I was somewhere in the depths of a Canadian suburb when I got word from my editor. “Onya, one of your countrymen is making wine out of tomatoes. Can you write a column about it?”
I confidently typed “for sure” back to my beloved editor. I heard the ping of the sent email and the fear crept in. Jesus Christ in a cardigan sweater, what have I done? I only drink wine when I’m seated at the kids table at a wedding.
Confidence. I need to ooze confidence out of every orifice. I can handle this wine, which according to the description has a distinct grain alcohol flavor. Everything will be okay. Could it be worse than the malt liquor of my youth? Doubt it.
It was close enough to 4:20 p.m. when the doorbell rang. It was a man with a lingering odor and a parcel for me. The cardboard box was heavy, like a bottle of wine. Did I order this shit on the internet the other night? I did. There I was, left wondering if I’m adult enough to have an opinion on vino. Which is when I realized I answered the door in my pink pajamas, fairly close to dinnertime.
I released the bottle, the beast, from its box and gently sat it on the counter. I’m a big girl. I can do this.
The wine haunted me from that moment on. I could feel its presence as I tried to sleep each night. I tossed and turned despite the buckets of THC I swallowed. The wine was there on the counter, glowing red, even in the darkness. I could feel it. It scared me and had a certain power over me. Messages started rolling in from my only friend with a wine rack. Good. I need to learn how to do wine from a pro. Someone that knows what “sec” and “aperitif” mean. I’m scared to search the internet for wine knowledge and know the web gets drug lingo wrong at every turn. I’ll just assume these words are all slang for sativa wine.
Days melt into nights, the passing of time blurred by all the edibles. I had the supposed wine plus two handfuls of assorted hard cheeses, a volcano bag to my lips and my super-dyke boots on my feet, when the doorbell rang. The time had come to uncork this menacing bottle of lightly glowing red liquid.
We drove down dark country roads from my place to hers. Then we entered her beautiful home and the size of her wine rack felt like the comfort of a giant warm hug. I was in good hands. Good wine pouring hands.
“Make sure you leave out a different door than you came in, or you’ll have bad luck for life,” explained my hostess. Unsettling words to speak to someone about to try a new drug for the first time.
To my pairing offer of hard cheeses, my friend added fancy dark chocolate made in a nearby cannabis factory. At least my first tomato wine experience will be delicious, one way or another. Also, thank god I’m stoned. I watched as my wine guide swirled the maybe-wine around in her glass. I do this with a jar of weed, so this action makes me feel at ease. Just stirring up the terps, right?
Next—just like with bud—it is time to stick my nose in the glass. Memories of my one time at a vineyard came rolling back. The assessment steps, the aromas, my friend chewing bubblegum. If you like to see outrage in the faces of strangers, chew fragrant gum during a wine tasting. Aghast onlookers will emit an anger that stays in the air, like a delivery man’s strange aroma on a humid fall day.
Speaking of aromas. The tomato wine kicked my nose in the face with the stench of grain alcohol. The taste was more palatable, like watered-down grain booze. The promised hints of citrus never arrived, not to my smeller or my mouth. This stuff could get you drunk, though, that I know for sure.
My wine guide spoke of “port” but never mentioned sailors. I’ll assume port is another debatably drinkable liquid. Then she mentioned this tomato wine reminds her of an “after-dinner” something, something. All sounds like foreign drug lingo to me. These post-supper wines… must all be indicas?
A careful and lengthy debate about what defines wine as wine ensues. Could wine taste like this and be made out of tomatoes and still be wine? Who are we to decide, least of all me? Though I find myself wondering, “Is this just a wine that pairs well with a kitchen sink to pour it down?”
Just a little past the neck of the bottle was poured out, and after a few sips, our hands push our glasses a safe distance away. My wine guide then offers me a glass of “good wine” after carefully scanning the collection in her wine rack that is more a giant tree than a rack. This new not-made-from-tomatoes wine is indeed both delicious and definitely wine. Which leaves me wondering why someone would drink tomato wine, other than my cousin who loves watered-down grain alcohol.
Tradition is the answer, the tradition of this family that had a lot of tomatoes and made them into “wine.” Cheers to them and tradition and intoxicating substances… and also to that really good wine that my friend gave me after the tomato… whatever it was.
Disclaimer: Someone was listening to the audiobook of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when she wrote this.