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The Amorous
Gets His

A tale from 

The Winefullness Armchairs

Sometimes You Can Be Too Forward

 His birthplace was surrounded in more mystery than a host of Agatha Christie novels. Some say he came from France, near to Limoges, some placed his originals as Spain, near Bilbao or Italy in the seaside town of Rimini. I even heard a woman say that he’d told her that he was born in southern Germany. I'm not sure this last fact was true because one thing that Jean Michel loved to do was impress woman, often with a little biographical tapestry. He loved them almost as much as he loved talking to tourists about wine as he guided them through the caves, buildings and tasting room of the Toracal Winery near to the north of the Napa Valley.

 He'd washed up here a number of years ago when one or two unkind people had said that his name wasn’t even Jean Michel (although they couldn’t actually remember what his real name was supposed to be) and had firstly secured the job of pourer, until his smothering charms and mammoth knowledge of wine had seen him rise from pouring samples and sweeping wine covered tasting room floors to be the head guide for a company with a turn over in the millions and a reputation for fine wine at affordable prices that brought the numerous tourists heading for a dance with fame and wealth.

 I remember a man in a Calistoga bar telling me that his promotion might have been due to the pleasure the owners wife took from being squired around the property in a gold buggy driven flirtatiously by Jean Michel.

 One thing is for certain, and I once witnessed it on a tour of the winery. He was obviously obviously to the ladies. I don’t know if any succumbed to his overt sexuality, but I’m assuming from the number of attempts he made, that he succeeded on a number of occasions.

 When I saw him, it was on a tour that ended with a tasting of a flight of the wineries single vintage Cabernet Sauvignon, and no matter where he stood, as he unloaded his spiel to us, he always seemed to either have a lady close by, or was staring intently at a woman who was on the tour with smoldering charm. 

 I watched in fascination as he held out a helping hand to any maiden who came within reach, sometimes when they were simply walking along, and I was constantly puzzled by the fact that not one of them told him where to get off, of gave him a thump!

 What I found most interesting was the way he took us through the end of tour tasting, because I’ve never met a person who could turn everything into a fertile ground for sexual innuendo.

 ‘Firstly, you have to stick your nose right in, right up to the hilt and you wiggle it about!’ was his opening remark as he gave all the ladies in our party a lingering look in addition to an accent that had now taken on a raspy French tone that started somewhere below his waist.

 ‘Now to get an explosion from this cheeky little number, you have to waggle your senses inside, getting faster and faster until you don’t think you can take anymore!’

 I was sure that a woman in front of me was about faint, but Jean Michel was only just getting started.

 ‘Once your nose has kissed the scent of the wine, you need to bring your mouth into action and I find that letting the juice fill my mouth and work its way into all manner of exciting places usually works for me.’

 If he carried on like this I was sure he was going to get arrested, especially when somebody asked him what he enjoyed pairing a certain wine with.

 ‘For most people a soft bed of fruit, or something meaty that melts in your mouth will do, but I feel that what brings out the subtle tastes of a great wine like this is an evening alone with a beautiful woman.’

 While I almost laughed out loud at this, it was clear that I was in the minority, and a gang of females who’d joined the tasting from a tour of wineries organised by a company in San Francisco giggled excitedly.

 If his over-the-top descriptions weren’t embarrassing enough, these were accompanied by suggestive looks from eyes that had bedroom written all over them.

 The tour ended, the San Francisco ladies boarded the bus, after he’d salivated over the hands and thrown off a couple more choice 'naughty' phrases, and I went about my wine business elsewhere until thoughts of Jean Michel became a memory I happily brought up when people asked me about my first visit to the Napa Valley.

 If I did think about the salacious wine guide, his reputation had grown and my impression of his speech had become almost stereotypical, which was difficult because of how stereotypical he was to begin with.

 Time passed and in the whirl of wine writing he slipped from my mind, and it wasn’t until a return visit to the Napa Valley about seven years later that his name crossed my path again.

 I was in a bar in the centre of Saint Helena. You know the place; on the same side as the wine store and opposite the shop that offers clothes for the canine about town. That’s the one!

 I’d been given a recommended Petit Verdot, and was gently nursing it in the company of a fellow wine writer who I’d known for years and who was lucky enough to be here interviewing the owners of one of those boutique vineyards where wine costs several arms and even more legs, while I’d just finished a two week stint of searching for the heart of the California wine industry. I was quite excited because after this evening in Saint Helena I would be free to spend a couple of days at the coast before returning back to England.

 We fell into easy conversations about wines we’d tried, people we’d met, vineyards with views to die for and vineyards that you’d rather die before viewing, and it was then that the memory of Jean Michel surged forward in the unexpected way that memories often do. I asked my friend if he'd ever met him.

 ‘Jean the One? He was reputed to have made more conquests than Cortes!’

 ‘Is he still practising his skills with the ladies who come across his path, so to speak?’

 My friend sat up in his chair and smiled.

 ‘You’ve not heard?’

 ‘Heard what?’

 I could see he was almost licking his lips before he spoke.

 ‘About his last seduction, when the wine guide got his. Before we continue let me get us both a glass of the latest from Ridge, and we can enjoy the wine as you, hopefully, enjoy the story.

 He got the wine, which tasted as good as Ridge always does, and after a couple of moments he began.

 ‘If was about a year ago when it happened. Jean Michel, the mystery man, couldn’t help himself and just adored any attempt to end up with a woman at the end of the night. If love makes one blind then Jean Michel was without sight. If it was female, it was fair game to him, and even the thought of a husband didn’t put him off.

