Flirting With Anachronism

by J. Tobias Beard

Whether or not a wine festival is the proper place to deal with a hangover is a good question, but not one I want to think about now, not while I’m hung over and tasting wine at the Montpelier Wine Festival. At the entrance there’s a bored teenager who will apparently spend the entire day saying “Drive straight and follow the signs. Have a nice day.” to every single car. The first thing I see is an emu in a cage, and then a strange man is offering me cooked emu on a stick, which is pretty damn good. I set off to try and find out what wine goes best with emu.

I move from tent to tent sampling some of Virginia’s best wine amid a milling throng, all of whom are wearing their wine glasses around their necks in little holders. I decide that these people are not really wine lovers when I see a man smoking a cigar and drinking beer while he tastes wine. Wine Festivals are not the place to experience wine at it’s best. The bottles sit open all day in the hot sun while armchair enophiles ask each other which flavor they like most. Besides, there’s something about the presence of Funnel Cake that really lowers the prestige of an event.

Drinking wine makes it easy to forget that there’s a war going on. The emu squawks in terror as the roar of the British cannon rips through the wine tents. The fake British troops soundly defeat the fake Colonial Army with much firing of flintlocks and really dramatic fake deaths. After lying still for five minutes a fake colonist leaps to his feet shouting “I live again!” The crowd cheers, but his excitement fades when he sees the fake British soldiers surrounded by real 21st century college girls. Emboldened by wine I try to chat up a few colonial lasses, but they look at me as if I don’t exist. It’s hard to flirt with an anachronism.

Wine festivals, like historic reenactments, turn us into tourists. We become sightseers in our own wine industry. We don’t live with Virginia Wine, we merely visit it. I think I know what it is that attracts us to these events, and its not a love of wine. What we are looking for is safe, family sin; the chance to drink all day and still feel like grown ups. It’s a bacchanal for the minivan set.

Near the end of the day I wander drunkenly over to a large roped off section where children are flying kites. There is a sound system through which, for reasons I cannot begin to fathom, Steely Dan is playing loudly. There is a man speaking through a microphone in a monotone voice like Fred Rogers calling a Bingo game. He is saying things like “A bad day kite flying is better than a good day at the office.” I am wearing a powdered wig and tricorn hat, and brandishing a saber, all of which I looted from a fake dead body. I wade into the crowd of children and commandeer a kite from a startled ten year old. I let the kite soar up above the crowd of Virginia Wine Lovers.

Now this is a party.