“Would you like a 1974 or a 75?” the waitress asked.
“The disco years,” I whispered to my companion. She shushed me, she didn’t know me then.
“We’ll try the 74,” my woman replied then sotto voce to me, “just close your eyes and pretend like everyone else.”
“An excellent choice,” the waitress said. “Our vine was just maturing then. It was of course more complex in 75 but its exuberance, its growing realization of its powers to enchant and seduce, give the 74 a charm that has never been duplicated.”
She took an empty bottle and two glasses off the shelf, filled them virtually half way. I saw my woman through half open eyes savor the vintage’s sprightliness, its almost bubbling qualities as the waitress digressed into a discussion of terroir and its maintenance, a rambling prelude to our next virtual sample, from the richer, darker nineties. Beyond the plate glass window, shaded by a screen that’s always drawn during visiting hours, I saw the celebrated vine, the only one in the vineyard. Only a few select people, master gardeners, and of course the vintner were allowed to look directly at it.
I swirled my empty glass lightly, pretended to observe the wine, sipped it. I recalled my gangly self in the mid-70s, how most of the wine I drank was nipped from bottles while my parents were at church. The recollection warmed me. I felt the sensation not just in my head as I normally do but also in my mouth and throat, a sort of promise of better days ahead.
“You look like you enjoyed that,” my companion said.
“But I still have some left. Would you like to finish it for me?”
“If I didn’t know better I’d think you’re trying to get me drunk.”
“I do have to drive.”
She looked at me sternly. I finished the glass, replaced it on the coaster, and looked around. Our server had retreated to a position near the cash register. She stood there, beaming and jiggling in place. She approached at a signal from my woman.
“I see you enjoyed the 74,” she said. “We still have bottles of it for sale when you’re ready to go. Do you have any questions?”
“How much does a harvest yield?” I asked. My consort nudged me. I knew she’d consider the question gauche.
“In 74 the vine produced a half glass, perhaps a tenth of a liter of wine. The yield has been more or less constant since then, depending of course on how vigorously we prune and the weather conditions. Producing a full glass would dilute our brand. That half glass has steadily grown richer. Hence the name of our vineyard and its grape — Ameliora! One day all grapes will be named for the estates on which they’re grown. Of course it’s very expensive to maintain an operation like this. Virtual tasters like you perform an important public service.”
“Can you tell me who buys the actual half glass vintages?”
“Your voucher allows you to sample a quarter glass of one of our 90s vintages. Of course for just $40 more I can give you each a full half glass.”
I turned to my woman. Her purse was on her lap. “I think we’ll just have the quarter glass each,” she said.
“In that case I recommend the 92. That mellow vintage imparts nobility to any regrets, raises them to a deep melancholy.”
We clasped hands as the server cleaned our wine glasses and turned to the shelves for the 92. Ah, the price of love!