That weekend, my wine classmate Greg held a Crush party at his Santa Rosa house and he invited Rebecca and me. I invited Charlotte, my new best pal at Rafferty. Coming from different corners of the county, the three of us arrived separately. After putting Stephanie on a bus to San Francisco, where she would stay with her dad for the weekend, I drove over and made a solo entrance to the party.
The house was full but I didn’t know anyone. Feeling like a total outsider, I crept through the crowded tract home and made straight for the bar, my favorite place to meet people. It’s the place where almost every party goer has to visit at least once.
On a table in a small bedroom of this house, I set down my bottle of Rafferty Fumé, which stood proudly among bottles from Petroncelli, Seghesio, De Loach, De Baun, Rodney Strong, Murphy Goode, and Trentadue. There were also magnums of Simi Merlot and Kenwood Jack London Zinfandel. On the floor a tub of microbrews drowned in ice. I went for the Murphy-Goode Chard.
After a few minutes of eyeing the young people surrounding me, I saw a wide-eyed Rebecca amble in, carrying leftover bottles from Dubey. She looked about a foot shorter than the crowd around her. We soon spotted a big-haired Charlotte being conveyed into the room on a wave of rambunctious cellar rats. And there we were, three thirty-something women at a Crush party, hoping to make a winemaker by the end of the night.
“So, do you think there’s anyone over thirty in this crowd?” Rebecca laughed, pouring herself some Trentadue Zin.
“I think we’d be lucky to find someone over twenty-five,” I replied.
“Oh, who cares,” Charlotte shrugged, gulping her De Loach Pinot. “I like ‘em young.”
Eventually, we three drifted apart. I managed to start chatting up a couple of cute guys who went on a rant about how producers in California were changing winemaking around the world.
“From how zey structure zeyer zinfandel, we learn much about how to make a better syrah, say, or cabernet,” the dark-haired boy explained. “Eet is about filtering and fining, and making wine ready to drink young with micro-oxidization, you see?”
I stared into his moss green eyes and tried to process this information. Ok, filtering is where the grape matter is strained off of the juice. That I knew. And fining was not just making a bottle more excellent. It involved using egg whites or clay to drag particles to the bottom of the tank. But, micro-oxidization? In a business where oxygen is the enemy of the product, that sounded downright antithetical, but ok.
The French boy told me he was employed at Field Stone Winery. The other, a New Zealander, was at Simi. Both of them admitted to doing a lot partying in their off-time. Field Stone boy said with a smirk, “Eet’s part of zee reason we come.”
Then I lost their attention when an Aussie girl joined our circle and they all began recounting the events of a previous party. So, I cruised from room to room and heard some hilarious things along the way.
“No way, dude. You can’t pick at 20 Brix and still get 15% alcohol.”
“Way, dude. Check my samples.”
And, down the hall…
“Ohmygod, when we were pumping over, he bumped against me and he was all, like, I’m sorry, and I was like, it’s ok, and I could tell he was all, like, blushing,” followed by “Yo, Darlene. The dude probably inhaled too many yeast fumes.”
These kids seemed so impossibly young to me. I was only thirty-four, but I felt like a chaperone.