Giggle-snorting in Wine Country

Almost a year ago, I went to a wine party that, I thought, was to transform me into a mature, sophisticated member of society's upper crust. I'm not sure what made me connect the two (wine and social standing), but I was certainly well off the mark. In fact, to this day I'm still drinking the cheapest beer available and feeling, well, not very mature and upstanding.

I thought I'd give the whole wine thing another shot, though. My friend Gretchen recently decided to celebrate her 30th birthday tasting wines in the famed Willamette Valley. Her significant other (who is a guy), offered to rent two ginormous SUVs that would allow Gretchen to bring her friends along. Mark also volunteered to be the designated driver and convinced his friend to do so, too. So, we had two vehicles, two designated drivers, and 12 drinkers.

We started the morning at 10:00, where we all met at Gretchen's for mimosas (some added less orange juice to theirs than others). We sat and argued over Juan's, Mark's friend and the other driver, ethnic background. Not that it mattered, but it was amusing how, as more drinks were had, his ethnic background changed from Hispanic to Ecuadorean (which according to one, can't be Hispanic), and from Mexican to Puerto Rican and back to Ecuadorean. As people got a proper buzz, and the time neared to leave, it was now time to pick our nuts. This was to determine who drove in which car, so as not to get separate cliques among the 14 people. Thus, our nut sack contained (an even amount of) nuts with holes or nuts without holes. We would dig into the same nut sack after visiting each winery, allowing for different passenger combinations each time. After initially digging into our nut sack and grabbing our respective nuts, our seating arrangements for departure were determined...and we were off.

When we hit the freeway, Gretchen broke out a paper that gave a run-down of wine tasting basics. She proceeded to read the paper aloud, quizzing us about acidity, astringency, fruitiness, and volume along the way. This was our "now you're in the know" primer. Hate overcame me immediately. I began to loathe wine, as well as the connoisseurs that actually can distinguish between the acid content of a pinot grape grown at higher elevations and those grown in a valley. It's a good thing Gretchen jokingly read this paper, because she almost lost a friend.

Anyway, it wasn't long after our wine primer that the fun started and the giggle-snorting began.

I was lucky enough to pick the same nut as Gretchen every time. As a result, we shared the same van for the day's entirety. Because Gretchen is such a good planner, and just knows how to have a good time, she thoughtfully brought MadLibs along. So, as we drove from winery to winery, we filled the partial sentences with words like "choad," creating the sentence "choad and fancy free." Some of the other words and phrases we used to complete the MadLibs were: ball licking doves (for plural noun), poop, nugget, necrophiliacking (for verb), Jeff's left testicle, and Jeff's first poop. The chain of absurd sentences, and the awkward stories they created, resulted in a series of giggle-snorting laughs from Gretchen (these are the laughs that are so intense that, seemingly, the only way to get oxygen to your lungs is by snorting through your nose). The MadLibs were great fun, but they only filled the time in between our tastings.

The first winery we went to, August Cellars, was probably the best. I say this, not because it was the nicest property or had the tastiest wine, rather they had the most free tastings and poured the biggest glasses. See folks, the whole sniffing prior to sipping and letting the taste linger philosophy was lost on me, as well as most in our party. Yes, some of the wines did taste OK, but with the amount of wine they gave you, the only way you could get a buzz (that's why some of us went, right?) was to drink your sample quickly and move on to the next wine (unless you're name is Bobby and were nursing a hangover from the previous night). However, I must admit my embarrassment when usually being the first to put their empty wine glass on the counter for a refill (remember, this was a first for me).

We stayed at August Cellars for about 20 minutes. After picking our nuts, getting back into the car, and doing a few more MadLibs, we headed to the next winery, Duck Pond. All I can remember from this place was Gretchen and Nate struggling to pronounce this winery's signature wine, Clos d'pond. I'm not sure I care how to pronounce it, because Gretchen and Nate's attempt to use a French accent sounded much better than the actual pronunciation. The other thing I remember about Duck Pond was the wine bottle Mark broke in the parking lot. While loading it into his car, it fell out the back and shattered on the ground. For some reason, I ended up being blamed for it, and was reminded of the fact all day by Gretchen.

As we continued our tour of wineries, I can think of a few more highlights, as they eventually meshed together. First, the cheese at the Maresh winery was awesome. Nate and I attacked the cheese plate, or, as wine people would say, we cleared our palates, allowing for our taste buds to fully appreciate the next wine. Speaking of appreciating wine, you must really have a strong appreciation for fermented grape juice if you go to Erath Winery. Here, they tease you with a free flight (a round of samples) and then entice you with their premier wines, which will cost about $7.00 a flight. You'd think at this price, you'd get a full glass or two. Nope, not at Erath. The skimpy bastard barely poured an ounce of the good stuff, causing a serious distaste in the mouths of those that forked over the cash in hopes of more alcohol. At another winery, Nate (out loud) compared one of the wines to watered down tequila. I thought the comparison was accurate, and quite hilarious, but I can see how a wine snob would look down on such a comment. I think it was also at this winery where I discussed with Maggie the momentary appeal of spliffing it up to some Pink Floyd, while petting the owners dog, Dino (or, Filipino, as I first thought).

In the end, my appreciation for wine did not grow, although I do not hate it as much. I can't even say I learned that much. However, it was fun seeing 14 people celebrate Gretchen's birthday while also getting a little drunk.

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