The long and wining road

By Terry Sweeney
Well, fellow Happy Winos, summer here in the Lowcountry is almost over and if you’re like me, you’re waxing nostalgic about fun times drinking wine and swapping hot gossip on friends’ porches, or throwin’ em back at rowdy raucous dock parties … or even better, raiding ice cold booze-filled coolers aboard your buds’ boats with the salt air and open sky, a wonderful reminder of why you ever chose this crazy town to begin with.
However, thinking back as your summer high-life passes before your eyes, you may also see hundreds of bottles of wine, beer, gin, and vodka come rolling by. My blue recycling bins (yes I have two and that’s nearly enough) often look like a boozy blue choo-choo train just back from Tipsyland. I overheard my trashman say to his fellow worker “Damn, these dudes must party for a living; I don’t drink this much in a year.” Of course, I was tempted to yell out my window that, as a matter of fact, I do sort of party for a living but as a very respectable wine columnist; and those dozens of bottles were all drunk in the line of duty! (Not exactly a straight line, but hell, no one was watching.)
Nevertheless, he did have a point. There comes a time for every Happy Wino to ask the question: When is too much, uh, too much?
This day, for me, is not New Year’s Day, when many a remorseful amateur swears off the hard stuff. New Year’s Day I’m still guzzling champagne and whooping it up over a baked Virginia ham with black eyed peas (for luck) and collard greens (for money). Instead, my day of reckoning always comes the last day of August, when suddenly I can barely get my shorts closed thanks to many, many baguettes of fresh baked French bread smeared with melted Brie and washed down with gallons and gallons of French, Californian, Argentine, Chilean, Italian, and Spanish fermented grape juice. Suddenly, when trying on a pair of my favorite fall khakis, I look like I’m on an episode of “Punk’d” and they have substituted an 8-year-old’s pants for mine. Unfortunately, July and August always prove too hot and humid for the kind of outdoor activities I usually like, except one — having a nice cold glass (or three) of French Rose or a crisp citrusy Sauvignon Blanc on my front porch.
Before I know it, other Happy Winos in the neighborhood start showing up with a bottle of their own or a delightful slice of some new cheese they want me to try, and suddenly Brazilian Samba music is wafting out my door and I’m having a wild impromptu porch party and it’s only TUESDAY!! Afterwards, buzzed and bug-eyed, I decide that it would be a great idea to make some crazy pasta dish or, even better, order a pizza — the perfect building blocks for the lovely middle-aged paunch that awaits me in the morning.
So here is what I’ve decided to do … after seeing several photos of myself looking like a pregnant pipe cleaner, I have cut down my calories, given up sugar and joined a gym. Now, of course, I will continue to drink my obligatory (and necessary) bottle of wine at Happy Hour, and enjoy my cheese of choice (sans baguette), but in order to have a long Happy Wino life, I’ve decided to learn to pace myself and — dare I say it? — learn my limits so that when, on occasion, I inevitably go wild and lush it up (as I know I will) I can still get my damn pants back on the next morning! You could say I’m “wining down” before the fall social season starts “winding up.” Let’s face it, October is when the Lowcountry Party Train leaves the station and makes many stops at countless oyster roasts followed by a barrage of holiday parties until it finally screeches to a halt January 2 and most of Beaufort makes a mad dash for rehab. We certainly don’t want to miss a moment of this glorious trip to “Winoblivion,” so let’s start our training now for the happiest and healthiest Happy Wino Holidays ever. Surely you can join me in drinking to that!
NOTE: I am taking a sabbatical from this column in order to finish my novel before the end of the year. I sincerely thank all of my readers for the very kind feedback I have received from so many of you. Have a safe and wonderful fall!

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