The Perfect Day

Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together
I’ve got some real estate here in my bag…”

– Paul Simon

The other day, I was invited to a very dear friend’s wedding. At 48, I don’t go to many weddings anymore. The Bulk Wedding Years between 25 and 31 have been over for a while, and thankfully, The Kids’ Wedding Years are still a ways off. So I was quite excited to attend this wedding, because I miss them.

Seriously, I love weddings, and I don’t say that with any sense of irony or sarcasm or even humor. Weddings are awesome. Weddings are a terrific party. And more than that, weddings are one of the last bastions of ancient tradition in an American culture devoid of customs and a sense of connection to the past. I love the ceremony, the vows and the ritual that underlies every part of it. Weddings are the ultimate “uniter” (to get all George Bush on you) in a society that almost embraces its divisiveness; it uses traditions as old as human civilization to unite two different families, two sets of friends and two souls into one. And you get to eat and drink on someone else’s dime.

One of the traditions that I see common in all weddings is this idea of creating The Perfect Day. There isn’t a single bride out there that hasn’t uttered the phrase, “I want my wedding to be perfect,” typically to the consternation of the party paying for the party. But face it – it’s not sexist to say that every girl dreams about her wedding day from the time she’s old enough to envision her marriage, even to the point where she already knows certain details about the Big Day before the engagement ring slips on her finger: The style of the dress, who the Maid of Honor will be, even the color of the tablecloths. Once the planning is in full swing, brides, wedding coordinators and yes, even grooms, go into full-scale Strategic Implementation, honing details in a manner that makes the Normandy Invasion look like a backyard barbecue. After a year or so of this, enough stress to illict a thousand ulcers, and about $20,000 to $50,000 out of pocket, you get, God willing, The Perfect Day.

The wedding mentioned here was not Anne Hathaway’s. She begged me to come but when I saw the hat, I told her I couldn’t make it.

And the perfect day it was. The bridesmaids were perfectly beautiful in their perfectly tailored dresses. The Bride was perfectly gorgeous and glowed like a bride, while the groom, though admittedly bearing the pall of a man ready to blow chow, looked perfectly studly in his Ricky Ricardo tuxedo. The ceremony was perfect, as two people so obviously and madly in love with one another made their vows of devotion.

Love, you see, is a commitment to a person, while marriage is a commitment to a process. The promises we make in a wedding ceremony are our way of saying, “Look, I love you and you make me happy and I want to feel this way for the rest of my life, so here’s what I’m willing to do to make that happen.” So we make vows. We vow to honor, to cherish, to respect both our identities as individuals and as a couple. We commit not just to one another, but to a set of ideas that time has proven will help nurture a lasting relationship – one that prevails through sickness, poor times and the worst life has to offer, until freaking death.

My friends made these vows. They looked each other straight in the eye and said it out loud to one another. They said it slowly, with conviction, letting the words drift gently on the air, with a brave and audacious bid at eternity. “I do,” they whispered, leaving no dry eye in the house. Including mine.

And so The Perfect Day continued. The food was perfect. The beef was perfectly beefy and the chicken was perfectly chickeny. The cake was perfectly delicious, the wine flowed perfectly and when “We Are Family” blared from the DJ’s speakers, everyone hit the dance floor in perfect unison. And when the bride and groom whisked away to their perfect honeymoon spot, they did so under a shower of perfectly spherical bubbles blown by the guests. It was…perfect.

I was solo that night, as my Beleaguered Wife drew the short straw when the babysitter flaked out an hour before the event. Though she left the porch light on, the inside was completely dark, so I stood at the entry and took off my shoes and socks so I would be quiet as I walked across the hardwood floors to the kitchen. No sooner had I started tip toeing than I stepped directly in a warm, mucoidal substance, the viscosity and soft-chunky texture of which could only be dog vomit. So as not to smear the Cocker Spaniel effluent all over the living room, I hopped on one foot across the floor towards the kitchen to get a rag. On my third hop, I landed directly on an up-turned 3×4 inch House Builder Barbie Block, shooting a searing, Roman crucifixion-style pain blast from my arch to my frontal lobe. In an effort not to wake the family, I lunged face-first into the couch and screamed into the pillow like the three-year-old girl who left the block so inopportunely placed in my path. As my eyes started adjusting to the darkness, I could see that in fact the whole living room looked like Hurricane Katrina had landed at Toys r’ Us, so I decided not to risk the potential mine field to the kitchen. I took my shirt off, cleaned the bile and half-digested chunks of Hap-E-Hound Dog Food off my foot with it, and threw it in the general direction of the laundry room. Hey, that’s what washing machines are for.

