Before wine blogs existed, those glorious days of yore, I kept copious journals of my wine experiences. From the very beginning of adulthood I knew that wine would be my chosen career, and that one day I would be called upon to heap scorn and ridicule upon it, as one lovingly does for ones children. (My mother once told me I would have been her favorite child except it cost her a lot to have my tail docked.) Recently, I was reviewing my journals of the past 35 years and found some interesting, even prescient, passages. I thought you might be interested…
I LOVE WINE! June 26, 1975
I’m beginning this journal to write about my love of wine. I hope you will join me on this great adventure. I almost don’t know where to start! I went to Trader Joe’s today and bought six(!) bottles of California wine. Spent all my tip money, not really wise for a struggling paperboy. They’re all made from different grapes. There’s a Chardonnay, a Pinot Chardonnay, a Merlot (the “t” is hard, like Grandma’s morning drink), a White Zinfandel, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Fume Blanc. I think the only difference between Sauvignon Blanc and Fume Blanc is that the latter is sold to stupid people. Sort of like French Fries and pommes frites. I wonder how much more money you could get for Mr. Pommes Head.
I want to explore the world of wine. There is so much I don’t know! Like why do they waste so many corks—they don’t just grow on trees! And what do they add to the grape juice to make it smell like peaches and pears and Dad’s old collection of Gent magazines in the garage? Also, I want to taste all the greatest wines in the world! Chateau Mateus and the great German wines of Heitz. Though I admit, I am a bit nervous about tasting those German wines. I’ve developed a fear of Heitz. ACKrophobia.
But I know that wine will be a passion of mine for as long as I live, like Atari and Pet Rocks and Onanism, which also are some of the cornerstones of civilization, and equally addictive. Come along with me as I try my hand at all of them.
WHITE WINES October 13, 1979
White wines are stupid. It’s why the French call them “blanc,” as in “blanc stare,” which is what I get when I announce I want to be a sommelier. I’m even taking sneering lessons. I want to be the greatest sommelier that ever lived! (Editor’s note: Mission accomplished! Voted Greatest Sommelier Ever at the 2003 National Condescend-Off. I left Andrea Immer in the dust!) Everyone knows white wines are garbage, yet wineries continue to crank them out. Why would anyone drink white wine when there is red wine? Oh, because it goes with fish? Who the hell eats fish? Catholics on Fridays? Who else? Other trained seals?
I’ve heard wine “experts” say that German wines are some of the greatest wines on the planet. Yeah, and one day a black guy will be President. (Editor’s note: A black guy is President.) German wines are made from Riesling! Ever had a Riesling? No, I didn’t think so. Let me tell you, Rieslings all taste exactly the same. And they brag that the best ones smell like petroleum! Which they do. It’s like drinking a glass of Jerry Lewis’ hair. That’s Riesling. Yeah, great wine.
You won’t catch me spending much time with white wines. White wines are for people that don’t really like wine, just like white people are for people who don’t really like people. I love wine. Red wine is the only wine worth drinking. (Editor’s note: Red wine is the only wine worth drinking—I read it on Suckling’s blog so it must be half true.)
FIRST VISIT TO NAPA VALLEY June 5, 1980
I found out that Napa Valley is wine’s Mecca. Once a day wine writers bow down in its direction and pray that they’ll get samples of the best wines from there. (Editor’s note: This still goes on today, and there is now even a charity for pathetic aspiring wine writers—the Mecca Wish Foundation.) They believe that, if they’re faithful, when they die they’ll be greeted in the after-life by a thousand 100 Point virgins. I’ll settle for two 50 Point nymphos.
I just returned from my very first visit to the beautiful Napa Valley. It was amazing. I learned so much from going to tasting rooms and talking to the wine experts that work in them. Did you know that the vine rows are spaced really wide to allow head room for the winemaker? And that those big propeller things in the vineyards are used to blow the birds away? (Editor’s note: Actually, they’re for destemming the grapes right as they’re picked!) Yes, it’s true. I was told those interesting facts by the very same people who were pouring me tastes of wine, so you know they’re true. Everything you hear in a tasting room is true—something to remember when traveling to wine country.
My first appointment was at Sterling Vineyards up near Calistoga. Wow, what a place! The winery architecture is Moorish (Editor’s note: Oops. It’s actually Boorish.) The Moors are well-known for their love of sky rides. I love the Moors, Othello and Mary Tyler. I rode the sky ride up to the Sterling tasting room, taking in the breathtaking view of their service road. In the tasting room, my lovely host explained to me that Sterling is owned by Coca-Cola. This explained why the wines all tasted the same. (Editor’s note: Coca-Cola sold Sterling Vineyards soon after that when they discovered wine couldn’t be made according to formula—sorry, Coke, it is now!) I tasted all the wines but my favorite was the 1977 Sterling Reserve Cabernet, which I thought was far better than the 1977 Diet Sterling Reserve Cabernet. I threw up in the sky ride on the way down.
From Sterling Vineyards I drove north to the famous Chateau Montelena winery. Chateau Montelena is very famous for their Chardonnay being chosen as the best Chardonnay over many famous French white Burgundies at the Paris Tasting of 1976. All of the judges for the competition were French, so it’s not surprising they picked a California wine. If they’d all been American, they’d have picked a French wine. French and American people both like to pretend to be open-minded. But a big deal has been made about the results. I think the results are unfortunate. All that will happen is Napa Valley will get a swelled head, prices for land will go up, and rich people will replace actual farmers. (Editor’s note: Told ya so.) Oh, what do I know? (Editor’s note: You’re a genius, my friend, simple as that.)
More excerpts from my youthful journals in future posts. I’ve left out the torrid sex scenes. Onan would be proud.