Perhaps they thought I was too clumsy to keep wine in my glass at the dinner table. Maybe, after my positive assertion about that crappy wine, they concluded I had no taste of which to speak. Or else, by too “talented,” they might have meant prone to questioning the company line. At any rate, Black Madrone proved to be a lot like Dave: they just weren’t that into me.
When Walker asked for a show of hands in favor of wine #2, I was the only person to put a hand up. Suddenly I was back in fifth grade giving an answer that I wasn’t sure was right, but giving it anyway to exert myself into the discussion. The crowd around me howled. The smartass at the next table yelled, “Get a job,” and I vowed to never again volunteer a wine opinion.
Stephen King could not have written a more ambiguous ending. The women are safe. The villain is captured. The do-nothing hero can go screw himself. Yet, in life as well as literature, there is always the chance of a twist. The next day, the newspaper reported that a shotgun with the guy’s fingerprints was found in the orchard behind our house. It was still loaded.
The afternoon felt like a weekend. I’d never been good at being idle and this place was already making me crazy. Then we heard voices: loud, rambunctious chatter echoing off the covered entryway and projecting excitement. We hurried to the door just as a group of seven twenty-something guys and gals strolled through the deep shade of the passageway.
Our current thinking was to make our fictitious wine brand super elegant and refined, along the lines of the wineries that employed us, but Greg wasn’t having it. “Why are we trying to create a stylin’ package when, let’s face it guys, we don’t have any style,” he argued. He wore a purple tee-shirt that said “Lick my Bung,” which emphasized his point exactly.
The building’s façade is so sterile I imagined it repelled more tourists than it attracted. The corrugated metal siding made the place look like a hardware store and the tasting room like a doublewide trailer. Even I wouldn’t have visited myself there.
Finally, I saw customers drive in and my daydreams drove out.
Without the advantage of a winery discount, I suddenly faced the horrible inevitability of paying retail, and that prospect scared me. Before, Safeway and Food 4 Less were all I had. Now, having paid half price for better bottles for the past few months, I realized my palate had improved, but my budget had decreased, big time. It was time to get another winery job.
The kid grabbed what looked like a broomstick plunger and started pushing it into the cap of skins and seeds topping the fermenting juice, busting through its dried crust. In the tasting room, I’d seen his gangly elbows and knobby knees provoke more than one near-catastrophe. But, on this balance beam of death, Josh’s body behaved like a graceful Olympic acrobat.
How cool was it to be picking the brain of a Wine Spectator cover boy? Richard didn’t seem at all bothered to explain Winegrowing 101 to a lowly tasting room worker because that’s just the kind of granola cruncher he was. He didn’t came off condescending or, heaven forbid, flirtatious. I kinda dug him.