I had taken a small, wrapped truffle from the wedding and was going to leave it on my three-year-old’s nightstand, because she just goes crazy-ass happy over that sort of thing, so I made my way down the hall to her room. The kids had been sick, because kids are sick EVERY DAY, so I could hear that the humidifier was running in their room. When I slowly opened the door, I was greeted by the putrescent smell of a duece-injected diaper that my Beleaguered Wife had most probably forgotten to throw out in the sheer anarchy of trying to put two kids to bed. Combined with the warm, moist air of the humidifier, the smell showered on me like a fecal monsoon, and had I not developed an iron clad gag reflex through years of having a nurse as a wife (“You want to know the grossest thing I saw today??”), I would surely have joined the dog in downloading the entire contents of my stomach. Holding my breath, I quietly placed the truffle next to my daughter’s bed, grabbed the guilty diaper, threw it the hall bathroom and shut the door on it like so much radioactive waste. Note To Self: Take Morning Pee in Master Bath.

I opened the door to my room to find the wife dead asleep on the bed, the covers pulled over to her side. All the covers. My side was barren like the Sahara, her side was all cozy like..like..like when your wife takes all the damn covers. I slipped off my pants and crawled in, performing the timeless ritual of Repossessing My Fair Share of the Blankets Without Waking The Wife. Finally and safely ensconced, I curled up next to her and listened to her breathe for a while, my grown-up lullaby for the past ten years.

“I do,” I whispered, though I knew she was sleeping. “I do.”

As good as the honeymoon and almost the same price…

The Perfect Wedding Day Pairs With: Krug Brut Champagne Collection 1989 ($540). The Champagne toast is one of the oldest traditions of the wedding ceremony. For milennia, couples celebrated their union with the finest wine the tribe could come up, and for hundreds of years, that was honey mead (hence our modern day term, “honeymoon”). In 1843, a particularly awesome tribe member named Johann Krug started Krug Champagne, and his 1989 vintage is one of the most amazing and complex bubblies you’ll ever taste.

The bottle aging has created a light caramel color and preliminary notes on the nose of maple. However, the wine still remains dry despite this fragrance and its flat-out tidal wave of apple, orange rind and pear. This wine is like a really expensive wedding dress, complete with a bustier, corset, long flowing train and the whole nine, such that when you’re taking that thing off for the wedding night, each layer is a slow, lingering process that’s totally worth the effort, revealing more delights and increasing satisfaction.

So here’s the thing. You just spent tens of thousands of dollars and probably a year of time to create The Perfect Day. The outer border of the wedding invitation matches the color of the Groomsmens’ cumber buns and because they’re not in season for your wedding day, the peonies you’ve got in your bouquet were flown in from Vietnam. And you’re going to pay tribute to all this awesomeness with Korbel? “Of course I am, JT,” you say. “I’ve got 150 guests coming, and even if I got Tattinger at $45 a bottle, you’re talking probably another $2,250 expense.”

Good point. Here’s what you do: Korbel for the guests, Krug for the bride and groom. You’re banking memories here, baby. When you’re elbow-deep in every imaginable fluid that emanates from your children’s orifaces and the mortgage payment is 29 days late, your Fight or Flight reflex is going to search manically for some reason to keep it all together, and the memory of this wine is going to do the trick. Just kinda keep an eye on the bottle, because crazy Uncle Jim is going to nab that puppy while you’re not looking and down half of it before you and the single bridesmaids stop singing along to “I Will Survive.”

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Schrodinger’s Chardonnay, Part 1

Back in high school, I was a nerd. Now, to put this in context, when I was in high school,  we had to share crosswalk space with dinosaurs and bands had names like “Kajagoogoo.” Granted, I was not your typical Coke-bottle-glasses-wearing, pocket-protector-sportin’ nerd, nor did I eat my boogers. (However, if I did choose to eat my boogers, I’d say they’d probably go well with a Philo Ridge 2010 Klindt Vineyards Pinot Gris. Again, not that I’d know. Just sayin’).

