Despite having no great fondness for wine, I attended the recent Maryland Wine Festival and -- to just about everyone's surprise -- was not asked to leave the premises even once.
You didn't ask, but my problem with wine is two-fold. First of all, I don't particularly like the taste, which always struck me as being eerily similar to dishwater.
Secondly, I am not a graceful drinker of wine, due to an incredibly low tolerance for the stuff.
After about two glasses, I start talking too loud and laughing at inappropriate times in the conversation. Another glass or two and I'm exhibiting all manner of untoward behavior that (mercifully) stops just short of baying at the moon.
It's not pretty to see. There was an ugly wine-related incident in college that still haunts me. A new girlfriend invited me to a wine and cheese party at her off-campus apartment. By the end of the evening, I was slumped in a corner with my arm around her golden retriever singing "The Flintstones" theme song.
Needless to say, that was our last date. Sadly, I didn't see much of the golden retriever after that, either. The woman, I was told, took to walking around campus with a large hat and dark sunglasses for the next several weeks, fearful that someone would recognize her as the person who had sat next to me at the party.
Despite this troubled history, I set off for the Maryland Wine Festival with my friend Wicky to see if my attitude toward wine had changed over the years.
Wicky was an invaluable man to have on this outing because when it comes to wine, he knows what the hell he's talking about without sounding like an insufferable snob.
More importantly, he understood that if I were to start baying at the moon, he was to quietly remove the glass from my hand, drape a picnic blanket over my head and lead me to a secluded area.
Once the effects of the wine wore off, he was to loosen the hand restraints and leg shackles and quickly drive us home.
The weekend of the festival was sunny and warm and drew thousands of friendly, clear-eyed folks, which was sort of unnerving, as Wicky and I were more used to dealing with surly and largely incoherent people on social occasions.
Nevertheless, we collected our complimentary wine glasses and proceeded to wander from tent to tent, sampling the goods. The first was a cabernet sauvignon that was described in the accompanying literature as having "a complex and full-bodied flavor."
Wicky reported it to be excellent, and so did several other folks nearby, who then turned to me for an opinion.
"Complex and full-bodied does not begin to describe it," I said, mentally repeating my telephone number in preparation for the inevitable synaptic breakdown that was to come.
Next we tried a chardonnay that was said to be "well-balanced and full-bodied with a long finish."
Wicky was not impressed (he pronounced it "swill,") but I was. Already I had lost all circulation in both feet, something that usually didn't happen until the third glass.
It was while sampling a seyval blanc ("dry, crisp and clean with a delicate herbal aroma") that we wandered over to the bandstand. There we ran into a large, red-eyed biker merrily swigging directly from a half-gallon bottle of cabernet blanc.
"Steve!" he said, hugging me fiercely.
"Uh, it's Kevin" I said.
"How long's it been, Steve? Five years?"
There was no point in telling him that I wasn't Steve -- he was too far gone for that and, besides, it would have just ruined his day.
So the three of us -- the biker turned out to be named Bud -- sat there listening to the music and making small talk.
"Molly . . . how's she doing anyway?" Bud asked.
"Well, you know she had a baby," I said.
"No! Boy or girl?"
"Boy. Picture a young Joe Pesci."
Bud was slipping fast now, eyes focusing glassily on a point well above my forehead. So we quietly excused ourselves, although not before promising to give Bud's best to Molly.
Later we found him asleep under a tree, indicating that a half-gallon of cabernet blanc might be the way to go if you find yourself tossing and turning at night.
The rest of the afternoon was spent sampling an impressive array of food along with the wine -- tell me, what goes better with a cheese-steak sandwich than a good riesling?
Happily, despite sipping the equivalent of nearly three glasses, I was able to maintain control of both legs and the use of my tongue for speaking purposes.
Luckily, we left the festival before the moon rose, which was a good thing as it precluded any howling on my part. Wicky says we'll go back next year.
Of course, we'll need a snapshot of Molly's kid for Bud.