I owe a lot to wine. According to reports, it played a major role in my conception.
Unfortunately, I'm not much of an expert. When a waiter brings the wine list, I use the time-honored system of "eeeny meeny miny mo." Otherwise you run the risk of waiters raising an eyebrow and making French sounds through their nose.
They promised that I'd be safe at Bodee's, a six- or seven-star restaurant "nestled into a remote country location" (translation: somewhere near Middle Earth).
Bodee's owner Michele Cromer-Bentivolio lives on a ranch behind the restaurant and picks avocados during her commute. These she hands over to executive chef and man of the hour, Christopher Watson.
At the wee-lad age of 27, Chris has rubbed spatulas with top cheffing dignitaries and is personally in charge of everything digested at Bodee's. He and I conducted research in Bodee's "fern grotto" (translation: patio), where Chris lined up the wine white to red.
"So what kind of wine do you like?" asked Chris.
"Whatever tastes most like Kool-Aid."
He chuckled as though I were kidding.
Chris rinsed with, and spit out, a glass of roset. I myself am principally opposed to spitting out alcohol, so I finished the glass. Think of the starving children.
Chris asked me to swirl the glass, which is where I drew the line. There would be no swirling and no poetic faces.
"The swirling," he said, "opens up the wine. Reds are especially tense out of the bottle."
I was drinking and learning at the same time. Just like college.
Chris wedged his nose into the glass the way a linebacker does an oxygen mask. That's why wine glasses are so big -- to fit your snout. Chris said that it helps you shift gears.
"Have you ever reached for a glass of iced tea thinking that it's 7-Up? That's why we sniff."
Finally, after all the pomp and circumstance, I was given to do what I came to do: Get hammered.
No, no, no. I had come to debate the floral undertones of wine while wearing a monocle.
We started with my favorite wine, the "voigner" [pronunciation tip: don't sound any of the actual letters]. Chris pushes voy-NYAY on chardonnay junkies when they want to get crazy.
"My job," says Chris, "is to help you discover your preferences. If you're into Kool-Aid, do you prefer Sharkleberry Fin or the Great Bluedini?"
I held newfound respect for this man.
Chris recommends reading Wine for Dummies unless you're a complete idiot, in which case read The Complete Idiot's Guide to Wine.
We graduated to red wines -- the Dark Side -- starting with my favorite, the pinot noir. Pinot noir lived in obscurity before the movie Sideways, which I am required to mention by state law. Sideways is about how scumbag men really aren't scumbags when you compare them to wine, as you can easily tell by the movie's title.
Chris explained the difference between red wine and white, and despite what your uncouth brain tells you, red wine does not simply come from red grapes. The color comes from tannins in the skin.
"The tannins," said Chris, "also intensify your hangover."
I verified Chris's theory the next morning when I found myself bickering at the phone long after it had stopped ringing. So it goes.
"This next wine will be your favorite," said Chris, pouring a sauvignon blanc. "It has a nice, peppery finish."
Pepper is not something I look for in a wine. In fact, it's not something I look for on my food. Yet this bottle, Rock Rabbit, was the kind of wine that made you skip dinner. It felt almost nutritious.
If you do eat, white wines go with white foods (fish, pasta, chicken), and red wines go with red foods (beef, marinara, more red wine).
What is the favorite pairing of seven-star gourmet chef, Christopher Watson?
Peachy Canyon zinfandel and peanut M&M's.
That was my favorite, too, until we tried Rutherford Hill, the house merlot. Merlot is a "dry wine," which means that if you spill it on your clothes you'll need dry-cleaning.
Chris and I swirled our way to the Bordeaux, a merlot wine named after a busty seventies actress. No, that's the Barbeau. Ha! You wouldn't believe how funny that was after six glasses of wine.
"This is not the merlot they're talking about in Sideways," said Chris. "It's good merlot."
I struggled to describe the Bordeaux. Chris had already taken the obvious choice -- smoky herbal dusk -- so I had to stick with poetic faces.
We finished with Conn Creek Cabernet, the "youngest" bottle and definitely my favorite. I always thought that wine had to ferment for decades, but then my grandfolk, they's from Kentucky.
"We consume so much wine as a society," said Chris, "that you can hardly find a six-year-old chardonnay. Most wines are designed to be consumed quickly."
And boy was I consuming quickly. The bottle read "12% alcohol by volume," which had something to do with how loud we were getting. Chris cut me off when I started to shout for more Barbeau.
By day's end, I was not only sideways but upside down and backwards. I had, however, learned some things. Whereas my motto on wine used to be "quantity, not quality," I now feel comfortable walking into any snootsy restaurant, looking that French waiter directly in the nose, and ordering my favorite wine -- whatever they recommend.