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Wine snob finds her roots

A friend, who is a chemical engineer, has made wine for several decades. I used to be well acquainted with his art. I moved to Colorado and have not seen this friend for over a decade, or any of the personalities that usually join him to drink his wine.

Recently I attending a sort of homecoming when I flew to Pennsylvania to attended a party at his home. It had been eleven years since I had drank Brady wine. While I was gone I became extremely knowledgeable about wine; I even earned my Sommelier certification. Ironically, all the wine I had sampled in my journey to obtain and sustain my expertise was nothing like Brady wine. I couldn't remember the last time I had cherry, raspberry, or apple wine, it was probably the last time I spent time with Mr. and Mrs. Brady.

That weekend I also drank lambrusca grape varieties, rather than vinifera. Vitis lambrusca is the native grape of North America. Its highbrow cousin, vitis vinifera, accounts for grapes like cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot, and chardonnay and has always been preferred. In fact the entire global wine industry features the vinifera species. But on a warm summer night in the Allegheny mountains, a blend of the lambrusca varieties Concord, Niagara, and Catawba were incredibly refreshing. Perhaps their flavors were enhanced by the bluegrass band, the guy carving an ice sculpture with a chain saw, and the potluck dinner. The 2.0L wine bottle labeled 'sulfuric acid' (the apple wine was labeled 'hydrochloric acid') added to the wine's appeal as well. Reading the faded warning label off of either bottle was a guaranteed knee-slapper.

Intellectual deliberations about wine are irrelevant when the room wafts of homemade food and homemade music. Camaraderie and joy creates memories that are just as tremendous in Mill Creek, Pennsylvania as they are in Tuscany or Bordeaux. This is an important lesson for all of us to remember when we seek out that perfect bottle of wine we enjoyed on holiday. The experience often adds to the gastronomic sensation and is nearly impossible to replicate once we are back in our usual places.

For me, having a reasonable palate, one that appreciates a $6 bottle of wine is vital. This proves to be difficult in the professional wine arena because you're sampled on hundreds and hundreds of expensive bottles of wine a year. Appreciating the attributes of that $6 bottle becomes increasingly difficult when your palate becomes accustomed to wine ten times its price. Relaxing with old friends, while drinking 'bone dry apple' from a plastic cup, is the perfect exercise to keep my palate humble and grateful. This invaluable lesson is one that I hope to visit more often.

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