Super palate… yeah, if you don’t have one, don’t try to tell anyone who does how we learned to enjoy wine.

There are rumblings out there about how people learn to enjoy wine. They break it down into their own scientific theories, and that’s just what they are… Theories, not a complete determination, because they exclude my super palate process… They fluff me off as… fluff. Yeah, wrong…

I wrote the following below and actually had one person try to debunk my own personal journey. Also, this is a guy, so did he ever nurse anyone to understand that process? Did he raise three kids and follow their palates? Doubt it.

But, everyone has to have a shtick… and he’s found his.  And, I’m fine with his theories, just don’t call them complete facts and try to debunk others who had a different journey. Perhaps this is how it’s worked for him, but not for me. And, I take umbrage in someone else telling me I’m wrong, when I know – in my own journey – I’m right.

So, here’s how this super palate learned to enjoy wine. Then, as a wine educator, I’ve found many others admitting the same process. Mine is also a theory. The difference between the two theories is one allows for other theories, and the other is supposed to be the Bible.

What blows a hole in his statement of fact

That all super palates will gravitate toward sweeter wines…

No, that’s quite wrong for me. My palate followed the following progression. And I enjoy all fine wines that are in balance, not just the sweet ones, as this other person has stated as fact.

Progression of a Super Palate, as I know it

Who among us is willing to admit that it was White Zinfandel that originally rocked our world?

I am. I admit it. White Zin switched on my light bulb.

It was on a trip to California, as a native of Maine on holiday in wine country. Actually, it was deeper than a “holiday.” Jose and his boss were determined to move our family to California, so his company brought me here for a week of adventure. It only took one day in San Francisco to change my mind, but I still had seven more days. They were spent in San Francisco, Santa Rosa, Napa, Sacramento, Chico, Lake Tahoe, Monterey, and Santa Cruz.

Honestly that’s enough to drive anyone to enjoy a bit of wine along the way, so we began in Napa at Robert Mondavi (for which I later became a wine educator), and then we went to Sutter Home.

It was completely at Sutter Home that I lost my heart to wine through White Zinfandel, and my palate changed forever.

Before WZ, I was merely tasting wine, trying to understand what the big deal was… Ordering and buying Merlot. (Wasn’t everybody?) I was pretending that all was well. It wasn’t. I really didn’t get what this wine thing was all about. I was raised like so many others, with Manaschewitz as our holiday wine. There were no other options for me to learn about wine as a liquid beverage to be enjoyed with food, family, and friends as a moderate daily beverage. (Not knocking Manaschewitz… It just didn’t do much for me as a kid, because it wasn’t mixed with water, as so many European families do for their children’s appreciation learning curve.)

In my “beginning to drink wine years,” when everyone was drinking wine but it wasn’t the topic of discussion, I was having wine with friends, but not enjoying the tannins. Everyone else seemed to be okay, so I pretended that I enjoyed the wine, too. I was fooling myself in the process, though, because I thought I was supposed to like it. Everyone else did, and I didn’t want to be the odd person out, so I went along with the masses.

So, there I was… part of the crowd, having (not enjoying) wine. It wasn’t any kind of a cerebral thing. It was just a social mannerism for not wanting to be a misfit. There was no magic, but plenty of illusion.

Then came Sutter Home. I asked the question that most likely gets asked there (at least once a day), “If it’s pink, why is it called White Zinfandel?” White Zinfandel is perhaps where I should have really started ever so many years before Mateus and the Chianti bottles, which made such great candle holders after the parties were over and the drips down the bottle lingered as an art form.

Why did White Zin put me over the edge so quickly? It’s so, so simple, once it hit me.

[This image is the property of Ludovic Goubet, and was the actual inspiration for this blog posting. It reminded me of very tender moments with my girls.]

When a child is born into the world, a mother who practices natural life will hold that baby in her arms, perhaps a tear will trickle down her cheek as she looks at the miracle that she’s now holding outside of her body, as a marvel that is a life form that’s come from within her womb.

The very next step is to hold that child to her bosom and give that infant it’s first taste of life… Colostrum. This is a high carbohydrate food, with small amounts of lactose. Within three days, however, mother’s milk kicks in and “Hallelujah, here comes the nectar of the gods!” From that point forward, that child may go five months with nothing more than mother’s milk, that’s quite sweet (lactose).

Next, water is introduced. (I remember my girls letting that one drip down their chins with a look of, “Huh?” on their faces.)

And then it becomes juice. That’s an “Aha!” moment.

As children get introduced to their peers, Kool Aid and soda are offered. When late teens get hang out with someone who’s either legal or has a fake ID, beer seems to be their preferred next step. After this one, wine becomes part of the mix.

Have you notice that until I wrote “wine,” it was all a lactose/sucrose/fructose evolution?

That’s what gave me my “Aha!” moment with White Zin… The residual sugar that finally made wine palatable for me, and I know I’m not alone, here.

Do I enjoy White Zin as my wine of choice now? Not really, but I do enjoy dry rosés. I don’t mind a bit of residual sugar in floral wines like Rieslings and Gewurztraminers, and I still appreciate what White Zin did for my palate. Late harvests and Sauternes are a trip. And, how about those Ice Wines and Ports!

I’ve gone from White Zin to Petite Sirah, as the founder and executive director of that group. That’s a huge leap, which tells me if I can do it, so will many people segue from White Zin to at least a great Chardonnay; if not more intriguing wines, like a superior Pinot Noir from the Santa Cruz Mountains or Burgundy.

Who can deny the beauty of this process at any stage?

Cheers to your health!