Red Carded

Upstate New York wineries have begun issuing yellow and red “warning” cards to rowdy and inappropriate tasting room customers.  Having spent a solid eight years slogging through the cold, relentless winters of upstate NY, this is pretty frigging hysterical, on many levels. (I’ll leave the snide remarks about people braving a blizzard to sample a few ounces of NY wine to the Weather Channel).  First and foremost, do you really think an obnoxious, loud-mouthed, sweaty, disheveled drunken slob is going to respond favorably to the card system?  My guess is that he thinks it’s all a joke, unless the winery refs can pilfer some half-cooked uniforms from the shoe salesmen at FootLocker.  “Excuse me sir,” intercedes the costume-clad winery ref, complete with the black shin guards and knee-highs.  “I am going to have to issue you a yellow card for deliberately spitting your riesling at the tasting room attendant.”  Note lengthy pause as ref interprets drunken slurring as actual English language elocution.  “No sir.  I understand you think our wine is ‘crap.’  No sir, this in not Opus One.  I understand sir - no sir, you are correct; it does not snow in Napa Valley.”  To be fair, upstate New York is spectacularly beautiful, four days a year when the weather doesn’t suck.  My recollections of biking around Lake Cayuga and wine touring around Seneca are all dappled sunlight, thick verdant canopies of leaves and uncrowded, winding roads - all great stuff.  I know the wine industry has matured significantly since I first wine toured as a med student, back in (gasp) 1996 or 1998.  A wedding I attended at Red Newt winery in 2004 was impossibly beautiful.  I just can’t fathom the soccer card system handling unruly drunks in tasting rooms.  The obvious corollary is neither can I imagine nerdy med students ever being rowdy enough to merit such disciplinary action.  Then there is the sticky slope of assigning the escalating tiers of drunken indiscretion the appropriately color-coated card.  What exactly distinguishes red card reckless stupidity from a yellow card merlot-miscue?

Let’s consider some complex cases culled from my own family experiences.  Watching my children (among others) demolish the colorful ornamental foliage decorating the perimeter of Mauritson Winery in Dry Creek Valley - yellow card.  OK, that one was easy.  Breaking stemware?  Red card.  What if I joined the wine club to redeem myself, even if their wine was overrated?  Am I demoted back to yellow?  What about spewed crackers?  Allowing kids to visit a winery at all?  Gotcha!

Many years ago, when our son was quite small, Brian and I toted him along to our deluxe-plus tasting reservation at Duckhorn.  This being a well reputed and hoity-toity kind of establishment, Duckhorn kindly provided an endless supply of dry, mouth-coating, thick & chewy wine crackers.  I am talking about the ones that turn saliva into paper mache.  I, in turn, fed them to the squirmy, restless toddler perched on my lap.  A few rounds of merlot into our vertical, Bruno lurched forward.  He started to gag and a long, yo-yo of glue-colored drool descended from the corner of his mouth.  The kid needed water, and all we had was hundred buck merlot.  Like a superhero, I spun around and grabbed the sippy cup of yesterday’s tepid water that I had stashed in my diaper bag for just such emergencies.  Then, before I could melt the Plaster of Cracker, Bruno hurled.  Thick, moist chunks of half-digested cracker cascaded across our table with a discharge radius 3 tables deep.  Red card.  We bought a case of wine.  We joined the wine club.  No reprieve.  Red card stays.

Now again let’s examine last summer, when I ran the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon.  (I cannot believe I am about to reveal this to the internet community at large).  The event was over-sold, and like most running events, the Port-A-Potty line snaked in endless circles.  Pre-race, my nerves are always raw, and I feel like the sorry ladies in the overactive-bladder commercials that run during Desperate Housewives.  With minutes until the gun sounded, I took a cue from the gal in front of me.  During the Star Spangled Banner, I dashed behind her into the vineyard rows behind the crowd.  I dropped trou and relieved myself among the budding vines of Domaine Carneros.  I’d imagine drunken urination on trespassed property is a red card gimme.  But what about pardons for pre-race conditions?

My limited understanding of soccer is that one red card equal automatic expulsion.  I have already accumulated multiple red cards in both Sonoma and Napa counties.  I face ejection from my both my own and adjoining cities.  I’m reminded of Marge Simpson lamenting to Homer, “Oh Homer, we’re the worst family in the neighborhood.”  He brightly replies, “Maybe we should move to a larger community, dear.”