The good, the bad, and the ugly on turning 44

My Fellow Inebriates,

My mum has unequivocally entered her mid-40s. Check out the gift I wanted to get her but didn’t actually get around to buying:


Four shot glasses. Because she’s 44.

Now you may think 44 is old, and I’d agree with you, but my mother was characteristically touchy about it.

ME: “So, what are we toasting with?”

MUM: “Nothing, I have to work.”

ME: “I mean later.”

MUM: “Nothing, I have to work all day.”

ME: “To earn money for liquor?”


ME: “Or to earn money for some weird-ass endangered-animal secretion that you can smooth on your saggy skin?”

MUM: “I know of only one endangered animal. And its secretions are odious.”



Today my mum said, “Stop mooning around liquor cabinet and make yourself useful.”

I have no idea what that means, my fellow inebriates, do you?

Just look at me: I’m a little 7” bear with a severe alcohol addiction. What possible use is my mother thinking of? I’m not meant to be useful; I am strictly decorative.

She tends to get self-righteous when she’s just put in a solid half-hour’s worth of honest work herself. Then it’s time to eat five chocolate bars, turn the heat up so she doesn’t have to move around, and otherwise reward herself for that massive effort.

Younger, fluffier times

Granted she’s a little stressed out. Today’s the big 43, and neither of us is as fluffy as we once were. Aging is tough, and especially tough when you don’t feel you’ve accomplished enough for your years.

The best thing I can really do for my aging mother is make a yummy wine recommendation: VALDEPEÑAS ANCIANO TEMPRANILLO GRAN RESERVA (2001), barrel-aged for 10 years.

There are plenty of young tempranillos out there, and they can certainly be consumed young, but a tempranillo with ten years’ oak aging under its belt is a spectacular find for $15.99. Whereas it’s difficult to find inexpensive wines of this vintage from most wine-producing countries, Spain is proving itself a trove, with tempranillo enjoying a renaissance among growers with the mettle to coach the finicky black grapes through the growing season.

The grapes are challenging to grow because they require a cool climate to achieve good acidity, but they need heat to reach optimal sugar levels. Like my mother, they are difficult to please, and inclement weather pisses them off. Thus they are used more often as blending grapes than as single varietals.

My parents are basically philistines about wine; that’s why they gravitate to plummy, jammy fruit explosions that satisfy their immature tastes. It’s the reason I’m steering their venerable tastebuds toward the VALDEPEÑAS ANCIANO TEMPRANILLO—they are old enough to handle a more demanding taste experience.

Swirled in the glass, this purply, brick-red Spanish wine gives off a spicy, leathery essence, with vanilla chiming in lightly. Decanting is not a must, but it enhances the wine’s ability to morph its high notes into more subtle, rounded flavors.

If you’re a shiraz or cab fan this tempranillo will surprise your palate, perhaps not positively at first—its opening notes are sharper, pointier—but if you let it linger on your tongue, velvety stone fruits, currants, white pepper and licorice will emerge. This wine is dense with complexity, and if you can manage it, you should drink it undistracted.

So turn off the porn, get out the decanter, and give it a good swirl. And as I told my mum, “You can get away with drinking it slowly—43 isn’t so old that you’ll die before the bottle’s finished.”

And that was when she told me to go and make myself useful.