I think Fred at Philo Ridge will pretty much kill me for this one.

The truth is I wasn’t as bad as this stereotype, though I was that subcategory of nerd whose brand makes the Black Plague look like a Facebook Event for a house party: I was weird. The difference between being a straight-up nerd and being The Weird Guy was that we Weird Guys didn’t necessarily look weird on the outside and weren’t awkward in social situations. Because of this, my fellow students did in fact engage me in conversation, perhaps unwittingly; it’s just that, at some point in the conversation, there was a 50/50 chance they’d say, “Oh my God, you’re so weird” and walk away.

This is not to give you the idea that I was anti-social or involuntarily hung on to my virginity until I was 37. I had a nice group of weird friends and even dated nice, weird girls. I tried dating girls who weren’t weird, but like a kid with Weirdness Tourettes, I would find myself involuntarily maneuvering the date-night conversation from “who do you think will be the Homecoming Queen?” to “how do we revive the space program and land a man on Mars?” And in doing so, I could literally see my date’s eyes glazing-over, segueing from hey, this is going well to hey, this is not the night you are going to get laid in about six seconds. Admittedly, some nights ended early, with me hanging out in my ’69 Mercury Cougar, overlooking the lights of northern San Diego County, listening to ELO and sipping California Coolers.

“Portrait Of The Artist Trying To Drop A Duece In Private,” copyright 2012, from The Getty Collection.

Today, we have a new word for the nerd: Geek. And nowadays, geek is a badge of honor, something to strive for, and can be sub-categorized to describe the OCD nature of your personal geek specialty: Computer Geek, Car Geek  or of course, Wine Geek. Best of all, everyone has come to realize that geeks are not the objects of scorn and ridicule they once were: Geeks rule the world. (Except me. I have a wife in upper management, a teenage son and two daughters under the age of four, so I don’t rule anything. I don’t even rule my own bathroom. I can’t plop a morning johnny without having both girls and the freakin’ dog in there).

So where am I going with this? Why only one, off-the-cuff reference to wine and this verbose, Rachel Maddow-esque backstory? (You gotta love the way that woman intros a story. When she wants to discuss a newly-released book, she starts with a twenty minute history of the printed word, beginning with papyrus scrolls and lamb-blood ink, eventually working her way through the invention of syntax before finally introducing her fellow enraged commentator and his new book, Why Everyone’s Opinion Sucks Except Mine). OK, so the point is this: A person’s basic nature doesn’t change. The Weird Guy in high school is now the Wine Geek in adult life, only instead of sipping California Coolers, he sips Napa Valley Cabernets. And instead of thinking about walking on Mars, he compares wine tasting to quantum theory.

Oh no you di-int! Oh yes. I did.

I am suiting you up for a dive off the Wine Geek Deep-End. I am enticing you to open your mind and inviting you to join me as I pursue one of the all-time weirdest ideas I have ever entertained: Wine tasting is defined by the laws of quantum mechanics, and is a metaphor itself to quantum theory. WAIT! Before you say, “Oh my God you’re so weird” and walk away, give me a minute to lay down some easy-to-understand basics and I think you may find this idea absolutely fascinating. Better yet, go grab yourself a glass of what you consider to be the most complex and multi-layered wine you have and I’ll show you what I mean in real terms.

(Please note: I am not a scientist, nor do I play one on TV. My Middle School science teacher used to inject vodka into oranges and bring them to class to eat while he pretended to oversee our feeble attempts at Science Fair projects. I tried to obtain a minor in Astronomy while at USC, but the math was so difficult and so frustrating I once screamed at my professor that he made me want to rip my face off and eat my own head with it, and I was subsequently banned from the Astronomy Department Tea Social. So you’ll have to cut me a little slack as I explain this stuff).

Briefly put, quantum mechanics provides a mathematical description of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of matter and energy (take a sip of wine, keep reading). A while back, scientists noticed that light sometimes behaves like a wave and sometimes behaves like a particle, so they set up a series of experiments to determine once and for all which one it was, wave or particle. What they found is that if the experiment was designed to detect particles of light, light behaved as a particle; if it was set up to detect light waves, light behaved like a wave (take a sip of wine, keep reading).

