Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Story of Falling in Love with White Merlot, aka - How I Lost My Napa Virginity

Labor Day weekend, 2001

"Are we there yet? I'm ready to start drinking! I mean, uh... tasting."

I think it's safe to assume that a similar battle cry is often uttered by those making the forty-five minute journey from San Francisco to Napa Valley. Especially when said travellers are right out of college and visiting the West Coast for the first time.

Unbeknownst to Jason, Heather and I, this would be our first trip of many to Napa Valley, and we were excited to learn a little bit about wine - a beverage that we were just starting to enjoy now that we were full blown adults. I mean, we had our own health insurance and everything. Clearly it was time to start appreciating the finer things in life.

So, naturally, our first stop was Beringer. Established in 1876, the property includes a huge, old-looking house with the a gift shop, and specializes in taking newbies like us on elaborate tours of the facilities to get you all psyched up before you honker down for the tasting.

After we were cattle-prodded through the barrel room and part of the vineyards, the tour spit us out right into the tasting room. We elbowed our way up to the bar, proudly flashed our IDs, and started drinking - ahem - tasting, the wine. After going through about eight or so, there was no question as to which one was my runaway favorite - the White Merlot. It was light pink in color, and sweet-ish with a little bit of acidity and ripe strawberry on the finish.

We journeyed on to a few others, riding the tram at Sterling, hesitantly sipping La Crema at their tasting room, lamenting that Silver Oak was closed on Saturdays because that meant we wouldn't be able to score a free wine glass that they were rumored to give out (clearly we had no idea what Silver Oak signified)... But I just didn't find anything else that suited me like that White Merlot. Reds were still to tannic, and whites often seemed bitter. My palate just hadn't gotten there yet.

So alas, my inaugural trip to Napa concluded with me lugging three bottles of Beringer White Merlot back with me on the plane. I was proud of my find and excited to share the wine with family when I returned home over a plate of pasta and amidst stories about my first trip to the city by the bay.

You see, this is why I don't judge people who drink wines that many of us consider to be, let's say "entry level", and go to pains to make them feel justified and excited about their choices. Because I think that all of us have a little bit of White Merlot in our past, and hopefully special memories to go along with it.


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