Stranger in a Strange Land: Midwestern Winos

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Midwestern Winos

Wine is a drink with culture. Beer is good, but wine is inherently better. Throughout history beer has been for the rowdy, uncouth, while wine has been reserved for those who are naturally more dignified. Simply stated, beer is lowbrow and wine is highbrow.

Wine’s culture of class is deeply rooted in history. Socrates and his flock did not engage in the intellectual orgy that produced democracy while singing Irish drinking songs. No, Democracy was born from a grapevine.

On the night of the last supper, Jesus gathered together his closet friends and enjoyed dinner and wine. Imagine how different history would be if instead he threw a kegger, Judas passed out from a keg stand, and Jesus simply went east.

Likewise, the arts have been significantly affected by the potency of wine.
Hemingway found his creativity in a bottle of French Chardonnay. Francis Ford Coppola, on the other hand, seems to have lost his creative vision in a bottle of bland California red.

Even the places of wine cultivation have names emanating highbrow culture. Places like Italy, Spain, France, and Napa Valley fashion visions of richness and high society. Places clearly not included in this list of luxury are Illinois and Iowa.

It should come as no surprise that outside the corn belt Midwesterners are viewed as low cultured, simple minded, farmers. Yet, here I am, idling away a lovely summer afternoon, enjoying a glass of Galena produced sangria, surrounded by the peacefulness of a midwestern countryside.

Contrary to popular belief, winos are alive and well in the heartland.
Take for example, Galena Cellars, which produces over 40 varieties of wine and grows their own grapes. The vineyard, set in a valley deep in the enchanting Galena Territories, offers regular tours and tastings.

However, in perfect Midwest realist fashion, the vineyard’s production facilities consist of various faded red barns and dust covered sheds, the tasting house is in resemblance of a classic farmhouse and the air is peppered with the crisp sent of bovine.

Lounging in a white-whicker chair on the tasting house's wrap-around wooden veranda, I become lost in the moment. Disorientated as to my exact locale. “Where am I?” I internally question.

My thoughts: I feel cultured, yet there are cows seemingly floating on the horizon. Feeling the effects of my indulgences and not knowing what else to do, I pour myself another glass of fruit-filled sangria and spread smooth Shullsburg cheese on whole grain crackers.

Yes, the wino culture is alive and well in the heartland. Granted, there is no Mediterranean, the weather is crap three quarters of the year, and nobody speaks a lick French.

But what we lack in water, weather, and the ability to affluently say “oui’, we make up for in people. Real people. People who are highbrow enough to refuse any “f!#*^’n merlot”, but real enough to understand the hidden beauty of fresh sangria sipped from a perspiring clear plastic cup, submerged within the twilight shadows of a midsummer’s eve.


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