So the conclusion was this: Light behaves like a wave or a particle, depending on how you observe it. Before you observe it, light is said to be in its quantum state, where it is simultaneously a wave and a particle and neither a wave nor a particle.

You may now chug instead of sip if you need to. Seriously, this is heavy shit, but stick with me.

One of the best illustrations of this paradox of quantum mechanics is the “thought experiment” developed by Erwin Schrodinger back in 1935. In this experiment, Schrodinger imagined placing a cat in a box that contained a radioactive source, a monitor and a flask of poison. The box is then sealed and one cannot see inside. If the monitor inside detects radioactivity, the flask of poison is shattered and the cat is killed. Because one cannot see the cat, the implication is that after a while, the cat is simultaneously dead andalive. To go one step further, opening the box may break the flask of poison as well, so by observing the state of the cat we may in fact alter the state of the cat.

One of the earliest known portraits of Schrodinger’s cat, emerging from the Box, circa 1934. This particular test subject, lovingly nicknamed “Doomed Feline #6,” is seen here with her eyes closed, indicating her quantum state of dead/not dead or cute/totally cute. 

Now, set that glass of wine down in front of you and have a look at it. What is that stuff, exactly? I’ll tell you, exactly: It is grape juice and yeast. Seriously, that’s it. All wine is grape juice and yeast. Why can one glass of wine taste so differently from another when it’s all just grape juice and yeast? Well for one, there are over a thousand different grape varietals. And of course, there are hundreds if not thousands of variations of winemaking techniques which allow the winemaker to impart his or her own creative signature on the wine. But again, it’s grape juice and yeast, so why does it taste like berries and figs and plums and coffee and licorice and cocoa? Why do we use words like grass and mineral and flint and fur when we smell and taste a wine when it’s not made of those things?

Because you think it tastes that way.

To me, a glass of wine is just like the box which contains Schrodinger’s Cat. It is both dry and sweet and neither dry nor sweet until we observe it; and in observing it, we change its nature. Each glass of wine is in a quantum state until we bring along our sensory prejudices to it and in doing so, we create the reality of the wine.

Alright, we’re in the Home Stretch right now, so stay with me just a little longer. Go get that second glass if you need to, but for the love of God don’t go roll a joint or something crazy like that or you will quite literally be lost forever.

To exemplify my point, here is a real-life conversation I had with a girl who’s a server at the wine bar I work at. For the sake of this blog, we will call her “Kristina,” because that is her name. Kristina came to us as tabula rasa when it comes to wine, but the boss thinks she’s cute and cute sells wine. This is why everyone who has a Sommelier’s Certification is, like, Brad Pitt hot. During this conversation, we were tasting the 2009 Enkidu Napa Valley Cabernet:

“OK, Kristina, swirl this glass around a bit and then take in a deep breath through your nose. Now, tell me what you smell.”

“It smells like wine.”

“Awesome, that’s what it should smell like. What else do you smell?”

“I don’t know. Lots of alcohol.”

“Good. Wouldn’t be wine without it. You know what I smell? I smell fruit. Specifically, I smell crushed up blackberries. Do you smell that?”

“Yeah, I guess I do.”

“I also smell oak, like an oak tree. This wine sat around in an oak barrel for 18 months. Do you smell oak?”

“Yeah! I smell the oak!” (and I believe she meant it)

“Now, close your eyes and take a really deep smell. I get a hint of vanilla. Do you get vanilla at all?”

(Pause. Eyes closed. She is sincerely trying, bless her cute little wine-selling heart)

“Yes! I smell vanilla!”

Like a scientist attempting to prove that light behaves like a particle, Kristina smelled the vanilla in the wine when she went looking for vanilla, and in turn the wine assumed the characteristic she was trying to observe. Look for the oak: She found oak; look for the fruit; She found fruit. Thus, one could extrapolate that if the observer creates the nature of the wine by observing it, this observer could literally say “this wine tastes like Cap’n Crunch” and therefore it would. And that’s exactly what I’m extrapolating.

