Monday, November 22, 2010

Snot Cool. Maybe a Little. But Mostly Not.

I feel like Mr. Mackey.

In either case, the bottom line is that my head feels gigantic. I'm stuffed up. Sinus pressure. Clogged nostrils. Post-nasal drip, otherwise known as, "the single most [expletive] annoying thing on the face of [expletive] Earth, or any other [expletive] planets, for that matter."

Yeah, I don't like post-nasal drip. Or other planets, apparently.

A particularly inconvenient side-effect of all this malaise? I can't smell anything. Nothing. Furthermore, having the inability to smell means I can't really taste, either.

Case-in-point: I bit into the crisp juiciness of a nectarine this morning, and realized it was not a nectarine at all, but a human head.* I felt pretty bad about it, but I guess that guy shouldn't have been in my house in the first place. And what was he doing in the fridge's crisper drawer? Shenanigans like that often lead to cranial bite marks from hungry sinusitis-sufferers.

Sounds like a pretty awful scenario, huh? Well, it gets worse. Later that day, I joined Fast Eddie Thralls of Wine Tonite! (and now Vintage Wine Estates) fame for a little soirée to send him off in style to his California dream job. Naturally, as is custom in the Thralls household, there was wine aplenty. Good wine. Great wine. These kids ooze hospitality. Anyway, I arrived at the shindig a little late, and I arrived to find empty bottles of Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, Penner-Ash Pinot Noir, and tiny production Syrah. A good sign.

What Ed was pouring when I stumbled in was a magnum of Pride Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. Hot damn. I'd never had anything from Pride, a winery who's products have never been in close proximity to negative comment among all the wine geeks I know. Of course, in my congested state, I knew this wine would offer nothing more than a nip of alcohol on a cool November night. I regrettably declined more than just a taste (hoping some sort of deus ex machina-moment would manifest itself, instantly rendering my olfactory senses reinvigorated), saving the inky goodness for those who were not trapped in my nasal hell.

Yet, all was not lost. Even without the ability to appreciate wine's two greatest virtues, aroma and flavor, my stomach and liver- far less discriminant organs than my nose and tongue- welcomed the alcoholic warmth of the fermented grape, eventually getting my brain and vocal chords into the the mix...that is to say, eliminating the filter between the two that exists in sobriety. What I'm saying is that I did get a little lifted. Why not? My buddy's moving across country and I didn't want to be a wet blanket in the face of celebration. However, I've realized that when one lacks the faculties to stop and immerse in the complex bouquet and savor a mouthful of fine wine, he pretty much just guzzles it down like water. I don't recommend such actions if the next day requires of you anything more than sleeping on the couch with a throbbing skull.

More intriguing than a hangover, though, was the focus of my decimated palate. With no smell, I only had access to sweetness, acidity, bitterness, and mouthfeel. Once all the (admittedly, wonderful) noise- created by esters, phenolics, and other chemical compounds that work with the nose to create thousands of flavors- was eliminated, a wine that was highly acidic, rather tannic, or showed signs of residual sugar stood out.

I actually thought this might be a great way to do an introductory tasting; a methodology to help novices recognize and create a sensory profile of the foundations of wine. I've seen tasting classes where acids and tannins are isolated from the wine (trying lemon juice, tea, etc.), but never where the taster is robbed of the critical- but muddling- sense of smell. Maybe I need to get a group of wine lovers in a room, start sneezing all over the place, and then we reconvene a week later...

...might be a tough sell. Or perhaps you've already experienced what I have. Ever run through a wine tasting with debilitated senses? Was it frustrating, or maybe enlightening?

I'm going with the former. Despite my acid/sugar/tannin epiphany, most of the pleasure of wine is robbed. I just hope my head returns to normal size VERY soon. There's Turkey and Grenache to be had on Thursday.

*couldn't have done this with out "Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey"

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