Initiation...

Celebrations are nice. Working hard for something and achieving it is pretty awesome. But sometimes being given limitless wine at your own discretion after passing an exam about wine that you have been studying like a psycho for over the last 6 months - is a disaster. This was my A-HA moment in the world of learning my limits, and luckily I was not the obvious example of “Dude, you may want to taste some of that water before your next wine” that day. Thanks to a very talented and extremely well read Somm that wrote his introductory exam the same day that I did, I had avoided my initiation and lived vicariously through his. Or so I thought…

 

Allow me to introduce a character that will make many appearances on this blog. If I have some promise in mastering The Art of Getting Drunk, this man is Picasso. He and I have gone down the wine rabbit-hole on a number of occasions while drinking wines that only a fortunate few are ever able to taste, and this is the story of how he and I became good friends while I was trying to take a day off during a busy business trip…Silly me. 

This needs a little bit of a set-up as I think it is important to understand the complexity of how this situation came about. I had just become fully self-employed after starting my own import company and I was on my first trip abroad searching for wines to expand my portfolio; this found me in a part of the world that produces wines that I adore - the Loire Valley. Accompanying me was my wife, her sister [who has lived in France for over 10 years, so obviously she has plenty of experience throwing back multiple glasses of wine], and her Parisian husband who has, of course, grown up with a glass in his hand, being French and all…so I was in plenty capable drinking company. We decided to make the drive to the Loire from Pairs a day ahead of my scheduled meetings so we were well rested before business really started as it was a 3.5 hour drive and I had just landed a few days earlier so I was still a little jet-lagged. Once we arrived I thought it would be nice to keep things light and play tourist for a day. I am always doing business when I visit wineries, and while my business is awesome and super fun, I still have to stay focused and I just wanted to kick-back, relax, and taste some delicious wine. So, once everyone agreed that it was a good idea, we hit the road and landed at a beautiful, very old Chateau that boasted a reputation for beautiful {perhaps do another choice for word selection as beautiful was just used to describe the Chateau - otherwise, eliminate the word beautiful from the Chateau description} wines. We exited the car and a very nice [and English speaking!] lady greeted us and offered a tour of their cellar. I was in my touristic heaven. A few moments into the tour she asked me what I do, quite possibly because I sounded a little more informed than the average guest. I told her that I owned a small import company that focuses on small production wines - my tourist cover was officially blown. The tour went on for a few more minutes and thereafter we headed into their small tasting room. It was at this time that she asked us to wait for a moment while she went to find her colleague… 

With heavy footsteps and a big swing of the door a large man entered, and to whom I recited the one line I had mastered in French, “Je suis desolé, mon français nes pas trés bon”. He replied with a uniquely British accent, “that’s alright, I speak English!”, and so the night began. [It’s only 2pm by the way]

This is where the initiation begins. First we began with the typical wine-after-wine professional tasting while the passionate winemaker describes each wine and why it tastes the way that it does. This particular winemaker had some very interesting things to say and I was completely engaged with every word. Once we finished the professional tasting and had the chance to chat about methods, philosophies, superstitions, and many other things, he asked me if I wanted to import his wines. I instantly exclaimed “YES!” without any hesitation, and he then said those six little words that have become my favourite quote of all time:

“Now we drink for pleasure”

To be continued...

 

-TJ Harstine