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It’s late Saturday afternoon, and I’m in a panic. Friends have invited twelve of us to a lo-cal dinner buffet tonight at their house, so I can share more about my book, A Tired Older Woman: Loses Weight and Keeps It Off! In an effort to express my gratitude for their unsolicited gesture, I asked if I could bring something.
“Sure.” My hostess had sounded relieved. “Bring a bottle of wine, please.”
Two weeks later, I’m still in a quandary.
Now don’t misunderstand me, I drink wine. I even like some of it. It’s the buying part that stumps me.
In order for you to understand my predicament, we’ll have to go back to when I was born a long time ago into a family that was practically teetotal.
This state of affairs wasn’t the result of any particular religious convictions. On the contrary, it was more the result of my mother having grown up in the presence of an uncle by marriage, who was often known to be drunk.
My great-uncle’s escapades were quite legendary, although they were always discussed in hushed undertones or whispered about in a far corner. Cautionary tales, they always ended with the warning, “Be careful, or you’ll end up like Uncle Harry.”
The elephant in the room, they permeated our lives from afar, his having been dead for a number of years – probably from an advanced case of cirrhosis of the liver.
Things might have changed dramatically as time passed and memories of Great-Uncle Harry slowly dimmed except for one thing. My father accepted a position as a research chemist in East Tennessee.
Not seeing the connection? Well, that’s easily explained. You see, my father’s new job had forced him to replant our young family smack dab in a formation of counties that had all voted themselves “dry.”
Rumor had it at the time that this was the result of two major campaigns against the sale of legalized liquor – one carried out by the Southern Baptists and the other presented by the area’s highly successful, well organized moonshiners. Think of it like a reversed Hatfields vs the McCoys.
Despite this restricted state of affairs, our home did occasionally contain a few drops of wine – truly memorable events.
For instance, when my youngest sister was born, the next door neighbors brought over dinner, complete with a small decanter of their own homemade wine that received mixed reviews from my parents – one for and one against.
Each Christmas, my paternal grandmother did her best to provide appropriate alcoholic references as befitted her English background, arriving with a tin filled with plum pudding soaked in brandy and a suitcase that contained a bottle of Mogen David Blackberry wine. The latter she would plunk down in a suitcase on the train station platform upon arrival and caution my father in a voice that probably reached San Francisco, “Be careful! The spirits are in there.”
What kind of spirits resided within was never defined, for which we were all most grateful.
In the late sixties our world changed, when Knoxville decided to make a run for All-American City. This required the construction of a convention center complete with a flowing bar, and the voting tide swayed. Soon liquor stores could be found on most corners, although they were still closed on Sundays.
Our Christmas Mogen David was now followed by a rather lackluster New Year’s Eve champagne – definitely not something to inspire one, and over the years, our family grew quite adventurous, going so far as to serve wine at rehearsal dinners before weddings.
In spite of these baby steps forward, I reached my adult years with no “nose.” I further stinted my development by marrying a man, whose family’s tastes had run more towards beer.
When offered a glass of wine at a party, I would take it. Some I liked. Some I didn’t. Some, in my middle years, gave me hot flashes and turned my cheeks a bright cherry red, so I gave up wearing blush when I attended a party.
In the ‘90s, news of various vintages surrounded us everywhere as American-made wines took prize after prize away from the traditional European vineyards. Wine racks became nifty Christmas gifts, and wine glasses were often suspended beneath overhead kitchen cabinets. Even mid-range restaurants now boasted a sommelier.
In this rarefied environment, I read books on wine, scanned magazine articles and followed a radio show that gave daily tips on the stocking of a proper wine cellar. At the end of the decade, I had accumulated a long list of vintages in my purse that I would pull out full of hope whenever I dined in a restaurant. In three years, I never found a single one of these phenomenal wines listed on a menu, and so I remained clueless.
Those of you who have read A Tired Older Woman: Loses Weight and Keeps It Off! know that, over the years, I had developed quite a love affair with food, even as an understanding of wine still eluded me. I loved chocolate and lobster and chocolate and pasta and chocolate and pizza and a broad range of ethnic foods.
So now I stood in the wine section of my local gourmet store – the sales clerk nowhere to be found – alone and afraid that I was about to embarrass myself by making the wrong purchase.
And then I saw the answer to my prayers, clearly stated on the descriptive card for the Toscana Merlot right in front of me. Unlike the other wines offered for sale that all seemed to have undertones of leather or wood or some kind of fruit, this liquor of the gods was advertised as having fine undertones of chocolate!
Immediately, I comprehended that there was no way I could go wrong with such an outstanding vintage because, as everyone knows, chocolate always makes everything better.
Relieved of my worries, I wasted no time, but drew a bottle from the rack and cradled it in my arm, as I strode confidently to the register where I bought it.
Chocolate Can Kill (Emily Harris Mysteries) by Annie Acorn
Murder With My Darling (Bonnie Lou Mysteries) by Annie Acorn
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