Saturday, July 27, 2013

Confessions of a Michigan wine illiterate

     Wine tours have become a big thing in Michigan, with folks going from winery to winery in northwestern Michigan and else where, sampling the  products of the vintners, and I joined in on a day this summer, hoping nobody would discover my wine ignorance. For years, I've tried to join fellow baby boomers in their appreciation for wine, but when it came to describing a wine, I was usually at a loss for words. Observing that it was white or red was too painfully obvious. 
     For this I blamed my up bringing. I was a child of the 1950s and in our house Mogen David concord grape wine was the only one to be found, pretty thick stuff for a teenager, so my drinking career started with beer, as it well should have. Then came a fateful wine night when the Detroit Tigers won the World Series in 1968. The entire city of Detroit was having a party, and if you were driving, people would stop you and hand you a beer. 
     Needless to say, I was celebrating too. But like most naive 20 year olds, I had no idea where to go to make merry, so I headed downtown Detroit with friends. The Detroit riots had happened the previous summer, and some  were dubious about heading downtown. I wasn't. I'd spent much of that summer digging ditches in the inner city, and wasn't afraid. 
     The problem was,  pretty much all the alcohol on store shelves was gone, and we finally ended up at a party store on East Jefferson, where the only stuff remaining were bottles of Wild Irish Rose wine, a staple of Skid Row winos that was usually consumed from the bottle, while it was still in the bag. 
     We bought what we could, and drank it. It was thick and sweet, as I remember, and the next morning I awoke with a hangover, and blamed it on the Wild Irish Rose, as thought it was the only culprit. It's legacy was to put me off wine for a long time. Then came the hippies with their Boone's Farm apple wine, which induced more hangovers. After that period of my life, I swore off wine for many years, although I did have a brief try at Mad Dog 20/20 in my 30s, another street wine. 
     Jack Daniels with a beer chaser became my wine for many years, until I took up wine again, seeing it as less harsh than bourbon. My clumsy wine attempts usually found me making a purchase decision based on the looks of the label. I knew that wasn't right, but I was adrift. I read a few books on wine and tried to read some magazine articles, all of which came off as pretentious. We've all read that stuff -- "tastes like a sun kissed apricot on a July day," as though anyone can particularly tell what an apricot tastes like in July versus August. 
     But as I stumbled through the process of leaning, I progressed past the stage where wines were either white or red, or in boxes versus bottles. I still sucker for labels. One is Big Paw red which has an illustration of an English setter dressed as an upland bird hunter. The dog looks like my son's setter, so I've taken to calling the wine Molly red, the name of my son's dog. 
     Maybe someday I can master French pronounciation and that will lead to a better educated wine palate, but I doubt it, maybe it was that Wild Irish Rose or the Jack Daniels that forever numbed my tastes. 
#Michigan wine

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