Friday, April 11, 2008

Ladies' Night

It’s poor form, I know it, but I couldn’t wait for my friends to arrive before I opened the bottle of Carmela Benegas Argentinean Rose last night. Maybe it was the erotic nude on the label, 1 whose pink skin matched the blush color of the wine. Maybe it’s the fact that I had a hellish day at work and also slipped on the sidewalk ice on my way home and can’t tolerate another nanosecond of winter in Maine. Maybe I’m just a wino. But whatever the reason—and I suspect it’s a combo of all three--I opened the bottle as soon as I had my coat off and poured myself a glass.

The wine hit my mouth like a summer breeze at twilight. Light and fresh, it transported me: I was in a swimming pool. Then I was sipping lemonade. Then I had bare feet and was eating watermelon on a dewy just-mowed lawn. I felt warm. I felt much, much better.

My husband, Craig, looked at me scornfully.

“Aren’t you going to wait until everyone else gets here?” our ten-year-old son, George, asked.

“Nope,” I said.

“Can we try some of the cheese?” asked Dora, our daughter, who’s six.

“Once everyone else gets here,” I said, the bald-faced hypocrite that I am.

After we ate the take-out dinner I’d picked up on the way home, and hastily cleaned up the kitchen, the ladies2 arrived. Craig let the kids taste the boucheron before he brought them up for bed.

“The cheese tastes like somebody’s memories of hiking a mountain,” said George. “It’s earthy and fresh, like leather and rocky hills and air.”

Dora said, “It’s kind of spicy, like flowers. It makes me feel excited, like when George plays the drums. I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

Craig said the wine brought to mind watermelon candy, Virginia Slims, and sparklers. Paired with the boucheron, he said, the taste was like a sunset.

And then the ladies and I got down to our own tasting. We sampled the wine and then paired it with the boucheron, spread on a delicious baguette that my friend Chris made. Here’s what they had to say:3

The rose has a very pretty color…smells like Hawaiian punch…sweet and mild, pleasing in my mouth…I think of bubbles, lemons, pink, stepping out of a swimming pool…the cheese is salty and goaty and pungent with a smoky aftertaste…the sip of wine is a refreshing contrast after the creamy and dense cheese…the sweet and salty together is like kissing a chewy 20-year-old Mediterranean guy…the wine soothes the salt of the cheese like aloe on a sunburn.

Myself, I was in love with the wine. I was spinning off into my own little summer vacation. And the cheese only deepened my pleasure. Salty, warm, and creamy, the boucheron perfectly complimented the flowery citrus of the rose. I didn’t want to come back from my vacation. Luckily, I didn’t have to. Not yet, anyway. Someone opened another bottle of wine, and the conversation morphed into topics other than cheese and wine, and the evening spread open, in front of us.

-- Nicole Chaison

Cheese: Boucheron – goat’s milk cheese from Loire valley
Wine: Carmela Benegas Rose wine – Argentina


1 Jacques from Old Port Wine informed me that this sexy and nubile model is the wine maker’s daughter. This gave me pause--maybe they do things a little differently down in Argentina, but here in Maine we don’t put naked pictures of our daughters on our wine bottles, etc.--but it didn’t stop me from drinking the wine. No, sir.

2 Lynne Rowe, Delia MacDonald, Chris Iyer, Leah Coplon, Stacy Brenner, and Ava Moskin.

3 I’ve arranged their bon mots as a montage, because I can’t remember who said what.

Bio: Nicole Chaison wrote Spice (ReganBooks, 2006) with chef Ana Sortun, which was nominated for a James Beard Award for Best International Cookbook in 2007. She chronicles the roller coaster of passion that is parenting in her self-published quarterly, Hausfrau Muthah-zine, which has generated a cult following among the lactating and radically sleep deprived. Her stories and comics have appeared in Mamaphiles, Fertile Ground, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and the collection Forty Things to Do When You Turn Forty (Sellers, 2007). Her graphic novel, The Passion of the Hausfrau, is forthcoming from Ballantine in spring 2009. Read her on line at

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