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Tales of a Tour Guide

Tales of a Winery Tour Guide ~ “Mr. Question”

When I see a negative, repetitive behavior, that’s always fodder for a good joke. Laughing helps me to emotionally survive. Sometimes, however, I witness something just once and instantly know that its uniqueness is worth repeating with a few good punch lines.

This is one story that when I tell it, it’s usually easy to get people to see the humor in it.

While working as a wine educator at Robert Mondavi Winery, I got to witness a few really funny things, and “Mr. Question!” is one of the best.

As usual, I had my 30-person tour. For some reason, it always seemed to stretch to about 36. (Where did we pick-up these extra people, anyway?)

I began, “Welcome to Robert Mondavi Winery! My name’s Jo. Before I begin, let’s find out where everyone comes from. Robert Mondavi is marketed all over the world, and you guys will prove that to yourselves.”

I’d turn to my right and say, “Would you like to start?” That person would say something like, “Madrid, Spain.” The next person might be from Chicago, the next from Paris, the next from Austria, and so it would go. My group would instantly prove to itself that people came from everywhere, bowing to the alter of our wine marketing genius.

This one day I said, “There you go. Isn’t it amazing,” when I was met with, “Question!” My one New York City couple included “Mr. Question!” He asked, “How did Robert Mondavi come to market all over the world?”

That wasn’t in my usual script, but I responded with my own renewed interest. My spcheel was becoming dangerously close to a one-woman show, where deviating off the path might mean a critical, missed line. I was beginning to remind myself of Lilly Tomlin’s “Searching for Signs of Intelligent Life,” except my show was called, “Why I want to be Reborn as a Yeast on a Chardonnay Grape.” [That’s another story, so you’ll have to wait around for that one.]

Once I went through my explanation of a grapevine’s life cycle, we collectively moved over to the crush pad. When everyone arrived, I began with, “If you look to your right, you’ll see a truck with gondolas on the back of it. That entire truck is sitting on a metal plate, which is a giant scale.”

“Question! Why’s the truck sitting on that scale?”

“Well, that’s because the truck is full of grapes right now. It’s being weighed. Once the grapes are dumped into this hopper, the truck will return to the scale, be weighed again and the vineyard owner will be paid for the difference, which is the tonnage that he just delivered.”

Then, I went on with the rest of the grape crushing process.

Once finished with crushing, I moved everyone into the winery for the story about fermentation. As we arrived at the stainless steel tanks, I didn’t even have time to begin my explanation when I heard [by now “Mr. Question!” was only 12 inches from my face staring intently into my eyes], “What happens during fermentation?”

I was becoming a bit tired of the routine that he was establishing, but continued smiling and explaining. (I wondered to myself if anyone noticed that I was becoming a bit annoyed, as I tried really hard to conceal any noticeable emotions on my face or in my voice.)

“Okay, so all explained, let’s head over to the bottling line.” I don’t have to tell you… Then, off we all went to taste wine.

By now, we all needed a glass (not a taste) of wine. Each new wine that I poured elicited a new “Question!” as we tasted four different varieties with complete discussions about each cultivar.

The final wine was a Late Harvest Muscato D’Oro. As soon as “Mr. Question!” tasted it – and understand, if he had just waited a moment the answer to his question was coming without his even asking – we all heard, “Question! What makes this wine sweet?”

From the back of the room, over everyone’s head, in a big booming voice came, “Because it is!!!”

All I could say was, “Yup… Because it is.”

I went on with something else, because I was this side of having fits of laughter inside of me, but had to remain unflinchingly professional. The tour ended, and everyone just melted out of the room.

There isn’t an instance when I hear, “Question!” that I don’t remember that day. I’m not only thankful to “Mr. Question!” for giving me a good laugh [more than once], but I also adore “Mr. Because It Is!!!” for rescuing us all.

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