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Food Gal’s First Contest: Whine, Wine, and Thine

Wine Story #1:

I remember my first taste of wine. It was not a good one.

It occurred when I was not yet even in my teens. I was visiting my Uncle Harry in San Francisco’s Chinatown. I was feeling parched, so I rummaged around in the refrigerator for something cool to drink.

I spied a bottle of Welch’s Grape Juice, and poured myself a big glass. I eagerly took a gulp. Then, I nearly gagged.

This was definitely not grape juice, as I spat it out in the sink, and poured the remainder down the drain.

I later learned it was jug red wine my uncle had poured into the container instead.

Needless to say, I never drank anything out of that refrigerator again.

Wine Story #2:

I remember my first taste of wine that I loved.

I was not yet 21. (Shhh, don’t tell.) I was still in high school when my best friend and I decided to celebrate our birthdays together by going out to a French restaurant by ourselves. Yes, when you grow up in food-centric San Francisco, this was not uncommon for teens to do.

It was an old-school French restaurant on Geary Street, the kind where they served little bowls of pâté with cornichons at the start, and flaming Crepes Suzette at the end.

Our waitress was an older French woman who was as kind as can be. When she heard we were celebrating our birthdays, she said we must have wine with dinner. My friend and I looked at each other anxiously, knowing full well we weren’t 21. We knew the waitress had to know, too. Still, she insisted. She told us there was a particular wine she knew we would enjoy. She raced off to get it.

She opened the bottle, and poured us two glasses. It was a blush pink wine, a rosé that was fruity and sweet. We both smiled when we took our first sip. And our server grinned, too, at our delighted response.

I’m almost afraid to tell people nowadays what the wine was that I first fell so hard for.

It was Mateus Rosé.

It may have been the epitome of a cheap red wine. But at that moment, nothing ever tasted more sophisticated and special.

Wine Story #3:

I remember my most embarrassing wine moment.

A few years ago, I was enrolled in a wine course at the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone Campus in St. Helena.

The class was made up of people like myself who just wanted to learn more about the finer points of particular varietals, as well as career-changers who planned to someday open a wine bar or to work at a winery.

Whether we were taking the class for fun or in total seriousness, we all dreaded blind-tasting tests. It was where you were put on the spot, where you really had to prove what you knew.

On test days, we’d walk into class to find two filled wine glasses at our desks. We’d have to sip, swirl, and figure out what each glass held. We’d also have to write down our reasoning for our conclusions. When we were done, we were told to go outside and wait until all of our classmates had finished.

Of course, once we were mulling around outside waiting, we started discussing what each of us thought the wine glasses held. Invariably, almost every one of us had a different guess, which didn’t do much for our confidence levels whatsover.

I remember one white wine in particular, where the guesses were everything from Riesling to Gruner Veltliner. I thought it was something else. I thought for sure it was a Sauvignon Blanc. It is one of my favorite varietals to drink on a regular basis, so I should know it, right? I even went so far as to write down that the wine in question had the particular aromatic characteristic commonly — if uncouthly — associated with Sauvignon Blanc. I wrote: “It smelled like cat pee.” And yes, that is a real wine descriptor.

As we filed back into the class, the instructor passed our tests back with his corrections on them. I eagerly scanned mine until I came to the white wine part. Today, I don’t even remember what the wine actually turned out to be. All I remember now is the comment my instructor wrote: “Do you even HAVE a cat??”

Uh, no.  But obviously, I need to go around sniffing more of them.

Wine Contest:

I’ve just told you three memorable wine stories from my life. I’m making it easier for you, though. You only have to share ONE memorable wine anecdote in the comments section below.

The funniest, most touching, most original, or in other words, the very best one will win a shipment of four wine- and/or food-related books from my collection. If I get enough responses, a second-place winner will receive three wine- and/or food-related books; and the third-place winner will receive two said books. Disclaimer: This contest is only open to those in the continental United States. Sorry, but when you’re only semi-employed as this Food Gal is, you can only afford so much in postage.

So go pour yourself a glass, and think up your best entry.

Deadline to participate: The end of the day, May 29.

Winner(s) announced: June 1 on FoodGal.

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