Thoughts on Wine and Insecurity

I live in Oregon wine country, and it’s grape harvest season. Pretty soon the back roads by our house will be full of fall wine tourists, and truly, it’s an idyllic time to visit our valley with its vine covered hills and evergreen forests, clean water and invisible air, and, of course, our llama farms which are a constant source of comfort because they relieve my fear of the ever-impending zombie apocalypse; frankly, folks, while the rest of the world is at war with the undead, we here in the Willamette Valley will be too high on leg of llama and fantastic pinot to know what hit us.

Living in wine country does present one fundamental problem for me, though, and it’s this: I’m an idiot wine taster with no real skills, an utter lack of wine knowledge and underdeveloped taste buds.

In fact, the awareness of my own wine incompetence (note the word incompetence — I didn’t say wine incontinence, which is a different problem altogether) kept me from wine tasting for years, sure that I’d embarrass myself or others.

Now? Now I go. Now I do it anyway. Now I’ve accepted the gift five kids have given me; my dignity’s been missing for years and I can ignore Embarrassment and Insecurity almost as well as I ignore MomMomMomMomMommyMom, which is to say I can ignore them long enough to get something done before I eventually have to look them in the eyes, explain that waiting their turn is important, and then soothe their fears or feed them a snack or wipe up their messes.

Now, wine tasting might look like this:

Say, hypothetically, a friend takes me to her favorite winery and we try their 2007 Pinot Noir.

She swirls the wine in her glass — round and round and round again (and round again) (and round again) — and talks about its legs and fermentation.

I bravely note its color — red — and, while we wait for the wine to open (which is, I gather, different than opening the bottle and is code for you’re-not-allowed-to-drink-it-yet-Beth), I share my superior, in-depth knowledge of fermentation, too. In particular, I ponder the fermentation of the average adolescent boy and my current hypothesis that successful middle school teachers are born with olfactory disabilities which allow them to function at a higher level in their unique environment than someone with a typical sense of smell. I bet good middle school teachers are as bad at wine tasting as I am.

My friend rolls her eyes, and we taste the wine since it’s apparently (finally) open for business.

I take a swig, I swish, and I swallow, pretty proud I knew to swish.

She gently slurps the wine into her mouth and holds it there, pulling off a stunning reverse gargle by sucking air through her pursed lips to aerate the open wine. She doesn’t dribble — not even once — and then she swallows.

We discuss. By which I mean, she uses words like earthy and spicy and dark cherry undertones, and I think things like mmm and good and this has the distinct flavor of wine.

My friend is knowledgeable. A budding expert, in fact. Full of information about pH balance, soil conditions, new oak vs. neutral oak, and the various effects of cold years on grape production. I think I know a lot about soil conditions, too, but I’m fairly certain she doesn’t mean soiled pants, soiled bathroom floors or that one time when I was very pregnant with twins that I accidentally soiled my closet. Long story.

Someone recently complimented me on my fear-free life and lack of inhibitions.

“You’re so self-assured and confident,” she said. “Does anything make you feel scared?”

I said, “Bahahahaha!”

But she didn’t laugh with me, so I followed up, “Oh. Seriously?”

And she said, “Seriously.”

And I was stunned, because everything I do is done with fear — wine tasting, writing, parenting, life — and my inner voice repeats, “But if you do that, if you risk that, if you say that, if you put yourself in that inexpert position, someone’s going to find you out.” My inner voice is VERY LOUD; I was surprised she couldn’t hear it and shocked she only saw the results of my second voice — the very, very quiet one I work hard to trust — that whispers and dances and says, “DO IT ANYWAY. Live life. Take risks. Taste.”



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16 responses to “Thoughts on Wine and Insecurity”

  1. Agreed as a fellow Willamette Valley-er. Just avoid the Ankeny Hill Vineyard during the ZA…they have a Pioneer Cemetery on their grounds and you won’t see them coming. Or you will, but will have had too much of their delicious Pinot to care.
    Might I suggest the Willamette Valley Vineyards as part of your ZSP (Zombie Survival Plan. Everyone should have one)? It’s up a big hill, and they have a tower we can shoot them from while drinking their fantastic wine.

      • My boyfriend wants us to go to Mt Hood in the event of a ZA because he thinks that the cold(er) weather up there will slow them down, it’s not overly populated, and some other stuff I honestly wasn’t listening to.
        Now please excuse me, as I have to have another glass and practice my aim with this Lego slingshot my son made today.

  2. I’ve just been reading over some of your post and a couple have made me literally laugh out loud. This one in particular made me laugh. Not the whole thing of course, but the part about what you were thinking about how the wine tasted just cracked me up. That’s exactly how I think when someone talks about the characteristics of their wine. I’m not sure why but it made me laugh so hard I almost cried. Thanks for the laugh 🙂

  3. Laughing out loud and nodding along… yup! I don’t really even like wine so I don’t care about the details, but if it’s a party I’ll go along!
    Also, I’m not sure about the olfactory defenses of middle school teachers… perhaps it’s more of a brain barrier… I have a VERY keen sense of smell and I still love them! (just don’t ask me about a boy named Kevin in my student teaching days… 😉

  4. Great post. I love wine-tasting, especially the free kind. I don’t know much book-type stuff about it, either, but I know what I like. Don’t tell anyone, but one time, my husband and I stopped at a winery and did a little wine-tasting (the free kind) when I was pregnant. It was only a tasting………..

  5. Thanks for sharing your insecurities. I know we *all* have them, but so few people are willing to own them. But it’s the admission of our weakness that often offers others the greatest encouragement. I remember a conversation I had with a dear friend whom I now see very rarely, since we moved to another city. She somehow had this mental image of me as a perfect mother, and was amazed how I could be so capable and patient with my three small boys while she was struggling to make it with her one daughter. I honestly admitted all my shortcomings as a mother (and reassured her that I was NOT as patient as she thought). I’ll never forget how reassured she was in her own mothering as a result of my willingness to bare the ugly truth about myself.
    Thanks for being real with us, Beth!
    P.S. I second Fiona’s comment about wanting to hear about that soiling the linen closet episode!

  6. Beth, so so so awesome. I agree how we do everything with fear. And then we just slap it until the second voice is nearly audible. Yep, just do it . If the people we were hoping to impress aren’t impressed by now, they never will be! Lol. But I am very impressed by you, and also by the brave things I can do despite feeling unbrave. Love ya, girl!

  7. Hi Beth. You’re not really as incompetent as you think you are. And the experts aren’t really as expert as you think they are. We have our five senses and our preferences–that’s all we need in order to enjoy tasting wine.

  8. That is awesome and my motto as well. My first time wine-tasting (just a couple years ago), I also had no idea what I was doing – namely, I didn’t know it was bad to do on a completely empty stomach. I was completely clueless. Let’s just say I was REALLY hot and relaxed and laughing way too loud by the end of it.

  9. Oh Beth. Love. Love. And as always, right on spot with where my head is at. Dignity has reared it’s ugly head after a several-year absence. Adolescent insecurity has crept back into this almost forty soul and made me throw my hands up in an exasperated “I banished you 20 years ago! How dare you?” Keep it comin’ girl.

  10. Can I admit here that I don’t even really like wine?? I love beer, though…Yeah, I’m basically a 16 year old boy in a 44 year old woman’s body…
    Great post and beautiful pics!

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