Mmmm…Cap’n Crunch with Crunch Berries. Made childhood worth it, despite tearing the crap out of the roof of your mouth. Maybe I should harvest me up some Crunch Berries, crush ‘em and make a wine out of it? It’d still be better than Sutter Home.

However, there is one point of contention we need to address in order to prove or disprove this theory – the point that will take us into Part 2 of this blog: Is this more a matter of sociology than quantum theory? In the example of the tasting with Kristina, was she simply influenced by my greater experience in the field, my age, my higher position at the wine bar and the hypnotizing effect of my raw male sexuality? We human beings have a pretty amazing way of influencing other human beings, hence the belief by thousands of teen girls that a Tramp Stamp tattoo is a really cool idea.

Or…wait for it…wait for it…does an influential person simply have a greater ability to manipulate quantum states into their chosen reality?

Alright, enough of this madness. Obviously, we need to hand this over to someone who actually knows what they’re talking about, and that’s what I intend to do. In Part 2 of Schrodinger’s Chardonnay, we’re going to talk to an actual quantum theorist and see whether there’s any substance to this argument or if I just drank one too many shots of bong water on a dare in college. I have put out a handful of requests for interviews to some prominent PhD’s at UC Berkeley’s High Energy Particle Physics Research Department, and I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

My Conversation This Morning With My 3-Year-Old On The Way To Preschool

“Hey Daddy, what’s your favorite farm animal?”

“Great question! Hmmm…I’m partial to pigs, myself.”

“There are no pigs on the farm.”

“Oh, OK. How about chickens?”

“There are no chickens on the farm. Daddy, are there ghosts on the farm?”

“Um, you mean ‘goats?’ Sure, there are goats on the farm.”

“There are ghosts on the farm?”

“No, honey, there are goats on the farm.”

“How about goblins? Daddy, I don’t like landscaping.”

“Wait…what?”

“I don’t like landscaping. I don’t like it. Guess what we’re eating tomorrow?! (sings) Junky Juuuunk Fooood!!”

“Oh, that should be yummy.”

“It’s only yummy once. Then you puke.”

The Totally Random And Astounding Things Your Three-Year-Old Daughter Says Pairs With: The 2010AD Blanc from Carlotta Cellars in San Francisco.

Daddy like.

One of the coolest aspects of selling wine in the Bay Area is stumbling upon artisan winemakers who are out there working their day job just like me. This was the case recently when I called on Ruby Wine, a hip little wine shop in Potrero Hill. As I waited for my appointment, I perused the sales racks and discovered one of the most eclectic yet accessible collections of wines I’d ever seen. As it turns out, the shop is co-owned by David Grega and Aran Healy, two guys who met while studying for their Sommelier certification and discovered a mutual love of Rhone wines. Their labor of love is Carlotta Cellars, a small-lot facility (sometimes only 25 cases per vintage) that produces, well, random and astounding wines.

The 2010AD Blanc is a blend of Roussanne, Viognier and Marsanne, where the fruit was harvested in multiple passes over time. Certain lots underwent full Malo Lactic conversion, while others were not. In addition, the wine was blended with 10% of their reserve white wine, which had been skin fermented. The result is one of the most complex, multi-layered and fully balanced white Rhone blends I have ever encountered.

Cooler still, David and Aran have a vintage called “Orange,” which is a straight-up orange wine. This is not to be confused with the sweet wine that has been macerated with orange peel, but wine that has been 100% skin fermented, giving it not only amazingly dynamic tannins but an orange color. It sells out quick, so go pick up a bottle or get into their wine club. It just might keep the goblins off the farm.

To Meme Or Not To Meme?

Like practically every other biped on this planet, I have a Facebook account. I made the switch to Facebook years ago when it felt like MySpace had become a training ground for trailer park girls trying to land their own episode of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant. I actually have two accounts: A Personal one I use to keep in touch with family and friends (if “friends” includes people from elementary school who I don’t remember but somehow are now really interested in what I did today) and a page I use to promote the independent wine distributor I work for.

