How It's Going - Part One
Hey gang! Did you enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday? We ate too much food, over indulged on holiday movies, and drank ALOT of wine. And speaking of wine, you may have been wondering why I choose the name Prints & Pinots for my blog right?
Well, the "Prints" part was easy because I love bold prints. On clothes, on pillows, on carpets and in artwork. On second thought, I like them on pretty much anything.
The "Pinots" part is obviously an ode to my favorite grape Pinot Noir, or as they say in Italy, Vitis vinifera.
If you know me then you know that I m a big fan of wine, but it hasn't always been that way. It took me many years to appreciate wine and to grow my pallet into what it is today. And if you don't know me, then hopefully this little tale will make you marvel at my storytelling ability and laugh at my inexperience with wine and perhaps even find some kinship in the story of how it all came to pass.
From Pints to Pinots: My Journey to The Vine
I’m not really sure how I went from the bikini-clad, sun-worshipping, beer-guzzling boat ornament to the hat-wearing, sunscreen-slathered, wine-drinking, gazebo-Queen that I am now, but it was definitely not an overnight transition. It was a journey. A journey that I’ve enjoyed immensely however, it was one that I initially embarked on begrudgingly.
Anyone that grew up around a body of water can relate to the way that summers are spent when you’re a young adult. Hopefully you have at least one friend that has a boat, or access to one. Typically there is that one guy that’s a little over the top, assuring there will be plenty of laughs, and if you’re THAT guy, you always invite the one beautiful girl that all the guys can’t wait to see on THEIR boat in her bikini. I was, unfortunately, not that girl. I was her friend. As such I was always allowed to tag along on these excursions of debauchery, igniting my first ever introduction to drinking. They say “It all starts with your first beer.”
I vividly remember not liking beer at all. I mean, AT ALL. Honestly, I was quite unimpressed and wondered why all the boys thought it was so “awesome dude” to swallow one down in a big gulp and then crush the can in your hand like it were a ball of paper. Whatever! Boys were stupid. But I liked boys and they liked beer. So I adapted. I would gladly accept that first beer, and when no one was paying attention I would empty my can and fill it with water so as to not draw any suspicion, nor the obvious teasing that would be sure to follow if I didn't want to go along with the crowd. Wanting to fit in, I played the role of party girl extraordinaire.
Back then there were always Friday night parties, and hanging out, and trying to act cool. And somewhere in between all of these events I was introduced to my first taste of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill wine. I know....awful, but, in my defense it did say "wine" on the label. It was packaged in a pretty green bottle with a label covered in what I’d always imagined the Beatles were singing about, and therefore, I had to try it. The first sip wasn’t bad. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t bad at all. It actually tasted ten times better than beer. I remember thinking why oh why had I been choking down all that terrible beer when there was something so much better?
So, the way I remember it happening is that several friends and I were camping and as we gathered around the bonfire my latest crush handed me the bottle of Boone's Farm. Wanting desperately to impress my crush, I sipped every time the bottle was handed to me and soon a warm, flush feeling came over me. Not sure if I was sitting too close to the fire or if Mr. Handsome was igniting something else in me was of no consequence. I just remember that I was feeling wonderful. I’d never felt like this before. Everyone talked about being drunk or “hammered” and acting silly, but I’d not experienced that. I could never get enough beer down for any effect to take hold.
But, as I sat there in the glow of the campfire, listening to my friends tell tales of parties and football games, I continued to take my turn each time the green bottle was handed to me. And then the bottle of Mad Dog came my way. Purple wine! Now that….was cool!
The next morning I truly believe that I died. At least, for the first thirty seconds that my eyes were open. And then for the next eight hours I wished I had died. I was as ill as a ninety pound girl can get after drinking her weight in cheap bathtub swill. Time and time again I visited the porcelain shrine, only to finally give up and lay on the cool, tile floor. I begged for relief. I prayed for forgiveness and of course, I promised that I’d never, ever, ever drink again. And then mercifully I slept.
It would be many years later before I would try wine again. I’d start a career in the military. A marriage would come and then end. There would be relationships, friendships, lots of cocktail drinking, and much maturity that would happen before grapes and I would find each other again.
Ultimately, my love of wine grew out of a wild fascination with wanting to learn. But, to be honest, the desire to not look like a total tool was a big motivator as well. I was at a small gathering at my sisters house when it happened. One of my younger sisters had gotten married and consequentially, had became quite the social diva. For years she’d invite me to events and parties so that I could mingle and perhaps meet “Mr. Wonderful”.
Having spent a good part of my life after the Boone's Farm/Mad Dog incident enjoying such taste bud thrilling concoctions as Rum and Coke, and of late, Vodka and Seven, I had become a stranger to vino, so at one of those aforementioned soirees of my sisters, when a glass of cold white wine was offered, I hesitated. For a split second the memory of that long ago morning waking up on the cold tile floor of my bathroom came dancing into my head, and then, not wanting to appear unsophisticated, my head nodded yes and within a moment the glass of wine was in my hand. As I tasted the wine I half expected my gag reflex to kick in, but, standing in the great room of my sister’s mansion overlooking the Austin city skyline below, I felt the slow burn of infatuation start to build with every sip. And as the evening progressed an easy relationship had begun to form.
From that point forward I devoured everything that I could read about wine. I bought subscriptions to Food & Wine Magazine and to Wine Spectator. I became a member of several websites and dove in whole hog, joining events like wine pairing dinners and wine tastings for new releases, but one of the most informative evening that I spent was one that boasted a “sommelier” that would walk us through an entire tasting, answering questions along the way. Of course when I read in the literature that this event would have a sommelier present, I had to look it up. I’d never heard the word before and was pretty sure that they were referring to a juggler of some sort.
