Theoden Janes

If we’re drinking wine together at a holiday party, this is the story I’ll tell you

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It’s December again – yes, already – which means the holiday party season is upon us.

And the holiday party season is often filled with buying wine to bring to those who are hosting those holiday parties. And wine reminds me of a story.

(Not surprisingly, I like telling stories.)

This, then is The Wine Story. As in, my wife and I will be socializing at a party, wine is being consumed, and – so long as the people we’re socializing with aren’t wealthy – one of us will say: “Hey, have you heard our wine story?”

You’ll understand why this can’t and won’t resonate with rich folks after you’ve heard it, but here it is.

The Wine Story:

Sometime in early 2015, we met up with four other couples at a trendy restaurant in uptown for dinner, to celebrate successfully making it through another youth sports season without losing our minds.

Because there were 10 of us, we were seated in a private-ish dining area where the tables were set up kind of like a horseshoe, with the middle open for the servers to come in and do their thing. The women were lined up on one half, the men lined up on the other – so my wife and I were across from each other, separated by maybe 6 or 8 feet.

While waiting for our entrees to arrive, the guy on the end – two seats over from me – ordered a bottle of red wine.

“You guys,” he said after the cork was removed, “have gotta try this. This is my favorite wine.” Then he poured and distributed several glasses.

Now, I know roughly as much about good wine as I do about quantum mechanics, but I took a sip and it went down smoothly and everybody was having a good time, so I threw a look of ectasy on my face and exclaimed, “Oh, MAN! Seriously, I mean, come on. Wow. THAT is good stuff, my friend.”

Then we moved on, cracking jokes and telling stories. Dinner was served, and the guy on the end ordered another bottle.

The woman next to my wife wound up with a glass, and she offered my wife a sip. But for whatever reason, my wife never ended up with her own glass of that particular wine.

Anyway, when it came time to settle up at the end of the night, we all had to do some pointing. You know, like, “My wife is over there, we’re together, that’s his wife there, they’re one check,” etc., etc. And I had this flashback to the last time our group went out carousing, when the guy on the end pulled out a $100 bill to cover a round of drinks. It suddenly dawned on me that I never “got the next round.”

So I pulled the server aside and said: “Go ahead and put one of the bottles of wine on my check.”

A couple of minutes later, he came back with our bill and – you may know where this is going by now, but – it was $307. Enough to buy, oh, I don’t know, maybe two weeks’ worth of groceries?

The guy on the end, it turned out his favorite wine was Silver Oak cabernet savignon, and the restaurant price for the bottle was 150 bucks.

It also turned out that the wife I hadn’t talked to in about half an hour, well, she and a couple of the other wives had somehow caught wind of the wine’s value; it even turned out that the wife of the guy seated between me and the guy on the end at one point had been frantically signalling to her husband something to the effect of “Do NOT offer to pay for one of those bottles of wine.”

Bottom line: With tip, it officially became the most expensive dinner my wife and I had ever enjoyed by more than $100. Except there was one obvious, tiny little hiccup.

“You paid $150 for a bottle of wine and I only got one sip,” she said as we were leaving at the end of the night. She said it again when we got home. And the next morning. And on and on and on.

She told her parents. She told my parents. She told our neighbors. We’d run into someone we knew at the grocery store, start small-talking, and at some point in the conversation, she’d slip in: “Oh, and he should tell you about how he paid $150 for a bottle of wine and I only got one sip.”

It was like I was walking around wearing this scarlet letter stained on my shirt – written in Silver Oak cabernet savignon.

So a month or two later, I hatched a plan to make things right: I would buy a bottle for her birthday.

I walked into the wine store and an employee asked, “Can I help you find anything?”

“I want to get a bottle of Silver Oak,” I replied.

His eyes flashed. Literally, they twinkled, like teeth in a Doublemint Gum commercial.

“Oh. Excellent,” he said, as he rubbed his hands together. He led me to the store’s climate-controlled wine cellar and showed me my options. I picked a bottle that looked about right; the sticker price was $105. Then the clerk leaned in and asked: “Now, do you need this, like, tonight?”

Her birthday was still a couple days away, so I didn’t.

“Well, I probably shouldn’t be telling you this,” he continued, “but there’s a coupon coming out tomorrow that’s $25 off any purchase of $75 or more. If I were you I’d just come back tomorrow.”

I hugged him before I left. OK, no, the hug part didn’t actually happen. But it could have.

Twenty-four hours later, I was back in the climate-controlled wine cellar plucking the $105 – er, the $80 bottle of wine off the shelf. I set the Silver Oak on the counter along with the coupon, and the young woman looked at me apologetically.

“Sir, you have to spend at least $75 to use this coupon.”

“Uhhhh, yeeaahh. This bottle is more than $75,” I told her.

The gift went over well with my wife. It was more symbolic than anything, almost like the punchline to a long-running inside joke.

We uncorked the bottle in the dining room, and to top it all off, I decided to commemorate the moment with a creative photograph. But in the process of pouring a glass to set up the shot, I spilled some of the Silver Oak on the table. I’m still not sure how or even if the five-second rule applies to wine, but let me tell you, I licked up every drop...

And there you have it. The Wine Story.

So now if I run into you at a holiday party this month and I start to tell it, stop me. I’ve got plenty of other stories to tell.

Janes: 704-358-5897;

Twitter: @theodenjanes