Wednesday, August 15, 2007

our excellent adventure part IX

My goodness there are a lot of grapes in Napa Valley. Everywhere you look the fields and hills are striped with rows and rows of grapevines. Driving through the valley today we were treated with the constant view of gorgeously maintained vineyards.

The wineries themselves (there must be a hundred of them in a 20 mile long stretch) each seem to be trying to outdo their neighbors with their buildings and landscaping. Fancy doesn’t quite cover it. Ostentatious seems about right. They are all trying to create a sophisticated ambience in an effort to make their wines seem more special than the next winery down the road. Several that we stopped at added snooty to their description. I sometimes felt like an intruder sneaking in where I didn’t belong and wasn’t welcomed.

Adding to the snobby air at some of the places was the hushed and reverent tones that the wine experts, both the buyers and the sellers, adopted when discussing the qualities of the wines they were tasting. They swirled and sniffed, delicately sipped, and then rhapsodized about the essence of the smoky flavor layed over a hint of berries and a distinct essence of old oak. Ok. My expertise runs more to identifying red from white and sweet from dry. Other than that, if it tastes good, drink it. If it tastes like last year’s vinegar, dump it in the potted plant and move on. The pretension displayed by some of those people is frightening.

We still enjoyed the day and managed to buy a couple bottles of wine that we liked when offered a taste. Of course we only sampled at the wineries that offered free tasting. Some of the places that offered tasting wanted me to actually pay them for the privilege. Some wanted fifteen bucks to gag me on their snake piss, and then wanted me to spend upwards of a hundred bucks to ransom a bottle of it from them. I don’t think so. They should be paying me to give them my opinion of their attempt at wine making, not the other way around. I can almost guarantee a thumbs up on any wine I don’t immediately spit out. Their $95 bottle of wine tastes pretty much the same as the $4 bottle of Cabernet I picked up at the grocery store last night. Pay me the fifteen bucks and your grandma’s moonshine would get a rave review from me. I’m easy to please. Just don’t rape my wallet in the process.

Aside from the financial aspect of winery cruising, I really enjoyed seeing the complicated process of creating wine from the newly planted vines to the finished bottled wine. It seems to be equal parts science and art. I am impressed by the amount of effort it takes to supply me with a bottle full of wine to share with friends and family. Just don’t ask me about the smoky berry and oak essences that are supposed to be there in every drop. Drink and enjoy and let the bullshit pile up in the room full of experts.

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