It was supposed to be a brief stop at the wine store to see if anything good and affordable was on sale (nope), but on my way out I was stopped by an elderly woman who asked if I knew anything about wine.
“Just a little,” I answered. “Do you need some help?”
“I wonder if you could help me pick out a chardonnay,” she said.
I know more about reds than I do whites, but she looked worried so I figured I’d give it a shot.
“I’ll try,” I said.
“One of the best lower-end chardonnays I ever had was a Santa Carolina Reserve from South America,” I said, leading her to the imports. “Let’s see if they have that.”
I scanned the bottles. None looked promising, or even familiar. “Oh, there’s a 2001.”
“Is the year important?” the lady asked.
“It can be, but it’s hard to generalize,” I said. “Two thousand one was a good year for zinfandel, for instance, but I don’t know about chardonnay. Sometimes the older wines taste better than the more recent vintages, but . . .” I could see that I’d lost her.
“Is the year important?” she asked again.
“No,” I said, “it isn’t.”
“This is so hard,” she said. “So hard.”
“Really, it isn’t that bad.” I tried to reassure her. “It’s a bit of a roll of the dice, maybe, but you could end up with a nice surprise at your dinner table. Are you serving chicken? Fish?”
“No, I’m serving beef,” she said.
“If you spill red wine, that’s it.”
“Yeah, I guess it is.”
I spotted some special prices at the end of the row. “Let’s look down here,” I said.
I picked up a bottle. “This is a possibility.”
“What’s possible about it?” she asked, clutching her shopping cart with white knuckles.
“Well, it’s on sale.”
“I don’t know what to do. I just don’t know what to do.” She shook her head.
I decided she needed firm advice. “Buy this one,” I stated flatly.
“Why should I?” she demanded flatly.
Okey-dokey, a new approach was needed. I read from the label. “Monkey Bay (see the monkey?) . . . It’s from New Zealand, and New Zealand has produced some good wines. I predict that for $8.99 on sale, you can’t go wrong with this wine.”
“Oooh, this is terrible,” she said. “It’s so hard. I can’t choose. I can’t do this today. I’m going to have to come back tomorrow.”
“Or another day. I can’t make a decision in one day. It’s just too hard.” Although her hands still gripped the handle of her shopping cart, I could practically see them being wrung into a pulp.
I put the bottle back and rested one of my hands on her shoulder. “If I were you,” I said, looking into her eyes, “I would buy the Monkey Bay because it has a really cute label.”
I left the store, and I don’t know if she bought the wine.
But she smiled.