Wine Gods

By Craig Camp
Friday, June 27, 2003

I HAD just recently arrived in Heaven when my door harps rang. At the door was a messenger with a beautiful engraved invitation to a wine tasting hosted by God himself. As the messenger left, I realized some important information was missing; I called out to him, "Where are the date and time?"

"You are new here, aren't you?" he responded.

Realizing that perhaps time was not quite an issue here in the ever-after, I put on my best robe and headed off to the tasting that was to be held at the Heaven Four Seasons. I walked into the hotel and was stunned. To think I had thought the Four Seasons in Chicago was posh. The lobby was an infinite glass atrium and the music that was echoing off the glass was very familiar. Sure enough, as I rounded the corner by the bar there was John Lennon playing Imagine -- just with slightly different words.

I found my way to the tasting room, which was spectacular. At each of the twenty seats were six gigantic Reidel glasses. They were called the 'barrique' model because each one held 224 liters -- I guess when they said it was a barrel tasting they meant it. As I took my place I looked to my right and was amazed to see Robert Parker.

"Jesus Christ (I've got to learn to stop saying that here) Bob." I said. "What are you doing here? Are you dead?"

"No, I'm fine," said Bob. "I guess God has to sell his wine too, so I got an invitation and even I wouldn't miss this tasting."

On my left was Marvin Shanken, publisher of the Wine Spectator. I asked him what had happened to him and all he could say was, "Once again, too much foie gras at the Grand Tasting Gala this year and I could not stand to buy yet another tuxedo. So I decided to end it all by drinking our top 100 wines of last year, but I didn't even get close -- I only got to number 20, then I had some kind of allergic reaction to oak and here I am."

So there I was with Marv on my left, Bob on my right, and I let my eyes wander over the other guests. There was the Baron, the Barone, the Baroness, the Veuve, the Dom and, for some reason, Generalissimo Franco (must be that special Vega allocation he got) all dressed to the nines. I could only guess why I was invited, but I didn't care as it was just so cool to be here and I had confidence in my own palate -- God's wine had to be pretty good stuff right? "I can only imagine the prices," sang John Lennon.

All of a sudden everyone scurried for their seats, and a group of angelic sommeliers entered the room followed by God himself. After God gave a very nice multimedia PowerPoint presentation the sommeliers poured the first wine, which was white, and we all begin to swirl with reverence. I put the wine up to my nose and . . . nothing. Yes, that's right, nothing. It was clear, with totally neutral aromas and no flavor whatsoever. "This is new for us this year," said God. "We think this terroir is perfect for producing this 'food wine' style of wine. Everyone except Parker (who is more important than God when it comes to wines) nodded in agreement with comments like "elegant" and "refreshing." For my part, I just kept quiet -- perhaps my taste buds were out of practice after dying and all.

Then came the five single-vineyard red wines in a group. As they arrived, God went into a detailed presentation of the distinct terroir of each vineyard. It took me both hands to lift each glass, but I went through tasting each wine with maximum concentration -- although it was hard to ignore the oohhs and aahhs of the assembled angelic palates. My taste buds were in total confusion. Every wine looked and tasted the same. Dark purple, sweet oak, high alcohol, soft well-integrated tannins and . . . well, that was it. I could only think what the heck were you supposed to eat with wines like this?

Then God looked right at me and said, "What are your comments on these wines." Jesus Christ (I really have to stop that) -- Why me? I thought.

"Well," I stuttered, "the extract is amazing." "Exactly!" stormed God. "We cut yields to only one grape per vine!"

With that everyone in the room leapt to their feet with loud applause and at the same moment the first course of the luncheon arrived. It was foie gras, which of course now that Charlie Trotter had stopped using it was much cheaper and easier to buy than before. "Are you going to finish yours?" asked Marvin.

Lunch went on for a few eons or so and I forget the number of courses, but it finally came to an end. I admit to having a heavenly buzz after all that. Finally, God's marketing people whisked Him away to a consumer tasting that He was doing that evening at $10,000 a halo for some charity.

I left feeling a bit confused, very full and a little drunk. I had heard about these wines all my life -- they were the best and the most expensive; after all they were made by God. Yet as I flew home on my cloud I felt somehow let down. Yes, they were good, but not that good for that much more money.

I decided to walk the last few blocks (or whatever they are called here) to walk off the meal and suddenly from behind a dark cloud I heard a voice. I thought to myself, I've got to take it easy on that foie gras, but then the voice was there again and it was calling me. "Hey buddy come over here I need to talk to you," said the gravely voice. I was drawn to it and as I got closer I saw a reddish glow. All of a sudden the devil was in front of me.

"Jesus Christ," I exclaimed. (I'm never going to make it here am I?) "You're the Devil."

"No kidding, kid," said Lucifer. "Listen kid," he said. "Tell me about the tasting, are those wines as great they used to be?"

"What do you mean?" I asked the Devil. "Did you used to go to the tastings?"

"Hell kid," said the Devil. "I used to be the winemaker until one day I had an argument with Him about too much new oak and I got thrown out of Heaven."

All of a sudden I felt a sudden fear that Someone was watching me and I took off running. I could hear the Devil behind me shouting, "Wait! Wait! Did they use micro-oxygenation on the new releases? Wait! I've got to know, man."

I raced home and slammed the door, not knowing what to think. I guess there is just no arguing with God -- I mean, who is going to listen, and then you just get thrown out of Heaven or worse yet, tastings at the Four Seasons.