Remembering Grandpa’s Dandelion Wine

I’m not sure when my love for wine started. In college, I was more of a cheap beer (on tap) drinker, occasionally springing for a gin and tonic with my girlfriends. Early in my nursing career, I’d enjoy a glass a wine with our Friday night dinner out. We didn’t have much in our early professional years. My husband and I would allow ourselves one meal out a week, generally on a Friday night at the local Greek restaurant called Ambrosia. It sat at the corner of Hodge and Elmwood in Buffalo, New York, one block up from Children’s Hospital, where I worked in the NICU.  Usually, I drank the house chardonnay with an open chicken souvlaki sandwich, piled high with feta cheese and the requisite pair of greek olives and hot pepper. My husband had the same and he drank a bottled beer. The meal, complete with the two drinks, cost about $10.00! Insane, right?! It was what we could afford and is a cherished memory.

When I got adventuresome, I tried the Retsina (a greek white wine). This dry, uniquely tart, wine was dubbed “turpentine for humans” by my husband. It reminded me of my grandpa’s homemade dandelion wine that he made when he was retired.  His wine was not all that good but you wanted to like it for reasons of respect and nostalgia. After all, my sister and I were sent off to collect the dandelions from the yard prior to his making it in the basement of their home. This, of course, was before all the chemical spraying that takes place today. The dandelions were not tainted by poisons.

The father of a boy I dated in high school and early college also made homemade wines. His were better, but still probably appreciated by me because I felt I had to “like them.” Just FYI, the drinking age was 18 back then.

Over the course of young adulthood, more stable jobs, careers, parenthood, more disposable income, and 30 some odd years,  I became a red wine drinker.  I like a good Malbec from Argentina, or a red blend from California, or a Merlot with my pasta. I have actually progressed in my self-edification of wine to the point that I can taste some of the berry undertones. And, I enjoy this aspect of the drink very much – although still prefer a dry wine as opposed to a sweet one.  It’s also nice that wines no longer have to cost less than $10.00 a bottle, but if they do and I like them, all the better!

I have learned that I like what I like, whether that is a glass of Saki (I went to Japan) or the Greek Retsina wine, or some Pinot Noir that costs upwards of $26.00 a bottle. I’ve learned that when I go to a party,  the wine I’ve chosen to bring is often the last opened.  That’s okay. I realize everyone’s taste is different, but since I learned to like wine on a shoe string budget, I still prefer to not pay an arm and a leg for a bottle.  And, while I try not to bring the cheapest bottle, I do choose something I know I will like.  For me, liking how it tastes is more important than the price-tag on the bottle.  My most recent favorite is called 1000 Stories and is about $18.00 a bottle. Not what I’d call cheap but definitely not expensive either. And, liking what I drink is also the reason I stay away from wine clubs…..I’ll experiment on a bottle from the store, but feel it is less risky than having it sent to my house or taking it, as an unknown liquid to be imbibed by guests at a party. drinksontheveranda

So, what started me as a lover of wines? I’m not all that sure. It might be nostalgia. It might be realizing  Grandpa’s Dandelion wine wasn’t all that good. It might be just the way it tastes. But, having a glass of wine over dinner or in the early evening is definitely one of life’s small pleasures for this former girl who picked dandelions for her grandpa.


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