Swirling, sniffing and 'chewing' our wine in the proper fashion, we are learning to use descriptive phrases such as, "...an amusing little wine, with just a hint of tobacco and cork and a nice, strong finish," without smirking. Turk holds his glass aloft, squinting into it's ruby depths and murmurs, "It's a saucy little floozy, with just a whiff of cigarette butts, long nights and turpentine, and a strong, strange finish." Excellent. But I think he's talking about me.
He is bonding with Kevin, the barman who came in after the tour to help with the tasting. Kevin, a very funny guy who retired from a desk job a couple of years ago, allows as to how he has moved on to what is probably the best job in the world.
"I just have to remind myself," he said as he sipped an light-bodied chenin blanc with traces of melon and grapefruit and just a suggestion of lemongrass, "not to drink the whole glass. I have two more tastings this afternoon. I don't get to finish a glass until the last one. And then..." He winked.
Aaron, our tour guide, is explaining the importance of holding one's glass in the correct manner.
"In some of the local restaurants, grabbing the glass like this, " he says, grasping the goblet by the bowl, "will result in bells, sirens and whistles going off all around you." Kevin adds the sound effects.
"A spotlight will hit your table, the staff will come running, and you will be forever ostracized by the locals as a beer drinker from Chicago." Turk laughs out loud. He is not just a beer drinker from Chicago. He is their king. And he doesn't care who knows.
We had been in one such restaurant the previous night, and it was the only disappointing meal of the trip, all the more so because it was Julia's Kitchen at Copa, named for the late and much lamented Julia Child. The food was bland and the service stiff ~ Madame Julia would not have been pleased.
In fact, although we were lucky enough to indulge in some scrumptious repasts, the very best meal of our tour may have been the picnic we enjoyed on the peaceful grounds of the beautiful V. Sattui winery; a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, a book of poems and...well, no poetry exactly, but we did substitute a hunk of some exotic-sounding Spanish cheese and a nice salami. Which is almost the same thing, I'm sure. Cheers.
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!