Celebrate Santa Maria! It's the Fourth!
"No nation is drunken where wine is cheap" wrote Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States. In fact, Mr. Jefferson was quite the friend of the vine-a fan of the famed Chateau d'Yquem which he brought back from Sauternes when he was the U.S. ambassador to France, and vineyardist at his home at Monticello. Mr. Jefferson brought back cuttings from France but the severe weather conditions made it impossible for any success there in Virginia. It wasn't until the nineteenth century when vitis vinifera cuttings were brought into the more temperate climate of California that commercial grape growing became a viable agricultural enterprise in the United States.
"Wine is a necessity of life for me," another famous quote from Mr. Jefferson, is used on the Kermit Lynch import labels. Kermit Lynch is a very prominent importer of wines from France-particularly from the south of France, Chateauneuf du Pape, and Burgundy-and is based in Berkeley, California. Federal wine regulator, the B.A.T.F (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) told Mr. Lynch he could not use this Jefferson quote on his import label. He fought the B.A.T.F., won the case, and the Jefferson quote now appears on every import label of every Kermit Lynch bottle of wine imported and sold in the United States.
It's troubling to me that we have a federal regulator who mandates that nothing positive--quotes from Founding Fathers for example, or physicians, or Biblical quotes--can appear on bottles of wine in the United States.
Getting Ugly With Alcohol
What is even more troubling to me is that alcohol not only takes the bad wrap from its regulators, teetotalers and prohibitionists, but also takes the bad wrap from its abusers. I share with you the story of Bob and Linda.
The "Bob" is the defrocked Oregon senator Bob Packwood. The woman--I'll call her "Linda"--is a person I had the misfortunate to encounter at a party.
Former United States senator, Mr. Packwood, was accused of groping and fondling his female employees. He and his supporters denied the allegations initially and finally admitted that the senator was "under the influence" at the time of the improprieties. This is nonsense! It's giving alcohol the bad wrap; it's making booze, not the boozer, the culprit.
The woman I'll call Linda was "flashing" her breasts for photographs at this party, making crude remarks to other guests, and making extremely obscene gestures with both her hands and her mouth at this party. When I mentioned to a friend just recently that this woman never offered an apology for her behavior, I was told she doesn't remember what she did. This is nonsense this is a Packwood defense-giving alcohol the bad wrap.
In Vino Veritas
In Vino Veritas is Latin for "truth in wine"! One can make a good argument, I think, that alcohol consumption can bring out the "bad" if there's bad to be had. For the vast majority of social drinkers, I think, imbibers act responsibly. But there are the guys like Mike who lived on our floor of the dorm in college, who would put his fist through the wall of a dorm room when he was drunk or bolt from a police unit after being picked up near Robertson Gym on campus.
Mike, or the defrocked senator, or the woman I call Linda are the bad apples. Consumers of alcoholic beverages are by and large responsible. When "bad acts" are rationalized by being "under the influence," it just doesn't cut it with me.
Have a great Fourth and imbibe responsibly.
This column celebrates its first anniversary in the Santa Maria Times. Bob Senn lives in the Los Alamos Valley and owns the Los Olivos Wine & Spirits Emporium.
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