Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Peju-bilation in Napa Valley

My younger son and I ventured out to the Napa Valley wine country to sample the grapes and their fermented byproducts. A single grape was sufficient to satisfy my curiosity about the fruit. The grape was cloyingly sweet and very tough-skinned.

To sample the fermented byproducts, we chose a charming little winery run by the Peju family. It was the day after Labor Day and the flood of tourists had abated. The Peju host, an engaging young man about thirty, felt free to offer us an especially hospitable winetasting that turned into a leisurely conversation enlivened by sips of the Peju inventory.

From the start my son, an aspiring bon vivant, was in his element. He knew when to sniff and when to swig. I, however, felt uncertain and ignorant. My knowledge of wine only spans two attributes of color, white and red, and two attributes of taste, nice and nasty. Of course, "nasty" is always expressed as "interesting" for the sake of politeness.

The host poured us some of the Peju Cabernet Sauvignon and described the wine in words that I later found on the Peju website.

Host: "Our 2005 vintage reveals a lovely nose with aromas of dark black cherry, bittersweet chocolate and hints of bay leaf. On the palate, the dark garnet wine is rich and concentrated with layers of plum, holiday spice, tobacco and dark cocoa. Velvety tannins provide a long, memorable finish."

My Son: (not to be outdone) "A very complex wine with a fine balance. I detect undertones of leather and cinnamon at the back of the palate."

Myself: (staring thoughtfully into the goblet) "Quite red I would say. Red and nice."

Over the next half hour the host brought out bottle after bottle. The conversation seemed to grow wittier with each successive tasting. I began to spout adverbs with abandon: nice became "really nice" or "truly nice" or even "exceptionally nice." Fortunately, I became aware that my face had tightened into an idiotic grin, a clear warning of loss of control. I called an abrupt halt to my sipping and left the host and my son to finish the wine circuit without me.

The current wine, a Chardonnay, had prompted a torrent of fruit-filled descriptions from the host. Oddly enough, as my son pointed out later, the wine reminded the host of a whole fruit salad, with the exception of grapes themselves.

Host: "On the nose, enjoy aromas of citrus, pear, pineapple and vanilla with hints of toasty oak. The full mouth feel and lovely round mid-palate from the barrel aging give way to subtle hints of spice and fruit. Savor flavors of bright citrus, crisp green apple, ripe juicy pear, with a light creamy texture to the finish."

My Son: "Not to mention accents of mango, passion fruit, and freshly waxed skis. And don't forget the highlights of aurora borealis."

The only thing more exhilarating than the wine is talking about the wine.