone on adnauseum about the dreadful state of the economy and insist that nothing will turn around until Steven Mnuchin starts returning their e-mails.
So, I decided to play a little prank on Mr. Smarty Pants Mark. You should know that Mark spends hours in his ‘lab’ (basement) on weekends conjuring up what he believes is the best wine on the planet. Trust me, I’ve had some of Mark’s wine and I’m not exactly sure what planet he’s referring to. For my little test, I enlisted the help of my other friend, Kevin. I know what you’re saying: “Bob, you’ve actually got two friends?” Yes, I really have two friends and they both like wine but only Mark is a pompous jerk.
Kevin provided me with a homemade bottle of Merlot. I replaced his label, Kevin’s Really Good Wine, with the label from a bottle of 3 Blind Moose Merlot 2007. Of course, I had to alter the contents a little, strictly for the purpose of exploiting Mark. I poured out about a cup of Kevin’s wine and fed it to the plants, may they rest in peace. I then added a combination of Poughkeepsie tap water, three tablespoons of lemon extract, a shake of nutmeg, an eighth teaspoon of chili powder, and a splash of olive oil (extra virgin). Oh, and just to finish it off, a pinch of Tabasco. I gave it a good shake and delivered it to Mr. Know It All. He was duly impressed by the label and immediately broke out the corkscrew.
Unfortunately, for appearances only, I had to pour myself a glass as well. He held the glass up to the light, swirled it around and brought it t his lips. The moment of truth was upon us. “This is excellent wine,” he said. “My tongue feels like it’s dancing.” I was in my glory. Yes, indeed, my little friend, Mark, was blowing the cover off the bullshit meter now! To taunt him a little further, I asked him what he thought it tasted like and he said he was getting a hint of birch. Well, that’s great, I thought, because who among us doesn’t want our wine to taste like charred firewood? Mark insisted on having another glass and the joke was getting out of hand. There was no way I could level with him now. All I wanted to do was go home and throw up. He ended up having three glasses. The message here is simple: The harder a person tries to convince you how knowledgeable he is, the less he actually knows. But, on the other hand, maybe Mark’s just addicted to lemon extract.
Here’s what I do know: The next time I’m having a glass of red wine, I’m tossing a big ol’ ice cube in it, and, if I’m feeling really rebellious, I may not even swirl the glass or sniff it, and I recommend you try the same thing. It’s very refreshing and cathartic.
Coming up next time, kids, we’ll explore the many fine pretzel varieties that can be successfully paired with a bottle of Angry Orchard.