Snapshots Of My Life: It’s Just Freaking Wine

“Green apples” said my best friend sitting next to me.

“I get a hint of banana” added another friend sitting to our front

It was my turn to illicit a response, and I sat there, forty plus eyes trained anxiously on me, waiting to hear my words of wisdom. After all, I was, so far, the wonder boy, the one with straight A's, the only person ever in the history of the college to be approached to be a tutor in their first week of school.

“Wine?” I half asked, half stated, as the room explodded into laughter.

“Open your senses Mr. Rene. Allow yourself to explore the aroma of the vintage” the instructor said, looking at me as I again took another sip of the cool golden liquid from the long stemmed glass. I swirled it in my mouth and sucked in air to allow the favors to release as I was instructed. I spat out the Mondavi Chardonay, whipped my mouth with a napkin and put on my best “really concentrating on this” face look. The istructor waited anxiously to see if I had fallen prey to the room full of bourgeois pretence. I looked around and said ” White Wine?”

That was my first day of the Wine Appreciation course while attending The Culinary Institute Of America. Three weeks of torture for me, and three weeks of bliss for the rest of the class.

I am sure that many people reading this post would have loved to be sitting in a room for almost eight hours a day for three weeks tasting wine. I don't drink alcohol. At all. None. Nothing. Zero. I actually hate the taste of it.

I am the child of an alcoholic, and I think I was born with the anti-alcohol gene, if there is such a thing. I watched as my father go from a very successful executive to a broke shadow of a man. Luckily my mother divorced him early in my life and he was an abscent man. Still, when people say they can't wait for the end of the day to have a drink, it crawls my blood. Literally. To me, anyone that can't wait for the end of the day to have a drink, is alcoholic. But I digress.

As the day progressed, the more and more I became annoyed in the class with the way everyone was really “appreciating” the wine. Some were on the edge of hysteria as the more expensive wines were brought out for our humble palettes to enjoy.

I realized eventually that the instructor was living and breathing this stuff, so I played the game. I needed to keep my GPA up in order to keep getting scholarship money, and so I began to “smell” whatever the hell he wanted me to say, but all I could smell was alcohol. Stinking alcohol.

I would put my mouth to the glass, pretend to sip, and hand the glass over to my friend if he wanted it. Eventually my seat in the auditorium would be twelve or more glasses of un-drunk wine. We were supposed to spit it out, but the drunks in the glass didn't spit as much as they should.

Eventually people realized I didn't drink my wine, and day by day, the drunks migrated to sit near to me early before class began so they could get my undrunked wine. That pissed me off even more and so I just started dumping the wine into the spittoon as soon as I took my pretend sip. The drunks eventually returned to their original seats.

I studied hard for that class, learning all about vintages and regions and what ever to me seemed completely useless stuff, and coming away with and A minus, which was fine by me. But it was my least favorite class by far.

I told I one of my distaste for that particular course, or how I made a mental note of all the drunks, some of whom surprised me, and I would eventually distance myself from them for the rest of my time there.

By the time I graduated, I could speak the speak of the wine lovers, but never drank the stuff. I could recommend wines to go with foods without ever tasting any of them, because it was all in my head, to me the same way the different flavor a and smells people got from wines were all in there heads.

This year will be twenty years since I graduated, and although I realize that everything is relevant, and it to get personally involve and allow myself to think that everyone that orders alcohol is an alcoholic, I still cringe when I hear a wine “expert” expound on the subtleties of a particular wine, and I still want to scream at two people comparing at the “notes” of the wine they are drinking that “It's just freaking wine! It's … just … freaking … wine!”


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