Trying on Wine, Or, A Taste of Tasting

As thirsty human beings go, I’m pretty basic. I drink Earl Grey tea all day, every day. When I eat pizza or tacos, I like a beer. If someone offers me wine, I’ll usually accept, but I don’t tend to buy it. And I NEVER go wine-tasting.

Enter The Niece (an appropriate verb, because The Niece is an actor). Last year, as her college graduation gift, I offered her an all-expenses-paid Auntie Weekend Package. She got some choices. To name a few: The Big Apple (go to NYC! see a show! eat Reubens!); the REI (stay in a National Park inn! go hiking! see moose!); the Spa (have our toenails painted in matching colors! ummm…what else do they do at spas? thank goodness she didn’t pick that one).

Obviously the National Park one would’ve been right up my alley, the NYC one right up hers–though actually a little too close to work for funsies. But I was pleasantly surprised when she picked The Sonoma: a weekend of wine-tasting in California’s sunny autumn. (Since I wanted to visit my cousins there anyway, I got to combine the trips in a two-fer.)

Of course Fate intervened last weekend, in the form of Sonoma’s terrifying Kincade Fire. Thank all those firefighting gods, at this posting, that fire is now over 80% contained–though other fires rage in SoCal. (Hang in there, SoCal!) So we pointed ourselves south instead, and off to the coast we went.

By my count, in 48 hours, we visited a vineyard, a tasting room, a wine bar, and a tap room. Also three restaurants. Not a bad alcohol: food ratio by my lights. And I definitely enjoyed each one, especially the part where you try to summon adjectives to describe what you’re tasting–I mean, I AM a writer!–and then compare your take with the official blurb.Wine, beer--whatevs. We're tasting!

But the whole time, I was aware that the activity of wine-tasting felt very alien, very Not Me.

The fact that I was more enamored of the labels than the actual wine should have been a clue.

In 48 hours, with only a minimum of driving,The Niece and I managed to absorb a whole bunch of non-tasting-related experiences. We thrilled to the unexpected opportunity to stroke some “ambassador owls” which were visiting the vineyard just then. (The vineyard’s been having some gopher issues, so they’re teaming up with a raptor center to welcome some hawks and owls there–win/win!) Being able to put fingers into the soft fluff of such fearsome birds was a dream come true.

C’mon, pet me!

Beneath the wharf, sea lions created a free aquarium display, all day.And what’s not to love about the California coastline?

Even better at sunrise!

Because it was El Día de los Muertos, we got to enjoy some extra festivities.

While in town (and yes, slightly buzzed), we allowed ourselves to be seduced by a consignment shop featuring glitzy gowns for $40 apiece. We did not buy anything, but man–I’d forgotten how fun it is to play dress-up!

Soooo tempted! Too bad I’m such a sensible person.

Thinking about it later, that dress-up activity offered itself as a fitting (pun intended) metaphor for the entire weekend. A wine person I am not. A taster I am not. But I sure had fun trying those roles on with a dear companion!

I won’t go wine-tasting again any time soon, any more than I’ll buy a silver-sequined gown. Even for $40. But every now and then, I might “taste” something equally out of character…and I might like the hell out of it.

But then I’m going back to my Earl Grey.


Thrift Shops: Havens of Ultimate Cool,Macklemore Says So

You know those license plate frames you see, “I’d Rather Be Shopping at Nordstrom’s”? I need one that says, “I’d Rather Be Doing Almost Anything Rather Than Shopping at Nordstrom’s, Except Maybe Shopping at Macy’s.” I’d need a really big license plate frame. But at least I’d be expressing my deepest self, and that’s what license plate frames are for, right?

Something about those giant department stores just creeps me out. All those piles of handbags and acres of makeup counter…they make me question my feminity. Just how strong is my ol’ X chromosome anyway, when I want to go screaming out of here just minutes after I wander in? And it’s not the canned music–heck, Nordstrom’s has a piano player! Or used to. It’s the size, the shininess, that feeling of being trapped inside a magazine. Let’s just say department stores were not built for women like me.

But thrift shops? They can make me double-park and run across traffic.

I LOVE thrift shops, especially for clothing, although I have a nice collection of thrifty dishes too. Now that I no longer have to wear professional work clothes, I’m slowly “laundering” my old wardrobe through our local thrift shop. Every time I make a new purchase, I make myself donate something. The rate I’m going, there should be nothing tailored left in my closet by November.

My proudest purchase, though, came in 1978, when I bought my wedding dress. Understand, though–I did not get married until 1987. I’m just thrifty…and lucky.

Juniors in high school, my friend Mimi and I were sifting through items at the Nearly New Shoppe in my hometown in North Carolina, when we found a box of unpriced clothing in the back of the store. Mim pulled out something in ivory satin that just kept coming…and coming…and…holy cow! A wedding gown with a 10-foot train. One LONG, uninterrupted swath of silky sheen. Leg-o’-mutton sleeves with satin-covered buttons. A heart-shaped neckline.

“How much for this dress?” I called to the woman up front.

Without looking up, she replied, “Oh, everything in that box back there’s a dollar.”

Mimi and I looked at each other. “Fifty cents each?” she proposed. For that price, we didn’t even bother to try it on.

During that school year I wore it to a costume party, and I’m pretty sure Mimi put it to a similar use. Otherwise it hung in my closet, or hers, occasionally brought out to brag on, but mostly forgotten. Until 1987.

I said Yes to the DressI said Yes to the Dress

When I decided to use the dress for its Ultimate Purpose, I consulted with Mimi. OK if I had it altered a little, to get rid of some age stains and shorten up that crazy train? It was an outdoor wedding, after all, and we have some serious red clay in NC. Mimi was fine with it.

The alterations cost me $10. So, with the original purchase price, that came to $10.50. I’ve heard of people buying wedding dresses for “ten-fifty,” but there are usually more zeroes attached to that.

Can you tell how ridiculously proud of myself I am for that find? But it’s not just about the money.

There is something inspiring to me about wearing the clothes of some anonymous woman. So much to wonder about! Did she really get married in that dress? Is she happily married still, or did it end badly? Perhaps the wedding fell through, and she never even had the chance to wear that dress. Was she relieved? Heartbroken? Is she still alive?


And NOW, come to find out I’m completely trendy! Macklemore’s video “Thrift Shop” has language a little more raunchy than what I want to post here, but check out this video of teenagers watching it:

What about y’all? Any hard-core thrift shoppers out there? Tell us the coolest thing you ever scored.