Zhadi's Den

Random essays on wine, writing, moving to San Francisco, surfing, cats (exotic and otherwise) and zombies...depending on my mood.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Wine Weekend - Part One

It always annoys me when something I've liked for years suddenly becomes a trend. It happened with unicorns when I was a kid, then surfing (Oh, Blue Crush, what you did to the crowds at the beaches)...and now, thanks to the movie 'Sideways' (which I loved), winetasting has become vogue. Suddenly everyone's sniffing, sipping, swirling and swallowing (and sometimes spitting, I suppose, although I have personally only seen people pour unwanted wine from their glass straight into the dump bucket). Not that I begrudge anyone their enjoyment. I just hate being trendy.

My love of wine started with the pleasure of drinking it, especially when I discovered that there was a world of wine beyond white zinfandel (and I'm not knocking white zin 'cause we all have to start somewhere, and I killed many a bottle with my writing partner back in the day). I have Trader Joe's Black Mountain Fat Cat Cabernet combined with a pepperoni pizza to thank for expanding my taste buds. Then, driving through Hopland on a road trip to Northern California, I stopped at my first winery, Brutacao, and discovered that there were all these different types of wine. And that they were made from different types of grapes. And that you could taste and compare them.

My wine swilling...er...tasting (and studying, in between swilling) has been going on for over seven years. But when I compare that seven years to the likes of Billy's expertise (I'm gonna guess at least 35 years)...well, I'm still a beginner and I know it. Most of the outstanding wines I've tasted have been because of Billy's experience and generosity. Rafanelli Cabernet (www.arafanelliwinery.com) ...drool...Plus, Billy's taken me as his guest to Robert L. Balzer's wine seminars, held in Long Beach twice a year (three hours a night, one night a week for eight weeks).

I believe most of Billy's wine background comes from Balzer. He's 93 and the majority of those years have been spent writing about wine. Balzer and Billy go way back; Robert knew Billy's father. Billy's been taking Balzer's seminars since the '70s or thereabouts.

I moved to San Francisco in the middle of this Spring's seminar, but did get to attend a few of the classes. Plus, Billy invited me as his guest on the field trip to Napa/Sonoma, which would take place a few weeks after I relocated. I'd just have to meet the group at the Oakland Airport - all other expenses (other than any wine I might want to buy) were taken care of by Billy. Of course I said yes. When you're one of 'Robert's children' (as he calls his students), you sometimes get to visit wineries that don't always open their doors to the public. I'd get to hang out with Billy, one of the most interesting people I've met, visit wineries, meet new people, and drink yummy wines. No strings attached. And after the stress of moving to a new city, plus separating from my husband of 15 years, AND having no immediate employment, I knew I was gonna be ready for some relaxation...

(I accidently published this before finishing part one...so consider this the PRE wine weekend post! Pictures to follow!)


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