It was Saturday and my wife wanted to go somewhere drab despite it being a beautiful November morning. She wanted to go to a place in nearby Queen Creek, Arizona called the “Olive Mill“. A sustainable family-farming venture where the faithful from afar come and bare witness to the oily revelation to be found in this part of the desert.
About 35 minutes and 24 miles later and in the midst of absolutely nothing extraordinary, unless you fancy cotton fields, motocross tracks and such, we arrived at the mill. There were more people gathered here than I anticipated, so I began to wonder what kind of folk would gather to visit olives. Then I saw a sign from below that read “Wine Tasting” and realized that these were my kind of people!
The main building housed a shop with all the olive products you could think of, a nice selection of wine, bread, cheese, a delicatessen, olive pressing/production room and gifts. We strolled about looking at everything when a particular line up of bottles caught my eye. They were labeled “Pure Evil” and “Bitch”. I can only imagine such a person, but hey, I could drink with her (if anything, gluttony is understanding and optimistic).
We were invited to a wine tasting party that evening and everyone was asked to bring a bottle of wine that was around $12 or less to be judged. I wanted to find something unique and these wines in front of me now, just might qualify. I filed a mental note and continued browsing amongst the olive wares.
Outside the shop were tables, a wine tasting canopy and a guy with an accordion doing his best rendition of the soundtrack from “The Godfather” (there was a resemblance to Luca Brasi – a few Italians removed, no doubt). We sat down and enjoyed a lunch that included a Ciabatta olive loaf, Bruschetta, Parmesan cheese, olives and apples. Not quite gluttonous fare or quantities, but tasty. Alas, we were running tight on time so we had to pass on the local wines being offered (sigh).
Later I was in “AJ’s Fine Foods” still looking for something different for the wine tasting party. There is always plenty of wine at AJ’s and the emphasis in the store this day was the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. I found a bottle of Viognier that was on sale and therefore within the price range requirement of the party (I figured a white wine would be more popular with the ladies). Did I mention there would be prizes for the top three rated wines at the party? Needless to say, I was motivated to find something that would stand out from the Chardonnays and Merlots that I figured would be in abundance.I went up to the small bar that AJ’s has for wine tasting and asked the woman there for her opinion. While she was trying to describe how the Viognier was different from a Chardonnay, I noticed one of the bottles on the bar that was open for tasting. It was called “Bitch” Bubbly! The gods were trying to tell me something as this was the second time today that I came across a “Bitch” of a wine. I asked for a taste and while my glass was being poured, this wine distributor (i.e. not a normal AJ’s employee) was saying that this was a sparkling Chardonnay and Grenache blend from down under. Yes. It was slightly sweet, sparkling and different. Surely this would stand out at the party. The bitch went home with me (the bottle of wine, not the distributor – who was very helpful, BTW) despite its $13.99 price, which was slightly more than the limit.
When we arrived at the wine party that evening, there was someone accepting the bottles, covering the labels completely with paper and writing a number and type on the paper (e.g. #3 Chardonnay, #10 Cabernet Sauvignon and #20 Chardonnay-Grenache blend ‘Sparkling’). Wine scoring sheets were passed out with a column for the bottle number, remarks and ranking (nowhere near as detailed as a GB Tasting Sheet, but adequate for this event). There must have been over 20 bottles of wine and a table full of various appetizers such as meatballs, different kinds of cheese, bread, fruit, and all kinds of desserts. Gluttonous opportunity!
After much wine, food and conversation, the time had arrived to unveil the winners. In third place, a wine called “Relax Riesling, 2008″ was displayed, which was very good I must say. In second place, the sparkling “Bitch Bubbly”. Damn. So close. The winning wine was a Hungarian Merlot labeled “St. Donatus Estate Balatonboglàri Merlot 2008” from Garamvári Vineyard, that was not only very good but only $4.99 a bottle at Trader Joe’s! Interesting. The kind of results obtained during a blind tasting, that is.
I won’t get too detailed about my subsequent rendition of “Eight Days a Week” up front, microphone in hand on the Beatles Rock Band Wii video game. There was enough wine in me to croon in a Latino-British style. Which is probably how it would have come out anyway, regardless of all the wine consumed (rated, rather).