 ‘From what I was told he had a particular technique that seemed to work. He would smother the lady in compliments, compare her to the most beautiful of wines, ooze charm from every pore, return to wine chat, sprinkle on a smidgeon of sexual innuendo before telling them he would give them a glass of wine that would make them unable to resist him.

 ‘Of course there were plenty who laughed, and there were plenty who fled, but there were a few who couldn’t help themselves. With one or two it was almost a challenge to see if they could keep aloof from his overtures, and of course there were those who knew what they were getting into and enjoyed it immensely. Then there was Carla.

 ‘Now I don’t know how old Jean Michel was, but I do know that he was more than old enough to know better when he met Carla.

 ‘She was in her early twenties and had just landed the job of wine writer for ‘Wine Observer’. It was the year that Toracal Winery had a wine that was rumoured to be so stunning, but nobody was getting a taste because they were so confident it would sell. The editor wanted the scoop about this wine, and he knew how he might get his scoop. Normally, the editor would have sent a more experienced reporter, but none of the women wanted to go to Toracal, even a few of the men found him creepy. So Carla, the beautiful, was sent forth as her first job.

 ‘The minute he saw her, he started working up his range of phrases and giving looks that had worked so well in the past, but Carla either didn’t understand what he was up to, was so interested in her job, was playing a long game, or was simply not interested in what he had to offer. This, of course, made Jean Michel desperate to add this woman to his list, and I’m told by those who were there that it became more and more obvious as the visit went on. 

 ‘Finally, the tour had been completed, the tasting was drawing to a close and Jean Michel couldn’t take his eyes off Carla. The rest of the visitors were embarrassed to be there and scuttled away as soon as they could, leaving the wine guide and the wine writer alone.

 ‘Wanting to keep Carla around until he’d found a way for his magic to work, Jean Michel asked her if she had any questions, to which Carla, taking out her notebook, asked him about the fabled wine that Toracal had just produced.

 ‘Jean Michel smiled to himself because he he’d now found the way to seduce this beautiful woman.’

 ‘Carla,’ he said. ‘You have been such delightful company that I am prepared to let you not only taste a glass of our wonderful Cabernet, but I’m also going to pour it from one of our magnums. Our winemaker has told me that if you take a sip you will be seduced by our wines forever and become a slave to Toracal.’

 My drinking companion smiled. ‘Now, I don’t know if this was true, but I think it’s got potential as a chat up line.’

 ‘But how did Carla respond?’

 ‘I think that she was a little cleverer than Jean Michel gave her credit for because she told him that she’d like to put it to the test.

 ‘Jean Michel thought that he was clever, and also suggested that the wine would be better appreciated in the quiet of the luxurious tasting room that Toracal had specially built for V.I.P’s who wanted to taste the wines. This was located in the cellar beneath the room in which they were situated, and was one of those affairs that combine club chairs, comfy sofas and mood lighting.

 ‘Carla told him that after she’d tried the wine on behalf of ‘Wine Observer’ she’d be delighted to accompany him downstairs to the V.I.P tasting room for a more intimate tasting.

 ‘I assume that Jean Michel was blinded by love, and the chance to get a beautiful young lady alone in the private tasting room because he readily agreed, and told her he would have to go downstairs to get the magnum that they would be tasting. He also asked again if she would like to accompany him. She reminded him that she would be more than happy to have a relaxing taste, but only after she’s finished her journalistic visit.

 ‘Now, the way she said this must have been provocative because Jean Michel could hardly contain himself and almost sprinted downstairs to find the promised magnum. This he located, along with another one which he quickly opened and placed near a tasting sofa, along with two Riedel glasses he felt would help to enhance the mood. Then with the magnum of wine he sprinted towards the stairs and upwards.

 ‘He was half-way up, trying to gently carry the large bottle in front of him like a baby. The suggestion of amore was in the air, and a beautiful woman behind that suggestion. 

 ‘All of a sudden Jean Michel slipped, and because he was holding firmly on to the bottle of precious Cabernet, he was unable to protect himself as he fell forward. In that echoey cellar, the sound of a magnum of the fabled Cabernet smashing must have been amplified.

 ‘When help arrived, they found the wine guide lying on the stairs with his face a bloody mess. He'd hit the stone steps with such a tremendous force that his nose was obviously broken.

 ‘When the medics looked into his soon to be bruised eyes there were tears of pain, and it wasn’t until they turned him over that they realised why this was. The magnum he’d been carrying just below his stomach had smashed into savage pieces of broken glass, and these were imbedded into his body, particularly the area at the front of his trousers.

 ‘From what I heard, a nasty sliver of glass had become buried in his most prized possession, and the only way that the offending piece could be removed was for the surgeon to make him less of a man than he was before. 

 ‘He might have still been able to be a supremely good wine guide but for the fact his nose was broken so badly that his sense of smell had been ruined. If you add this to the medics action, he was unable to continue enjoying the two things he loved the most.’

 I quizzed my friend as to what had happened next to Jean Michel. Was he still in the area, or had he returned to wherever he called home in Europe? My friend just shrugged and told me that he hadn’t a clue.

 Before I left the bar, we had a final glass of an excellent Château Montelena and promised that we would have to meet up when we were both back home, and then, after checking that we had each other’s number I left to head to my hotel for the rest of the evening.

 I had just stepped out into the fresh air and was passing the wine shop that is popular with locals when I saw a beggar sitting with an air of dejection.

 Approaching him were two pretty girls who looked as though they were busy planning an evening of fun. They passed by the figure of the beggar without being fully aware of him until he shouted out to them in a strangulated high-pitched French sounding voice.

 ‘I can show you how to stick your nose right in to the hilt and then wiggle it about!’ 

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