Friend of Pipeline Brad called me up a couple weeks ago and asked if I wanted to join him for a two-part community education course dedicated to wine tasting. I enjoy wine, the course was cheap and a minimal time commitment, and Brad and I have to sometimes make time to hang out due to our hectic schedules, so I said I was game.
I did, however, offer him the caution that people would think we were gay lovers and also brothers. Brothers, because we have similar builds and features and are quite often mistaken as brothers, and gay, because we were at a wine tasting event in Uptown Minneapolis together. Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay lovers and also brothers, of course. As Katherine Kersten knows, it’s anything goes for this child of the counterculture! (Special KK haiku section at link!)
Undaunted, our love of good wine, family gossip, and gay parking lot handjobs led us to South Lyndale Liquors last night for the first of two sessions, which owner Joe C. was teaching for the 20th year. He was joined by his sidekick and pourer extraordinaire Kevin. Joe, a proud Italian-American who has been in the wine business for many years, started the night by telling us about a $4,000 bottle of wine he drank over the holidays, a bordeaux that was, in his words, “very good”. Actually, the word real word he used was “ambrosia”, though I wasn’t clear if he was talking about the singular wine or what was playing on the stereo when he and Kevin popped the cork.
Joe then proceeded to tell us the focus of the first session was white wines, which are in every way inferior to red wines. Although I share the sentiment, nothing drives down expectations like hearing about a $4,000 bottle of red wine and why all the wines you’ll be tasting for the next two hours are swill compared to what next week will bring. But, Joe kept things moving along by talking. Talking. So much talking.
But the talking stopped once Kevin filled Joe’s glass. And I mean, immediately. Down the hatch. To his credit, he was a true afficionado, considering every wine carefully whether it was $8 or $18 a bottle. Brad and I looked at the list, saw we were trying 13 different wines in total, and wondered if Joe was going to be matching our one-finger pours with his nearly-full goblets.
He did. Wine for wine. As the wines kept coming, Joe kept talking and becoming slightly more flushed in the face. Along the way, we did manage to learn a lot, such as:
- Screw tops don’t have the stigma in the industry they used to have. They offer a solid closure that’s more economical.
- Anywhere from 3 to 10% of bottles using corks go bad, or are “corked”, something screwtops prevent. If you return those bottles to your store, you’ll get credit, because they get credit. It’s part of the industry that’s taken into account. However, Joe says only about 1% of people bring wine back for being “corked”, meaning a lot of people are drinking bad wine, or assuming that all bottles of that particular wine must taste horrible. Kevin’s advice: “If it doesn’t smell good, it probably isn’t.”
- Wines from the southern hemisphere are 6 months ahead of the north. That’s why you can get 2006 vintages right now from Chile or New Zealand, but not from Napa or France.
- For Joe’s second wedding at the exclusive Calhoun Beach Club, he decided to serve the most expensive dessert wine in the world, a name I don’t recall. It was over $100 a bottle (his cost, wholesale), but many guests weren’t savvy to wine and just how special this offering was. Many people, novices like myself in particular, associate an extremely sweet wine with a cheap wine, and as a result many guests left various amounts of this liquid gold in their glasses. While this was mildly offensive to Joe, it was wildly offensive to his attorney, who was well aware of the quality of the wine and proceeded to go around and finish off every last glass. This contrasts somewhat with my wedding, where a certain unnamed guest who is now in charge of the Kansas Department of Commerce drained every last glass of any remaining beer at the end of the night. In both cases, the lawyer and Commerce official regretted their actions the next morning.
At 9:10, also known as “Glass 10”, Joe declared he was going to spend 5 minutes explaining the intricacies of German white wine to the class. By 9:35, we all practically spoke German. Finally, at 10:10, shortly after Glass 13, a woman in the back row broke ranks and got up to leave, narrowly thwarting my plan to dial Brad on his gay cell phone to create an excuse for us to leave. The class followed her lead almost immediately, and after a near three hour engagement Joe was resigned to a wave of the hand and glad tidings till next week, which I fear, because this was the week we drank wines he didn’t like.
As for Friend of Pipeline Brad, I should probably set the record straight that he’s not really my brother. And as for his gayness, not that there’s anything wrong with that, I think this picture of him in a sailor outfit will set the record straight.