CONCHA Y TORO WINEMAKER’S LOT 148 CARMENERE—Perfect for the antepenultimate Day (unless your mother is going to rip your heart out by “gifting” it to one of the kids’ teachers)

Scarybear says when we see the flash two days from now, we have to immediately fill the bathtub with water. He read that in The Road. Scary adds: Isn’t it typical of our parents that they haven’t bothered to stock up on water or provisions for the coming Apocalypse?

DSCN2776I’d been ignoring the countdown to Armageddon because it’s been feeling like Armageddon already. Plus we’ve had things to do, like planning P’s birthday party at Captain Kid’s indoor hellmouth fun centre, trying to figure out why the middle section of our Canadian Tire Christmas tree doesn’t light up, and getting ready for our holiday road trip to Vancouver Island. What with Santa breakfasts, mall shopping, and the fact that every other kid at school has decided to have a birthday party this week, things are pretty freaking busy at LBHQ. Oh yeah, and there’s this big dump of snow this morning—a phenomenon our city is totally unready for. Traffic is a disaster, there are only a handful of snowplows in the entire Lower Mainland, schools are closing (OMG! Nooo!), and if we get half a foot more of it they’ll declare it an official emergency (like, for real). Yes, we are f#cked when it snows in this part of the world, because it so rarely does. We don’t know how to drive in it, we don’t have the tires for it, braking hard on a skid seems to be a natural Vancouverite intuition, and half the drivers don’t need to be on the road—they’re trying it out for the sheer novelty of it.

Scary says we’re really screwed now because Mum won’t drive to get provisions. This is true—if there’s one person you don’t want operating a car in the snow, it’s my mother. But at least, Scary says, we’ll have snow to get water from when everything goes dark on Friday.

Scary’s obsession with water is starting to freak me out. He seems to have narrowed down his apocalyptic speculations from many (collapse of the vacuum, solar flares, asteroids, rogue black holes, gamma rays, volcanism, magnetic field reversal) to one: nuclear annihilation.mushroom cloud

I wish Scary would read books that weren’t about the end of the world. I would happily lend him a bartending guide or some Nabokov if he’d have it, but he won’t. (Maybe he will in two days, but he says it will be hard to read by candlelight, and that reading will be an absurd luxury anyway.)

Right now, Scary says, it’s important to do Meaningful Things. Society is ending, and we have to treasure those things that are Important. For example, Scary is going to binge-watch Stargate, because that was always his favorite.

“Well,” I said, “I’ve been saving a bottle of CONCHA Y TORO WINEMAKER’S LOT 148 Carmenere (2010). That would be perfect for Apocalypse Eve, wouldn’t it?”

“Wrong, weirdo,” he said. “That would be dehydrating. On December 22 we’re going to be rationing water. Don’t expect any extra because you’re hung over.”

Who made Scary the boss of the Apocalypse, I don’t know. How does he even know that wine would dehydrate us? I had no idea myself. Let’s investigate this, my fellow inebriates.

Does alcohol cause dehydration?

OMG, apparently people have known about this for years. Shakespeare mentions it in the Macduff-Porter scene about erections:


‘Faith sir, we were carousing till the second cock. And drink, sir, is a great provoker of three things.


What three things does drink especially provoke?


Marry, sir, nose-painting, sleep, and urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes and unprovokes. It provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance.

He said "cock."

He said “cock.”

Alcohol does make you pee. But why?

The diuretic quality of alcohol is still not fully understood. According to Dr. Karl:

After all, beer is about 95 per cent water and only five per cent alcohol. And the liver converts that five per cent of alcohol into roughly the same mass of water and some carbon dioxide.

So if you drink 200 millilitres of beer, the end result is 200 millilitres of water. But you don’t urinate just 200 millilitres of urine. No! You urinate a total of about 320 millilitres of urine.

What the hell? Dr. Karl says that for every shot of alcohol, you pee an extra 120 mL. Where does it come from, my fellow inebriates?

Alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to regulate water levels.

Ordinarily your pituitary gland releases ADH (anti-diuretic hormone) to keep water in the body (based on electrolyte levels and so forth) so you don’t get dehydrated. ADH curtails peeing. But alcohol reduces your ADH production, sending you on multiple bathroom trips. Even if you try to catch up by drinking water, you don’t get to keep that water—most of it will get tinkled out, and you’ll still end up dehydrated.

