|LOVE Wine Charms|
My brother just wouldn’t leave me alone. “Have you met Beth Hurst yet?” Having just arrived at the University of Vermont, a first year medical student plopped down in the midst of 3500 UVM coeds, I had no interest in meeting a girl who Randy had decided was possibly “The One”. Seriously…3500 girls who didn’t know who I was! No way, man. No girlfriend for THIS guy! This was gonna be fun!
Well, I’d love to hate him for it, but I can’t. My brother was right. I met Beth at a med school/nursing school picnic, went on one date, and pretty much said “so long” to my excellent adventure meeting those 3500 UVM coeds. We went from a couple of dates to pretty much spending as much time together as we possibly could. This was one of those classic good thing/bad thing situations, though. I discovered that I couldn’t concentrate on my studies with Beth sitting next to me in the Library so we did an Upstairs/Downstairs arrangement so I wouldn’t flunk out. Worked pretty well, at least for the library issue.
There was the problem of our shared vocations,though. We found ourselves talking mostly about school, the hospital, medicine and such, pretty much to the exclusion of everything else. We risked a kind of burn-out, not only on our chosen fields, but also from each other. We needed some sort of hobby, something that we could learn about from scratch and enjoy together.
Enter Bob, the world’s most unlikely wine merchant.
Right next door to Burlington is the town of Winooski, a funky little mill town on the river that at the time was struggling to stay afloat. Keeping the rivers of beer flowing for UVM students was the “Beverage Warehouse”, purveyors of all of those kegs the frat houses rolled out on Friday and Saturday nights. Turns out the Beverage Warehouse was also the biggest wine merchant in the area. In the back of the building through an almost hidden door (it was almost like they were embarrassed) lurked a cavernous room filled to the brim with wine. The room was populated by a single man, rather short and…how should I say it…round. Clothed each and every day in a pair of green Dickie’s work pants and a yellow Dickie’s work shirt with his name on the breast pocket.
What a find! Bob became our wine muse. He may still be the single most knowledgable wine guy I’ve ever met, including the sommelier at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco. Here was a guy who made us feel like he had nothing better to do than teach a couple of kids who were two nickels short of a rub how and what to drink when it came to wine. Being the over-read wonk that I’ve always been I peppered him with questions about what was in the Warehouse, how it was stored, why it was priced that way, what he liked. I remember him chuckling when I pressed him about having the Opus One bottles upright on the shelves instead of on their side in a temperature controlled box. “Ah, they never stay here long enough for that to matter. The last 3 bottles I sold went to some idiot rich guys who drank the first one straight from the bottle on the way to the car.”
So began our love affair with wine, one that went a long way toward letting us continue our love affair with each other. We can both still remember our “firsts”, those first wines that made an impression. Best white? Easy. A Muscadet de Sevre et Main for…wait for it…$2.15/bottle! Can you imagine? Our first memorable red was an M. Marion Cabernet Sauvignon; no idea what year or where in California it came from, but I can STILL taste the amazing explosion of fruit, see the inky purple color. Cost us all of $4.25! Sigh.
Our wine “thing” (some would call it an obsession, at least for me not without reason) also became a very effective way to expand our social universe as we moved all over kingdom come chasing the medical training thing. The first wine “tasting” we held was in Beth’s Burlington apartment and was co-hosted by my sister, Tracey, a UVM senior at the time. White wine varietals, I think it was. Very few memories of that one, actually, probably because the one memory I DO have is that not a drop of wine was discarded. You know, the “clean plate club” approach to tasting!
On and on we went, our palates expanding with our income, our experiences becoming ever more extravagant along the way. I became an insufferable wine snob, conversant with Parker and the Wine Spectator and unwilling to suffer through anything rated less than 90 from either. Our tastings expanded as well. Those intimate, 6-12 person explorations of something new and different exploded into massive gatherings of 50-75, parties at which we happened to drink wine. In truth, our little diversion, our tiny shared hobby that allowed us to concentrate on our couplehood became too big.
Until it went away. Funny, just about the time when we might have had to have an intervention for our dating intervention I got sick. Some sort of GI thing which was made worse by alcohol. Red wine was worse than white wine, was worse than beer, was worse than spirits. No alcohol for me for two, whole years. This, along with a not so little business and financial set-back, Beth’s rediscovery that beer was pretty good, and the Wall Street Journal’s introduction of a pair of wine writers who rated wine with words like “Delicious” and “Yech”, actually allowed me to fall in love with wine all over again. To fall in love with wine for exactly the same reasons and in exactly the same way as I did when Beth and I were squired through the process by Bob.
I stopped reading about wine, stopped checking ratings, and just started drinking wines that made me happy! Drinking stuff that I would rate as “yummy”. We’re on an under $20 white wine kick right now (at 50+ reds are giving us some problems), and we are drinking them together. Loving them, and falling in love all over again. Or maybe more accurately, falling more deeply in love, even after all these years.
With wine and with each other!
Dr. Darrell White can be found blogging at Sky Vision Centers - when he's not enjoying wine with his wife, or doing CrossFit. His bio can be found here. and you should call his offices for those things eye related in your world.
Or you can follow him on twitter, and enjoy his tweets!