Wino Confidential: Wine Hump

A dame, a bottle and a story.

By Dinkinish O’Connor

So, I was having a moment. My aunt was admitted into the hospital for pneumonia. A woman in my church had a stroke. An ex-boyfriend, who I still kinda love called me for relationship advice about a married woman he kinda loves. And I received word from my editor that The Promiscuous Palate was going celibate. All in one day.

And I wasn’t really enjoying my wine adventurers.

This Total Wine guy recommended this Uruguayan Cabernet Sauvignon that he said was “amazing,” but it tasted like an old leather couch. This same dude recommended a couple other duds – a critically acclaimed Garnacha that just had no soul (Think Kool Aid). And a sparkling wine that tasted like Sprite (I apologize for not taking notes on any of them).

Or maybe, it was me.

It’s like going to see a Will Ferrell movie while you’re PMSing. I guess watching an adult elf is funny – when you’re not PMSing? It’s like when you’re friend is telling you something really deep: “My husband is cheating on me” or “I’m feeling suicidal,” but you’re enmeshed in your own psychological thriller, so you just don’t have the right attitude, the right words.

Then, I decided enough was enough. I needed a vacation from my old thoughts. I needed to be inspired, swept off my page, so I contacted Lisa who had invited me to a wine tasting at Cioppino at The Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne.

“Lisa, I need a good wine hump. When is the tasting?”

“Oh goodie, ‘wine hump.’ Does this mean we may end up in one of your cool wine blogs?”

“Well, let’s see what happens.” 

Negative moments punctuated by equaling unsatisfying wine experiences are like bad sex. What’s the point? So, I started with me. I went to yoga more often, prayed more often, stayed away from ex-boyfriends, who I still kinda loved, more often. And I stopped seeking wine consultations from wine sales people whose palates clearly didn’t match my own. 

It was a brand new day. 

Beep. Uh oh. It’s the ex. Beep – forward his ass to voicemail and journey through Key Biscayne, which was like driving through a more modern Port Antonio, Jamaica. I felt cradled by the ocean view as I imagined a wine love affair worthy of the pilgrimage.
When I arrived to the luxurious property, the lobby budding with peach sherbert-colored roses, the view of the Atlantic Ocean like a scene from a travel magazine, I felt blessed.

Lisa walked out, her warm, friendly smile, miles away from the road-rage-ravaged streets of Biscayne Boulevard where elderly middle fingers and botox-gone-bad maidens fill the economy-choked streets.

She escorted me to the sommelier (Jorge Mendoza) who was at the bar. He looked like a mean Jay Manuel (from America’s Top Model). His smile was constipated, and I felt like I could read his thoughts: Oh silly, American wine writer, wine is for Europeans. Then he served the 2005 Steven Kent Ritz-Carlton Cuvee Chardonnay, Central Coast. It was Minute Maid-y, and I told Jorge so. He seemed pleasantly shocked, but I wanted to say, “Come on, if you’re just gonna give me quickees, don’t waste your condoms.”

But, as we graduated into other styles, I realized Jorge Mendoza was one of us. He was soooo passionate about Italian wines, he tried to fit every, single wine memory into one sentence. He talked about driving through Piedmont and meeting a scraggly, old man, later finding out that the scraggly, old man was indeed the winemaker Jorge was seeking.

It was like an adult story time, listening to Jorge (a Chilean with a stellar Italian accent) talk about meeting a critically acclaimed Italian winemaker who simply told him, “I make the wine for me. I sell whatever’s left over when I’m done.”

Then there was the story about proposing to his fiance underneath Juliet’s balcony in Verona. And the wine? Well, it was like listening to Michael Nyman’s score for “The Piano” naked while eating rich, funky cheeses you can’t pronounce, your palate wrapped in prosciutto, dried figs and apricots. Among the standouts were:

2006 “Tre Vigne” Vietti Barbera D’Alba – aromas and flavors of dried hibiscus, dried cherry and fennel with a smoky, espresso finish. 

2002 Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva – aromas of raw beef and flavors of red cherries, maraschino cherries and pork rind.

2001 Nada Barbaresco Riserva – a rusty tinge swam around aromas of wet earth and basil. The red cherry flavors led to a long finish, and I dubbed the beauty “The Don’t Stop Wine” of the evening.

By the end of the tasting, Lisa and I had the munchies, so we inhaled roasted Portobello bruschetta like cheeseburgers. And I had a big smile on my face.

Then I felt phone vibrating from my clutch bag. It was the ex.

I walked out to the terrace where the grassy ocean smelled like Sancerre.

“The married woman I’m in love with is kinda in love with her husband,” he said.


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