I owe a lot to wine. From all accounts, it played a major role in my conception.

Unfortunately, I’m not much of an expert. When a waiter brings the wine list, I go with “eeeny meeny miny mo.” Otherwise you run the risk of waiters raising an eyebrow or making French sounds through their noses.

They promised that I’d be safe at Bodee’s, an 11-star restaurant “nestled into a remote country location” (translation: somewhere near Middle Earth).

I spoke to Christopher Watson, who has rubbed spatulas with top cheffing dignitaries and is personally in charge of everything digested at Bodee’s. Chris and I conducted research in the “fern grotto” (translation: patio), where Chris lined up the wines white to red.

“So what kind of wine do you like?” he asked.

“I dunno. Whatever tastes most like Kool-Aid.”

Chris rinsed with, and spit out, a mouthful of rosé. I myself am principally opposed to spitting out alcohol, so I finished his glass. Think of the starving children.

Chris asked me to swirl the glass, which is where I drew the line. There would be no swirling and no poetic faces.

“The swirling,” he said, “opens up the wine. Reds are especially tense out of the bottle.”

I was drinking and learning at the same time. Just like college.

Chris wedged his nose into the glass the way a linebacker does an oxygen mask. That’s why wine glasses are so big -- to fit your snout.

We started with my favorite wine, the “voigner” [pronunciation tip: don’t use any of the actual letters]. Chris pushes voy-NYAY on chardonnay junkies when they want to get a little crazy.

“My job,” says Chris, “is to help you discover your preferences. If you’re into Kool-Aid, do you prefer Sharkleberry Fin or the Great Bluedini?”

Chris recommends reading Wine for Dummies … unless you’re a complete idiot, in which case read The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Wine.

We graduated to red wines -- The Dark Side -- starting with my favorite, the pinot noir. Pinot noir lived in obscurity before the movie Sideways, which I am required to mention by law. Sideways is about how scumbag men really aren’t scumbags when you compare them to wine, as you can easily tell by the movie’s title.

Chris explained the difference between red wine and white. I’ll spare you the physics and say that red wine does not necessarily come from red grapes; the color comes from tannins in the skin.

“The tannins,” said Chris, “also intensify your hangover.”

Which I verified the next morning when I found myself bickering at the phone long after it stopped ringing. So it goes.

“This next wine will be your favorite,” said Chris, pouring a sauvignon blanc. “It has a nice, peppery finish.”

Pepper is not something I look for in a wine. In fact, it’s not something I look for on food. Yet this bottle, Rock Rabbit, was the kind of wine that made you skip dinner. It felt almost nutritious.

If you do eat, white wines go with white foods (fish, pasta, chicken), and red wines go with red foods (beef, marinara, more red wine). What is the favorite pairing of 11-star gourmet chef Christopher Watson?

Peachy Canyon zinfandel and peanut M&M’s.

That was my favorite, too, until we tried Rutherford Hill, the house merlot. Merlot is a “dry wine,” which means that if you spill it on your clothes you’ll need dry-cleaning.

Chris and I swirled our way to the Bordeaux, named after a busty seventies actress. No, that would be the Barbeau. Ha! You wouldn’t believe how funny that was after six glasses of wine.

“This is not the merlot they’re talking about in Sideways,” said Chris. “It’s good merlot.”

I struggle to describe the Bordeaux. Chris had already taken the obvious choice -- smoky herbal dusk -- so I had to stick with poetic faces.

We finished with Conn Creek Cabernet, the “youngest” bottle and definitely my favorite. I always thought that wine had to ferment for decades, but what do I know. My grandfolk’s from Kentucky.

“We consume so much wine as a society,” said Chris, “that you can’t find a six-year-old chardonnay. Most wines are designed to be consumed quickly.”

And boy did we consume quickly. The bottle read “12% alcohol by volume,” which had something to do with how loud we were getting. Chris cut me off when I started to shout for Barbeau.

I was not only sideways but upside down and backwards. I had, however, learned something. Wait for it. Wobbling. Whereas my motto on wine used to be “quantity, not quality,” I now feel comfortable walking into any snootsy restaurant, looking that French waiter directly in the nose, and ordering my favorite wine -- whatever they recommend.


Twisted English

For most of us English is a sentence (buh dum bum). In school we learned the basics followed by their 6,534 exceptions. We discovered, for instance, that i goes before e except after c, then immediately took off to SCIENCE.

In sixth grade I entered the Wildwood Elementary Spelling Bee and in the final round misspelled lenient, which does not, for the record, end in -ant.

I cried myself raw on the merry-go-round, shouting at the heavens: L-e-n-i-E-n-t, l-e-n-i-E-n-t. My shrink still enjoys the irony.

In the wake of that sinister day, I pledged to memorize every word in the dictionary, beginning with the a’s.

“Audacity, noun. Unreserved impudence.”

Flip flip flip.

“Impudent, adjective. Impertinent disrespect.”

Flip flip flip flip.

“Impertinence, noun…”

In high school they make us diagram sentences that seem friendly enough but which are, beneath the surface, crawling with “prepositional phrases” and “subordinate clauses.”

Example: All people must have been laughing.

In eighth grade, “all people” is the subject, and “must have been laughing” is the verb.

By tenth grade, “all” is an adjectival modifier, “must” is a modal auxiliary verb, and “have been laughing” is a contusion of the lower occipital lobe. Wait, that's next period.

The problem is that English has so many unnecessary, unneeded, needless words, and let me explicate why: Our founding grammarians had a sick sense of humor and are even now snickering in the distance. How else can you explain the pronunciation of colonel?

But they were the ones waving quills, dammit, and if a word is misspelled in the dictionary, how do you know?

So they brainstormed new rules…

“Let’s have ‘grammer’ end in -ar. That’ll really make 'em feel stupid.”

When they finished with spellings, our twisted forebears gave each word numerous -- sometimes contradictory -- meanings.

Match, verb. 1. To fit together, be in harmony 2. To pit in opposition against.

Then they moved on to pronunciation, which would depend, of course, on context (the part of the country you’re from).

Example: Don’t project on my project unless you effect my affects, and by that I mean my personal belongings.

And it’s just this sort of thing that makes people speak Spanish. To this day, I say “amen” both ways just to make sure the prayer counts.

They, the grammar sickos, considered adding another s to “misspell” but were far too subtle-with-a-b. They enjoy it most when nobody knows the word arcane and phonetic begins with “ph.”

So what happens? Kids stop judging books by their covers and start judging them by the movies instead. At Christmas my nephew unwrapped Catcher in the Rye and asked, “Where do you plug it in?” So it goes.

Other signs of language decay can be found in this perfectly acceptable use of text grammar: LOL BTW luv 2 chat but CUl8er :P

We’ll diagram tomorrow.

Advertisers have their own rules, which include lots of verbing.

“Staples is the best place to office.”

“How to California in 30 Days.”

Note that California is an intransitive verb, so you couldn’t say, “Go California yourself.” You could, however, engage in Californication according to noted grammarians, The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

I personally feel that it’s immoral to put our children through English when grownups are running around using office as a verb. Think of all the time we slumped over those big blue English books of death. Those years could have been so much funner!

All I’m saying is that we could stand to be a little more l-e-n-i-A-n-t.

AY-men and AH-men.