Drinking, Wine tasting and Getting drunk
Drunks are scary. They come in all shapes and sizes, all genders, and from all social classes. Some get ugly with alcohol; others kill people under the influence-some with vehicles, some with firearms in domestic violence.
A guy I know who lives in Santa Maria told me about a high-flyin' stock broker he knew in San Francisco. This broker had a drinking problem, woke up in a gutter one morning after a party in the city, and told this friend of mine, "The only difference between me and the guy I woke up next to was the $600 suit I was wearing."
I can tell you, the occasional drunk wine taster I encounter from Orange County driving the BMW is every bit as annoying-maybe even more annoying-than the drunk panhandler sitting out on State Street in Santa Barbara.
Yes, drunks come in all shapes and sizes.
Fortunately, most wine tasters who visit tasting rooms maintain. Only on rare occasion do you find visitors who get out of control. By California law, bartenders and persons pouring in tasting rooms cannot serve intoxicated or under-the-influence customers. I recently cut off two people who were or bicycles. You can't drive drunk in a vehicle; you can't drive drunk on a bike!
Drunks can be ugly people. I want to profile two drunks-Bob and Linda.
Bob and Linda get ugly with alcohol. The Bob I'm referring to is a public figure so I'll use his real name. I'll protect the identity of the woman, so I'll call her Linda. One is well-known, the other isn't, but both are ugly drunks.
The Bob I'm referring to is the defrocked U.S. senator from Oregon, Bob Packwood, who was accused of sexual harassment of staff members. After several decades of misconduct, as I recall, various victims reported they had been fondled and groped by Packwood.
The senator initially denied the allegations, but wisely resigned his post rather than going though the embarrassing hearings conducted by his Senate colleagues.
What troubles me greatly is that alcoholic beverages-even wine-can take such a bad wrap in this country. This goes all the way back to the Puritans. A German wine writer I met once told me, "It's uniquely your problem; we don't have this problem in Europe. We got rid of all the religious wackos and zealots in the 17th and 18th centuries and they all came to the United States!"
It's bad enough when alcohol, alcoholic beverages and wine consumption take a bad wrap from elected officials, career bureaucrats in the government, teetotalers and prohibitionists.
But it's even worse when the abusers, the Bobs and Lindas of the world-who add to alcohol's bad wrap. They are making the booze, not the boozer, the culprit!
Linda, a person I had the misfortune of encountering at a social gathering, I am told, is college educated, married, has a daughter and owns a business. When I got to the party with my date, who was wearing a lovely and quite expensive coat, she said to my date "What did you have to do to get a coat like that (that in italics, please)?" That was how the evening started.
As the evening progressed (or would transpired be a more appropriate word), she was "flashing" her breasts for pictures at the party. She was making extremely crude and obscene gestures with both her mouth and her hands, and falling down dead-drunk. Refined and polite society this party was not-thanks to one drunk, loud, and out-of-control woman.
What makes the Linda segment of the saga so vivid was a recent conversation with a mutual friend. I mentioned to this woman I had never gotten an apology from Linda, and my friend told me she doesn't remember what she did or said. This is no excuse for her behavior. It's the Bob Packwood scene all over again. Somehow I guess, for the Bobs and Lindas of the world, their true nature emerges when they are under the influence.
For people who can handle alcohol, wine in moderation can be enobling. I think for some writers and artists, moderate consumption might even be exhilarating!
For others who cannot handle the intoxicating effects of alcohol, the spirit throws the Bobs and Lindas into an abyss, making them guttersnipes, to borrow a term from George Bernard Shaw. Truth in alcohol is the Latin axiom, "In vino veritas." For most people, the good stay good; for that sad minority, the bad get ugly, and the "truth" emerges.
Tips for prudent wine tasting:
- Eat a hearty breakfast or lunch before going wine tasting. Your body can process alcohol more slowly if you have food in your stomach.
- Don't try to break numbers records when you go wine tasting. I think I have encountered people who act like wine will run out soon and they want to taste every last drop. · Unlike Napa, wineries are often miles apart here in Santa Barbara County or up in the San Luis Obispo County area. I think it makes the most sense to select five or six wineries to visit, and taste with focus. Select one or two varietals and taste only those. · Taste early. Your palate is freshest early in the day.
Bob Senn writes The Independent's monthly wine column, "Grapevine," lives in the Los Alamos Valley and owns the Los Olivos Wine & Spirits Emporium.
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