A Connoisseur of Fine Wines

A Connoisseur of Fine Wines
I never gave a second thought to my purchase as I checked out of the state store (Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Retail Store) recently one Friday evening. It was my usual purchase and the items I was about to buy never really gathered any attention on other occasions.

This time, however, the check-out clerk was in his early to mid-twenties and he didn't miss a beat, nor hesitate in the slightest as he asked a rhetorical question and then gave a rhetorical answer.

"Big blast this weekend? A gallon of Mogen David Concord Grape and a gallon of Manischewitz Cherry! Get ready to party!"

I smiled and said, "Yep, in my college days I learned to drink frugally and I acquired a taste for the fruity wines."

He replied with a smile, "Maybe it's time you upgrade."

I laughed out loud as I walked to the car, where my wife and two of my grown children were waiting. I told them about the clerk's remark, and it surprised none of them.

As I drove home, some scorched brain cells in my memory came to life as I recalled my personal history regarding wine drinking. As we all know, alcohol can have that burned-out effect on our minds. For some reason, though, my memory was very clear concerning my escapades. For example, when

My Uncle Pete made his customary batch of dandelion and blackberry wines and sent a few bottles over for my dad. I was about fourteen at the time, and of course I not only sampled a bottle, I finished one off. I will leave the consequences of that gluttony to your imagination. Fortunately, no one else was around except my cousin, who was in worse shape than I was after chugging down his bottle. Like most ghastly shenanigans that took place in my youth, I don't talk about that day much.

Then there was the time a year or so later, when I decided to make my own wine. I remember starting a few old crock pots with some sort of fermentation mixture. Blackberries come to mind. So do plums, grapes, and dandelions. I don't remember if I used the blossoms or the leaves in the dandelion concoction. I do remember using kitchen yeast (normally used for dough rising and bread baking) in all of the mixtures. You guessed it, same result. I think the combination, topped with a gray moldy scum, changed little between the time it went down and the time it came back up. I have since tasted homemade wines, but never fully swallowed one mouthful - nor have I ever attempted to make my own batch again.

And there was the time my freshman year in college, when my buddies and I asked an upper classman to purchase some fine wines for us, for use during a weekend evening on campus. My choice Catawba Pink! $1.19 for a half gallon.

Now how could one go wrong with such a deal?

As I vomited a mixture of my supper and red wine, I remember my buddies suggesting that they take me to the campus infirmary. One guy was screaming, "He's bleeding internally! We have to get him some medical help!"

Attempting to rest their fears, I tried my best to let them know that I was not bleeding nor in need of help. I retorted with a yell, "Catawba Pink!"

The problem was it's not easy to understand a person in the middle of a reverse peristaltic heave. So one guy yelled back, "We know you can't take a drink,' we want you to get some help. We don't want you to try to drink anymore."

I have no idea how long that dialogue was repeated. "Catawba Pink!"

"We know you can't take a drink!"

Yes, the liquor store clerk and my kids are right. It might be time for an upgrade.

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927

My Roots - The Potchaks - circa 1927
From Left: Son, Steve - Dad, Frank - Mom, Anastasia (Makar) - Sons; John, Mike, Frank, Chuck (Author's Dad) - Twins, Pete & Mary - Daughter, Catherine. Photo taken in Wilmore, PA