#MWWC9 – Slowly Step Away From The Elderberries

22 Apr

The Monthly Wine Writing Challenge is an opportunity for wine bloggers to lay bare their writing skills before their peers. Last month’s winner, The Drunken Cyclist chose this month’s theme: ‘Fear’. I was afraid to try a response. Cowed by past failures to work my clever short pieces into a lucrative book deal. Anxious that I didn’t present a ‘new voice’ on the topic. A fear that I worked through with the help of, well, a glass of wine or three.

I’ve found that people are generally motivated by two things: the possibility of success and all that comes with it and fear. I’m sure that there’s a pop psychology book and charismatic leader (Wayne Dire?) out there that claims to help you move from fear to striving for success – something like Forget Your Fear and Rule Your World – monthly FYFRYW magazines going out to little George Bushes everywhere. Well, I’m here to confess that on many things, I’m motivated by fear. Why do I hate squirrels? Because they will break in to my house and gnaw on my stuff. Why do I shake over a 3 foot putt for a $10 Nassau? Because, of course ridicule will be heaped upon me by even those that claim to be friends, I will never play golf again. Abide by the law? Because I might end up in prison as Bubba’s little sex toy – OK, that’s an image that doesn’t work, I admit. But, you get the idea – fear motivates me on many fronts – but one deviation from that exists – Wine. Here’s why I think it works like that.

As a blossoming adult who, in retrospect, was working hard to develop issues with alcohol, I decided to make my own wine. Cheaper would mean – more for me. After all, my father was an amateur winemaker. Glorious cuvees from grapes that are rare in today’s commercial world of wine – Niagara, Lambrusco, Catawba, Chancellor, and others that I can’t remember. My father would confidently state that his wine was, “as good as that fancy stuff from the LCBO that costs $1.50 a bottle!” I don’t recollect that the bottles that I snuck lived up to that claim. My former father-in-law also made cherry and elderberry wine and held the same opinion as my dad, “you know what that one tasted like, Bill? Another.” So, it was with this background that I embarked on a short-lived experiment in fruit fermentation. I just can’t bring elderberriesmyself to call it ‘winemaking’. In late spring, I wandered abandoned rail spurs looking for elderberries in blossom so that I could come back and harvest on the Labour Day weekend. Then, it was my son Nathan (losing interest after about 5 minutes) and I picking, de-stemming (a tortuous process that eliminated the poisonous stems – the poisonous part being something to pay attention to up front) and crushing elderberries. Then, since elderberries have the tartness quotient of alum, adding the right amount of sugar -which was measured in shovelfuls. Long story a little bit shorter – my elderberry wine was what a friend likes to call Screech and Porch Climber – absolutely without a redeeming quality – broo-dal. I have never spent as much time on the bathroom floor as I did after a bottle of Bill’s Purple Passion. The whirlies came to visit with no sign of departing.

So, what does this have to do with fear? Well, I believe that fear is related, in part, to lack of experience. We fear the scariest imaginings of the unknown. The Boogieman Syndrome. I haven’t had squirrels in my house gnawing on Arlene – so, it still motivates me. I never miss a short putt (OK, so that isn’t exactly true but bear with me) – so the ridicule is still in play. And, although I spent 5 years working in prisons, I still haven’t shared a cell with Bubba. But, and I’m using bold caps here, I have experienced THE WORST WINE EVER. And, I survived to drink again. And again. Oh I’ve still had missteps with wine – the consignment vintage Nuits-Saint-Georges I purchased in Saint Germain being the most instructive experience, lately. But, to quote Reginald Dwight, I’m still standing.

Life Lesson? When I see an unknown, interesting looking wine, I need only remember that it cannot, cannot; it CAN-NOT be worse than that elderberry of old. And those ‘new’ wines have almost always proved to be interesting, bordering on wonderful – it’s wine after all. And, repeat after me, “Wine is Good.”

My motto – fear not the wine!

What does scare me though is, if I follow this reasoning to its conclusion, I need to let the squirrels in, miss a putt and, gulp, have some quiet time with Bubba. I’ll give it some thought and share my progress with the group next session, Dr. Dire.

*Elderberry image courtesy of http://www.wikipedia.org

20 Responses to “#MWWC9 – Slowly Step Away From The Elderberries”

  1. foxress April 22, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

    I really enjoy the wit and humor of your writing, and your motto, ‘fear not the wine,’ is spot on!


    • Duff's Wines April 22, 2014 at 6:17 pm #

      Thanks, just read your post on the common denominator. Well put. The scope and utter volume of wine info and potential wines to enjoy, creates confusion unless you find the common denominators. Categorize and simplify. That’s when you can understand the magic of wine. You don’t have to separate out the fig paste on the nose unless you write for Wine Spectator.


  2. thewineraconteur April 22, 2014 at 10:53 pm #

    Fear not, there may be another wine that may test your elderberry wine, but I hope you never discover it.


    • Duff's Wines April 23, 2014 at 6:30 am #

      Thanks for dropping in. Hope this weather clears soon and we can enjoy our promised spring.


  3. Cabfranca April 23, 2014 at 12:40 am #

    Elderberry wine eh? Well I have not had the pleasure and because of your funny post, I’ll just bypass it altogether. Glad you survived the drink another day. Cheers!


    • Duff's Wines April 23, 2014 at 6:33 am #

      Thanks for dropping by and the comment. I still love elderberry pie but I leave the making to a Mennonite family that shows up at our local farmers market.


  4. mwwcblog April 23, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    Reblogged this on mwwcblog.


  5. talkavino April 23, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

    Nice post, Bill. Yes, Pain and Pleasure are [mostly] the only two things moving everything in this life… But yes, fear not the wine!


  6. thefoodandwinehedonist April 27, 2014 at 11:05 pm #

    If I ever got my ass in gear and form one, Screech and Porch Climber might be the name of my band.


    • Duff's Wines April 27, 2014 at 11:15 pm #

      Well, it’s at least it’s descriptive. The graphic might be a struggle though.


  7. the winegetter April 29, 2014 at 10:40 pm #

    I love how you always find a way to weave your humor into the story…well done!


    • Duff's Wines April 29, 2014 at 10:45 pm #

      Thanks, Oliver. We never did connect in March. I’m off to Ireland Saturday and remember you having lots going on through May. Let’s see if there’s some time during the week in June.


      • the winegetter April 29, 2014 at 11:00 pm #

        I know. I totally botched that. I am leaving end of May for an almost three month trip…I guess we’ll have to make that late August, September…:(


      • Duff's Wines April 30, 2014 at 7:52 am #

        Sounds good. Have a safe and fun trip.


  8. Sally May 6, 2014 at 1:16 pm #

    My parents made elderberry wine – I can still remember the smell. I can’t ever remember them drinking it!


    • Duff's Wines May 6, 2014 at 2:08 pm #

      They probably had memory problems after the first glass. Thanks for dropping by.


  9. GFwinecountryliving May 6, 2014 at 11:37 pm #

    Your images really made me laugh. Our first attempt at wine making was a Screech and Porch Climber. Friends, trying to be positive, just opened and closed their mouths like guppies, not able to get any words out.



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