Want change? So you can whine ... or wine

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
December 9th, 2011

 Making the switch to online media two-and-a-half years ago was like a crack in the dam – the changes in my life have been coming fast and furious ever since.

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This is a good thing, and largely something I’ve chosen – Gandhi wasn’t blowing smoke when he said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. What I’ve accomplished doesn’t come within spitting distance of that kind of nobility, but I’m trying in my own little way.

When all this started for me, bucket lists were all the rage. I decided to have one, too – but with a twist. Instead of just doing things I’ve always wanted to do, I decided to also make a point, at least once a month, of doing something that frightens or intimidates me.

Man, has it paid off. I’ve quit smoking (after 29 years of two packs a day, thank you very much), learned to make sushi, went to a clothing-optional beach (talk about your eye-openers, eek), become friends with someone I admire so much that she scares me a little … the list goes on.

There’s one thing in particular I want to tell you about – partly because it promotes a local business that I like, but mostly to illustrate my point.

Several months back, a member of the Lone Sheep family left the fold for greener pastures and, incidentally, he was the fellow who made wine for us to give out to our sources and advertisers at Christmas every year.

Making wine hits both sides of my bucket list – I’ve always wanted to do it, but it intimidates me. Sterilizing all that equipment … that part alone prevented me from ever giving it a go. So, true to my new lifestyle, I called up Faye at WineKitz here in Castlegar, and asked her if she’d do a trade: I give her some free advertising and she teaches me how to make wine (and no, this column was never part of the deal).

She said yes, and off we went.

Like most things I’ve been intimidated by, but have tried anyway, it turns out making wine is a breeze. In fact, I had to ask Faye to make it a little harder for me than most. Normally, she does all the interim work, all you have to do is the initial pouring of ingredients, then the bottling at the end. I didn’t want her to make my wine for me, I wanted to learn how to do it myself, so I asked her to include me in every step along the way. (I let her do all the sterilizing, though, bless her heart. I HATE any task that smacks of housework).

Once again, she was game, and so I got to see all the steps in the process first hand, which was neat. I also have six cases of wine aging in my kitchen, which is also neat. But the really, really cool part was this:  the whole time Faye was showing me what to do, I was bombarding her with questions. The poor woman must ‘ve felt like an exhausted Kindergarten teacher after a long day of hearing, “Why? How come? What for?” every time she spoke.

I never thought I was all that curious about wine or the process of making it, but little things I’ve always wondered about (but not enough to make me go find an answer) kept popping into my head.

Why decant wine, and do you decant just red, or red and white both? Why is red wine room temperature, while white wine is chilled? What’s the difference between a cooking wine and a table wine? What’s the difference between wine, sherry and port?

Then there were all the questions about Faye’s equipment (state-of-the-art stuff that’s well beyond what was available 20 years ago, when I first started looking into it, and fascinating in its own right. Corking the bottles was a hoot.).

She patiently answered all my questions, even giving me a calendar with recipes telling you which wine to pair with which meal (I still don’t really understand that part … I’d rather have a martini with dinner, to be honest).

But none of that’s really the point, the point is this: it was a little scary, calling to ask if she’d participate. Not sure why, since she was friendly, charming and forthcoming. It was intimidating, learning this new thing that I thought would be difficult and thus I would perhaps be unable to do. Pish posh, it was simple as could be. I was afraid I’d annoy Faye or come off stupid with my relentless battery of questions … but if either one was the case, she hid it very well.

My ignorance around this stuff has always bothered me a bit. When I do as I’ve seen others do without understanding why (like chilling the white but not the red), it makes me feel like sheep (and not a Lone Sheep, which would be a good thing). Knowing nothing about wine always made me feel a little redneck and dumb.  Not understanding the process reminded me how scientifically challenged I am. All are minor, vague feelings that I felt were too fleeting to bother acting upon, but I now see how wrong that was.

I took a little tiny risk (all she could do was say no, right?), and in exchange, I made all those negative feelings dissipate like smoke, leaving in their wake the sense of wonder that comes from all new learning, the boost of confidence that knowledge always brings, the ability to cook with wine more effectively (I LOVE to cook), and the pride that comes from taking the bull by the horns and achieving something.

Oh yeah, and the six cases of wine, too!

Which has all been a very circular and long-winded way of telling you this: when you do up your bucket list, don’t just include stuff you think will be fun (although include those, too – I’m determined to see a platypus in real life before I die). Tack on some things you’re afraid of; that you think you might not be able to do; at which you’re scared you might fail.

The worst thing that can happen is you discover you were right by failing – and what greater failure does life offer than the failure to try in the first place? At best, it feels pretty fabulous to discover how much we tend to underestimate ourselves. Whole new worlds open up.

That’s some pretty heady stuff… way more than the strongest wine.