If you’re like me, you might have had your first sip of wine at the age of 12 at some family celebration, where it squeezed your face and burned your throat but you just kept on drinking because you never felt so alive. Then came the Wino’s Wednesdays with the gal pals, where you gulped indiscriminately from Solo cups. Eventually you got to—or were getting to—the point where you choose consciously to join the category of pretentious windbags. With that aim in mind, I recently attended grape camp in Sonoma, California. Is there a more beautiful concept to justify your growing dependency on wine/alcoholism? Doubt it. It was three days of vineyard tours, grape-picking, food-pairing, and naturally, a whole lot of straight out getting shit-faced, all on the pretence of being highbrow Wine Connoisseur, how awesome could that be? Here are a few lessons I picked up along the way, for the next time you’re staring down an aisle of identical bottles whilst pretending you know less than fuck all about wine and secretly calculating which one is cheapest per litre.
The first rule of wine is to forget all the rules but the single rule is that it’s all about getting drunk.
White wine with chicken and fish, red wine with red meat, White in summer, red in winter; The more expensive, the better. You may have absorbed these guidelines somewhere along the way, but they’re not rules. It’s not some enormous social mistake to break them. This is a great line, when you break them, turning your ignorance into a wine snob “in the know” kind thing. This is what wine camp taught us, being a wine snob means you know close to nothing . Yet close to nothing is still more than nothing. If you can correctly pronounce Sauvignon blanc you are half way there, although it gets harder after the 4th bottle.
Wine doesn’t need to be nearly as snobby as it seems. Yet I attended this wine camp because of its snobbiness, but I learnt part of being wine elitist is pretending you’re not. So wine-camp taught me you had to find a way to drink what you like, when you like it, with whatever food you want, which might sound similar to the logic of a hobo but trust me that’s not by chance. After seminars and classes in the stuff, I still left camp liking really bold, bright reds, the kind that knock you back in your seat that emanates from 4 litre bladder bag, all washed down with the vodka I kept in my handbag. Wine sophistication isn’t a ladder that you climb because as a semi-functioning alcoholic even if you wanted to climb thta ladder being that drunk makes it really hard.
No one stomps grapes anymore.
Whoops. I assumed this would be a basic part of goon camp, but there was not one Lucy-and-Ethel moment to be found. We didn’t even squish bunches with our hands, and drank the resulting juice. Once drunk enough, wine camp did turn into drunken adulterous sort of fuck-fest but that’s what wine does to people I guess. So we were squishing bunches with our hands and drinking of juices, just not wine related.
Is it possible to drink 45 glasses of wine in a day and live to tell the tale?
Well the answer would be No. Douglas, a single guy in his 40’s did that and the ambulance was called for liver failure. Seeing his Instagram not getting updated we thought he didn’t make it. Throughout camp, we were served our first glass of the day around 8:30am, and kept at it for the following 13 hours. At two/six per hour or so, I was super drunk, all the time, so it really felt like being at work or at home. Neither did someone stomp, nor did anyone really spit out their mouthfuls in order to keep their palates pure. Confirming it wasn’t just me there with the sole focus of getting hammered. Although all that wine does weird things to your pee, teeth, tongue, and anything else that stains ( you’ve been warned lady that cleans the bed sheets.)
Sonoma looks like Tuscany, by the way.
Rolling hills, dappled sunlight, and endless stripes of green vines— who knew that a pocket of Italy can be found in the United States for a cheaper plane ticket? Although one bigger bummer was hungover I couldn’t get any Pizza Hut to delivered, really brought the whole “Little Italy” experience down.
Wine grapes have up to sixteen times the amount of sugar as the grapes you buy in the grocery store.
We could walk right up and pluck them off the vine, and those surprisingly gorgeous indigo or golden jewels tasted like candy. So wine camp helped me get a STD from Barry who snuck into my room once his wife Pat was in her usual wine induced coma in their room next door and I put on 5 kg. Wow!! The price of being a wine snob hey. That’s one of the many reasons why you probably shouldn’t try fermenting grocery-store grapes in your basement.
Pairing is more intuitive than you think.
For all the delicate, carefully chosen food-and-wine I consumed together, most often came down to the choice of selection based on how blurred my vision was. The non-blackout experience of wine camp I remembered was totally awesome. I have learnt words, terms and ways to appear to know stuff about wine that will be valuable in future to prove me as a person who has taste and sophistication. As far the snobby stakes go, making a choice between knowing more about 18th century Russian literature and knowing more about pretending to know stuff about wine, well it’s not a difficult choice.