They are not kidding about wine and aging

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It took me a while to develop a taste for wine.

It was not something often found in my home growing up and my only exposure to it was limited to family reunions every other summer.

Wine seemed bitter to me as a child, sharp and cruel and oppressively potent. Why would anyone want wine when there were sweet, bubbly sodas and juices to be had (also not often found at my home in the absence of a special occasion)?

In Europe, where I lived and taught for two years, wine became harder to avoid, mostly because in many cases, alcohol was cheaper than water.

It took me a while to develop a taste for wine.

It was not something often found in my home growing up and my only exposure to it was limited to family reunions every other summer.

Wine seemed bitter to me as a child, sharp and cruel and oppressively potent. Why would anyone want wine when there were sweet, bubbly sodas and juices to be had (also not often found at my home in the absence of a special occasion)?

In Europe, where I lived and taught for two years, wine became harder to avoid, mostly because in many cases, alcohol was cheaper than water.

When I found myself in Spain for nine days, my brother wired me $200 from where he was working in Afghanistan with a simple command: try the wine.

So, I did.

Wine in Madrid was eye-opening. The tones were as deep as the amber sunsets over el Templo de Debod, the great pyramid hanging off one of the city’s majestic cliffs. The flavors were as bold as the Prado, the taste as rich as Madrid herself, like a great lady proudly raising her chin before the start of a grand dance. 

Wine was not so bad.

Two years later, I found myself back in Europe, drinking wine in a very different context.

I was working in a refugee center in Athens, Greece, staying with a Dutch girl and a young German woman on the outskirts of the city.

Athens had great wine, the German woman promised me.

Every night before she turned in, she would have a glass of red wine. Eventually, I joined her.

The wine in Athens was less showy, but it was smooth and still and brooding, like the great islands off the coast that rose up to meet us every morning, humpbacked giants slumbering in the Aegean Sea, and whenever we drank the wine, I could feel myself falling asleep with them.

I should not have had to have looked in Europe to find great wine. I am a California girl and the descendent of winemakers. My family owned and operated York Mountain Winery several generations back.

Fermented grapes should probably run in my bloodstream, but we all have to discover our true identities in our own time, I suppose.

I have been discovering wine one bottle at a time for the last few years – a reisling at a journalism conference, a rosé in a hostel room in Budapest, a Cabernet Sauvignon in the back aisle of a North Park liquor store as my brother-in-law promises me that 19 Crimes is the go-to red for any occasion.

Recently, I discovered a delightful collection of wines at Trevi Hills, the new winery in Lakeside. The vistas are breathtaking and the sommelier was charming, but I was won over by the wine.

I will never be amazed at how new flavors can burst with the familiarity of old acquaintances, begging you to meet them anew.

Am I a religious wine-drinker? Certainly not. In fact, I had to Google the exact name of the 19 Crimes wine my brother-in-law drinks for this article because I usually just call it “that red one we bought that one time.”

Sometimes I drink wine with my friends and sometimes I drink it alone on my couch at 2 a.m. to help me get through my third viewing of Disney’s ‘Coco’ which never fails to leave me in tears. Sometimes I drink wine, close my eyes and picture indigo rain sweeping across the Spanish mesas, and other times I simply listen for the voices of my parents, aunts and uncles as they chatter over their own glasses of wine that I was too young to appreciate, strangely preserved in the memory of my childhood.

More than I love drinking wine, I love what wine is.

Wine is a process, something that takes time — years — to cultivate. That sharpness I detested as a child is actually a depth of flavor I could not have understood or appreciated. Both the wine and I needed to mature.

Like life, it is not something to be guzzled down at once. It is to be enjoyed slowly, lingering over the chorus of ever-changing notes that both harken back to places we have been and inspire us to move forward, to taste something new.

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