TEMPLETON, Calif. _ There are many ways you know you are in a loving relationship. For instance, you both make it official on Facebook. Or you introduce your special someone to your parents.
I recently got engaged, but the totality of my commitment to the relationship did not hit me until about a week later. During a long weekend on California’s Central Coast, my fiancée Jen asked me if I wanted to go olive oil tasting. Without hesitating I said yes. Without. Hesitating. During the heart of college bowl season, no less. It was like she had asked me if I wanted to go to Las Vegas to gamble with Justin Bieber’s money.
“Why,” I’m pretty sure I responded, “are we not doing this right now?”
In my defense, tasting things is all the rage in California. Everyone tastes everything. Wine is popular. There are few activities men‘ class=’linkify’ target=’_blank’>women in California enjoy more than wine tasting. It combines their love of wine with their love of making men leave the house with their love of guessing whether or not something smells like boysenberry. Right now in California you can taste olive oil, tequila, vodka, beer, honey, chocolate, cheese and anything else sold in charming containers.
Your average wine tasting goes as follows. The tasting room usually is at a winery called something like Silver Artisan Horse Vineyard, which has a logo of a silver horse carving a rocking chair. This hangs above the front gate. You walk up to a standing-only bar, pay $10, and a sommelier pours a flight of five wines, one at a time. The flight starts with a sweet wine that tastes like it was specifically engineered to turn third graders into problem drinkers. The selection grows heartier — or more “complex” — until you finish with a strong wine that could be used to strip the paint off an aircraft carrier.
During the tasting the sommelier points out flavors you can’t actually taste, like boysenberry and oak and Dentyne, but he does not call them flavors. He calls them hints or notes, because he is hinting at what the winemaker wants you to taste so that you can note the flavor and sound sophisticated. It’s all a lie, but you go along with it because you have not been sober since 11 am.
As the tasting progresses and you become inebriated, the wines taste more fabulous. While perusing the menu, and checking prices, you make the decision to order a crate of the Reserve Selection Sauvignon Blanc in order to save money, because to buy it by the bottle would just be ridiculous. You could buy one bottle, but the Golden Artisan Horse Member discount (logo: golden horse building a barn) allows you to save $2 a bottle when you order 70 bottles or more. That’s a savings of $140, and in these hard economic times you can’t afford not to save $140 on something as vital as wine.
With your woman nodding in approval, you hand over your credit card so that the winery can ship you a crate of wine you will forget you ordered the next day. The whole thing ends with you crawling around the winery’s gravel parking lot, muttering to yourself about not eating enough oyster crackers.
Olive oil tasting is similar, except you’re typically less drunk. We went to Olea Farm in Templeton, Calif., where we enjoyed a free tasting flight. We used toothpicks to dip small bread chunks in tiny cups of olive oil. This was very exciting for my fiancée, because, in general, most women cannot resist a tiny variety of anything. This explains the popularity of thimbles, dollhouses, drink umbrellas and babies.
I learned on our trip that the olive oil people have concocted no shortage of uses for their product. Our host was very nice and pointed out these uses. You can use olive oil to bake, fry, sauté, grill, make salad dressing, put on sandwiches, pour on baked potatoes and drizzle on desserts, among other things. Olea even sells an olive oil body wash, which is perfect if your main hygienic concern is that you do not smell enough like pasta salad.
Jen purchased a lemon blush olive oil. I am excited to try it this Saturday, which actually is shaping up as a pretty nice little Saturday. We’re going to go to Home Depot. Yeah, buy some wallpaper, maybe get some flooring, stuff like that. Maybe Bed, Bath, and Beyond, I don’t know.
I don’t know if we’ll have enough time.
(Joe Donatelli is a senior editor at Break Media who writes and edits for Made Man. He has written about How Dreams Help Your Brain, Taking A Dip In A Sensory Deprivation Tank and Why Men Are More Romantic Than Women. You can contact him at jdonatelli(at)breakmedia.com.)