Don’t worry, this blog post is not going to be some dry and tired dissertation on the implications and effects of Social Media on the wine business or society in general. As long as cats continue to do cute things, there will be Facebook. End of story. The challenge I’ve had with FB recently is how to keep fans of my business’ page engaged on a daily basis. The game of increasing “Likes” and having lots of comments to your posts is a lot like smoking crack, where you’re always trying to recapture the high of that first hit, but the second hit is never like the first, and by the third you’re just trying to maintain that baseline you got with the second. Or something like that. Not like I would know. Because I don’t. Moving on now.

Believe it or not, when you sell wine, something utterly fascinating and worth telling all your followers about does not happen on a daily basis. This makes it difficult to maintain that “daily engagement” that Social Media Gurus say is so critical to a successful campaign. Last week, things got so desperate that I found myself posting the following:

“Trucking company says order for retail shop in Martinez has to wait 24 hours due to logistics snafu. FML!” 

And can you believe it, not a single Like or Comment? And according to my Stats, the posting didn’t go viral at all. Maybe if the truck was driven by a cat…

Obviously, something had to change or even my old Middle School acquaintances were going to Unfriend me. Apparently, it was time to resort to the time-honored Facebook tradition of a Funny Meme. My 16-year-old son, who knew more about computers and the internet by age 11 than I still do, actually suggested I go the meme route. First, he had to tell me what the hell a meme is:

Noun:
  1. An element of a culture or behavior that may be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.
  2. An image, video, etc. that is passed electronically from one Internet user to another.

You see memes countless times every day on FB. The most popular ones these days involve black-and-white penciled drawings of Victorian-styled couples with captions that revolve around common themes like “you’re a bitch,” “I’m going to drink vodka,” and “your politics suck.” Hilarity ensues.

And believe it or not, these things work. I saw this one after looking for all of six seconds on my Home page:

Better yet, it had 213,442 Likes, a third as many Comments and 45,909 Shares. Oh yeah, baby! That’s what I’m talking about! Hey, I’m a clever guy – I’m gonna whip me out  one of these bad boys and in 24 hours have more Likes than Cute Funny Cats  (124,949 Likes as of this publishing).

Creating a funny meme is no problem. There are websites where you can go and pick your favorite Victorian drawing, insert your hilarious text, then upload your personification of comedic genius to your FB account. So with the click of a few buttons and the help of my muse, I brought my first funny wine meme to life:

Fun Fact: All Winemakers dress like Musketeers during the crush.

LOLS! Hilarious, right? I know! Aptly enough, it was none other than Robert Parker who sent me my first Comment. Bob and I go way back to when we used to chug Lancer’s Rose in the back of his El Camino, listening to Boston on the 8-track and creating new characters for Dungeons & Dragons. Bob used to say things like, “On a scale of one to ten, this wine blows” and “On The Parker Scale, this Blue Nun is rhinoceros bile.” Little did we know, right? Anyway, Bob left the following Comment:

“Dude! I nearly blew my ’85 Pauillac out my nose when I saw this! FREAKING HILARIOUS! On The Parker Scale, I’d give this 100 points (if you bought the back cover to the November issue of Wine Advocate. J/K! Sort of ;-)”

But then get this: Afterwards, not a single Comment. Not a single Like, either, and no Shares. Nothing. From no one. Unbelievable. Maybe if the picture was a cat parading as a winemaking Musketeer…

So my son came to the rescue again, suggesting that perhaps I needed an age appropriate visual for my meme, along with text that was less technical in nature and more cutting edge (Direct Translation: “Gawd, Dad, could you be any more of a nerd? Try a Condescending Wonka with something more snarky”).

Yes, Condescending Wonka.

It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like, if you haven’t seen one yet yourself: A still shot of Gene Wilder from the classic 1971 film Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, looking at someone off camera in a manner that just oozes “I am so fascinated with what you are saying” in a truly condescending fashion.

So the next step was to think of something that was a little more snarky, perhaps self-deprecating, that matched the patronizing tone of the visual. After a little thought, I came up with this:

(Of course, one must have incredible self-confidence in the oversized dimensions of one’s own Man Luggage in order to make it the target of humor, and I have this in spades. Do you know why Atlas carries the world on his shoulders? Because my package was just too heavy. Now that’s a meme for the generations).

