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On Wine Tasting: Sex, Solvang and When Good Wine Tastes Bad [Elbows on the Table]

Vacations in my adult life have been merely a guise for my love affair with food. Last week I celebrated my 20-something birthday by going to the San Ynez Valley. The valley, made famous by the movie Sideways, grows some of the best burgundy style grapes in the country (your Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and Grenaches). Santa Barbara’s wine region is about two hours north of Los Angeles tucked inside a dry, mountainous region about 12 miles from the coast. For anyone who has always wanted to dip their toe in the ocean of wine knowledge, this is the best place to start.

As far as I am concerned, there is NOTHING sexier than wine. It is all about passion and intoxication and sensuality. I cannot think of another activity in the world that can get a person laid quicker than a bottle of good wine paired with a succulent meal. It is also the quickest way to make friends and the most painless way to get your family off your back. Pair enough good food with enough good drink, everyone is happy and full of adoration.

You can, without a doubt, hyperbolize one’s food appetite to one’s sexual appetite (although anyone who has been on a date can attest that the two are not mutually exclusive). When compared, my love of food is the kind of sex where you rent a hotel room and come out with a $2,000 cleaning bill due to broken lamps, torn curtains and turned over furniture which must be followed by a time of celibacy because you are positive at least five sins were committed on top of the act. It is intense.

The real beauty of California is that besides the major cities, the state is basically countryside. As stereotypes go, we are characterized as intellectual elitists in the north, vapid narcissists to the south and granola crunching hippies throughout. In truth, California has one of the nations’ strongest agricultural industry. Once you step out of the major city limits, you’ll find as many pick-up trucks and ranches as any small town in Texas. In Los Olivos, a town that is almost made up entirely of tasting rooms, your glasses are being poured by the men and women whose names are embossed on the bottles. The fame that swarmed the Valley has seemed to not yet effect the purveyers too much. The resounding sentiment amongst most of them is that they are farmers first and foremost.

My second day in the Valley began with a seven-hour guided tour of boutique wineries in Bulleton, Solvang, Los Olivos and San Ynez. (With wine tasting, it is much easier and a lot of times a better deal to just have someone schlep you about. The wineries are tucked away in the windy roads along the mountain and you are going to down at least a bottle of wine in a day so just pay for a sober driver.) Drinking wine in the vineyards where the wine grew, next to the barns where the wine castes are aged, is the ultimate picnic for any food lover and it is made all the more enriching because you’ve been drinking for hours.

The only real fine-dining restaurant in the area is Bradley Ogden’s Route 246 in the kitchy danish town of Solvang. Ogden is one of the countries most renowned chefs, another of his undertakings is in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Ogden is really famous for his meat preparation and the restaurant has an in-house barbecue creating one of the best smoky steaks you’ll ever eat. But since this is not Napa, you can still go to the best restaurant in town and pair your meal with a $30 bottle of Grenache.

Even for a wino such as myself, it feels rather Roman after awhile. The abundance of cheese plates, rich fatty meats and wine makes one eventually want to ask the waiter not for directions to the bathroom but rather to the vomitorium. The jubilation of wine country, even for your birthday, has a time limit. After two day I couldn’t take it any longer. I gave in and ordered a beer and giant pretzel.

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featured image credit: mstephens7