Sunday, September 19, 2010

Voyaging for Vino

I can now say that I’ve been on a wine-tasting bus tour of the Hudson River Valley region – which was maybe one negligible step up from the last bus tour I’d been on (the Not Your Mama’s Bus Tour of Chicago).

Going into this day trip, I had pictured something low-key, peopled by stuffy, older married couples with sweaters wrapped around their shoulders who just saw this wine bus as an alternative to driving back to the city or Westchester after a day of upstate, upscale drinking. It turned out to be Spring Break on wheels, without the warm weather, swimsuit parades, or college-aged youths. Within the first hour of boarding, the hostesses went up and down the aisles, pouring mimosas into the passengers’ outreached plastic cups.

After we left the 1st winery on the itinerary, one of the hostesses came around with a microphone so each passenger could introduce herself/himself to the rest of the bus. The presentations went a little something like: “Hello, my name is Consuela. I’m Cuban-American and my hobbies include drinking and having a good time, and we’re here to celebrate Wanda’s birthday!” On cue, a group of fiftysomething Wanda-loving women, all wearing big, bright yellow flowers in their lapels, woot-wooted and put their hands up. Wanda would later get up to dance like no one was watching in the aisle.

A smug, Kangol-capped man of about the same age, who was there with an equally disagreeable (also capped) lady friend, smirkingly announced: “I’m not an alcoholic, I’m a drunk. Alcoholics go to meetings.” The whole cabin exploded into laughter. The way this particular drunk delivered (and the crowed received) the bit, you would think this joke (that’s now even printed on T-shirts) had been his brainchild.

Then there was that married couple whose 4 kids have supposedly driven them to the bottle(s) – a much weaker excuse for frequent substance use there could not be.

Immediately after pulling out of winery #2, the karaoke started up – everything from UB40’s “Red Red Wine” to Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana,” the harrowing lyrics of which I had never before really listened to or seen written out. Are they based on a true story or did Team Manilow dream this shit up? The unfazed party-bus patrons still belted out those rhymes as if this were a national anthem or a college fight song.

As we drove toward the 3rd and final winery, our black bus driver was pulled over by the Pine Bush P.D. for “running a red light.” The head hostess suggested that one of the bus’s passengers had tipped the cops off, via cell phone. An accusation that made no sense, but by this time everyone was either too buzzed or tired to raise a challenge.

On the rain-soaked, back-to-back-traffic drive down to the city that night, we watched The Hangover.

Earlier in the epic-long day, there was a brief, and largely inaudible, video on the genesis of winemaking that I doubt anyone paid any attention to. “This is a great History Channel documentary - you all should learn something during this trip,” a hostess said with a straight face. The only thing I learned is that there’s a boatload (and busload) of live-and-let-live, carpe diem-driven middle-agers in these parts. I’m now wondering if I have what it takes to become one of their successors in 20-25 years. Hope so.

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