Short Story Long

The Epiphany

In the Spring of 1983, I made an off-handed comment. Now, truth be told, I had made thousands of off-handed comments before and thousands since, most if not all, ever got me close to the journey this one had in store.

I was sitting in the Eatery of Sherman College of Chiropractic in South Carolina, and wine came up as a topic with a couple fellow students. Not knowing my ass from the Grand Canyon on the subject, I said something to the likes of, "...there's no difference between a $2.99 bottle of wine and a $299 bottle." I heard a pointed scoff followed by a snicker from a student sitting right behind me. Keven Bernhardy was an underclassman by two quarters. The only student that wore a tie and certainly the only one that had a handlebar mustache. He had defected food, wine, and the restaurant scene to become a chiropractor. Surely not the path one would take today, no way. No reality shows for chiropractors.

"Really?" he asked. "Well, there's actually a huge difference." The look on his face convinced me he had more than a casual grip on the subject and his wry smirk revealed that he was also a smartass. So we had that in common. Kevin, returning to politeness, invited me to the Spice of Life, a kitchen store in Spartanburg that hosted wine tastings every Tuesday afternoon. I was told I shoudl pop in on some Tuesday and taste some wines.

The next Tuesday, I did "pop in." Well, honestly, it was immediately on my to-do list right after being called out as a wine-moron. Not shockingly, Kevin happened to be there (if 'happened' means Dead groupies just 'happened' to be at the band's next gig). He was a wino. He knew it. He also knew I was well on my way to becoming one too.

The store owner was a gracious and classy lady in her late fifties. After she conducted a thorough explanation of the first wine to be poured (type, style, origin, and vintage) the bottle tipped toward the rip of my waiting glass. As the wine poured in, the sound was pleasant, almost familiar. Like the rustling of fall leaves. I was falling hard for the ritual, the deference. My first real wine tasting! And as that 1982 Sutter Home Wine Zinfandel swept sweetly and softly over my palate, I knew I had been hooked. It wasn't PBR and it wasn't sneaking a pull of my Dad's half-gallon of MacNaughtons when he wasn't looking. I had a new friend. White Zin!

Now honestly as wines go, White Zin is pretty pedestrian. It should be looked upon as perhaps a perfect first-date for a new palate. As 'dates' go, it won't make any sexual advances. You won't make it to second base with White Zin. It lays there, and *you* look interested. Acidity, if any, is faint, ghosted, and is as edgy as a boy band. Tannins are all but non-existant. For the newbie... it's perfect. It's pink, fun, and flabby. It doesn't ask anything in return. It's happy with ice cubes, shot out of both nostrils in a spit take after a funny joke, or accidentally spilled on your neighbor's deck. White Zin is just happy you bought it. One can imagine it sticking its tongue out at all the other bottles on the shelf, as you place it carefully in the baby seat of the shopping cart. The remaining, dejectedb ottles, elbowing each other and pointing at the baby seat in shock as to say: "How the hell did that happen?!" Let's not be ashamed of White Zin. Jesus turned water into wine. Do we know for a fact it wasn't White Zin? All we know is that all wines are God's children.

Thirty years have now slipped through my fingers with this love affair. I’ve learned that loving wine, probably like any relationship, is a journey. If it’s a worthwhile journey, you hope it doesn’t end. I don’t want this one to. A great movie with no final credits. As I observe folks enjoying the wines I’ve been involved with, I’m taken back to that afternoon in Spartanburg. I see them on a kind of dance floor, lost in the moment.

Wine is something to surrender to, be captivated by, disappear in and allow to be a companion in your life. It lifts spirits, lubricates conversations, makes a group of grown women giggle like school girls, smooths the rough edges off a crappy day at work and performs miracles in inter-spousal relationship department (making it a Nobel Peace Prize consideration). Wine has survived thousands of years of the fad test. Wine grapes are unique in offering humankind an opportunity of true alchemy.

For all this, I make wine. It’s just in me. An amazing journey that would have never, ever taken place for not a dumb comment and White Zin!

Raising a glass to you,
     Dave Morris
     Napeequa Vintners