Just before this past Labor Day weekend my wife and I drove to Ann Arbor, Michigan to drop our son to start his freshman year at the University of Michigan. Then we proceeded to California for a wedding during the long weekend. As much as we were excited about the fact that our youngest child has started college at a very good university, we also started to feel the vacuum of having become “empty nesters”. Thus, my wife and I decided to go somewhere fun and enjoyable around California before we went back home to adjust our lives back to being just the two of us. Since my brother-in-law and sister-in-law also were with us, the decision to pick the place was dominated by three oenophiles and we decided to spend three days in Napa valley. They also took upon the challenge of converting me – who has never had a full glass of any wine under any circumstances- into someone who will at least start enjoying wine. In spite of Mother Nature throwing a rocking’ curve ball at us – a strong earthquake hit the valley during the previous week- we proceeded to make the trip after making alternative hotel arrangements.
We went on multiple wine tasting sessions and winery tours. I was intrigued by the variety of styles in which wineries were constructed- French Chateau, Spanish, California Mission or Ultra-modern – and all were nestled within overlooking ubiquitous acres of vineyards. Available hosts at the tasting rooms welcomed us with wines galore, and passionately described the individual characteristics that set their wines apart from the others. I was experiencing cabernets, pinot noirs and chardonnays and a lot of hot air. Soon terms like varietal, fortified, sparkling, depth of flavor and body, tannic and opulence began muddling my mind. However, it was a great feeling to walk around and smell wine stained barrels in cool ware houses and I was putting up a brave face to keep my wife happy and enthusiastic.
Our hosts also pulled together a tasting of multiple types of wines from different vintages. Most of the wine I tasted was a bit tired and vegetal for me, but I could see that they showed signs of life and vitality for my team mates who are passionate and knowledgeable wine connoisseurs. I could not figure out whether the wine was going through an adolescent moment or will never be good. A myriad of convenient and unique restaurants such as – Bouchon and Adhoc – provided good choices for nice meals and a good choice of scotch.
I have to admit that I have never been an oenophile – unlike my wife. My interest in a spirited drink lies in misty, rainy, cool glens and islands of Scotland. In my mind, proper drinking of Scotch whisky is more than an indulgence. For me, becoming a Scotch drinker took a little work and a bit of tongue maturity. During my first bout with the historic elixir, I was taken aback by its overt potency. But upon returning a second and third time, I slowly began to get a sense of what makes Scotch so alluring and enjoyable. In developing a taste for Scotch, I feel like I have embarked on a lifelong journey that will take me along the clear waters of River Spey, the rugged Highlands, the Isles off Scotland and various other parts of Scotland. I truly appreciate my Scotch and its rich history and the process that transforms ordinary barley into an extraordinary drink.
I will continue to enjoy my Laphroaigs, Lagavulins, Ardbegs, Glen Livets and the Aberlours and remain an Oenophobe in spite of the sincere attempts by my family. .