When you read this, I will have been in Napa for four days. Two of those days will have been spent golfing with my Hubby. One full day will be spent wine tasting and purchasing some of our favorite wines while each evening will be spent eating at some of the areas finest restaurants. And by ‘finest’, I don’t mean expensive. Been there, done that many years ago at the French Laundry restaurant. Eleven, count ‘em, courses with many bottles of wine to go along with them. When I say finest in this context, I mean some of the most ingenious and imaginative meals a chef can come up with. In the Napa valley, you can find bazillions of places to eat and I don’t think that we’ve found even one that wouldn’t get 5 stars from me.
When Bob and I first met, we were beer drinkers. We didn’t even try wine. My parents would drink red wine…chianti. To me that is a gut-wrenching, candle holder dripping colored wax on a red and white checkered table cloth kind of wine. Each sip I tried from my parent’s glass convinced me of my right decision to have my cocktail of choice to be Budweiser. (We even visited the Anheuser Busch gardens on our honeymoon!)
When we grew up and matured, oh, say, six months of dating, we were introduced to a more sophisticated wine that some of our friends introduced us to: Blue Nun. Guffaw all you want, it was a damn sight better than Chianti in my book. Oh yes, I tried the gawdawful Boones Farm miasma they called wine and promptly gagged on it. Who in their right mind would drink that stuff? Apple Hill? I shudder to this day thinking what I put my gastrointestinal tract through. So here we were in our vast knowledge of wine…Blue Nun. We both knew that we liked white wine but could never remember and were to ignorant to ask for something else when Blue Nun was not available while out on the town. Once, I remember asking what the house white was to the waiter and he said, “Chablis”.
“Oh, I LOVE Chablis! I’ll have that.”
He brought out my glass of I-Love-Chablis and brought Bob his Budweiser. When will I learn? I couldn’t take more than one sip of that dreck either. I had had a glass of white wine at some point that I really liked but could not for the life of me remember what it was let alone the winery. Knowing a winery was so far beyond my grey matter to be laughable, but it started with a ‘C’ and by now I knew it wasn’t Chablis.
Again, I asked in a different location, “What is your house white?”
“Oh,” taking a deep breath, “I LOVE Chardonnay! I’ll have that.”
Lo and behold, this glass of Chardonnay was actually drinkable. I liked it. Who knew how old that bottle was that the waiter poured from. I was drinking white wine and liking it. I was becoming so klassy.
Some friends of ours lived near the Bay area and while visiting them, they served another wine to us: White Zinfindel. This became known as the hot tub wine, the wine that aged on the way to your house from the grocery store. We convinced ourselves for two weeks that we liked White Zin. Then what little grey matter we had left, kicked in.
“Look,” it said, “why do you keep experimenting with this grape stuff? You like Chardonnay. Keep with chardonnay but try different ones. Who knows, you might like it even better from different wineries.”
But apparently our brains knew more than our, what? Conscience? Soul? Stomach? Taste buds?
In time, we tried more wines, learned which ones we liked, which ones we loved, which ones we’ll tolerate and which ones to run from. We have visited Napa more times than I can count. We have learned how a wine can enhance a meal either in the recipe or in the glass. Wine is our favorite libation. We’ve had detours along the way in our education; delightful detours. Merlots, Cabernets, Ports (oh, don’t EVEN get me started on Ports), Pinots, Rieslings, and Shiraz. I can attend wine tastings and not bat an eye when, after sampling, pour the remains into the counter receptacle. My son, on the other hand, feels bad to do that as if he’s hurting the winery’s feelings by not liking the sample. We have tasted and tasted and tasted to the degree that if someone asks what would I serve with this meal or that, I am very confident in suggesting a complimentary wine to go along with it.
But the absolute best advice that I can give for choosing a wine is this: If you really like it, drink it. I don’t care if you’re serving fish, chicken, or beef tenderloin. Drink what you like. But you won’t know what all there is to like if you just stick to one grape variety, now will you?
PS…stay away from Two Buck Chuck as well.