Learning About Wine is Remotely Complex

December 28, 2010

The entertainment system in my living room requires seven remotes. That’s not true; actually there are eight but I don’t know what one of them is for. Making the system work the way I want has been a decades long study (I suppose I could get up off the couch and push the buttons manually, but c’mon–really?). I also know there is such a thing as a master remote where one device will do the job of all seven (eight) but I’ve seen them and they look like the control panel in a nuclear facility. Their instruction pamphlets are only slightly smaller than the Sears catalog.

Because I’ve grown up with the system, I know I can’t go straight from TV mode to the DVD setting and expect to watch my Lord of the Rings trilogy (well, I can but the subwoofer won’t work and you need the subwoofer for the Nazgul scenes). I must first switch to DVD to get picture, then to CD for sound, and then watch the movie with the system set on CD. Any other method will not give me access to all sound features. I also know I have to point the correct remote straight at the TV and away (yes, away) from the cable box to turn on cable TV. To listen to my iPod through the system, I select the VCR feature.

By trial and error or sheer dumb luck, I have learned these things over time. Trying to make sense of the dizzying complexities of my seven (eight) remote system is like trying to understand tax law through interpretive dance. God help you if you’re house sitting and you want to watch a movie. No, I think I’m stuck with the seven (eight) remote system because in spite of its complexities, its quirks, its lack of an intuitive method, it’s what I’ve learned. I like it.  

Like the remotes, over time I’ve also learned a million complexities and quirks that I just don’t understand inherent in the world of wine. Why will one bottle of Cabernet go with mushrooms but a different one won’t? Why can one wine taste better after it breathes when another wine falls apart? The short answer: I don’t know, but like my seven (eight) remote system, I like it.

This week’s recommendation has a million of its own tasty quirks.

d’Arenberg 2008, The Footbolt Shiraz ($18.99): This wine is too delicious. My wife and I each found ourselves vying for control of the bottle.

Anatomy of a Wine Buzz

December 14, 2010

We all know one of the big attractions to wine is that it just tastes good. But let’s be honest; alcohol is an intoxicant. It also makes us feel good. Thanks to a few college classes in biology, anatomy and physiology, and zoology I have learned exactly how alcohol affects us on a physiological level. Let me give you a quick run-through.

We take a sip of our favorite wine and immediately the alcohol comes into contact with glands located directly under the tongue. These glands are responsible for producing hormones that help us control the volume of our speech. Upon contact, the alcohol interferes with these glands by asking them things like, “Are you really going out wearing that shirt?” causing them to retract and produce less of this badly needed hormone. Soon we are talking way too loud.  

Then, receptors in your spleen detect the missing hormone and immediately release chemicals into the bloodstream. In the blood, these chemicals simulate a reality TV show, fooling the brain into believing that it’s both richer and more popular than it really is. People with an excess of these chemicals have an elevated frequency of saying, “You guys are my best friends,” and display a marked decrease in financially responsible spending.

Once the chemicals reach other receptors located in the pancreas, electric signals are produced and sent down nerve fibers to your body’s extremities. These signals mimic the popular kid in junior high and convince all the body parts to do things they shouldn’t. Before long, your larynx believes it can handle that Whitney Houston number, your feet can “outdance all these fools,” and your eyes are saying, “Hang on. I’ll find a karaoke machine!”

Eventually the excess hormones and electronic signals find their way to the base of your spine where they are collected by a small dwarf or frog that lives there and are recycled into carbohydrates to be used during exercise (these carbohydrates have also been known to interfere with decisions about appropriate swim wear in German men).

Yes, education is a good thing. This week’s wine recommendation is also a good thing.

Monte Volpe 2009, Primo Bianco ($8.99): A delicious, affordable, yet very well-made California wine created in the style of an Italian white blend. Like many Italian wines it is also very good with food. Don’t even get me started on what the food does once it reaches your digestive system.

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

December 7, 2010

I recently read about a band of Somali pirates who attacked a U.S. naval warship after mistaking it for a merchant vessel. Talk about wishing you could take that one back. I wonder what the American captain thought when the pirates gave the “Prepare to be boarded!” command. It made me also wonder what flawed line of reasoning the pirate leader used to convince himself and his crew that this was a good idea. As colossal as this mistake was, I can’t be too critical when I think back to some of the reasoning that led to a few of my own bad decisions. Here are a few examples of some flawed logic that I either listened to or dished out:

“I bet I can drive the rest of the way home with the lights turned off.”

“Trouble? It’s just a card game in Tijuana. How can that lead to trouble?”

“She won’t be mad. Just buy the boat.”

“Yes, that chandelier can totally hold your weight.”

“Yeah, seriously. Everyone there will be naked.”

The outcome of this bad logic always resulted in a poor decision. But as the saying goes, “Good decisions come from experience. Experience comes from bad decisions.” In each case, I walked away carrying a little more knowledge whether it was about Latino poker customs, personal relationships, light fixture wiring, or public decency laws.

There have also been times when I’ve heard some bad advice about wine. Some examples:

“Red wine will get stains out of carpet.”

“You can’t go wrong with the restaurant’s Ninja Burger or their wine list.”

“One more glass of wine tonight and you’ll totally ace that interview tomorrow.”

Again, each time I listened to the bad advice, it led to a bad decision. The difference here, however, was with bad wine advice, the outcome tends to be much less serious. Therefore, my advice with wine is to try everything. Step outside your comfort zone. Look for new varietals and new regions. Try a different wine with your favorite meal. Get burned, even. It’s the best way to expand your wine knowledge. You’ll learn something new every time.

My wine advice for this week:

Trinitas 2004, Petite Sirah ($18.00): A very well-made wine that tastes good, smells good, and even looks good in the glass. Try it with a big steak…..what could possibly go wrong?

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