Sunday, June 01, 2008

Movin' On Down

I’ve been living on the fringes of Paradise for the past eight years. Now I’m moving. To Chico. Chico sucks.

Now, before all you “Chicoans” come after me with torches and pitchforks like the bitter small town Americans you are, let me explain.

I love Chico. I really do. I work in Chico, and I love the downtown area. I love the fact that we have actual restaurants. I love that there’s music and entertainment. I love Bidwell Park. I love the fact that we have a Trader Joe’s.

But housing in Chico is another matter. After spending nearly a month looking at houses in Chico it became very clear: most Chico homes consist of cheap tract houses (I’m not even going to mention apartments and student housing). Whether it’s 50’s ticky tacky or 80’s ticky tacky – bad, poorly constructed, ugly, cheap tract houses on microscopic lots account for the bulk of Chico homes. Sure, there’s “the avenues”, with their charming old craftsman homes. And there’s Canyon Oaks, as if I could afford to live there (who does live there??). But overall, Chico houses are…well, pretty bad.

I know it’s hard to accept criticism of your beloved Chico, but take a deep breath, put down your guns and bibles, and you’ll be okay.

Fortunately, the longer I looked in Chico, the more nice pockets I found hidden in cul-de-sacs, amongst the blocks of schlock. In the end, I found a very nice house in a very quiet neighborhood, and I’m very happy. But I was really surprised and disappointed at the quality of homes in Chico (Instead of being mad at me, maybe you should be mad at the developers who have filled your beautiful town with such crap. I’m just sayin’.).

So, what could all that dreadful and uncalled-for Chico-bashing possibly have to do with wine? Well, like I said, I’m moving. I’m a wine snob. Wine snobs have wine ‘cellars’ filled with wine bottles delicately aging in cool, dark, quiet places.

And wine (and here I’m talking here about things like my 1998 Chateauneuf du Papes, 2000 Bordeaux, and my bottle of 1983 Beaulieu Rutherford Valley cabernet, not your cases of Carlo Rossi Hearty Burgundy) doesn’t like to be moved.

Huh? Come on, it’s just booze, right? What’s the big deal?

Well, first of all, there’s what is called “bottle shock”. I’m not sure that Bottle Shock, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy don’t all live in the same house (if you get my drift), but many oenophiles swear that when wine is agitated (as is “shaken”, not as in “coming off it’s anti-psychotic meds”), it closes down and loses it’s flavor and character. Fortunately, bottle shock is only temporary, lasting only a week or two before the wine recovers. Maybe. I’m not convinced, but I do treat my bottles with care when moving them.

The bigger problem, particularly in the summer in Chico, is heat. Bottle shock may be iffy, but heat is a real killer of wine – even of your Carlo Rossi. In fact, many wine retailers won’t ship wine during hot weather. I’m sure there’s nothing like a semi full of $100 Napa cabs sitting at a truck stop in Yuma in July while the driver has a lunch of chicken fried steak with a side of mashed taters.

What exactly does heat do? It does what you’d think it does: it cooks the wine. I’ve actually had bottles leak because the heat caused the wine to expand and push past the cork. Not good. How long does it take to ruin a wine with heat? That depends, but if your wine gets up to 100° degrees, you’re probably doing damage to it. If it stays there, you’re definitely doing damage to it. And even 85° can potentially damage wine if it’s kept at that temperature for long periods.

The real problem with moving in the heat isn’t so much the 30 minute drive down the hill. If you take the wine in your personal vehicle instead of letting the gorillas in the moving van have it, you can always turn the AC to “Pre-global Warming Antarctica” in order to keep your wine cool. Leaving the wine in the trunk while you join the truck driver for lunch is probably not quite as smart.

The bigger problem is keeping it cool once you get it down the hill. Storing the wine in the garage while you move the rest of your stuff probably isn’t a good idea. That’s why for me, the wine will be one of the last things to get moved. I want to make sure that I have a cool house and a cool wine fridge to move it into.

I also don’t want a bunch of uncivilized, ticky tacky living Chicoans breaking into my garage and downing my collection. That would make me bitter and want to cling to my guns. On second thought, I think I’m going to fit right in.


Scott Kodai said...

From the tone of this column, I wonder if "wine" is the only kind of snob present. :-)

Patrick said...

Why don't you have some arugula with your whine?