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Tuesday Tributes
Don’t Say “Wine” on a Crowded Bus

By Charles Olken

You could say I learned that lesson yesterday on the way home from the 49ers game. My buddy, Rich, with whom I have been sharing sports, travel, wine and food for decades now, innocently asked me, “What are you tasting tomorrow?”.

“We have some Sauvignon Blancs and some sparkling wines and I’m not sure which.” Within seconds the couple behind us from England (appropriately dressed in their new 49er gear) and the couple from Detroit seated next to where we were standing were engaging me in wine conversations.

“Where should we go in the Napa Valley?” “We are headed down the coast to Los Angeles. Any tips for interesting stops along the way?” “Do you have a favorite wine bar in San Francisco?”

Frankly, I never mind these types of conversations. It is fun to talk about wine, and it is great fun to share ideas with people who may have come to California for other reasons but are happy to pay attention to our wine while they are here.

I did not get to talk to the Detroit couple much, but the English couple were quite another story because I asked them the question that was the equivalent of saying wine in a crowded bus. They had told Rich and me that they were from London, and by way of polite conversation, I asked, “Did you get to any of the Olympics”?

Well, yes, the big fella responded. “I was a member of the British eight-man crew rowing team. We won Bronze in that competition”.

Looking back at those conversations, it reminded me again of how broad wine’s appeal really is. Neither couple were big-time geeks. Both were members of the most important consuming class—the millions of folks who drink wine, like wine but do not make a fetish out of it. It is they, and not us—the geeks and collectors—who consume most of the wine that is made in this world.

They are the people who walk into the local wine merchant and ask questions about what to buy rather than telling the folks who work there what they should keep in inventory. They may not the folks who subscribe to Connoisseurs’ Guide or who read this blog, but they are drivers of the economic engine that allows the rest of us to become peripatetic wine searchers, never fully educated students of the fermented grape no matter how much we try, collectors with too many wines in our cellars.

Come to think of it. I am quite glad that I said “Wine” in that crowded bus.

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by TomHill
Posted on:9/17/2012 6:55:52 PM

Good story, Charlie. It never ceases to amaze me how a conversation w/ strangers initiated on the subject of wine can, w/ just a few questions on your part, can lead to a whole nuther conversation on some totally unrelated topic. Couple yrs ago, an a plane trip back East, my seatmate noticed me reading the latest WineSpectator (please don't let become common knowledge), and we started talking a bit about wine, a subject that mildly interested him. A couple of questions led to the fact that he was a National Champ in Epee back in the '50's. Such a small world.



by Samantha Dugan
Posted on:9/17/2012 10:37:24 PM

Careful there dear Charles, this reads almost like something I would have written...

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