Sunday, October 01, 2006

BUS STORY # 6, Part 3 (More Dan)

A couple of weeks went by before I ran into Dan* at the bus stop again. He was still perched on top of the bench when I rounded the corner. Because monsoon season had really cooled off this time of the morning, he was still wearing jeans. We picked up right where we’d left off: wine and winemaking. It sounded to me like he knew his stuff. Turns out he does: he won a New Mexico State Fair silver medal for his blackberry wine in the homemade class. He was currently experimenting with a fortified wine and had plans for the surplus of a neighbor’s peach tree.

I asked him if he’d tried any of our local wines. Yes, he had. He was a fan of a couple of local wineries: Milagro Vineyards and Corrales Winery. After tasting wines from both, he sought out the vintners. "They’re artists," he explained. He elaborated: they understand how to make a good wine, but they also understand chemistry well enough to know how to play. They have the potential to make really interesting, great wines.

Because he was working with fruit other than grapes, I asked if he was familiar with Anasazi Vineyard wines. He smiled, took a measured silence, then replied, "They do their fermentation too fast." He explained that when you taste such a wine, it has an indescribable but unmistakable "whang" to it, and Anasazi wines he’d tasted had that "whang." Bummer, I thought. I’m a fan of their plum and their cranberry. I guessed I wouldn’t know a whang if it whanged me upside the head. Yes I would, he countered. It’s all a matter of educating one’s taste buds. In the course of his explanation, he said women have a more sensitive palette when it comes to wine tasting, and that one of the vintners he talked to depended on his wife – who knew little about the winemaking process – to pass ultimate judgment on his progress.

A few more rides together and I confirmed my initial impression that Dan’s impressively wide-ranging command of subject matter was a consequence of purposeful DIY study. Classical literature, philosophy, psychology, German, movies, wines and winemaking – this latter was an ongoing three-year-old program. He and his wife were also systematically (how else?) going through the films of Alfred Hitchcock. "The guy was brilliant," he told me, admiration in his voice, in the way he understood and portrayed human psychology and behavior.

Still, there is more to the story. When he was explaining why he’d given up beer making to concentrate on wine, I alluded to Wynton Marsalis giving up classical music to concentrate on jazz. I sensed I’d drawn a complete blank. Was it possible I’d found a math and science person who didn’t have an appreciation of music?

And does he have any children?

And, of course, why is he riding the bus?


*Real name changed.


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