I showed it to my son and he had a full-on belly laugh, but then I realized that 16-year-olds will laugh at any penis-related humor, or in fact any word that sounds like, any object that looks like or any possible inference that can be made to Mr. Johnson. If I was trying to reach the Wine-Appreciating-16-Year-Old-Boy audience, I hit an absolute bullseye with this meme. If I wanted to reach more than three hipsters from SOMA, I’d have to think of something else.

You know what’s funny? Something that makes you laugh. That may sound obvious to the point of stupidity, but think about it: It’s something that makes you laugh. Even if no one else laughs, you’re still going to think it was funny. As the late Ricky Nelson so aptly put it, “you know you can’t please everyone so you gotta please yourself.” If I was going to post something funny yet wine-related on my FB page, I’d have to start with cracking myself up first. So with that in mind, I developed The Protesting Pinot Noir Bottle, Joining The 12.5% At Occupy Napa:Yeah. That’s funny. I look at this and I still laugh, even though the image was seen by all of 43 people, got two Likes and wasn’t shared once. But it’s my sense of humor, for better or worse. If a meme really is an element of behavior passed from one individual or one generation to another, then I’m cool with future Taylors seeing this one and understanding, “yeah, that was your great-great-grandfather JT. He was kind of weird and maybe kind of funny and tried to be creative and drank a lot of wine. He loved his family. He was alright.”

Trying To Create a Hilarious Wine Meme on Facebook That Would Go Totally Viral Without The Use of Cats Pairs With: Salamandre Wine Cellars 2008 Primitivo, Monterey County.

By the way, I don’t even know Robert Parker. Please don’t flame me.

When wine critics speak of “amusing wines,” it’s typically in a manner that would look right in a Condescending Wonka meme. Amusing wines are written off; worthy only as an afterthought to their more serious (usually Cabernet) brethren. But the ’08 Primitivo is definitely not the class clown, but more like The Joker from Batman. And not the weirdly fey Ceasar Romero Joker from the TV series, but straight-up psychopath Heath Ledger Joker from The Dark Knight. It has powerful residual sugar due to a whack November harvest, and an alcohol level to match – 17% says the label, but I’d peg this bad boy at 17.5% at least. Split a bottle of this with your friends and even Carrot Top becomes funny. The 2010 is set to be released soon and though I haven’t tried it yet, I understand it has a rather different profile. If you’re a fan of not-so-subtle humor and like your wines the same way, get your hands on a bottle of the ’08.

Wine Shopping To The Oldies

The other day, I was perusing the wine section of my local Safeway supermarket when I was suddenly struck with a weird, disconcerting feeling. At first, I thought it was a reaction to what is admittedly an extensive selection of different varietals for a national supermarket chain. It’s probably a bonus to living in the San Francisco Bay Area, but even Safeway carries smaller, artisan producers like Baldacci Family Vineyards side-by-side with the requisite Rombauer and the omnipresent Cupcake Merlot.

No, something else was tickling at my frontal lobe and after a few moments I started to figure it out. The background music being piped through the overhead speakers in this particular grocery store was “Start Me Up,” the classic Rolling Stones anthem from their I-Promise-To-Be-Cool-Again, post-Disco album, Tattoo You. I bought that album back in 1981 when albums were albums: Round discs of vinyl with etched grooves that you listened to by subjecting them to daily abuse with a sharp needle until you could practically see through them. Google it, kids.

Standing just a few feet down from me in the aisle was an attractive, 40-ish woman, scanning the bottles much like me, probably for her Weekend Mommy Medicine. Like many of the female inhabitants of my little suburban section of the Bay Area, she smacked of money, and believe me I don’t mean that in any derogatory sense. I have no problem with money or the citizens who’ve acquired vast sums of it. It’s just that if I actually had some myself I’d probably use it to buy a case of Screaming Eagle Cabernet rather than inject botulism into the crevasses of my face. But hey, honestly, whatever makes you feel good about yourself is fine with me. Especially if it makes you feel so good about yourself that you have sex with your husband more often.

