Desperation—of writers for stuff to write about and of editors for stuff to publish—is a leading cause of How to Talk About Wine articles. This, Thirsty Reader, is not that article. This is How Not to Talk About Wine. ¶ It derives from the annual-or-not Poured With Pleasure Shivaree, a wingding for inmates of Liberty Hall [southwest corner of Harm’s Way and Nathan Lane] to disport themselves freely, at least until the cops arrive. One fine August day, led by our Grand Marshal, Ben Trovato the Italian fabulist, we wended northward to Bogus Corners, a hamlet about midway between Fisherman’s Bend and the Gadroon border. ¶ Our hoo-hah ws sparked by Michelle Armour, noted West Coast PR babe and meat packer, who‘d been driven round the bend by a producer’s demand that she publicize his bottom-dollar Cabernet under the mantra It’s Great Wine at a Great Price! ‘Horsefeathers,’ Michele said, or is said to have said. ‘No way you’re getting two greats in one bottle for six clams a pop.’ Besides, Michelle’s J.A.M. PR does not, as they say, do dollar-store wines; in fact, her clients include such notables as Duckhorn, J. Lohr, MacRostie, Patz & Hall, Sea Smoke, Spottswoode and Talbott. Resisting the urge to propose a more realistic slogan [The Cream of the Crap came to her mind but not her lips], she feigned an attack of the vapors and discreetly withdrew to her fainting couch. In her swoon she fell to glooming on the subject of language inflation among wine people, and it was but the work of a moment for her to compile a list of deceptions and what they too-often really mean. Herewith a sampling:
Excellent: Pretty good
Good: Not very good at all
Instinctive winemaker: Repeatedly failed chemistry
Sophisticated: Totally unapproachable
Lush: Cheap and over-manipulated
Earthy: Tastes like dirt
This she idly sent in a cleft stick to Lindsay Woolsey, the ditsy fashionista and Liberty Hall denizen who is her BFF, WTF that may mean, and she in turn hauled it to our shindig for our edification and dismay. ¶ We had intended to roister on the shore of nearby Veronica Lake until we observed that that body is not, like the human body, 90 percent water. It is a foetid swamp that would have appealed to Poe and for which the term ‘superfund site’ is too good by a long chalk. Luckily an undiscriminating spa called the Bar None Ranch crouches nearby on the lower slopes of Widow’s Peak, and its management, if any, willingly received us ‘mongst its blooming groves of smilax, phlox and thorax. ¶ As the lobster salad and Sauvignon Blanc were passed around, so was La Armour’s list, to vocal support for both. ‘How about tradition,’ threw in Sutton Who, a British archeologist of no repute. ‘Like family owned, it’s something that’s for sale if the price is right. Traditional, on the other hand, often means antiquated winery. ‘You don’t want to leave out artisanal,’ said Cole Junger, the outlaw psychiatrist. ‘Too often it means rustic, rough-hewn or clumsy—but always steeply priced. I’ve even seen ‘artisanal marshmallows’ on offer, each one doubtless carved by hand using century-old chisels. Only $24 a pound, too.’ ‘There’s a lot of crafted and hand-crafted going around,’ said Homer Nods, the classical scholar and dolt. ‘You’d think the wine is made by hooded monks in caverns full of purple smoke instead of plants that look like oil refineries.’ For her part Lindsay would fain have talked about the new anthology she’s compiling for Fulcourt Press—her working title is Meh: Poems Jackie Kennedy Was Never Really All That Crazy About—but the spark had caught the tinder and the tinder the flame, as it were: there was no going back. ¶ ‘Let’s ditch iconic,’ said Harley Quinn, the gay Hell’s Angel. ‘Doesn’t it just mean clichéed? Or let’s restrict it to flat, two-dimensional wines, so we can get rid of balanced.’ Something of a free-for-all was developing, something that would cause thy knotted and combined locks to part and each particular hair to stand on end, like quills upon the fretful porpentine: Passion was skanced as mere livelihood and philosophy as rhetoric concocted by marketing. ‘Right! I’m so sick of people saying—intoning, actually—Great wine is made in the vineyard,’ added Jeane-Jacques Trousseau, the multiply married French philosophe. ‘Look behind the curtain and you’ll see their real Core Values are guys in white lab coats poring over gas chromatographs.’ Luxury was defined as priced for show-offs and curate roused the ire of Bartolo Colon, the flame-throwing right–handed copy editor: ‘Anyone using that word who isn’t a museum director or assistant vicar should be ill-behooved*. Same for anyone using eponymous, somethingcentric and channeling. Established was called code for heartless corporate leviathan and hidden gems drew the scorn of Lady SaGa, runic chanteuse and coach-class goddess of Icelandair: ‘After hidden they should add those three little words with good reason. Without these second-rate wines lots of self-important writers would have to shut up.’ Foodies took stick too. ‘Half of them would be struck dumb if only we could ban the word succulent’ said Basil Coulis, our French herbalist and pastry chef. That struck a chord with Sneaky Peat, the furtive Islay distiller: ‘Aye, laddie, and banning veggies and garlicky will silence the rest.’ And that, for the time being, silences me.
What we ate Cold Lobster Salad for four, adapted from Emeril Lagasse’s recipe. As follows: Emulsify 1 Cup Italian extra-virgin olive oil and the juice of two Florida oranges, then whisk in 2 Tbsp. of minced shallots and 1 Tsp. minced garlic. Drizzle with honey to taste, and salt and pepper. Toss 4 Cups fresh baby arugula with 1/3 of the oil mix and taste for seasoning; pile the arugula on plates. Toss stemmed and blanched green beans [Emeril uses haricots verts] and 1/2 Cup cured Greek olives, pitted and halved, with 1/3 of the dressing and add atop the arugula. Toss 1 pound of cooked lobster with the final 1/3 of the dressing; taste for seasoning. The lobster is Maine lobster, which Mainers pronounce LAHB-sta, not just because August is Maine Lobster Month but because it’s the best. [Hard to credit that in Colonial times lobster was fed to livestock.] Pile meat atop the beans, olives and arugula. Garnish with thin, salt-and-peppered slices of 2 hard boiled eggs and 1 Tbsp. of chopped parsley. Then, in the words of John Anderson’s A Fifteenth Century Cookery Boke. ‘Serve it forth.’
What we drank A splendid variety of Sauvignon Blanc in prices ranging from $9 Meridian to $22 Silverado and Miller Ranch. At $11-$12 we had Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve, Rodney Strong Charlotte’s Home, Dancing Bull, 2 from Dry Creek Vineyard [including the Fumé Blanc] and Matua. At $13-$16: Ch. St Jean Fumé Blanc, Kenwood, Simi, Murphy-Goode The Fumé, Cerruti Cellars’ Honker, De Martino, Souverain, Lake Sonoma, Buena Vista and Picket Fence. At $18-$20: Foppiano, Mt. Beautiful, Matanzas Creek, Hanna, St. Supéry and Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc.
* Ill-behooved: kicked by a mule [The Laconic Lexicon, 2014]
©2014 Bill Marsano
Sauvignon Blanc,Fumé Blanc,Meridian,Silverado,Miller Ranch,Kendall-Jackson,Rodney Strong,Charlotte’s Home,Dancing Bull,Dry Creek Vineyard,Matua,Ch. St Jean,Kenwood,Simi,Murphy-Goode,Cerruti Cellars,De Martino,Souverain,Lake Sonoma,Buena Vista,Picket Fence,Foppiano,Mt. Beautiful,Matanzas Creek,Hanna,St. Supéry,Robert Mondavi