And, according to Scary, it’ll be your fault if you get hammered the night before Armageddon and end up thirsty. Smart survivalists like himself will be hoarding water and looting grocery stores. (“Idiots like you, LB, will be looting liquor stores and HMV.”)

OMG, Scary is mean sometimes. I do realize there won’t be any electricity. But liquor? Liquor could have its uses.57911_469184923103527_1148624302_n

That bathtub of water is going to get pretty crappy pretty fast. At least it won’t have traces of bathroom cleanser in it, though—it doesn’t occur to Mum to scrub it very often. We just have to get the kids to stop peeing in the tub. Still, within a couple of days of the blast, that water will have all kinds of floaties in it. We’ll be wanting some beer then, I reckon.

But beer’s dehydrating, isn’t it?

Not if you’re already dehydrated. Then other bodily regulatory forces will override the dehydrating effects of ADH, to a point at least. And beer is 95 percent water, so you’ll get to keep at least some of it. “Yeah,” says Scary, “but water would be better, douchebag.”

Okay, so what about our bottle of CONCHA Y TORO Carmenere? Maybe we should drink that tonight rather than on Apocalypse Eve.

But OMG, according to my mum, it’s not our bottle. “That’s for V’s kindergarten teacher.”

Holy crap, we’re giving our wine away to teachers??

“We really like V’s teacher.”

This is the end of the world.

Concha y ToroWe’ve had this CONCHA Y TORO Carmenere before, and it is luminous. Inky and full-bodied, it wafts generously layered aromas of black cherry, espresso, leather, and floral notes. Decadently concentrated yet incredibly complex, this Carmenere is epic on the palate—supple and smooth, structured and long-finishing. This wine is a powerhouse of fruit orchestration, commanding your attention from first to final, reluctant sip (if you had an absorbent paw, you could get the last of it that way, knowing no one will be operating the Maytag after December 21). And at a $20 price tag, this CONCHA Y TORO offering is all the more magnificent.

Personally, I think V should be doing long division and reading Beowulf if we’re giving her teacher this particular bottle.

“LB, don’t be a dick,” said my mother.

“He can’t help it,” said Scary.


My Fellow Inebriates,

When the water hose came out today, we bears hid. I don’t know where the other animals went, but I’m currently hanging out beside an empty wine bottle of SIBARIS RESERVA ESPECIAL CARMENERE (2010). Named for the ancient Sybarites who sought pleasure to the highest heights, this wine was my parents’ contribution to our weekend tastings. Sandwiched that evening between a glorious cask-aged beer and a brown ale that hit all the right notes, SIBARIS had a tough go. One of its only advantages was that, being wine rather than beer, it would not have to endure apples-to-apples comparison.

Another assist came from a palate-bashing meal my mother inflicted on everyone just as we switched from grain to grape. This effectively reset everyone’s tastebuds, giving SIBARIS a chance to shine. How did it fare?

We were all in the mood for a big, mouth-filling wine. Carmenere, the signature grape of Chile, is often used as a blending grape because, while it’s full and lush, it lacks the tannic profile of Cabernet and has low acidity. But with careful vinification this varietal can rock a wine bottle all by itself, and that’s what we’ve been seeing increasingly at our neighborhood booze shop.

Perhaps my dad had an inkling that SIBARIS would only just live up to its $16 price tag. “We’re gonna let this one breathe in the glass,” he said, dumping it into Reidel stemless ware. Immediately the wine released juicy black plum and spice aromas. Despite not having decanted it, my dad let it sit awhile before tasting, but you know how alcoholics are—I dived in at once. Medium-bodied and plump on the palate, SIBARIS delivered flavor to the palate exactly as promised to the nose: intense yet accessible, easy to drink and yet not perfectly behaved. “Spunky,” said my mother, and Christine confirmed it was a “little barnyardy.”

Now, the barnyard is not always a negative, and this case SIBARIS walks a fine tightrope, albeit not entirely smoothly. SIBARIS is more than earthy; somewhere in its fruity, berry background is a persistent hint of gaminess. But just a hint. A terribly slight hint. In fact, if no one ever mentioned spunk or barnyardiness or caca, SIBARIS might have come and went without a hiccup. But once the suggestion was out, it was out, and we all detected a faint whiff of copros in the distance.

