Even though I do not have any hard data to support this contention, I am fairly certain that people have been consuming wine on boats ever since, well, the first time wine ever came near a boat.
Drinking and sailing have been closely linked begining with Noah, the Vikings, or, well, just about any tale in recorded history that contained ships. Based on all the data that I could amass, though, the concept of a “wine cruise” is a fairly new phenomenon, at least in its current iteration.
The concept is fairly straightforward: a winery (usually American) pairs with one of the many (mostly European) cruise providers and offers a wine cruise to their customers, most notably their wine club members.
The winery then sells the cruise to its most loyal followers, offering them more personal contact with the winemaker and owners all while exploring an interesting region of the world. The winery will also be able to introduce their wines to the other passengers who signed up for the trip through the cruise provider, potentially convincing these “new” folks to also become wine club members.
The cruise company, in turn, gets a differently themed trip and a host of new customers (the wine club members from the winery) that might not have otherwise considered taking a cruise with them.
A win-win situation.
Such was the case on the cruise I took last November with AmaWaterways aboard the AmaLea from Budapest, Hungary to Vilshofen, Germany. The winery in question, Ceja Vineyards, located in the Carneros AVA in California, brought along roughly half of the 100-plus people who were on the cruise.
Each evening, various wines from Ceja Vineyards were served at dinner alongside wines from the particular region where we were docked or happened to be sailing through. The wines were presented each night by Amelia Morán Ceja, President of Ceja Vineyards and the first ever Mexican-American woman ever to obtain such a post at an American winery.
She was joined by several members of her family, including Pedro Ceja, her husband. The two met nearly fifty years ago while harvesting fruit alongside their families in Robert Mondavi’s To Kalon vineyard in Napa Valley.
Amelia mentioned during her initial introduction that there would be different wines served every day, as well as a wine trivia contest near the end of the cruise.
It was during the wine trivia contest that I came to a rather startling revelation: I am an insufferable wine snob. Now, I have had an inkling for a while now that it might be the case, but it was confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt. We were given a sheet with a few dozen questions on it and were required to answer them on our own.
No problem yet.
After about twenty minutes, we went over the answers and I learned that I got three of the 45 questions wrong. By almost any measure, that is not too bad (93.3% for those scoring at home), but I was not satisfied since two of the answers to the questions were decidedly wrong. So I raised my hand.
And here comes the problem….
Yeah, I was that guy. It didn’t matter that I had won the contest handily (second place got 27 correct [60%, which is a D by even the friendliest grader]), I needed to let the owner of the winery know that two of the questions she asked had issues (for those wondering, the third question I got wrong was about the winery so I did not want to contest its veracity with the winery’s president).
People looked at me as if I were the biggest jerk in the room.
And, objectively, I probably was.
There is a bigger point here other than my obsessive desires to win (hopefully by crushing the opponent), to beat my chest figuratively when I do so, and to point out where others are woefully mistaken. And no, that point is not that I am in desperate need of therapy or could use a drastic recentering of priorities (although both are certainly true).
No, the point is that knuckleheads like me should be barred from such competitions, or better yet, self-select out (which I will hopefully learn from my therapist).
Thanks again to AmaWaterways and Ceja Vineyards for an utterly fantastic cruise.