Ambiance vs. Reality: Deathmatch

When in rural Virginia in the fall, there are limited but not unattractive options.  There is apple picking.  Nice.  There is antiquing.  Nah.  Then there is wine tasting.  Excellent.

Wine tasting has a lot in common with one of my other hobbies–happy hours.  You are there to get some free or close-to-free drinks, but you don’t want to seem overeager.  No no.

So, you choose wine tasting.  You drive up to the winery.  You survey the estate with the rolling hills full of vines and the eminent structure on the hill.  What buildings even have cellars anymore?  You start to expect great things.

The adorable UVa student working the bar smiles and guides you to your table, assuring you with her eyes that your choice of the Showcase Flight (a sparkling wine, two reds, two whites, one dessert wine) is very wise.  You smirk to yourself, all white is for suckers.  All is going swimmingly.  The place is a delight, the people are all at ease, the day outside is gorgeous.

Then the wine comes.  Am I insane, or is this swill worse than the jug wine I sometimes encounter at house parties? You feel a bit embarrassed for the wine itself and a bit confused.  Maybe the next one will be better. Cognitive dissonance sets in.  How can the wine in my mouth match the description on the page? “The bouquet has a delicate balance of dark fruit and spice?!  The palate is soft, elegant, and fruit forward with layers of red and black cherry, blackberry and currant?!”  No no no!

You look around you again, a little buzzed off the last of the port, blessedly fortified with brandy (you wish you’d had a brandy before starting this endeavor).  The room is just as delightful, the people are even more at their ease, and the day is just as bright as before.  But you start to feel that you’ve sold out your better judgement (and taste) for the sake of doing whatever people in rural Virginia do.  Should you buy something just to convince the waiter you enjoyed it?  Should you just leave?

In the midst of this unproductive line of thought, the guy sitting across the table from you gets up, tells the waiter that no, he would not like to try the reds since the whites sucked so bad.  Your eyes widen as he strolls out into the sunshine.  You know he did the wrong thing for Virginia (was impolite to the staff), but the right thing according to wine tasting (only enjoy good wine).

Trust your taste.  Don’t trust wine descriptions.  “Sweet and powerful, the smooth, textured tannins give the dark fruit flavors a glowing, ember-like finish that lingers with velvety warmth.”  No, it was cough syrup.  Next!


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