Terroir and Hubris
The question, casually proferred as chilled rose on hot day in Aix, it never fails to put me on edge.
"Do you prefer red or white?"
As if we had to choose. It smacks of another time, when what you drank said everything about the man you wanted to be. I have watched painters selling work for many times my rent knock back endless cans of Four Loko, and so one can take it to mean that I am an authority on both alcohol and art. Here at the Grocery Outlet’s monthly wine tasting, all is populism because you cannot afford to be a snob. The question still rankles devotees of the third party alternative.
"Do you have any white zin?" asks the woman who looks to have eaten half a tube of orange lipstick.
She quickly becomes my favorite person here, next to the wine buyer. That she cuts in line and attempts to charm her way into additional pours will endear her to no one else.
The sweet pink elixir is not in attendance at tonight’s party, as the wine buyer is attempting to win hearts and palates with heartier stuff. A compliment of wines from sticky to tannic are on offer, and they’re not all swill.
The goal is to mix good will (free snacks) with tastings (only four, by law) of bulk of wines that might otherwise go unnoticed. The people here seem to know each other by sight from their sorties on the nearly-expired cheese section, and it gives an opportunity to chat in less-than-optimal lighting.
Do things get crazy?
"Yeah, you’re seeing the most of it, but look at this lot. They’re here for a good time." The wine master keeps a tight ship, hasn’t had to throw anyone out—yet.
Fun it is, as grocery shopping is rarely this lubricated. Moreover, as Americans, we are compelled to love a deal. Finding a four buck Merlot that would hold its own at a well-curated wine bar, I’m reminded of an old friend who dropped $5 bottles at blind tasting parties, the cheap stuff handily trumping spendier vintages.
I am heartily nudged as I queue for the next round, and I ask if I’m the only one using the spit bucket.
"Honey, when someone else is buying, I’m not spitting." Wise words, my lipstick-eating friend.
Terroir and Hubris
And that’s when it hits, why any of us would fight for a bar carpeted with the smells of four score years of drink and its terrible consequence, an easy place that beckons men with name and rank on lanyards about their necks, conventioneers’ familiar appeals, Chazz—if I may call you Chazz, and tired shoppers lured by the promise of an elegant flute, because California fizz is just as good as any frog by glass number three, and art school kids sweet on the idea of cheap wells and so don’t stop off at their dorms to drop that five foot roll of duck canvas, which is now propped next to a canvas completed well before their parents could drink. Or then again, how old is this place? The 1890s vis a vis the 1970s, time out of time, the place opens at seven in the morning so who’s really counting?
There are bars, as well you know, that go in search of a name, scenes to be made and fought over, and then there are bars that simply are.
The Gold Dust Lounge is the alpha and the omega, likely cares not for any pretense being made over it, and so may it continue to simply be.
When next you are in Minneapolis, on the other side of the first bridge built over the Mississippi, do yourself a favor and stop in for a cocktail. Don’t forget to tip the man who has been playing piano for longer than you’ve been alive. He will play a Getz-Gilberto number that appeals to the 103 degree temperatures you’ve endured all day, and though the twist in your gin will have far too much pith on it, what does it matter? The place has no windows, is as dark as a tomb, and smells like home.