Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Anonymous Alcohol

I thought it was hard admitting to my teetotalling family that I liked to imbibe the occasional beer, scotch, or rum and Coke. My father was the son of an alcoholic, and abhorred the stuff. I developed a taste for it in moderation. But I was always diplomatic about the subject around him.

These days, there's a cultural inference associated with one particular alcoholic beverage that makes my next confession even more likely to distress some of my fellow conservatives:

I like wine.

Like beer, wine was for me an acquired taste, but I do like it now. and for some conservatives, especially those of the sort who tend to disdain the hollywood/East coast connection liberal upper crust, view wine as snobbish and pretentious, embodying everything they dislike about the other side.

But I view wine differently. First, my introduction to wines I could actually enjoy was not with immpressive vintages, but with a common, semi-sparkling sweet red from Italy called Lambrusco. Here at last was I wine I could drink -- but not one I could admit to in polite company. Or so I thought.

Then I learned an important lesson that also explains why I can enjoy wine without feeling pretentious. The summer after I discovered Lambrusco, I made a trip up from San Diego to my old stomping grounds in Southern Oregon. While there I made a visit to the tasting room of the Girardet Winery. Phil is from the French-speaking portion of Switzerland, but he's beenin Oregon for decades. He met his wife Bonnie while they were both university students in California. There he decided to get into winemaking. He wanted to start his winery somewhere in the US where the climate, soil composition, rainfall, drainage, all of the factors would as closely resemble his Swiss home as possible. After years of research, he found Tenmile. I met him because his family attended my father's church. Phil was the second most intelligent, friendly man in that town (after my father), and its mellowest.

So there I was in his winery, looking to expand my palate beyond Lambrusco. I was explaining to him what I liked, and in mentioning Lambrusco, I made the apologetic comment, "It's not exactly the best wine, but I like it." Phil got this sly grin on his face, leaned in conspiratorily, and said, "You know Brian, the best wine is the one you like."

*blink. blink. blink*

Well, duh. It sounds stupidly obvious, but so many people miss the point (and not just about wine). I took that advice to heart, and it has governed my view of wine ever since. While I've developed specific tastes and favorites (I love Pinot Noir, especially with salmon), it's all about what I like, not what is the latest craze or fanciest, most impressive vintage not that I could afford that anyway).

And really, isn't that what is important in life? Following your likes and beliefs and convictions, even if they're unpopular?

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