This has not been an auspicious day.
Teddy is an early riser, and we are trying to figure out how to teach him not to greet us in the morning with his front paws on the bed. Well, actually, paws on the bed would be better: he just gets up on his hind legs — standing, he’s a little shorter than Marta — and then flops his paws down on whatever is near the edge of the bed, a kind of hail-fellow-well-met crushing handshake, slap on the back, and kick down the stairs all rolled into one.
Five-thirty this morning. Even God is only starting to twitch.
Then, as I’m trying to find the shower, Marta tells me the microwave is not working. Which is not good, not because it’s expensive (though it’s not cheap to replace a microwave), but because it’s plugged into some slightly dodgy wiring that could be very expensive to replace. It’s too dark, yet, to even try to go out and check the breaker box. So I pour out the last of the coffee and start a new pot.
When God finally gets up and turns on the lights, I go out, and sure enough, the breaker is tripped. And it won’t re-engage. So the breaker is bad, or there’s a dead short somewhere in the house wiring. Which was working just fine yesterday.
I could go on and on, but it was just one of those days. You’ve all had them.
So then the day was over, the electrician had fixed everything, and I went to pour myself a glass of wine. It continued to be one of those days.
The first try was the Francis Coppola 2014 Chardonnay. When you’re driving up 101 from San Francisco to Ukiah, you can’t miss seeing the Coppola Winery on your left just north of Santa Rosa, between Healdsburg and Geyserville. It’s pretty much the Six Flags of wineries, with everything from tasting rooms to swimming pools. Do check out the website: it’s phenomenal!
The Chardonnay — not so much. It has bitter notes.
Now, there is bitter, and there is bitter. Dark chocolate and coffee are bitter and delicious. This is the other kind. It embraced my tongue like a lover looking forward to starting yet another argument during make-up sex. Yes, all the basic elements are there: the lush body, the long legs, the floral notes, the memory of the sweetness of the past, when the grapes were young and unfermented. But underneath is the kind of bitterness that poisons all pleasure.
I passed it to Marta, and it almost didn’t make it past the sniff-and-swallow test. I think she regretted that it got as far as it did.
So my next try was the 2014 Old Soul Zinfandel, from Oak Ridge Winery in Lodi just south of Sacramento. I fell in love with Old Vine Zinfandels a long time ago. One of the best I ever tasted was something called Mersa, from somewhere near Healdsburg, and it’s on my list to find them now that we’re out here. Old vine Zins are dark, dark as black earth, black chocolate, black licorice, full of cherry and fig and raisin in the slow currents beneath the fruity surface of the Zinfandel grape.
This one — well, earth is a good description. Again, there is a bitterness, this time not of poisoned love, but of the grave. Old Soul indeed. Very old.
Marta trusted her nose this time, and barely touched the wine to her lips before wincing.
Now, had Marta not been tracking my impressions so closely, I’d have kept both bottles for another day, to see if the problem was me. Perhaps my too-early rising had left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Nah. Life is too short and great wines are far too numerous to give any of them second and third chances. Maybe I’ll try the brands again in a better year. Maybe I won’t.
At that point I decided it was a beer night. PranQster is from North Coast Brewing, up in Fort Bragg (an hour west of here), and it’s one of those Belgian monstrosities that doesn’t apologize for putting allspice and cream cheese into the brew.
This one is done very, very well. It isn’t a beer to chug with your buddies on a hot afternoon of working outside. But it’s a truly fine anodyne to bruised taste buds.