Thursday, November 26, 2009

Of Stepmoms and My White Drinker Zin Epiphany

My wife, Kate, just got off the phone with her Mother, Joanne. It brought back memories of 17 years ago when I met Joanne for the first time. This meeting was also the source of my 'epiphany' (or nervous breakdown) about the stereotypes we have created in the wine community and how completely off base we are about who they are and why they like what they like. WAY off in many cases.

I was the 'new' boyfriend and we were visiting 'Mom' for the Christmas holidays. Kate was very nervous. Mom liked her ex-husband very much and Kate was worried how well I would go over on the potential-new-son-in-law-o-mometer.

Kate told me Joanne liked White Zinfandel. I worked for Breringer and got it for free. Score! Kate told me Joanne loved to eat so I brought a leg of lamb and accoutrements to prepare a killer meal. We drove from Napa to Eureka, where Kate had grown up, and arrived in the early evening. Kate was expressing her trepidation at this meeting. Mom liked the last guy a lot. I was very much on the goofy side both in look and actions.

We pulled up to Mom's house after a long drive, grabbed a load of stuff, went to the door and rang the doorbell. I had the case of White Zin under one arm and the leg of lamb in my other hand. Kate was pulling luggage. The door swung open and Joanne took one look and said, "Son - welcome and let me show you the kitchen!"

Kate was struggling behind hauling the suitcases and aid, "hi Mom..."

Joanne yelled back, "just put those things downstairs honey" as she took my arm and led me to the kitchen.

Joanne has a Ph.D. in economics and taught for years at Humboldt State University. She is a remarkable golfer, golfed in Scotland and she and her husband Jack, former superintendant of schools in Sacramento, travel around participating in amateur gold tournaments around the country. They are retired, living comfortably in the west Phoenix area and always up to exciting things.

And she loves White Zinfandel. On our first meeting it occured to me that maybe I had something wrong. Joanne did not meet my vision of a White Zinfancel drinker. If you are reading this you probably have some interest in wine and can appreciate when I say, "you know - THOSE people."

Meeting Joanne shifted things for me. I had to revise my view of things and was really curious about what was going on. This began my journey into understanding sensory sensitivity and how we all end up with our individual wine preferences. Now, my research now shows that White Zinfandel drinkers typically have the MOST taste buds. They are not immature, stupid, of any of the other embarassing things the wine community seems hell-bent on saying. They simply find many of the wines wine 'experts" rate the highest are for the White Zinfandel drinkers are the most horribly bitter, burning and unpleaseant.

Last night Kate and I watchd an Oscar-winning movie with French subtitles. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (film by Buñuel [1972]) They were drinking vintage Port as an aperitif. Most people overlook, or don't know, that the French drink more Port wine than any other country. And usuually before dinner.

We overlook, or don't know, that Champagne was always VERY sweet by todays standards. Or the great Montrachet used to be a sweet, botrytis infected wine.Or that if wine was to strong the French and Italians would not hesistate to add water or a cube of sugar to make it better. Or fruit juice, especially in Spain. Or that the world ALWAYS valued sweet wines more than dry until very recently.

Glad to know I was wrong about White Zinfandel drinkers and for that I give my thanks. And especially thanks to you, Joanne.