As Mrs. Smooth Brow searched for her selection, she began to, unconsciously at first, hum along to the background music, gaining slowly in volume, until she finally sang the verse line out loud: “If you start me up I’ll never stop!” I glanced over at her, smiling, and she glanced back, perhaps a little sheepishly but not enough to stop humming away as she looked back over the bottles. I took it as given that she thought of the song as the NFL Kickoff Anthem it has become over the past decade, in much the same way that people have come to believe that “YMCA” by The Village People is a happy-go-lucky singalong call to action on the gridiron. However, in the same way that “YMCA” is actually ranked as the Third Most Gay Song Ever Written, just behind “Dancing Queen” and “It’s Raining Men,” ol’ Mick Jagger did not have properly-executed Special Teams play on his mind when he wrote “Start Me Up,” unless that Special Team was comprised solely of teenage models.

But there was something else about hearing this Rolling Stones song on the market PA system that was bugging me, something I couldn’t place. I began to think it was the feeling of being targeted – that some glorified Madison Avenue intern figured that the Stones’ music would inspire Safeway’s preferred demographic  (namely me) to purchase more six packs of ManicBlast, The Energy Drink Guaranteed To Keep You Awake And Refreshed For The Next 137 Years. However, I was all of one month old when the hip kids were dancing the Frug to “It’s All Over Now” on weekly episodes of The TAMI Show. Besides, I know what it feels like to be targeted. About 12 years ago, the diabolical bastards at Nissan Motors used Rush’s Red Barchetta to hawk their latest sedan in a commercial that straight-up screamed, “Hey, we’re talking to you, that guy over there who grew up in the suburbs listening to Rush and is in his mid-30’s now…no, the one on the left who smoked pot in college and spent weekends copying Alex Lifeson guitar riffs and thinks maybe this bitchin’ car will mitigate a full-on eight-point-five event on the Mid-Life Crisis Richter Scale…no,no, the other one on behind you, the one named John Taylor.” They pegged me. I had to take a shower after watching that commercial.

Just as I was beginning to understand that what I was feeling was a certain sense of forboding – an almost giddy feeling that something surreal was about to happen – the moment hit like a bottle of Two Buck Chuck right between the eyes: There it was, for all the world to hear, from the Organic Baby Food aisle to the Adult Incontinence section, blaring out in sweet, high fidelity from every speaker in the store, Mick Jagger imploring, “Yo! Yo! You make a dead man come!!”

No, not you…you, the one there on the left, over there with the 12-carat Mercedes keychain and the bottle of Skinny Girl Chardonnay in hand. Yes, we’re targeting you, because our research indicates that you buy fruit-forward, slightly-sweet, white wine on the weekends and as it turns out, you also have the uncanny ability to illicit a mighty fine climax from the undead.

It’s a tired argument that songs espousing The Big O for zombies are indicative of the Moral Decline of Western Civilization, especially when no one blinks an eye at the likes of Honey Boo Boo Child and Gangnam Style. But it is crazy to think that the flaccid Muzak stylings of Perry Como and Englebert Humperdink were once the common background of our lives, and now that baseline has changed to Keith Richards, the same guy whose liver is such an opiate sponge that he gets his blood changed with more regularity than most of us change the oil in our cars. In the end, though, it really just proves that no one listens to the lyrics. Except me. And to paraphrase Robert Frost, that makes all the difference.

Having The Legitimate Opportunity To Smile And Tell Your Neighbor That She Makes A Dead Man Come Pairs With: Francis Ford Coppola’s Diamond Collection Ivory Label 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. The most difficult thing to find in large-production wines is consistency, but this typically isn’t the case with Coppola’s wines. Face it, you walk into your local wine shop to get a recommendation on something hip, new, amazing and usually expensive, but you go to the grocery store for Comfort Wine, that bottle you know is going to taste the same every time and not cost half the mortgage payment, like the alcohol equivalent of a Big Mac. Ravenswood wines used to be the Wine-Twinkie of choice for me, but over the last handful of years I’ve noticed an inconsistency from vintage to vintage. I did graduate with a degree in Journalism, so I should probably do something like call the folks over at Ravenswood and ask them what the hell is going on, but in much the same way you’d just blow it off and switch to another Comfort Wine, so did I, and Coppola is the one. And I don’t just say that because I idolize Francis Ford Coppola. I did have the opportunity to meet the man himself one day at his winery, and instead of vomiting pure Fanboy hero worship all over his Italian loafers, I managed a polite, “Hello, Mr. Coppola, I deeply respect your work.” Good thing I hadn’t started wine tasting yet, though…