One of the benefits of having a presence on the world wide web is being accessible to a readership beyond the city limits of scenic Sonoma. Lately, their e-mailed queries have surpassed the usual “Is Daedalus your real name?” and “Are you single?” to those pertaining to life in the wine country. With ’Noma Pride, this week I attempt to answer their questions and disabuse them of their often charming misconceptions.
Q: If you put empty wine bottles on your doorstep do “winemen” pick them up and leave full bottles in their place? A: Yes. Like the milkmen of yore, winemen retrieve the empty bottles from our stoop and replace them with fresh bottles of zins, cabs and sauvignon blancs, based on the recommendations of my personal sommelier-to-the-stars, Christopher Sawyer. Like their predecessors, these winemen also deliver dairy products: brie, monchego and that stellar Vella Dry Jack are among mine and the Contessa’s quotidian faves. If you tip well, the winemen will let you ride in their rickshaws.
Q: Do the people who work at wineries also live there? A: Sometimes. Though colonial law has prohibited indentured servitude since 1670, many wineries have scuttled around the ban by defining work in the wine industry as a “lifestyle choice.” In fact, most winery employees can leave anytime, but what’s the point if your home planet is a 100 million light years away?
Q: How can I tell if a wine is corked? A: Look at the neck of the bottle – if the cork is still lodged within it, the wine is, as it is known in the trade, “corked.” Similarly, if the wine is closed with a screw cap it’s said to be “screwed.” Hence the term “screwed up,” which is colloquial slang for “empty bottle.” For example, the bottle presently in front of me is empty, thus, “I’m screwed up.”
Q: What does the term “terroir” mean? A: It’s French for “scary.” Likewise, “appellation” is the Gallic term for “hillbilly,” which stateside, of course, is no longer a politically correct way to say “toothless, inbred person from Appalachia.” I understand that Sonoma County itself has12 such appellations, but Napa County – clearly – has more.
Q: In a “barrel tasting” you don’t actually taste the barrel, right? A: Don’t be silly, of course, you don’t taste the barrel – that would be unhygienic. Instead, small shavings or “le snips” are broken off the barrel to be tasted individually. Of course, this is an archaic tradition that should have been banned years ago to prevent injury from splinters. As any winemaker will tell you, all barrels taste the same and contribute little if anything to the wine, but hey, if we can’t respect another’s culture, how can we expect them to respect ours when we takeover?
Q: In a tasting room, when should one spit or swallow? A: My advice to new imbibers is to always suck it up. A simple rule of thumb: If you are wine tasting – spit; if you are wine drinking – swallow. If the room is spinning while your head is in the toilet bowl – throw up. When you flush the toilet, pay attention to the direction that the water drains – it will be always in the opposite direction of your “spins” and will help balance you out. This is not “magic” as some people like to think, but a simply one of the many unexplainable phenomena of the universe.
And now I have a question for my favorite reader, The Contessa: Will you marry me?
Originally published in the Sonoma Valley Sun