Welcome to My Swirl—Being able to spot the difference between red wine and white wine from only a few feet away has always been the hallmark, and extent, of my oenological know-how. So when the opportunity to take a three-session wine-tasting class presented itself, I leapt at the chance—partly because I’d be attending with my fiancée, Candy Dahl (faithful readers will recall from last month’s column that she and I had recently attended a car accident together), and partly because we’d be attending on her dime. She had won tickets to the class by being the high bidder at a charity auction to benefit Safetyville USA, a place perhaps not familiar to the young woman who’d plowed into us. Candy also invited her pal Catherine Manske, an attorney who began her career as a nurse. (Nursing can be a very helpful prerequisite to practicing law since you know how to revive clients after you present them with your bill.) Our teacher was G.M. “Pooch” Pucilowski, who used to write about wine for this very magazine, an energetic, unpretentious, obviously knowledgeable guy who’s also a sought-after wine judge (a job that requires one to never pass the bar).

I Drink, Therefore I Am—
Pucilowski understands what the best teachers have always known: that if you make the topic seem vaguely curative (e.g., “Art is good for you”) or make your students seem vaguely unworthy of the topic (e.g., “You people will never fully understand Descartes, but let’s give it a shot”), you’ll lose those students. But if you make the topic fun, your acolytes will go wherever you take them. In our case, that was to the middle-deck bar of the Delta King, one of the only places we can point to in this town and say, “Hey, who says we haven’t developed our waterfront?!”

Sip Codes—
Among Pooch’s reassuring comments during the class were the following: a) “The thing about wine is there really is no wrongness” (meaning, if you happen to enjoy a wine that the self-anointed connoisseur you’re dating or married to doesn’t, you can still enjoy it; you might want to lose the connoisseur, however); b) “Wine continues to get better until it gets worse” (this was in response to one of my fellow students asking precisely how long wine lasts before it becomes more suitable as the co-star of a peppy vinaigrette); c) If you’re going to do some serious imbibing, “Drink one glass of water for every glass of wine you drink” (this will help reduce headaches—but in my experience, it won’t prevent the outbreak of hangovers or political arguments). Pucilowski will be teaching wine-tasting classes in March, April, May and June, then again in September, October and November. Dates and times are on his website ( but no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to download a really good Zin.

Mail of the Species—
While recovering from my aforementioned traffic mishap, I spent a lot of time at my ancestral East Sac home, Goldmanor. One afternoon, I chatted up my letter carrier, who knew that I write for this magazine—possibly because I frequently stand on my front porch wearing the same suit and facial expression as in the photo atop this column, but only until a passerby makes the connection or it starts to rain. She mentioned that Oprah Winfrey should consider doing that time-honored journalism stunt of taking on someone else’s job for a day—like a letter carrier’s. “On any particular day?” I asked. “Yeah,” she said, “the day each month we have to deliver her stupid 14-pound magazine.” O, I thought.