Monday, March 17, 2008

Under the Zinfandel Sun

ZinBitch. That's what the tattoo said. Four Vines Winery was passing out those little fake tattoos, the kind you usually see at a kids carnival in the form of a peace sign or a Tweety bird. In this case Rhonda and I were at the Paso Robles Zinfandel Festival, aka ZinFest.

ALL the wineries were pouring Zin. There were verticals all across the horizon. For those of you who aren't wine-types, a vertical tasting is where you sample the same variety from the same winery across a range of vintage years. A horizontal tasting is where you sample the same variety and same vintage year from a variety of wineries. A blind tasting is when you don't know what you're tasting, and a flight is when you are given small servings of a few wines (or tequilas!) in order to learn differentiation.

In the case of tequila flights, there is always the chance it will eventually become a blind tasting, or a vertical "dancing naked on the tabletops" tasting, or a horizontal "sleeping with the enemy" tasting, or worse, the humbling "praying to the porcelain god" tasting.

The most memorable part of the night--aside from the tremendous relief I felt when my live auction bid was outbid by a woman more heavily under the zinfluence than me--was the cheese, of all things. The needle on my cheese-o-meter all but broke the glass. I'm afraid I'll be forced to call a meeting with Borden, Kraft, and even Tillamook..."We have to talk." I will gently begin. "About the quality of your cheese. You see, here's the thing...". I don't know if I can do it. Wait, I know! I'll pour them a big ol' Ridel full of this year's event blend and see if that doesn't soften the blow.

This year it was Steve Felten, from Norman Vineyards who took 30 barrels of zin from 30 different wineries and blended "almost all" of them, he reluctantly confided, into the 2008 ZinFest special blend. It was fantastic. Thank you, Steve, and also thank you Gary Eberle who (as did with a few other donors) doubled up his donation when a second live auction bidder offered to pay $4000 for the same package that had just sold for the evening's (I think) high bid of $4000.

The next day, I dragged Rhonda off to Moonstone Beach and we bellied up to the rocks until the icy wind started to burn a bit. We found a less windy spot and taunted the seagulls by refusing to share our garlic rosemary, or our onion cheese bread. Nature of course, rules the day, and if for no other reason than to show us her blustery prowess, mother wind snatched an empty styrofoam clamshell and sent it off into the sea where some tide-pool docent will no doubt curse the rude defiler of nature who so wantonly despoiled the pristine coastline with manmade trash. There was nothing wanton about it. We swear. We also relented. We gathered up the remains of the feast and headed back to the car, looking forward to that special moment you get when you get out of the cold wind and close the car doors and flip your frozen hands like pancakes on a griddle on the sun-baked dash. And it's so quiet and cozy in there...until two minutes later when you can no longer breathe.

No doubt to punctuate its power, the wind, just as we were getting in, threw up another gust and flung an empty bag out of the back seat and over the cliffside where it is sure to be found around the neck of a mother sea otter, her baby still clutching to her belly as the two drift helplessly in the surf...on the next episode of "Man: The Ultimate Predator" tonight on Animal Planet.

I swear. It was an accident. We would never. Sorry.

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