’99 Valentini. Olives. Getting a Wine.
When i was much, much younger i hated olives with the passion that only a picky little kid can muster towards food. Didn’t matter if they were good olives or crappy canned olives,, if one passed my lips my gag reflexes would kick in and i’d throw an epic tantrum. i would spend long moments carefully picking olives out of anything, i would search out olives in dishes that might contain them (God forbid anybody put olives underneath the cheese on a pizza). When, in public, when my parents didn’t allow me to pick through my food i was forced to sit sullenly staring at my untouched food as if someone threw maggots on it.
Of course things change. The tongue adapts. Facile tastes become the ones we begin to avoid. Thing we hated become old loves. We tell ourselves that, in-spite of those same selves, we might actually like olives.
At some point I began to like olives. I’m not sure how this happened, or why I even began eating olives again. Soon olives became an obsession for me. I got olives all of a sudden. i’m still sure i hated olives as a kid, but i’m not sure how i hated them (except to say that all kids are, in fact, stupid).
A few months, while visiting Eric Texier, i remarked offhand that i really didn’t care for the Trebbianos of Valentini. Eric looked at me with the sort of look my dad would have given me if he found out i attended a Glenn Beck rally, one of confusion and deep, deep disappointment. These are some of the best wines in the world, he told me, shaking his head.
Other people had told me that before, people whose opinions i value, whose palates i trust, but still, i couldn’t get into the wines. Everytime i tried one the only thing going through my head was “how much did that cost?” And it wasn’t as if the other bottles i had before were bad. Other people enjoyed them, hell they praised them. i was the odd man out, scratching my head, picking the olives out of the pizza.
So there i was last night, with Alice Feiring and Jose Pastor, discussing Jacques Neauport and arguing over San Francisco natural wine week (i will put my take on the controversy in a few days), and Jose suggests we get a bottle of ’99 Valentini. Fuck me, i think, grumbling, but i went along, curious as always. Glasses were poured. i tasted it. Ok, same old same old i think in the back of my head.
We decant, the bottle opens up. Another glass is poured.
Holy shit. Klaxons in the head. This is (searches for an awkward adjective to sum up my mind in direct conflict with my tongue for a brief few moments until the tongue, as always, wins out) radical in the most early ’90s sense of the word.
The mind, as it does, begins to re-evaluate the earlier wines. Were they indeed different from this, is this actually better, or, as the olives, was i just a stupid kid?
i suppose the wine wasn’t better, if you’ll allow. Nor was i wrong about the other bottles. i didn’t like them, nothing can change that fact, no matter how much my brain fights to configure it. i learned something, but i’m not sure how. Experience is just sort of like that. If i had it in mind that i had everything figured out, i wouldn’t have ordered that bottle, and i wouldn’t have figured out that wine.
i suppose there’s something to be said about saying maybe, just maybe, you might like olives.