"It's difficult to soar with eagles when you walk with turkeys."--Jack Rollins
Monday, January 13, 2014
The New Wine Fairy Tales: The Prince and the Raven
Once there was a prince of a very large kingdom near the sea who had accumulated a wealth so vast it took
ten men to add it up every day. Everything the prince touched turned to money. But though the prince was rich beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, he was unhappy. On the rare occasion he might stroll among the peasants in his kingdom, rare because the peasants would often inconvenience the prince by asking for food and affordable health care, the prince was certain that even the peasants were happier than he.
After great thought, the prince decided that he was unhappy because he didn’t have any children. The prince had spent so much time building his great fortune he had never taken a wife. Now he wanted children, children to share his great wealth and carry on his princely legacy. So the prince summoned twelve young women to his castle and set out to impregnate them all.
“I could get used to this,” the prince thought.
But a month later, not one of the twelve young women was pregnant. This seemed impossible to the prince. The prince began to believe that a curse had been put on him. Though banging twelve young women all the time was hardly the worst curse he could think of. Being a wealthy prince of a very large kingdom near the sea had its privileges. Yet, still, he was miserable.
One day when the prince was counting his gold, a raven flew in his window and spoke to him.
“You will never have children,” the raven said, “until you own your own winery.”
“Oh, crap,” the prince replied, “I don’t want kids that bad.”
“There is a curse attached to your great riches,” the raven told him. “To remove the curse, you must choose between three wineries to own. If you choose the wrong winery, your wealth will disappear and you will spend the rest of your days alone. If you choose the magic winery, your days will be marked by the envy of your peers and the laughter of your children.”
“Do I get to keep the women?”
“Rich asshole,” remarked the raven. And he flew away.
That night while he slept, the prince was shown three wineries.
The first winery was a humble estate in the mountains, with a ramshackle old building where the wines were made, but beautiful and impeccably farmed vineyards. The prince couldn’t see himself owning this property. There really wasn’t room for him to erect a magnificent chateau as a shrine to himself, and what good was a winery like that? And the vineyards were planted to Syrah. “Really?,” thought the sleeping prince, “Syrah? That will most certainly make my wealth disappear faster than Viagra at a Wineberserkers reunion.”
When the second winery appeared to the prince in his dreams, the prince thought it was breathtaking, though the sound of the waterfall made him wet the bed. There were acres and acres--wait, this is a fairy tale, right, so--there were hectares and hectares of meticulously manicured vineyards. Fairy tales use the metric system. The winery itself was state of the art, and there was a lovely home on the property, a home, that with a little tinkering, might be fit for a prince. “Wow,” the prince thought, “I knew I should have used the rubber sheets.” The second winery was almost perfect. Until the prince noticed a billboard on the road nearby. The billboard read, “Now entering the Commonwealth of Virginia. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.”
“Virginia?,” thought the sleeping prince, “oh, hell, no. Having Viognier as your signature grape is like having bad breath as your best feature. No matter how beautiful it is, a winery in Virginia is definitely out of the question. I mean, first of all, Donald Trump has a winery in Virginia, so it has to suck.”
The prince’s dream moved to the third winery. It was magnificent. Perched above a famous valley in a golden kingdom, one of the most famous places in the realm to make wine, it was next door to very famous wineries owned by very famous men. “This must be the right choice,” the sleeping prince thought, “there’s even a hillside where I can dig the most amazing cave in the wine world, alit with chandeliers, ten stories high, and sporting a grand wine library with a hot wine librarian. And I’ll build the grandest home on the property at the very highest point so that everyone can admire my wealth and taste, if I only knew where to buy taste. The winery will be spotless, so clean you can eat off the Mexicans. Oh, this is perfect! My name will be on the label, and only the richest wine connoisseurs will be able to buy my wine, and, for once, I’ll be taking money from rich people instead of peasants. I’ll buy this winery.”
And so he did. Soon all twelve of his young women were expecting children. The prince built his perfect new winery above the blessed wine valley in the golden kingdom. It was strange, the prince thought, that so many other people had been given the same curse. Everywhere in the blessed wine valley rich princes were building magnificent shrines, each one needing to be grander than all that preceded. The prince couldn’t skimp. He planted one hundred hectares of vineyards, tightly spaced, built a winery that would last for all eternity, a castle on top of the hill that towered over his wealthy neighbors. His children grew, his wines were released, and, finally the prince felt he might soon be happy.
But the twelve young women grew angry at the prince, and all twelve left him when their children were teenagers, and all twelve got very large child support payments. The prince was soon alone in his gigantic mansion at the top of the hill overlooking the blessed wine valley. And the wines weren’t selling. The prince had to pretend every vintage that his wines had sold out, that his mailing list was full, but his wine library was overflowing with every vintage he’d produced. And his wine librarian wouldn’t let him play “Hide the Meat Thief” with her anymore, she was so tired. No one wanted him, or his overpriced wines. His vast fortune was dwindling, his children had brought him nothing but heartache, and it was beginning to look like banging twelve young women at a time wasn’t such a good idea after all. Who did he think he was? Shaquille fucking O’Neal?
Broke and destitute, he sat outside the winery, the winery he had just sold to a rich real estate prince who prayed upon cash-strapped rich guys with wineries who got divorced twelve times and couldn’t pay their bills. Up in a nearby tree, he heard the raven laughing.
“Oh, Raven,” the prince cried, “what has happened to me? Did I pick the wrong winery to buy?”
“No,” the raven replied, “there was no right winery, you formerly rich butthole. Any winery you bought was going to fail. Welcome to the wine business, genius! I hope you learned your lesson.”
“But you said the curse would be removed,” the prince wailed, “you said I’d be the envy of my peers and I’d hear the laughter of my children.”
“And so it is,” said the raven. “Your peers envy you that you’re out of the wine business, and your children are most certainly laughing at you.”
The prince, in his anger, hurled a rock at the raven, which, caught unaware, took the rock to the head and fell to the ground dead. The prince was finally happy.
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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