I’m just back from ten days on the road; a trip split between three Alto Adige wine seminars in Denver, D.C., and New York, and a trip to Germany for the Weinbörse, the big annual spring wine fair. While the likes of such a sojourn may sound glamorous, anyone who travels for a living will tell you that most of it is spent looking at the inside of hotels, cabs, and planes, not to mention the long periods of time in various inert, semi-functioning states. But there was plenty of upside to this trip with the buzz generated by Alto Adige wines (see earlier post) and tasting the outstanding 2012 vintage for German Riesling. More on the latter will follow in my next post. Until then, here are bits of wisdom gained from the road.

Bee Death Smells Like Bananas

This gem offered by Haley Dale from Omaha who was on the Germany segment of the trip. Haley’s restaurant, the Grey Plume, is a farm-to-table concept and her commitment—no, make that obsession–to deliver the freshest local ingredients to her guests includes the likes of keeping bees in her back yard for their prized honey. However, she warns that the worst thing one can do before working with bees is to eat bananas. That’s because the hormone given off by a bee that’s just stung you, as in a bee that has just given up its life by stinging you to protect the rest of the hive, smells like bananas. So those ripe banana slices on the breakfast cereal you’re enjoying as you read the celebrity column right before you amble out to check out the hive will instantly signify serial death to the inhabitants and give the signal to attack. Bee forewarned.

They Have Wine Queens in Germany

On the first morning of our German itinerary we were graced by the presence of one Sabine Wagner who, as it turns out, is the 2013 Rheingau Wine Queen. I’m not sure about the selection process or the requirements for being a wine queen, but I will tell you that Sabine was lovely, charming, and wore a very cute tiara that would surely be the envy of most any nine-year-old girl. She was also accompanied by another woman who was the wine queen from a smaller region. Together, they provided color commentary in English about the drizzly landscape as we sped past in our uber-designed German bus. They also excelled at photo ops which I gather is part of the job description. For the record, I also have to mention that there was a grape queen at the spring wine ball that night pictured below. Her costume was pretty amazing. It probably weighed a ton as well.
It’s Spargel Season 

It’s spring in Germany and that means it’s time for spargel or white asparagus. Spargel is truly a delicacy, far more subtle than its aggressive green cousin. The Germans obsess about spring and Spargel. How do they enjoy it? Simply steamed and served with Hollandaise sauce accompanied by Speck (thinly sliced cured ham) and roasted potatoes. Wine pairing? Silvaner from Franconia is ausgezeichnet (excellent)!  Han Wirsching’s Spätlese Trocken would be a perfect match. Does eating spargel make your pee stink? Yes it does, but not nearly as much as green asparagus. However, eat enough spargel over a period of several days and everything about you, from your clothes to various aspects of your fabulous physique, will indeed have a delightfully pungent vegetal air. That’s not a bad thing. I think it’s called personal terroir.
The Shower Challenge

What’s the greatest road challenge when it comes a hotel room? Remembering your room number? Not quite, although that certainly makes life a bit easier. It’s not figuring out the thermostat either. That’s a close second because some of them are either so arcane or so complicated as to be unworkable. When it doubt, turn it off unless it’s either freezing or boiling in the room. In which case, call the front desk and make them fix it.  

The greatest hotel room challenge of all is the shower, specifically figuring out how the shower works. I’m firmly convinced that there are completely evil and/or monumentally stupid individuals who design hotel bathroom showers; hotel showers so utterly lacking in functionality that it’s almost as if the job of designing them was handed to a herd of goats. Allow me get beyond my rant for just a moment by providing the following bit of sage advice: make sure you know how the shower works before you actually have to use it—as in the following morning. I say that from more than one tragic experience.
Unless you’re one of the compulsive types who gets up two hours before they actually have to be anywhere, the last 20 minutes of your morning routine—as in when you shower and actually get ready—are crunch time. There’s absolutely no room for error and that’s exactly when the unsuspecting bather is waylaid by the dark gods of poor hotel bathroom design. That’s when the panic-stricken bather, not unlike the newsprint besmeared victim of Psycho, realizes that it takes ten minutes for tepid—not hot—water to appear from the faucet; that the drain doesn’t work and one is quickly up to their knees with water that looks like toxic waste; that the towels are not in the bathroom as they should be but are, in fact, in another room as in Fiji;  that there are multiple lethal shower heads that will attack with shocking force from all angles with ice cold water if the precise combination of several dials is not applied. Showers, my friends, can be dangerous. Test-drive them the night before needed use. You will be glad you did.