I read Matt Kramer's op-ed, "Just Drink It" with perverse humor and smug self-satisfaction. "I told you so; I told you so," looped through my subconscious on repeat play. In his June 30, 2009 Wine Spectator column, Mr. Kramer denounces the wine industry, himself included, for encouraging a wine culture of such bloated pretentiousness and incomprehensible obscurity as to render it virtually impenetrable to us outsiders ( meaning those of us who regularly buy wine at Costco and then actually drink it). Kowtowing at the altar of esoteric wine nonsense, these wine cronies devour the arcane facts like the yield per acre, brix at harvest, and the trendiest mode of fining only to taste, swish, and spit out the real goods in a ceramic bucket. They pop the cork only after the liturgy of the 95+ point sacrament, ceremoniously uttered with gravitas reserved for the Pope. All hush as the wine is decanted. Following a pedantic dissertation detailing the vineyard's soil content over the last 15 growing seasons, the nose is contentiously debated, like a bunch of lab-coat technicians dissecting a math theorem. Is that the smell of tanned leather, fresh leather, raw cow hide or sweaty pleather? Is red cherry, bing cherry, candied cherry or cherry cordial? Tell me, Brigade, where is the joy? For many, the festive world of wine has become a cold and scary place. Even friends I know are red-faced to sheepishly confess, "I don't know anything about wine," a shortcoming more demeaning than admitting they flunked preschool or broke a vase and blamed it on the dog. This obtuse, fatuous, fancy shmancy, unapproachable culture of wine has gotten out of hand. Bring wine back to the people, please! Even Mr. Kramer admits, "Not once did any of us exclaim over the sheer pleasure of what we were tasting. Not once did we deal with wine as something approaching ‘normality.'" That sounds like a very sad party to me. At Bruliam, we preach that wine should be special but never so precious that you fear drinking it. Wine should be a fully integrated component of life and food and family, celebrating the daily, simple pleasures derived from that concoction. Yes, Mr. Kramer, it is imperative that we "make wine a little less exceptional...and a bit more about life itself." Perhaps as wine royalty, Mr. Kramer was privy to the classified copy we wrote for the back of our wine labels, as our own verbiage supports those very same virtues. We want to shout, "Do open our wine tonight and drink it heartily!" Toast your day and allow our juice to raise the bar on last night's leftovers. And it was with this tingly feeling of rhapsodic wine gospel, consecrating the triumph of my personal wine philosophy that I embarked on my kids' end-of-the-year school carnival.
And there, nestled between the Frisbee spin art station and the rubber duckie fishing booth, dear Brigade, I jumped the shark. Dear Bacchus, spite my name and spoil my wine for I have committed hypocrisy of ferocious scale. Even the powerful St. Urban - my favorite Catholic patron saint- cannot undo my horrors. When an unassuming mommy friend inquired after the state of the Bruliam vino, I launched into a passionate, rapturous treatise on numerical clones, cranberry nuances, flavor profiles and mouth feel. I used words like "restrained" and "brawny" and "austere" and "elegant." I gave discourse to the distinction between a jammy blackberry tinge a bright red fruit undertone. And oh God help me for I was utterly clueless and misread every social cue. I was not silenced until she blurted out (and I am not making this up), "That is beyond me; just give me a good margarita with lime." Gulp. I was quiet. In my maniacal fervor, I marched right into the Member's Only Wine Geek Club, oblivious that my companion was uninitiated. So dear Brigade, please forgive my frenzied musings on yeast strains, and just drink the wine!