"One of the disadvantages of wine is that it makes a man mistake words for thoughts."--Samuel Johnson
Monday, July 22, 2013
Dr. Conti's New Lawyer Rests His Case
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury,
Now, I came to this case a little late. You may have heard that I was busy in Florida getting a guy off for shooting an unarmed kid. Was he guilty? Hell, yes, he was guilty, but, you know, he didn’t just shoot any kid. He shot a kid in a hoodie. Which is different than shooting a kiddie in the hood. Or is it? No matter, the point is, he shot that kid in self defense. Luckily, he had a gun. Otherwise, the kid beats the living crap out of him in self defense. But having a gun makes you brave, makes you a man. Like wearing droopy pants makes you guilty. Which is why we should kill all the plumbers.
My client, Dr. Conti, is also not guilty, and for essentially the same reasons as my Florida client. But I’ll get to that, ladies and gentlemen, I’ll get to that.
Now, here we have a case that involves wine. It’s a case of wine! Who doesn’t love a case of wine? Only this was fake wine. Well, now, that’s not entirely accurate. It was actual wine, only it was wine that was put in the wrong bottles! Is it possible it was just a series of honest mistakes on my client’s part? Who hasn’t made the mistake of putting, say, lubricant on their toothbrush? Which is better than putting toothpaste on your dingdong, by the way, unless you’re brushing someone else’s teeth with it. Dr. Conti had wine; he had a lot of wine. An overflow of wine. And, in a panic, or maybe he was a little tipsy, he took some of that wine and he poured it in the wrong bottles. Honest mistake. Did he then recork those bottles and reseal them? Yes, and that was wrong. Did he then sell those wines to a whole bunch of rich wine snobs, a bunch of old men, most of whom made their money on the backs of honest people like you, men who collect rare wine just for the status it gives them, just for the prestige of the labels? Yup. And here’s where my Florida case comes back in. Didn’t they deserve to get screwed? Given the chance, wouldn’t you brush their teeth with your meat thief? I know I would. Then give ‘em something to gargle with.
Dr. Conti saw these alleged victims hanging around auctions, loitering around places where extremely valuable wines were being sold, and he knew they were up to no good. So he followed them, as any good wine-loving citizen would, learned their habits, went undercover to understand their terrible corruption, and then, when no one else had the courage to, he lured them into his trap and exposed them for the greedy, ignorant, dangerous men they are. Men who make a mockery of wine appreciation. Men who collect the greatest wines ever made with no intention of ever drinking them! Men who believe having old and rare wine makes them more masculine, like owning a gun. Dr. Conti took these men on. And for his courage he is incarcerated.
You’ve seen evidence of Dr. Conti’s fraudulent label making equipment found by the police when they searched his home. It’s not illegal to possess that printing equipment, ladies and gentleman, just like it’s not illegal to possess a gun. Where the law comes in is when you actually use it. Why you used it. What motivated you to use it. Who was hurt when you used it. Was the person you hurt of some societal value? That’s what we ask juries to decide. In Florida, they know when a life is not a life worth worrying about. They’re old and wise there in Florida, and they know the Fountain of Youth needs restocking. I think here in New York, you’ll know when a victim is not really a victim, too. They’re not victims when they’re pretentious, rich, arrogant titans of the One Percent. They’re not victims when they are scammed in a way that defends the very hobby they insult and abuse with their greed. And no victims, ladies and gentlemen, means no crime.
I want you to think about what my client actually did. Some of it isn’t right, I’ll admit that. But he’s not guilty of these charges, not in the legal sense. Guilty of stupidity? Well, sure, but, ladies and gentlemen, wine auctions and wine collecting are built on stupidity as their very foundation! Everyone involved in this, from the auction houses to the alleged victims, engages in a legalized form of stupid behavior. Every wine the alleged victims buy at auction is a bottle with questionable provenance, a badly decomposing cork that has affected the quality of the wine, and sports a label that has almost no meaning any more. How were the wines Dr. Conti sold to these suckers any different than those? Because he knew they were fakes? Does it matter? When one of these wealthy corksuckers actually opens a bottle for his friends, will they know the difference? Trained and experienced sommeliers wouldn’t know the difference, how would a bunch of drunk old Texans know the difference? They’re getting the same thrill from one of Dr. Conti’s fake bottles as they would from an actual bottle of Screaming Asshole, or whatever that wine is. Isn’t that what they paid for when they purchased his bottles at auctions? The prestige and excitement of opening the bottles they purchased whether they knew where they were actually from, or what they would end up tasting like? The auction house knew they were fakes, or should have. Why aren’t they in jail, or at least being prosecuted? Because, then, ladies and gentlemen, the entire foundation of stupidity is removed from the monument that is big money wine auctions, and the entire institution collapses, leaving all these rich corksuckers with virtually worthless wine cellars. They won’t stand for that. Try taking their Viagra from them, might as well. You’ll find out why they aren’t old softies.
So instead they’ve gone after my client. He had money. He didn’t do this for the money. Dr. Conti did it to save us from ourselves. Those of us who love wine, who believe that wine is proof that God loves us and hates Seventh Day Adventists, who draw daily joy and strength from Jesus’ first miracle. These alleged victims were out to destroy wine, to inflate its value beyond the means of the Ninety-Nine Percent, to leave all of us to aspire to twelve dollar Lodi Zinfandel as the pinnacle of our wine drinking. Dr. Conti exposed them. Dr. Conti made a mockery of wine geeks, of the habitués of mindless wine chat rooms, though the phrase is redundant, and of the attendees of glamorous wine orgies masquerading as charity auctions, where the One Percent can give back to those poor people they’ve so ruthlessly exploited by bidding lavishly, and stupidly, on the same labels Dr. Conti so easily reproduced and made worthless. Like my Florida client, Dr. Conti proves that judging a book by its cover, be it a boy by how he’s dressed, or a label by how it looks, is perfectly legal. It's fine to destroy either one. It’s not his fault, it’s the victim’s. Nothing could be clearer, or more legal.
We don’t owe him conviction, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we owe him thanks.
After 19 years as a Sommelier in Los Angeles, twice named Sommelier of the Year by the Southern California Restaurant Writers' Association, I moved to Sonoma County to explore the other aspects of the wine business. I've spent, OK wasted, 35 years learning about and teaching about and swallowing wine. I am also a judge at the Sonoma Harvest Fair, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the San Francisco International Wine Competition--so I can spit like a rabid llama. I know more about wine than David Sedaris and I'm funnier than James Laube. Stay tuned for an informed but jaded view of everything wine and everything else.
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