I discovered that a Sommelier was somewhat of a wine steward or someone that is specifically trained and knowledgeable about wine. Once it was determined that I wouldn’t be seeing wine glasses hurling through the air, I was excited to see what this guy was all about. In my head I saw an older, slight man, bespeckled and gray, with a French accent, regaling me about bouquet and aroma. Imagine my surprise when I came face to face with 6’4 Blake, from South Africa.
Blake had dark hair, eyes the color of sea glass, and dashing good looks. Couple that with a sexy accent and the effect was such that as he walked into the restaurant the first line of “You’re so Vain” came bouncing into my head. I was immediately smitten. As he told us of his wine adventures and spoke about specific wine regions, his experiences growing grapes and making wine, I became enchanted. The thought of combining two of my passions in life propelled me forward and after noticing that he wasn’t wearing a wedding ring I soon found myself asking him if he’d like to join me for coffee the next morning. Of course, I used the guise of wanting to learn more about a specific wine making region that I’d recently read about, not that learning about the Willamette Valley wasn’t important to me; it was. But I was also keenly aware that spending a few hours looking into those amazing eyes while discussing one of my passions, could indeed improve my education; on a few levels.
We dated for three blissful months before his eye was caught by a coquettish blonde at a fundraising event; nevertheless, it proved to be time well spent and I’ve always look back on it fondly. Because of Blake, my wine palette grew as did my desire to branch out, and, since I lived in Austin I soon found myself visiting many of the vineyards in Central Texas.
Now don't get it twisted, Texas isn’t known per 'se for their terrific wines but in this wine neophytes opinion, that is only because your “typical” wine snob wouldn’t deign to drink wine from the oil rich state of Texas. But there are some terrific wines being made in Texas and if you ever get the hankering to find out, shoot me a note as I have several wineries that I can recommend you try.
Now, let's move on to California. Having bought and drank many, many bottles of California made wine, of course I’d read all about Napa being one of the premier wine regions in the United States and I’d always dreamt of going there, but it wasn’t until a fluke discussion with friends in 2010 about how we would spend my upcoming birthday, that San Francisco was decided upon for an adventure. And one that loves wine simply cannot go to San Francisco without going to Napa.
After booking our flights I immediately got on the internet and started looking for wine tours of that region and found a wonderful surprise. Not only could we go on a tour, we could do an all day, 4 vineyard visit, replete with a stop for lunch, all done in an air cooled shuttle bus meaning; no driving. Perfect!!!
The scenery in Napa is fantastically beautiful. So very different than what this Texan is used to seeing. Everything is lush and green and alive. I will never forget the smell that is in the air. We also happened to luck out with our tour guide. I would guess that Samuel was in his mid 60’s or so. He was quite charismatic, and wonderfully knowledgeable, not only about wine and the wine making process but also about the region and why it was settled all those years ago.
He told great stories about Napa, his personal wine journey, and a lovely story about how he met his wife while on a wine tasting trip in Italy almost 30 years prior. He’d also gone into quite a soliloquy echoing what I’d long since thought to be true; that just because it was inexpensive, didn’t mean that it wasn’t good. There are tons of moderately priced wines out there that are absolutely wonderful. All in all, it was the kind of day that one would hope to re-create at some point, all the while knowing that it couldn’t possibly be done.
Since then I’ve made a trip out to Oregon and the aforementioned Willamette Valley region and loved it immensely. I’ve also made a trip out to Temecula in southern California and had some fabulous wines from that region as well. I’m pretty certain that there will never be a “bad” wine trip in my future.
Since meeting my husband, who shares my passion about wine, I've made a few more trips and have added some new favorites to my wine fridge. In Italy we visited the Prosecco region outside of Venice, and Tuscany, outside of Rome. In 2018 we spent a week in Barcelona drinking some of the most amazing Spanish wines I've ever had and then last year we made a week long trip out to Sonoma and I felt as if my wine journey had come full circle. Each trip has been filled with wonderful wine, laughs with friends, wonderful memories, and amazing adventures.
See, that’s how it is with people that love the grape. It really is just about the pure joy that it brings to you. And that joy is something that you want to spread to all the people that you care about. Wine drinking for me isn’t just something that I do, it’s become a lifestyle. It’s easy conversation, smooth music, and being with people that you love. It’s about as far away from the beer swilling crowd that inhabits Devil’s Cove on Lake Travis on any given summer weekend as you can get.
I used to love hanging out there on my friends boats, preening around in my tiny bikini and drinking beer through a funnel, but, we weren’t making lifetime memories. We were getting smashed and forgetting most of the night before.
In my Army days, at the end of a long shift preparing soldiers to deploy for the war, there was nothing more relaxing than enjoying a good glass of wine. Back then, I would typically spend those moments alone. These days, after a full day of working, enjoying a bottle of wine with my husband is something that I not only enjoy, but trying new wines and getting his perspective is as intriguing and satisfying as any night with a sommelier.
As I'm finishing this blog, I look around my comfortable home, decorated to the gills for the holidays and I am struck by how far I've come. That young, insecure girl of 19 is far behind me now. In her place, I see a strong, independent women. A business owner. A veteran. A wife and doggie mom. A woman that knows who she is, but strives to be more. A woman that is a great friend, a faithful sister, a hopeful dreamer, and an aspiring writer of that great American novel (one day perhaps) but more importantly, I see someone that I can be proud of.
And now, I lift my glass to you all, for being here and following this strange, wine drinking gal on this weird, wacky journey of mine. It's not all parties and wine, but it is heartfelt, honest, and transparent. As I raise my glass in toast, I am recalling a famous 70’s advertising line from my childhood;
"You’ve come a long way baby."
And ya know what......Yes indeed. I have.
#wine #winedrinking #napa #barcelona #spanishwinem #tuscany #prosecco