A Glass of Wine for Health

As a professional journalist since the summer after high school, I always subscribed to the wisdom of Charles Bukowski, the salacious and sodden poet laureate of the Los Angeles underbelly.

A few cocktails among friends unlocks storytelling instincts in even the shyest person.

In his poem, “How To Be a Great Writer,” he advises people to “just drink more beer/more and more beer.” Sex, gambling, sleeping late and the music of Brahms and Bach also are recommended, not to mention the avoidance of museums and paying your credit card bills. But it was the hops endorsement that really stuck with me.

“Beer,” wrote Bukowski, “is continuous blood.”

Daily infusions have sustained me through decades of newspaper gigs and freelancing in the digital era, from battered manual typewriters to smartphones. As a music and film critic, bars and parties have been my natural habitat. And in the past few years, especially, the marketing of small-batch spirits (gin and Bourbon, mostly) made me an even more ardent imbiber.

I had been something of a wine agnostic, enjoying a glass here and there but usually defaulting to something craft-brewed or distilled.

A two-for-one happy hour at a local sushi joint with a well-stocked bar anchored most of my evenings. That was, when I wasn’t traveling to film festivals in places like Utah, Montreal or Poland, the latter a frequent and favorite destination where vodka flows like tap water.

Over the years, I developed a high tolerance. The right company in the right place—an after-hours hot tub under the stars in Sarasota, Florida, a bar in Wroclaw, Poland, that served delicious black-cherry vodka—was one of life’s greatest pleasures. Secrets were told. Iffy judgments were made. Romances sparked. Lifetime friendships forged.

A few cocktails among friends unlocks storytelling instincts in even the shyest person.

Last fall, however, my cardiologist gave me scary news that mandated I stop drinking. The decision was easy to make and, so far, pretty easy to stick with. Men tend to lose a lot of weight when they cut out alcohol. I was drinking several hundred calories a day, so I dropped a ton, aided by a degreased diet and daily exercise.

As my health recovered, so did my palate: I began to develop a taste for wine that I had never really experienced before. In the past, I had been something of a wine agnostic, enjoying a glass here and there but usually defaulting to something craft-brewed or distilled. With the harder stuff off my dance card, I’ve refined my appreciation for grapes: whether sharing a bottle of Malbec with friends at a cookout, or exploring the fine selection of reds at a local farm-to-table joint, where I occasionally reward my good behavior with a burger made from grass-fed beef.

Taking satisfaction from quality rather than quantity has been a useful lesson, helping to refine my taste for wine in the same way I’ve cultivated a critical appreciation for film and music. I savor every glass, good to the last drop.

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