"It's difficult to soar with eagles when you walk with turkeys."--Jack Rollins
Thursday, December 12, 2013
The New Wine Fairy Tales: The Talking Fish
The Talking Fish
Once there was a young boy who lived in an enchanted valley in the far north of a golden state. One day the young boy was walking along the river when he heard a voice. There wasn’t another person around, and the young boy wasn’t prone to hearing voices in his head, not like his cousin who had pierced his body with several hundred toothpicks and claimed to be a magic washboard. The voice was asking for help.
“Help,” the voice said, in a tone that registered as fishlike. Not baritone, but bass.
The young boy walked in the direction of the river, towards the voice, and came upon a fish stuck between some rocks. “You must be a pretty stupid fish,” the young boy said, “to get stuck between rocks.”
“Fuck you,” the fish said. “If you help me out from between these rocks, I’ll give you a magic power.” The young boy was impressed at the fish’s command of the language, and he stepped into the river and kicked the talking fish until it was freed.
“Cod-dammit,” the fish said. “You could have been a little gentler, asshole. But you’ve freed me, as I asked, and so I will grant you a magic power.”
“Do I get to pick my magic power?” the young boy asked. “Because if I do, I pick being able to lick my nuts like a dog does.”
“No, moron,” the talking fish said, “the magic power you now have is that you are a Super Taster!”
“oh.” the young boy said.
“What?!” the fish said, “that’s not good enough for you?”
“Can I taste my nuts?” the downcast young boy inquired.
The talking fish paused for a moment, and then said, “Listen, son, manta man, I think I’m wasting this magic power on a dumbshit like you. But a deal is a deal.” And with that, the talking fish swam away.
Now it happened that the enchanted valley where the young boy lived was the most famous place in the world for wine. The enchanted valley was covered in vineyards, and people came from all over the world to taste the wines. Almost everyone who lived in the enchanted valley was a winemaker. Of course, this stood to reason, because no one can stand to be around a lot of winemakers except another winemaker.
Being a Super Taster was amazing, the young boy thought, but not really very much fun. It was kind of a stupid magic power. He could taste things that nobody else could taste, but that didn’t get him laid. And, really, the young boy thought, what’s the good of having a magic power if it doesn’t get you lots of strange. One of his friends had a magic power. He had twelve inches of tongue. He got lots of strange, and a recording contract. That was a real magic power.
One day the young boy stopped at a nearby winery to talk to a winemaker he knew. The winemaker handed the young boy a glass of his newest release of Cabernet Sauvignon, even though he knew the boy to be dumber than an awards show.
“Wow,” the young boy said, “I’ve never had a wine like this. I can taste blackberries that a bear slobbered on, green olive from a Leccino olive tree, sweet Santa Rosa plum, vanillin from a lightly toasted Francois Freres oak barrel from a tree once hit by lightning, your wife’s lipstick, a whisper of your neighbor’s happy spurt, a #2 lead pencil with an eraser nearly gone, Kenyan coffee slightly overroasted, and cassis. And,” the young boy said, thinking of his friend the talking fish, “on a scale of 100, I’d give it 96.”
The winemaker was floored. He made the young boy write his description on a piece of paper and he took it to the local wine merchant. The wine merchant posted the description in his store, and the winemaker’s wine sold out in one day.
Soon every winemaker wanted the young boy dumber than a roomful of ball bearings to taste their wines and write about them. The young boy started to ask for money for his words. “Oh,” the winemakers said, “we can’t do that. That would make you look like a dishonest young boy. Charge the wine merchant!”
“No,” the wine merchant said, “I can’t pay you for your super taste. Make the people who buy the wine from me pay!” And so he did.
Soon the young boy was tasting hundreds and hundreds of wine every day and writing long and detailed descriptions of what he tasted. He tasted dozens of flavors in every wine. His descriptions baffled the people who buy wine, for no one could taste all the flavors the young boy could taste. And, for the most part, the people who buy wine didn’t even want to taste the weird shit he tasted in the wines. They gave up reading his words. It was the scale they loved anyway. The people who buy wine didn’t even care a little bit about all the descriptions he wrote, about his magic power, they only read the numbers. In the back of his head, the young boy, as he assigned the numbers to the hundreds and hundreds of wines he tasted, could hear his old friend the talking fish speaking his words of wisdom.
The young boy knew he had been right. Super Taster was a stupid magic power. He was wealthy beyond his wildest dreams, famous and powerful in the enchanted valley in the golden state. But now people made fun of his words, and insulted his magic scale. The young boy, now not so young any more, yearned for the days before he’d stumbled upon the talking fish stuck between two rocks, for the days when he could just enjoy the enchanted valley and all the winemakers who lived there. Well, maybe not the winemakers.
One day when the young boy was very old, he was walking near the river again when he heard the voice of his old piscine friend. Could the talking fish still be alive? The young boy, now old, hurried to the river. And, there, waiting for him, was the talking fish.
“Talking fish! How are you? I’m so glad to see you.”
“Who the fuck are you?” the fish said.
“You don’t remember me? Forty years ago I rescued you when you were stuck between two rocks and you gave me the magic power of being a Super Taster.”
“Idiot,” the talking fish explained. “I didn’t give you any magic fucking power. I just said that so you’d help me.”
“You mean I’ve never been a super taster?”
“Hell, no. Man, you’re dumber than a school of anchovies. There’s no such thing as a super taster. Who the hell thought you were a super taster? Douchebags. You’re no different than anybody else.”
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.
I'm living proof that alcohol kills brain cells.
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