Barefoot in the Grapes

Unknown-4I used to hate Chardonnay.

The main reason is a long, boring story, but I’m going to tell it anyway.

I grew up in a tee-totalling household. That was Mom’s influence. When I was young, Dad used to enjoy his beer or his glass of wine in the evening. Then Mom decided that wasn’t in keeping with God’s Will, so he gave up drinking.

The first wine I ever drank was in early high school. It was Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill Wine, at a party hosted by a free-wheeling student English teacher, and it gave me a case of indigestion worthy of film rights, plus an attack of bad conscience. I was underage, and I knew Mom would not approve. My stomach certainly didn’t.

But the real issue was the evening I was supposed to perform the Mozart #3 at a high school orchestra concert, and frankly, the cadenza was just a bit beyond my capabilities. I could muddle through it, but my hand was tight — so tight — on the double-stops, and it’s impossible to play double-stops in tune with a tight hand. Any run-through was a grab bag: sometimes, I’d nail it, sometimes I sounded like I was torturing a Balkan cat. And now, it was concert night, and practice time was over. Had I known for sure I was fucked, I’d probably have relaxed and done fine, but every now and again, I’d get the damned thing almost right when practicing. So I was a total nervous wreck.

I’d dropped by the home of the second-chair player on the way to the auditorium for some reason I can no longer precisely remember — I believe she and I were sort-of dating at the time, which is another story — and her father, a physician, prescribed a very small glass of wine to settle my nerves. It was a reasonable prescription, but a poor choice of wine for someone with a completely undeveloped palate: a chardonnay, probably a very nice one, but dry as a bone.  A cream sherry would have been a better choice. Or even a shot of Jack Daniels, neat, hold your breath and take it like a man. Or better still, an Inderal.

But they offered a glass of Chardonnay, and I took a polite sip or two, but could not manage any more. I found the extreme dryness offensive, and the fact that it was alcohol both worrisome and morally ambiguous in my young mind.

I should have just chugged it. That concert was not one of the times I nailed the Mozart #3 cadenza. In fact, I never played it again after that night.

So I’ve always associated Chardonnay with both extremely dry white wines, and with performance failure. You can imagine my general distaste.

Barefoot has redeemed the Chardonnay for me. I don’t know how it ranks on the scale of all Chardonnays in all of time and space, but it does get consistently good reviews, and it’s one of the least expensive wines you can find in the Colorado stores. Fruity, slightly tart, delicious, and not too buttery. Not at all dry.

And, to date, no performance failures.

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