Barnyard Smells, Cat Urine and Good Wine

Steve Charles – Wine is Howard Hewitt’s hobby, his avocation.

So after the San Francisco reception to †roll out the winter issue of Wabash Magazine, we’re getting a bite to eat at the Cafe Andre. Click here to go to Wabash West – and read about the reception and see photos.

Howard’s now into his wine thing. He orders a sauvignon blanc and, when our cute brunette waitress brings it, begins to discuss "the notes" with her.

“Citrussy, maybe a hint of grapefruit,” he says. I think the waitress is indulging him, but then she really gets into it. So into it she says, “Let me bring our Haughton blend and see what you think." Like Howard’s a real expert. And I have to admit, he’s pretty good.

But I’m beginning to realize that Howard’s wine hobby is not only a sly way to talk with pretty women about sensual things, but a great way to get free stuff.

She brings the wine, pours, then leaves us to savor it.

Howard swirls the wine in his glass, reminds me to hold the glass by the stem so I don’t change the taste with my body heat from my hand,†then shoves his nose into his glass like he’s going to snort the stuff.

He seems baffled.

“You know, I struggle to put words to this,” says Howard, who never struggles to put words to anything. “I think that whatever a person says they smell, well, that’s right.”

“Well this wine smells like paint,” I say.

“Shut up.”

“It does. Like paint. Or paint thinner.”

"Shut up."

“No, I mean, I love the taste, but it does smell like paint."

"Shut Up."

The waitress returns, she and Howard start chatting,

“I think it smells kind of like paint,” I interrupt. I’m looking at the waitress, but I’m pretty sure Howard is rolling his eyes. She laughs a little. Did I mention she’s really cute?

“You know, I’ve heard some people say that Sauvignon Blanc smells like cat pee,” she says.

"Smell is the sense of memory," I say, not knowing what I’m talking about. "There are professional smellers, you know," I add. What an i idiot. But I’ve got her attention. She brings up Diane Ackerman’s book, History of the Senses, which I’ve read, and we begin talking about it, recalling a favorite passage, getting along wonderfully.

Then Howard chimes in.

“I’ve heard Pinot Noir described as having a ‘barnyard smell’," and he and the waitress go back and forth sharing uncomplimentary ways of describing the stench of wine. I think I might be on to something with this unconventional approach.

“You know,” I say when the waitress leaves, "I love this wine, but it does smell like paint."

“Shutup,” says Howard.

Saturday we’re going to visit Steve Pavy at one of the most prestigious wineries in the Napa Valley. I’ve got a lot to learn.

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One Response to Barnyard Smells, Cat Urine and Good Wine

  1. winehiker says:

    Steve, that’s a fun story, and one that resonates often with my and my wine circle! Perhaps you’ll even believe that I once posted a review of a Tempranillo that smelled at first like cat pee, but got a whole lot better after decanting.