I drank wine today. The end.
There wasn’t many choices on how to celebrate this day. It wasn’t wine appreciation day or cook with wine day, it was plain ol’ drink wine day. The action I needed to take was right there in the name. We happened to have a bottle of wine at home so I uncorked it, let it breathe for a second, then poured us a glass to go along with our dinner (a nice steak in Montreal Steak Seasoning, fresh asparagus and rice). I also made a little fresh guacamole too. The wine was a red blend from Josh Cellars. It was a delight on the nose with a fruity aroma and a wonderful oaky afterbirth (that’s how Lola describes wine when she’s trying to sound sophisticated.) It wasn’t actually oaky – more fruity. But we are not connoisseurs by any means. It was just a tasty red wine.
I made sure we finished the bottle because it was Drink Wine Day. I felt like leaving any would be a disservice to the holiday. So even after dinner, I kept filling up my glass. We ended up finishing it in respectable time. There’s always a little disappointment when you don’t finish a bottle. It’s tainted if it hangs around over night, like some unwanted party guest that stayed the night. It sits on the counter for a few days, and then finds a home in the sink and then the recycling bin. Not tonight though. Good to the last drop.
When I was trying to think about how I could write about this, I started thinking about wine in my life. This is what you think about when you wake up in the middle of the night having to pee because you drank a bottle of wine and can’t get back to sleep. The thoughts come at you rapid fire. Here are some of them:
- My family was never a big wine drinking family. In fact outside of my Mom having a white wine with ice on occasion, I barely remember ever seeing red wine in our home.
- My first wine experience that I remember was driving to a party at a park on the day after a prom. I was with a friend who decided we should stop and buy some alcohol. He was feeling a bit daring I suppose, so we randomly stopped at a package store on the way. We were 17 years old and it was the middle of the day. My friend had no ID. He just went in and made a purchase, just like that. He bought a bottle of red wine. We were excited about having been served, but we are also stuck without a wine opener. We ended up McGyver-ing it and pushing the cork into the bottle. Then we took turns passing the bottle back and forth taking swigs. Ah youth.
- I got sick on drinking too much red wine once. Don’t recommend that. We were at a Christmas party for work and while we were sitting at our table listening to speeches and ramblings, I started drinking the big bottle of red that was at our table. That night would go down in history as the “Ornament Incident” because at some point, as a joke, I started taking Christmas ornaments off the decorative trees and smashing them on my forehead. I thought it was funny, like I was a modern day Gallagher. I was pretty much put to bed that night for the safety of mankind with a slightly bleedy forehead and a belly full of red wine. Then I got sick. Oh my. The colors. That will put you off red wine for a while.
- I remember one of the first diner parties that I ever hosted. Everyone came over and brought a bottle of wine (which was nice) so we probably had a table of a dozen or so people and probably 15 bottles of wine. It was like everyone had their own bottle. That was a fun night with a lot of laughs. It made me feel very adult.
- Wine is a way to be an adult. It just seems more mature than beer guzzling or shot drinking. Must be the stemmed glassware. I remember the times when you first go to someone’s house whose nice enough to make you dinner. That’s when you bring the bottle of wine and you feel like you are an actual adult. A rite of passage.
- One of the first restaurants I worked at had a regular guest who was pretty much a functional alcoholic. He’d come in after work every day (he was an accountant) and have a glass of chablis and chain-smoke More cigarettes all night. He was never really pleasant – just kind of there. But then some nights, he’d get sloppy. Or he’d leave and then come back and be super drunk. I have this image in my mind of a sloppy, unkempt dude, falling over in his stool, cigarette ashes all around him, slurring every word. It was kind of gross and why I’ll never drink chablis. I can still smell it on him. I think I had to finally give him the lifetime ban for something he did. That’s the dark side of restaurants.
- Whenever I buy a bottle of wine, I go by the little Wine Enthusiast signs that they put on the shelf. If it gets a good rating, I’m interested. I know that’s just point-of-sale advertising, but it gets me every time. And usually, I am not disappointed.
- Empty wine bottles in your recycle bin are never quiet. Whenever they are moved or dumped, they make a lot of noise like you are announcing to the whole neighborhood, “Hey – I drink a lot of wine!”
- Some restaurant advice: when you open a bottle of wine at dinner in front of a guest, the bottle should never touch the table. That’s why the waiter corkscrew is such a valuable tool. You use the blade to cut the foil at the top to expose the cork (put the foil in your apron or pocket – never leave it on table), then you turn the screw into the cork. When the screw is all the way down, you use the edge of the corkscrew to pull the cork out. This is a basic tool – a lever. If for some reason you need more leverage to get the cork out, don’t use the table. Use your leg if needed. When the cork comes out, unwind it off the screw and place it in front of the guest who ordered it (they can smell it if they want to), then gently wipe the top of the bottle with the napkin you should be using for service. Pour a sip for the person who ordered the wine so they can taste it. They are tasting it to see if it’s gone bad, not to see if it meets their standard. When you pour, always slightly twist the bottle at the end of the pour so it does not spill. Also, wipe the top between every pour. This helps that rogue drop of wine from landing on someone’s pretty white dress. Once you get the wine approval, pour off a glass to each of the other guests and then finally top off the orderer’s glass. Make sure you leave a little in the bottle so the table can pour some off later. That’s wine service in a nutshell.
- A downside of wine at a dinner party is the wine glass. First, they are fragile so inevitably you will have some breakage. That’s never a problem, but it just sets you back for a few minutes. The other issue is that the glasses need to be cleaned by hand. You have to be careful as you scrub them because they are so fragile and then they take up so much space on your counter when they are drying. I never mind washing dishes, but when I see wine glasses, they always bug me. I push for using disposable cups when I can, but am usually shot down.
Wine has been used for celebrations for thousands of years, so I can add nothing new about why we should celebrate it. It is just a way to toast the goodness of every day, even if that goodness is just a bounty of grapes that were made into a delightful beverage. Although I’d never consider myself a wine enthusiast, it really has been part of my life for all my adult years. It’s in all the pictures of parties I have been to and all the holidays I have celebrated (well, the actual holidays – not this quest). It marks joy in our life, the fun, the adventure and even the pain too. There is probably no spirit more worthy of being in a glass that we hoist to toast all the goodness of life. Just like our ancestors have done, we too will thank the gods for all they have bestowed upon us and sip our wine as a little thank you for all life is and what is to come. L’chaim!
Up Next: National Chocolate Mint Day