When I was twenty-eight I traveled to South Africa and spent a week in Stellenbosch northeast of Cape Town, which is the southern African climactic and geological equivalent of Napa Valley—craggy green mountains, cool foggy nights, long sunny days, and crisp, fertile soils.
Two days later I packed up four cases of South African Pinot Grigio back to Philadelphia and officially realized that I was destined to be a wino. Not the train-jumping, paper bag type, nor the crystal-sniffing, Bottle-Shock caricature. But let’s just say I haven’t had a beer in over a decade. Great wine is lightening in a bottle. Fleeting, unforgettable, and only possible if everything comes together perfectly. It also embodies a lifestyle that’s irresistible: twilight farm-to-table dinners in Sonoma, riverboats down the Rhine, biking through Tuscany. Even a Scotch fan wouldn’t be turning these trips down.
Short of the red wine stains on the dining room rug, the main downside of being a wine connoisseur is that it can get expensive. In life’s category of hobbies, it ranks up there with owning a horse or a vintage wooden sailboat. Wine itself gets exponentially more costly the snobbier you get. Then there’s the hardware. A simple countertop wine rack quickly leads to a climate-controlled wine fridge. If it’s hard-wired into your kitchen or bar cabinetry and you’re running your dishwasher every night to ensure you have clean glasses you know the grapes are getting into your blood st