Saturday, February 25, 2012

Make Mine a Nebbiolo

For the third time in four years, I spent the afternoon pouring for strangers.

The Virginia Wine Expo is at the Convention Center, mere blocks from my house and an easy, if breezy, walk for me.

I'd been asked to pour for Gabrielle Rausse, Italian winemaker of some of my very favorite Virginia wines.

True, I'd have to smile at drunk people all day, but I also got to surprise people ("Wait, why isn't this Pinot Noir red?"), listen to their defiance ("How can you have a Malbec? There's no Malbecs in Virginia!") take compliments from people ("Whoa, look those amazing tights!") and confound them ("What do you mean there's no tasting room or website? How off the grid is that?").

How could an eccentric like me not be impressed with a winemaker not playing by everyone else's rules?

As you might expect, the first few hours are far saner than later in the day when people have their buzz on.

You can tell because after a while, some people just walk up and stick out their glass and say, "Gimme your fill-in-the-blank" instead of doing a full tasting.

You can also tell by the glazed eyes, but I don't want to judge. Much anyway.

And we're not even going to talk about the ones who wear their wine glass on a string around their necks.

But all that is mere comic dressing for the pleasure of pouring well-made wines while the winemaker stands next to me doing the same, but with an Italian accent.

And he was so good at working the crowd.

When a woman asked how he made such great wines, he responded, "I tried making bad wines and this was the result."

At one point he asked me about our mutual friend, the one who'd asked me to be a pourer today.

"How did you meet?" Gabriele asked me and I explained our Virginia wine connection.

"Well, you must be practically perfect because that's the only people he makes friends with," he told me.

Of course, that just solidified that Gabriele must be the same since they're friends, too.

And while I'm anything but, I am more than happy to be standing for six hours on a concrete floor conveying my enthusiasm for fabulous wines made by a practically perfect Italian with grapes grown in Virginia.

Call it an eccentric's idea of a good time.

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