Zhadi's Den

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

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Revenge of the Wine Weekend, Part One

When Billy invited me as his guest last April to go on the Robert Balzer wine tasting field trip, I had a blast. The only disappointment was that Billy couldn't go as he'd landed in the hospital with an arm injury. In order to share it with him, I took notes, started Zhadi's Den and wrote about the weekend, which was a once in a lifetime experience.

Okay...maybe a twice in a lifetime experience, 'cause when the Autumn field trip rolled around, Billy once again invited me as his guest, only this time, he was gonna go too. I was delighted; as I discovered in Balzer’s wine seminars, Billy is a walking encyclopedia of wine facts (a well-written and engaging encyclopedia, not a dry, boring one), and I was looking forward to a whole new layer of experience to the trip this time around.

As it was, thanks to a nasty cold that hit three days before we left, I also had a layer of mucus between me and my sense of taste and smell the night before the trip. The runny nose had started that Tuesday while I was in Los Angeles. I drove home Wednesday, morbidly aware that I could spend the entire weekend unable to taste Thursday I spent in bed. I crawled out only to make hot toddies infused with cayenne pepper, lemon, honey, and cheap whiskey (Rebel Yell, hooyah!), pop decongestant, Airborne, and mucus thinning pills, and to steam my face over a pot of boiling water infused with cinnamon and cloves. I was determined to push the cold through my sinuses as quickly as possible, even if I had to burn it out to do so. Thursday night, however, I could barely taste the last toddy of the evening, although I could feel the cayenne pepper burning my tongue and throat on its way down.

I crawled out of bed Friday morning at 5:30, downed more cold medicine, a couple of liver pills (de rigueur for a day of wine tasting), and took the hottest shower I could stand. By the time I got to the BART station, I could kind of sort of taste my honey lemon cough drop and I felt substantially less icky than I had the day before. Maybe I’d done the impossible and almost cured the common cold. Or at least partially regained my sense of smell and taste. I was hopeful that Billy wasn’t going to end up wasting money on me. Oh well, at the very least I could fulfill my self-made role as Geisha, which meant showing a certain amount of cleavage and making sure that Billy’s glass was never empty (difficult to do at certain wineries, as I found out).

Once again I met up with the rest of the group at the Oakland Airport, where our bus, driven by the incomparable Malcolm (he’s been the driver for Robert’s tours for many years now), picked us up. And once again, the trip started out with everyone being assigned a number by Robert (always Number One) to insure that no one was left behind at any of the wineries. Although... would that be such a terrible fate? Billy was Number Two, and as his guest, I got to be Number Three instead of 15, my number on the last trip. Three above Patrick “I am not a number” McGoohan, by crikey!

Another difference this time around: Carol, the woman who coordinated the last trip, was no longer working with Robert. Instead, we had Jennifer, a good-natured, funny gal with excellent taste in champagne. She’d laid in a supply of “J” sparkling wine for the first leg of the journey (hey, that hour’s drive from Oakland to Napa is rough!). Everyone had their plastic champagne flute filled at least twice before we pulled up to our first winery of the day; Darioush.

(to be continued)


  • At 9:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    So we have Billy to thank for "Zhadi's Den" -and the rest is history...

  • At 11:56 AM, Blogger zhadi said…

    Yes, and Billy to thank for the resulting increase in what I'll spend on wine, since he's introduced me to the good stuff....Damn your eyes, Billy! But thank you very much!

  • At 4:10 PM, Blogger Other Lisa said…

    Life's too short to drink bad wine...

  • At 5:23 PM, Blogger allison said…

    i hate to admit it but i know NOTHING about wine. my family is a bunch of winos and they think i'm some sort of freak of nature b/c i don't enjoy it. i can't stand red wine....i'll only drink white wine but i feel so tacky ordering it. i don't like fruity things....so where does that leave me? is it acceptable to drink white wine???


    p.s saw your link on freethinker's blog ;-)

    allison in texas

  • At 12:01 PM, Blogger zhadi said…

    It's okay, Allison, you don't have to like red wine to be considered normal in the wine world...some people just don't like it! Although I bet that I could find the right combo of food and red wine that would make you at least not spit it out...maybe. I've been working on Dave for the last few months on this and have actually gotten a thumbs up on a few of my selections.

    And a lot of foods don't stand up to red wine - the whites go with 'em much better. There's a reason they always talk about white wine with chicken and fish, red with red meat and heavier/stronger flavored items. That's being really simplistic...but the bottom line, is order what you like! And there are a lot of yummy, complex, white wines out there to try. If your family and friends give you a hard time, tell 'em Robert L. Balzer's favorite varietal is Gewurtzeminer! And I know I spelled that wrong...


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