I follow a fantastic wine blogger called The Drunken Cyclist who often posts about these Monthly Wine Writing Challenges that occur, believe it or not, monthly. Since I’ve graduated, I’ve had quite a bit of free time, so I decided to enter this month’s challenge on the theme of friendship. Full disclosure though, I can write about wine, and I can write about friendship, but I’m no expert on either subject, so prepare yourselves for the mess that is probably this essay.
Between thinking Happy Days was the best show every created and having an unfortunate mole on my nose, I had a hard time making friends growing up. I was always drawn to things that were “unusual” for someone my age. When other kids wanted pizza, I chowed down on grilled octopus, eggplant stews, and mushrooms. Instead of sleepovers, makeovers, and birthday parties, I spent my free time devouring John Steinbeck books, dreaming of being a Sailor Scout, and inhaling Veal Marsala at a family friend’s Italian restaurant. Unbelievably, none of those things got me invited out with friends or boys because apparently most kids and teens don’t want to discuss Quantum Leap and Henry VIII over prime rib.
This hasn’t changed as I’ve become a
sort of adult, as most of my twenty-something friends would rather go out shopping for clothes than drop any money at a place like Vernick or The Treemont. However, Twitter works wonders for the socially awkward by bringing everyone with similar interests into one big hub of information and connection. One Twitter friend reached out to me and mentioned these wine tastings he frequently attends. The tastings are run by a couple who’ve transformed their passion for wine into a business, and they set them up with some of Philly’s best BYOBs to bring other passionate wine enthusiasts together, too.
After hearing about these events, I quickly signed up for the e-mails detailing the different wine tastings around the city, but I held off for a few months before actually attending one. Part of this had to do with my busy Senior schedule and my travels to London, but a nice chunk of it was fear. I knew the guy who originally let me in on this secret was someone I enjoyed speaking to, so I would probably get along with the others attending these events, but would I be able to keep up a conversation outside of the 140 character limit of Twitter? I finally decided to be a big girl and attend a tasting when I noticed one being held at Noord the day before my birthday.
I was still a bit torn though; I wanted go to Noord and knew that this would probably be my only chance to do so before leaving Philly, but I also knew that this particular tasting was all about white Burgundy and I hated white wine. My first real sip of white wine was from my mom’s glass of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay, which I had to keep myself from spitting out as soon as it hit my tastebuds. I didn’t know much about wine when she confidently handed me my first glass, but I knew that if this was what it was all about, I wanted no part of it.
However, I figured if I was ever going to give white wine another chance, it would be better to do so with a group of people who know their stuff than with a group of college friends who still think boxed blush wine is the way to go. I was still a bit antsy at this point because I was not only going to have to chat with fifteen strangers, but I would also be putting myself in a situation where I could be drinking something I didn’t enjoy all night.
In my nervousness and anticipation, I somehow ended up completely confusing the times and showed up an hour before I had to. It was definitely one of the most embarrassing things I’d done in a while, although I had yet to try and pronounce the French wines we would be tasting that night. And while I won’t go into too much detail of that part of the evening, I can safely say my pronunciation worse than showing up an hour early. When I finally stepped into Noord at the right time, the first wines were just being poured and I slid my way over to the small group beginning to sit down.
As introductions were made and I realized that this was probably the most welcoming group of people I’ve ever met, I looked down and saw the two intimidating glasses filled with crisp, pale yellow liquid. I still wasn’t sure I made the right choice by opting for a white tasting, but I determinedly brought the first glass to my mouth, took a sip, and froze. I didn’t want to cringe. I didn’t want to pawn my wine off onto someone else. I wanted to keep sipping. In that one second, I felt like everything about my life had been a lie. Okay, I’m being a bit dramatic, but I did suddenly feel like everything I knew about wine was wrong, and obviously I was going to place most of that blame on my mother.
In all my twenty-one-year-old wisdom, I turned to the woman who was running this event with her husband and said “This is delicious! I think I’ve always had an aversion to white wines because people think they’re feminine. Plus, I’m always trying my mom’s Chardonnay, and it’s gross.” Of course I was met with words that illustrated just how little I knew about wine: “This is Chardonnay.” As soon as that came out of her mouth, I felt the need to get up, call my mother, and demand how she dared to drink the nasty stuff in her glass when there were Chardonnays like this out there. I would probably sound like a huge snob to her, but I was willing to do so if it meant better wines were brought into our home.
After getting over the fact that my mom had lied to since telling me that KJ Chardonnay was amazing, I got the one question I had been anticipating since I signed up for this shindig: “Now, I’m not sure if this is politically correct or not, but you seem a bit young to be into wine.” I then launched into a long explanation of how I’ve always enjoyed things that are normally geared towards forty-year-olds and that everything from my preferred TV shows to the books I read were ones that tended to appeal to an over-thirty set. As I listed some examples of my interests, the woman sitting to my right turned to me and she said that she also loved Twin Peaks, enjoyed Doctor Who, and watched some Star Trek. I already knew I loved this group as soon as I sat down, but this cemented it. Despite my initial hesitancy, I was able to quickly loosen up, sit back, let the conversation flow, and think to myself “these are my people.”