Still, for fifteen bucks this is a very decent wine. No one’s glass was left half-finished—despite the beckoning of a Shiraz Christine brought over in her canvas bag, which, an hour later, would completely trounce SIBARIS. But there are a lot of very nice $16 wines out there, so this one probably won’t be a repeat purchase at LBHQ.

Five days after drinking it, the empty bottle smells pretty darn good. Let’s just hope the empty patch is a good hiding place from the kids.


My Fellow Inebriates,

There’s no way to know if Fluffy has finally settled down. You may remember, for several weeks after he came to live with us he made a whole bunch of crazy paranormal shit happen—noises, cold spots, clogged toilets, falling toys, leaving the lids off markers. He was totally freaking me out, people, obviously channeling the ghost of his old owner, my deceased granny.

But the creepiest thing about Fluffy is his weird resemblance to my friend Scarybear, who is himself a sociopath, albeit more of the snack-obsessed, openly violent kind. I usually avoid Scary so he can’t fill my furry head with apocalyptic ideas, but every weekend the household bears watch Fringe with my parents, which both feeds Scary’s Armageddon preoccupation and allows him to convey it to me. And because the weekend Fringe ritual is usually accompanied by a glass of wine, whatever End of Days scenario Scary decides to propound that evening gets pumped into my brain cells while they’re flooded with alcohol.

The wine was just finished when Scary mentioned rogue black holes. When you’ve just consumed the last drops of an organic Chilean Carmenere-Cabernet Sauvignon like EMILIANA NOVAS GRAN RESERVA (2010), you may well be feeling bereft of something precious and therefore, because nature abhors a vacuum (which my head usually is), susceptible to screwball ideas. Suddenly the 10 million black holes astronomers estimate exist within the Milky Way seemed exceedingly threatening.

Fluffy remained impassive as Scary went on about black holes, the corpses of stars gone supernova, hurtling through our galaxy and pulling everything, even light, into their city-size (that’s minuscule!) maws. Holy crap, I didn’t know which was more terrifying—realizing we’d have no warning if one of these tiny monstrosities caromed through our solar system, or observing a weird-ass golem like Fluffy staring into space while mass destruction was being contemplated.

Not even Scarybear stares into space! As dumb as he is, his eyes register something—some hint of thought if not intelligence. Not Fluffy, though. Look into Fluffy’s eyes and you see nothing—a vast depth of nothing.

So at least we didn’t have to share any wine with him. Intensely dark and substantial, EMILIANA NOVAS GRAN RESERVA Carmenere-Cabernet Sauvignon immediately hits the nose with ripe berries and spice, released from your swirled glass with a heady rush. My mum and I found it a glorious olfactory assault, but my dad was more reserved; it took the wine 20 minutes to seduce him, and by the time it did, we had a fair head start on him.

NOVAS GRAN RESERVA does change markedly over 20 minutes, developing from a fruit orgy to a very structured, sophisticated wine. On the palate it shows firm tannins, excellent balance, and a mouth-filling intensity that lingers well beyond the sip.

EMILIANA has forged a good reputation for sustainable winemaking and a solid belief that organically grown grapes simply make better wine.

But can one drink a wine called NOVAS without thinking of supernovas and their dark legacies? Scary thought not, and weighed in on this unwelcomely, not feeling the least disqualified by his wine abstention to comment. No, indeed, if a rogue black hole headed our way it wouldn’t even need to enter our solar system to perturb the earth’s orbit, stretching it into an extreme ellipse or even detaching us from orbit and whipping it out into cold space. All this could happen very quickly, although there would be some time dilation close to the event horizon.

Scary seemed to relish this idea, Fluffy was completely indifferent to it, and I was freaking scared out of my wits. There was nothing for it but to attempt opening my grandparents’ homemade bottle so I could get thoroughly pissed. But I couldn’t manage it (as usual) and my parents refused to help. One of them said “There, there” and noted that at least the Milky Way’s black holes are mostly in orbit rather than pinging around the galaxy randomly, which was reassuring enough to quell my immediate worry and replace it with the persistent, ongoing one about Fluffy and his eerie agenda.