Ever look at yourself in the mirror...and see a stranger staring back? I just experienced that very sensation. I was about to get in the shower, caught my reflection, took a long look...and I said "Where the hell did these sideburns come from?". Seriously, my entire life I haven't had sideburns. And now I look like I'm preparing for an audition for 90210 Redux.
It's been a gradual, subtle expansion, but now they're threatening my earlobes. How the hell did this happen? And how the hell didn't I notice it?
The wine festival was quite nice, and not as brutally hot as I feared. Saturday was jam-packed, but we didn't get there until noon so it was only a five-hour wine-sipping sprint. Lots of wine, lots of pretty girls about, it was all very civilized.
I'm a red wine man myself, I don't much like white wine, don't like sweet or semi-sweet wine, and dessert wine isn't on my radar. But when Kris told me that I HAD to try this one dessert wine I was up for it. I've learned to trust Kris's judgement without reservation, and you would too if you ever tried her black-eyed pea salsa. So I sauntered up to the Standing Stone winery booth and tried their Vidal Ice dessert wine.
Holy moley, was it good. I mean, I rolled my eyes and did a little dance and bit my lip to keep from moaning. It was almost syrupy, but it wasn't cloying at all. Powerfully sweet, but it left the mouth fresh and ready for more. I couldn't drink a bottle of it at one sitting, but a tiny glass with a few mouthfuls after dinner would be exquisite. Best thing I drank all weekend.
Saturday night we swam in the hotel pool and lounged in the hotel jazcuzzi, and we didn't get to dinner till 9PM or so. I had a few beers at the Market Street Brewing Company in Corning, that's where we usually enjoy at least one meal when we visit. By the time we finished eating everyone was pretty much dead on their feet. I know I was.
Rick was the unfortunate soul pair with me for the weekend, and my snoring eventually sent him to the couch to grab some shuteye. On Saturday Rick had struck up a conversation with a girl at the festival and they tried to arrange a meeting afterwards, but we got home too late and it never came to pass. around 6:30 I woke up, saw that Rick wasn't in his bed, and I figured that my snoring had chased him. I felt guilty for all of five minutes, when I heard the rhythmic "squeaky-squeaky" of groaning bedsprings that can only mean one thing. I was a bit disoriented, and I couldn't quite place where the sound was coming from. I couldn't tell if it was from the living room of the suite or the room above. The ceilings were about 10 feet high and the sound played tricks on me. Was it possible that Rick snuck out in the wee hours to meet his girl and they'd adjourned to the living room to, you know? I started hearing moaning and groaning and my blood ran cold. I mean, you gotta be friggin' kidding me, right? I don't need to hear this!
The encounter was noisy, enthusiastic, and mercifully brief. And, thank the stars above, the culprits were the people above, not Rick. He didn't hear a thing.
We arrived at the festival on Sunday spot-on 10AM. After a day of drinking in the hot sun and a few beers afterwards what better was to spend a blisteringly hot day than by more drinking! I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get in the swing, but a few swigs of red and I was off and running. Sunday was nowhere near as crowded as Saturday, and Sunday is our day to buy. Our gang made the first kill early on and never stopped. I was a good boy, I made it home with only five bottles of my own. I still have over a case left from previous trips, as Jody and I usually came home with around four cases between us on previous trips.
Now, four cases of wine is a lot of wine. Way too many. But when you're drinking all day and on vacation you tend to splurge a bit. Well, turns out we're rank amateurs. One of our favorite wineries up there is McGregor Vineyards. They make some kick-ass reds, including one called Black Russian Red that I bought two years and have been waiting for a big enough occasion to open. I'd planned on uncorking it after my house sold, but now that I lost my job I may wait until I get another one. We'll see.
This year the Black Russian wasn't quite as good as I remembered it from years past. Still pretty damn good. And I picked up a bottle of their Pinot Noir, which was great. Thought not quite as fantastic as their Pinot Reserve, which had me oohing and ahhing. Anyway, Brett is there trying everything twice, it's time to buy, and I'm wondering what he's gonna get.
Remember the scene from Meaning of Life
, when the French waiter played by John Cleese recites the day's menu, and Mr. Creasote grunts, "I'll 'ave the lot!". Well, that's what Brett did, ordering one of everything McGregor had to offer. That was impressive. And the guy who rang us up remembered Brett from last year when he tried to wheel and deal to get some extra discounts and swag. We all made out pretty well there.
Then back to Standing Stone to buy some of that fantastic dessert wine. Most of our group hadn't tried it yet, but it was a big hit with everyone. We ended up getting a case of the ice wine and another case and change of other stuff. The staff kind of kidded with us that we drank about two bottles of the ice wine as we figured out what we were going to buy. Brett had about half a bottle himself. Brett and Al
would get along swimmingly. Likes to eat, likes to drink, likes to have fun, owns enough guns to gain automatic entry to NATO.
Usually at the end of the day Matt and I would sprint back and forth among those wineries we like best drinking their best reds. By that point we'd have figured out which of those behind the counters gave the best "pour" and present ourselves to them. But after we got separated a bit I found that half the gang had already picked up their wine and were ready to leave. I had to leave with them because otherwise I'd be hunkered down in the bed of an SUV, and I didn't know if New York's seatbelt laws would allow that. I didn't even think of the wine we had to haul away. So I left a bit earlier than expected, but I was about ready to go.
When you leave the track you first have to pass through a gauntlet of police. They ask a few simple questions to gauge your sobriety, and if you do well they send you on your way. If you don't, they give you a breathalyzer right there. You can actually take a test inside the festival itself, though most of the people who take a test are just trying to show off to everyone how smashed they are.
Anyway, the cop didn't think that Sherry's statement that she hadn't had any wine in two hours guaranteed her sobriety, so he made her blow into the tube. And she came back at .05. We all thought that was a passing grade, but no. That's a DUI in New York. Now, the cops there are cool, the don't ticket you, they just make you pull over and wait a bit before letting you leave. Or someone else can drive, and in our case Dee passed the test and they switched seats. Tell you what, I was drinking all day, I'd had half a glass just ten minutes earlier, and I felt totally fine. Not even buzzed. I would've driven, and I probably would've been pulled over. Something to think about.
I did take a ride in a pace car through the Watkins Glen track, and that was fun, though I wish the driver had applied a bit more pressure to the accelerator and gotten us up to around 80 or so.
Before we went to dinner Sunday night we divvied up the wine. I could tell from all the boxes that we'd put up a serious number, even with me hardly contributing as I nornally would. Dee and Brett ended up with a grand total of...wait for it...78
bottles. Six and half cases of wine. Made me feel like a piker for thinking my previous record of 49 was something extraordinary. In total we brought 203 bottles of wine back to Pennsylvania. That's a lotta vino.