Gene Dilly, George Watson, Jack Wylie and I, and two or three others who
will remain nameless (I can’t remember everything), worked for Philco-Ford.
Somehow we got interested in wine and decided to educate our palates by
doing a number of blind tastings. So what we did was to have one person go to
the liquor store and buy 2 bottles of wine and place them in separate brown
bags labeled A and B. Everyone would bring or buy a sandwich or whatever.
Then we would go to a park, take over a picnic table, set up two plastic glasses
for each of us, pour wine A in the left hand glasses and wine B in the right hand
glasses, and start sipping and comparing the two wines, while eating our lunch.
In the beginning, all we wanted to do was to be able to tell the difference
between red wine and white wine. Everybody did exceedingly well at this. Next,
we got a little more sophisticated and got two different varietal wines of the
same color e.g., a Cabernet and a Pinot Noir. It was much more difficult to
guess the variety of each varietal wine. It took some time to become proficient at
recognizing the varietals.
Finally, we got two varietal wines of the same verity but from different
wineries and analyzed them to determine: a) the variety, b) which one was best,
and c) how much it was worth. This phase is never-ending. There are many
different varietals and many different wineries, and each vintage year is different.
After a while we used the rating method espoused in The University of
California at Davis "20 Point Scale System Organoleptic Evaluation Scoring
Guide for Wine", but we eventually devolved back to a purely hedonistic rating
system: which wine do you like best, A or B, and how much would you be willing
to pay for it?
After numerous blind-tasting lunches, someone (me) came up with the idea
that we should treat ourselves to an elegant wine-tasting picnic in an elegant
park setting. We talked about this place and that place and finally settled on the
top of Mount Livermore on Angel Island. We talked about this kind of meal and
that kind of meal and finally settled on a smoked turkey from Dittmer’s
Smokehouse Deli, with all the fixings, of course. And a good selection of wines.
No, no, no. A great selection of wines.
On the morning of the day of the picnic, we drove to Tiburon and took the
ferry to Angel Island. Three of us were backpackers, so we brought our
backpacks loaded with all the food, wine, and utensils, including a Primus gas
stove to heat up this and that. Some of our crew wore tee shirts dyed to look like
short-sleeved black tuxedo jackets, complete with a white dickie and black bow
tie. One guy wore a black top hat. Very classy dress for our elegant picnic. We
must have been a sight.
The ferry dropped us off at Ayala Cove. From there we ambled up the trail
that goes south and uphill to a dirt road that circumnavigates the island. Then
we ambled to the northwest to Point Ione. When we got to the Sunset Trail, we
hung a left and ambled on uphill to the summit of Mount Livermore at an
elevation of 789 feet. There we found two picnic tables waiting for us. How nice.
An unexpected pleasure.
We set up one table with paper plates and napkins and plastic glasses and
utensils. We set up the other table with the larder and the kitchen. About then, a
park ranger showed up. He looked at the gas stove and said, “Sorry folks, you
can’t use that gas stove in the park.”
A big disappointment, but he didn’t make the rules, he was just doing his job.
So we offered him a glass of wine. “I’m sorry folks, but I can’t drink wine while I
am on duty”, he said, as he held out his hand. We put a glass of some of the A
wine in his hand, and everyone sat down. We told him of our tasting ritual and,
without asking, we gave him another glass with some B wine in it. When
everyone else had both A and B wines, we commenced tasting, discussing, and
comparing. A good time was had by all. (B won.)
In departing, Ranger Joe, with a wink and a nod towards the Primus stove,
told us that he would continue on his rounds and would not be back for a couple
of hours. We got the message. After he was out of sight and ear shot, we
pumped up the stove, lit it, and heated up this and that, being very careful not to
burn down the island. Dinner was served, and we gobbled turkey and all the
fixings, with great delight. Of course we accompanied the meal with a couple of
outstanding Chardonnays that had undergone a secondary malolactic
I don’t remember the names of the other wines, but the dessert wine I will
never forget. It was a Chateau d'Yquem Sauterne – yummy, yummy, yummy. An
excellent end to an elegant picnic.
After some pleasant rumination, we cleaned up, and packed up, and ambled
on down – to the ferry dock.
|The Angel Island Ferry returning
|Angel Island from the North.
|At the top of Mt. Livermore with
the GG bridge in the background.