I’d love to be able to point out that while Caro is definite in her tastes about coffee, I am more so about wine … but, let’s face it: I’m not. Thankfully, she’s not either, so this means that if she ever comes to my house, I know she’ll be game for kicking back with some wine on tap.
No, that’s not what I mean at all.
Yes, that’s more like it.
I’m not totally uncultured when it comes to wine. I know to stick my whole nose in the glass so I look like I know what I’m doing. I even know what kinds of wine elicits certain smells (expect notes of cat pee in Sauvignon Blanc. Look it up.)
But wine is really about the taste, so I look for places that are all about wine tasting rather than wine sniffing or swirling or spitting. So when my friends and I go on our yearly wine tasting tour in Traverse City, Michigan we’re really looking for a wine swallowing tour. Preferably in large quantities.
In our defense, we are hardly the only ones who come to Traverse City to drink. With over forty wineries in the area (not to mention that TC has its fair share of breweries too) this is not surprising. But if you do come up on a weekend in the summer, expect to be elbowing numerous bachelorettes and their entourages out of the way to snag a seat in the tasting room.
Once seated, the wine person begins by stating a bit of the history of that particular winery and the grapes that are most likely grown there. Many places offer tours of the vineyards as well as the cellars, and the views on the peninsulas are spectacular.
But I will remind you that more time touring means less precious time tasting. Or swigging. Whatever.
Some places will offer a set number of tastes for a price, and that’s it. Smart places let you taste as many as you want. These are the places that are dangerous and not only for the reasons you might guess. I once walked out of a place like that two hours after I started and was startled to suddenly find a man next to my friend’s car with a huge box in his hands. (Pro-tip: always bring a pregnant friend on these tours. That way, they don’t feel left out and you have a designated driver for the whole weekend.)
“This it?” he asked, shifting the heavy box in his hands.
“Um, yes?” There was clearly nothing to do but open the back hatch.
Gently setting the box inside, he then walked away. I peered inside to find an entire case of wine. Dimly, I remembered agreeing to the case because “Wow, 10% off!” They’ll get you every time.
This would probably have been enough embarrassment for one day for normal people, but I was just warming up, apparently. At our next stop, we sat down for sparkling wine. This is my favorite place, but the bubbly is not good for me. Neither are parking lots.
I had to use the bathroom after this particular winery, so my friends went on ahead. I came out to the car and tried to lift the handle on the passenger door but it was locked. That’s odd. So I yanked it again and again before the window finally rolled down.
“Excuse me,” said a woman I’d never seen before in my life. “Do you need a ride somewhere?”
I looked up at her bewildered. Then I glanced behind me at the snickering I could now hear from behind me. My friends were parked in what I’d like to imagine was an identical gray minivan, but they were probably not that hard to tell apart.
“No thank you, I’m fine,” I replied politely. Gathering the remaining shreds of my dignity, I walked as steadily over to the correct minivan as I could while my friends continued to shriek with laughter.
You’d think that should have been the end of the day, but there was still probably two good hours before the tasting rooms closed for the day and hell, this was vacation. Onward.
My husband actually refuses to try any of the wine I buy after the third stop of the day, and this is most likely a very good idea. It’s not really my fault, I swear. But by the end of the day, everything just tastes so very good. And the winery owner is sooo knowledgeable at that point, and we are very much kindred spirits, now we are Facebook friends, and I’m just hanging on their every word, nodding emphatically. And even though cherry wine isn’t usually my favorite, I’ll make an exception right now because I love the way the bottle looks, I love the vineyard, I love my friends, and I love this person pouring the wine.
When I get home and later start making my way through the three dozen bottles I bought, I discover that the cherry wine is, of course, awful. Because in real life, I hate cherry wine. And only eight hours of wine gulping, parking lot mishaps, and fun with girlfriends could tell me differently.