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Charlie Hatton
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Terrific Tour, Taxing Tasting

A few weeks ago, the missus and I decided to take a vacation. We were kicking a few ideas around when she said, ‘Hey, how about a trip to wine country?

Oh, I don’t wanna go there. It’s too hooooot, and it’s so faaaaar. The plane trip would be sooooo loooooong…

I said wine country. Not whine country.

Oh. Yeah, that sounds great. Let’s go.


“Flushed with excitement (and a celebratory glass of Kroger’s red we had in the pantry), I gave Trevor’s Totally Terrific Tours a call.”

Next, we got down to some serious planning. We’re not exactly wine connoisseurs — not so long ago, my idea of a ‘fine wine’ was a cooking sherry that wasn’t store-brand — so we decided to enlist the help of a professional to help us. A tour guide. Specifically, Trevor the Tour Guide from Terrific Tours. Flushed with excitement (and a celebratory glass of Kroger’s red we had in the pantry), I gave Trevor’s Totally Terrific Tours a call.

TTTT: Hi, this is Trevor at Terrific Tours. How can we help you?

Me: We’d like to see wine country. And we’ve heard that your vans are willing to pick people up a little further out than most tours.

TTTT: Yep, that’s true. You don’t have to be right in Sonoma or Napa Valley for us to get you. Where are you staying?

Me: Uh, Boston.


Me: Too far?

TTTT: Little bit. Call back when you’re somewhere in the same time zone.

So we loaded up the truck suitcases and we moved flew to Beverly San Fran.

(Cisco, that is. Big bridge. Streetcars. Rice-A-Roni. Y’all make me stop now, y’hear?)

We rented a car and drove up to Santa Rosa, which is a charming little town nestled more or less equidistant to every grape-squeezing outfit in the area. It’s not actually close to any of them, mind you — but it’s about the same short-ish drive from there to Napa, Sonoma, Calistoga, and lots of other little Cali burgs ending with ‘-a’ where you can booze it up on ‘Zins’ and ‘Cabs’ two ounces at a time.

We rang back to Tagalong Trevor’s Totally Terrific Tiptop Tours and, true to his word, he offered to pick us up for a jaunt early in the week. When?

Tuesday. Of course.

I’ll probably have more to say about the actual wine tastings in another post, but I’ll pause here to recommend Teetotalling Tagalong Trevor and his Totally Tremendous Technicolor Tourbus. The wineries he showed us (and four other touristy types on the bus that day) were equal to or better than just about any place we wandered to on our own, or had recommended by more experienced oenophiles back home. Beautiful grounds, very good wines, a nice easy pace, and not a single store-brand bottle of vino among them.

Seriously. And I checked a lot of bottles. From the inside, every chance I got.

(Also, one quick point of order: Trevor isn’t the only person running the vineyard-touring business. There’s also a woman that he partners with, and who conducts tours, as well.

But we didn’t meet her, and her name doesn’t start with a ‘T’, so I can’t really tell you anything more about her. Maybe if she changed her name to ‘Trixie’ and turned tricks in a tugboat up near Tacoma.)

In the meantime, I’d like to talk about olive oil.

Until our tour that day, I thought olives were pretty much like people. Sure, they come in different colors and shapes and sizes, but if you grab one and give it a good squeeeeeze, you’ll get pretty much the same stuff coming out of that one as from any of the others.

Not so, I learned.

Evidently, there’s more than one way to squeeze an olive. And Trevor took us to the Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, where they’ve been draining olives and shaking them twice for quite some time.

(I was thrilled to find out in the lobby that the winery was, in fact, owned by the same family who invented the ‘therapeutic spa’ jacuzzi years ago. And fully deflated to learn that they don’t actually provide jacuzzis for visitors to sit in while sipping their wines.

Seriously? Jeez, talk about two great tastes that would taste great together. One of you Jacuzzis get on that, already.)

It was here that I had my first and only ‘olive oil tasting’, and an accompanying lesson on how to properly sip a fine oil, from our intrepid tour guide Trevor. He told us that you want to warm the olive oil slightly by rubbing the tasting cup in your hand for a few seconds. This ‘wakes up’ some of the aromatic compounds in the oil, which you can then enjoy on the nose. To taste the oil, he explained, you should bring the cup to your lips and suck the oil in over your palette, bringing in air with it to distribute the molecules. Then he demonstrated:


His technique flawless (so far as we knew, anyway), he was able to tell us of the subtleties in this particular oil — not too grassy, a bit of pepper, slightly nutty. Then it was our turn to try.

Now, Trevor did a good job of explaining the procedure, and we could clearly watch and see how it was done. He’s been around wines and olive oils in the Sonoma region for close to thirty years, and sucking liquid through your teeth and over your tongue isn’t exactly rocket science. We’ve all used sippy cups before. Some of us more recently than others.

However. I’ve been a doofus now for nearly forty years, so there’s clearly no way that I could possibly execute a simple maneuver like this one without mishap.

So, I took my cup, warmed it in my hand, wafted the aroma toward my nose, tipped the cup up, and sucked.


I don’t know whether you’ve had the opportunity to suck a really high-quality, peppery, nutty, hand-pressed olive oil across your tongue, into your throat, and backwards all the way up into your nose. But while it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience — good god, I hope it is — I can’t say I’d recommend it.

I spent the next little while trying to clear the offending foodstuff from my schnozz, with little success. Oil and water may not mix, but once entangled, oil and noses seem to be perfectly happy spooning together for the long term. Meanwhile, I felt like I’d just had a very, very dirty martini. Snorted, not stirred.

My nasal woes finally cleared up at lunchtime, when I sneezed on the piece of bread I was eating. On the bright side, it was delicious. Peppery, nutty, a bit grassy — really high-quality product. I could finally see what Tourguide Trevor was talking about. We went back and bought two bottles of the stuff.

Just don’t ask me to taste olive oil again. Or for that matter, to dress your bruschetta at a dinner party. Neither of us wants that. Trust me.

Permalink  |  1 Comment

One Response to “Terrific Tour, Taxing Tasting”

  1. kerry says:

    great. i will forever associate olive oil with snot. thanks a lot.

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