The Race for Wine

It’s about fifteen minutes to midnight on a hot August night. I’m in front of my computer screen and fading fast, despite my best efforts to stay engaged. This isn’t easy, especially since I slept like garbage the night before. Nobody’s updating their social media feed, probably because they’re all in bed like I should. No new headlines are popping up on my favorite news aggregate site. The electronic Euro-style board game I have on my hard drive has ceased to be entertaining for the night. Even the heavy guitar riffs of Queens of the Stone Age’s “Rated R” album seems to lose its perk-up powers with each passing song. My eyes are heavy, my muscles tense, my butt sore. I want to stagger to my bed in the adjacent room and crash.

But I can’t. There are a handful of deeply discounted bottles of Zinfandel that’s one e-mail away from going on sale. I received the announcement of its impending delivery earlier in the afternoon. It’s the second such announcement I’ve received in as many weeks. I botched the previous sale because I failed to pounce when the it officially launched at 11:09 PM. I look at my computer’s clock. It’s 11:39 PM. They’re 30 minutes late.  “That’s cool,” I think while stifling yet another yawn. “That e-mail is going to hit my inbox any minute now. Yep. Any. Minute. Now.”

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The Zinfandel causing my self-inflicted suffering is a 2014 reserve from VGS Chateau Potelle, a tiny Napa winery whose French-sounding name may conjure thoughts of pinkies-out sophistication. I must confess to expecting as much when my wife and I stopped by there last May, on the strength of a colleague’s recommendation.  I must also confess that when we signed up for a wine tasting, we primarily did so because each sample was paired with bites from the Michelin-starred restaurant La Toque, with each duo enjoyed amongst the flowers and babbling water features ensconced in the tiny property’s garden. I suppose this also means I’ve just confessed to being occasionally frou-frou by proxy, but whatever.

The bites were terrific, but it becomes obvious to us after the second glass that the wines were even better. We gush this revelation to our server around pairing number four.  After he responds with gratitude and a brief rundown of the next glass, the question arises.

“So, what does VGS stand for?” My wife asks.

“It’s not what you think, he responds, grinning slightly. “Then again, maybe it is.”

She leans forward, brow furrowed. “Does it mean ‘very good stuff’?

“Close. Very Good Shit.”

So much for the extended pinkies. Our server says according to legend, when the winery’s founder had friends over to sample the wines he made, they’d ask him to break out the small batches of wine he’d reserve for select occasions. In early 1970s Napa vernacular, this equated to asking for not just the good shit, but the very good shit. The story alone compels us to give them our e-mail and our business in the form of a Zin and a red blend. We crack open the Zin with friends a couple months later, some 430 miles away from the property’s seductive setting. It’s delicious.

Hence the reason I’m struggling to stay awake. The bottles they’re offering is their modern-day very good shit, marked down to make room in their cellar for the upcoming harvest. I’m not missing out like I did the prior week, when naivete and stupidity overwhelmed my brain. I knew it was coming thanks to the advanced announcement, but I didn’t know what time it would arrive. When it did hit my inbox just after 11:00 PM, I froze. Specifically, the part of my brain in charge of telling my right hand to reach for my wallet went on strike. The rest of my noggin over-compensated with questions: “Are we sure we want the Zin?” “Did we really discuss getting a bottle?” Did we really discuss getting two bottles?” “Should I talk to my wife about this in the morning?” I went to bed conflicted and wine-less. I woke up to a big mistake.

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It’s now midnight. I’m done with hopping on Facebook and counting how many of my friends’ kids had their first day of school that morning. The Queens of the Stone Age have put away their instruments. I start to contemplate visiting Reddit, despite my better judgement. The email has yet to arrive.

The bed is calling out for me at this point, although that could just be the sound of our dog struggling to find comfort amid our home’s second-floor balminess. I want to give up, but I can’t – I know that Zin is going to live up to VGS in its non-acronym state. It’s going to be fantastic. I must persist. I must stay awake. I start having a weird sort of empathy for the main character in the Jack London short story “To Build a Fire.” Very Good Shit will apparently do this to you.

The night ends about as well as the story does for London’s unnamed protagonist. I give up at 12:15 on the dot, a couple of minutes after one final ping in my inbox reveals nothing more than a spam for a tactical flashlight. I shut off my PC and crawl into bed, far too tired to feel defeated by an email that never came.

The email arrived at 12:18.

I try in vain to buy a bottle the next morning. Alas, my purchasing power proves to be futile against those that stayed up three extra minutes longer than me. The loss I couldn’t feel when I drifted to slumber hits me with the force of Negan’s barbed-wire bat. It’s a little tough to focus the rest of the morning. Yet as the day progresses, I find resolve. I’ll be better prepared to hunker down for a late night the next time Chateau Potelle drops a deal like this in my inbox, whenever that may be. I just need to figure out how to appropriately ready myself. Perhaps I’ll throw on the latest Queens of the Stone Age album while I wait.