by Jonathan Weinblatt
Every Friday, the Punch Bowl allows any member of its staff to submit a column for the website. Due to the sudden disappearance of 20,000 monkeys and 20,000 typewriters, this week’s columnist is Jonathan Weinblatt. We’re pretending it’s Friday, why not pretend along with us?
Despite my cramped position in the third row of a rental, I could almost smell the sweet aroma of Napa Valley in August. The lush hills were in full bloom as amateurs and established connoisseurs alike formed a diverse parade of wine enthusiasts. My own family had traveled across the country for a pleasant trip in the beautiful countryside of northern California, and I hoped that just maybe a fine pinot would rest in my grasp at the end of the day. It is a rare occasion when one gets to experience the most superb wines our vast continent has to offer and also examine the many preparations that bring about their deep complexity. In fact, I know of none other at my gentle age that could better appreciate such an adventure. It is one thing to inspect the wine selection from behind the confines of an underage ID in a local state store, but yet another to feel the firmness of the grapes in one’s hands and taste the sour tannins flooding the palate upon chewing the tart seeds.
We made our first stop at a winery to take in a tour and a tasting of their finest specimens. It came time to start the tour and the pretentious guide passed out pins to those of eligible drinking age. His upturned nose portrayed an elevated knowledge of the winemaking process unattainable to mere tourists, but his bronze California tan belied his claim of actually working at the predominately indoor operation. I considered lying about my age but that “we card for wine tasting” sign I saw in the lobby flashed through my mind. Could my mature gaze possibly alleviate any misguided fears of an underage alcohol abuser? The tour guide didn’t even ask if I was 21, dismissing my presence with a gaze that seemed to search above the heads of the eager crowd. Needless to say, I didn’t get one of his stupid pins.
As the tour progressed, I even impressed the good man with my viticultural expertise. I correctly identified the rose bushes as early forecasters of grapevine diseases and identified the proper wine barrel wood by smell. Still, the haughty bastard grinned slyly when he filled my wine glass with water while the adults tasted of a probably crisp and fruity sauvignon blanc and detected the chocolate aroma hidden in a rich cabernet sauvignon. The “expert” urged the eligible tasters to search for discreet tropical fruits in the blanc, yet I have no doubt our exalted guide could only find such treasures discussed on the bottle’s label. It is indeed a tragedy when a fine vintner cannot look past the simple confines of age in distinguishing between a refined palate and the vulgar tastes of a common social drinker. But when a snobbish fraud hides behind a stupid law to delight at my grief, it really makes my blood boil.
At a different winery a sign read, “We ID if you look under 35.” Alas, the sweet nectar had evaded me once again. To take a quick sip from a parent’s glass beyond the watchful eye of a sommelier was a disgraceful step that my dignity simply would not tolerate. Sure, I could taste a cabernet franc grape off the vine, but give it a teaspoon of yeast and a couple of years and inexplicably, that same grape is forbidden unless I too age a few months. These assholes can try and use fine wines to fake an advanced sophistication, but I can see beyond the whole charade. Oh, I can’t try the port? Well, how would you fuckers like it if I port flaming brandy down your maroon turtlenecks? California, I hardly knew ye.