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Friday, April 8, 2011

Not just beer, wine geeks too

By Steve Siciliano

Long before I understood IBUs, Belgian quads, or the difference between ales and lagers, I developed a fascination for wine. That fascination eventually matured into love; but my first exposure to a premium wine, a German white that I happened to arbitrarily pluck off a shelf while in college, was akin to a fuzzy cheeked, virginal teenager having a serendipitous encounter with an older woman—the experience was exciting, a bit intimidating, stimulating, a little overwhelming, and I just wasn’t quite sure how to do things right.

I was fortunate that the wine I haphazardly chose contained a little sweetness—lucky because if I had happened instead to have picked out a huge, dry, tannic red for my first blind leap into the world of wine my virginal palate, which up to that point only had experience with Boone’s Farm (wine’s equivalent of a giggly school girl), might have been shocked beyond reparation. I don’t remember much about that wine besides the fact that I was intrigued by the experience—intrigued not only by the complex flavors and aromas of the wine itself, but also by its other, non-sensory elements. I remember gazing at the unfamiliar words on the high-sloped, amber bottle wondering about the grapes that produced that wine, what they looked like, where they were grown, and what alchemy it was that turned those grapes into that alluring, straw-colored liquid.

Over the subsequent years I continued to be fascinated by wine but whenever I approached it I did so with a degree of trepidation. One day I brought home an armload of books from a used bookstore and began an extensive, exploratory journey through the world of wine. I traveled first around France and devoured information about the big, long-lasting wines of Bordeaux, the velvety smooth reds and the crisp, flinty whites of Burgundy, the beefy, inky Rhones and the delicate whites of Alsace and the Loire Valley. I stepped briefly in Champagne, crossed over the border to Germany, moved on to Greece and Italy, and ended that journey in the hills of Spain and Portugal. One thick, oversized book had enticing colored photographs and I was transported to impressive chateaus surrounded by acres of vineyards. I studied gnarled vines poking up through gravelly soil, gazed at huge wooden barrels resting in arched stone cellars, floated over Burgundy’s gentle slopes and looked down on the impossibly steep vineyards of Germany. I got lost on the wide plains and in the rolling hills of Italy.

Shortly after returning from that journey I spent the night with a Beringer’s Knights Valley cabernet sauvignon. Unlike the inexperienced young man who was intimidated by a semi-sweet white, the knowledge and experience I had gained allowed me to know exactly what to do with that dry, tannic red. I knew how to approach it, how to appreciate it, how to gaze at its physical beauty and how to breathe in its complex aromas. That was the night I fell in love with wine.

That love was one of the reasons I sold the neighborhood convenience store I owned at the time. It was a good store, but I knew if I were to stock premium wine there the bottles would have only gathered dust; and because I had fallen in love with wine I wanted to sell it.

Because of the number of beer related posts that appear in The Buzz, regular readers may have the impression that the only alcoholic beverage that we at Siciliano’s are passionate about is beer. While beer put us on the map, we still love talking about wine and we love selling it. Future Buzz posts about this alluring, fascinating and complex beverage will prove this.

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