Among many, many other reasons, I love both France and Italy for their abundance of really cheap, really excellent house wine… a little bit of something lovely served in a charming carafe. Why, I ask you, why can we not have good, affordable house wines in the States?! Interrobang for emphatic rhetoric. Part of the issue, I fear, may be that there doesn’t exist here the same culture of drinking wine at every meal. Lack of demand, in other words. It’s very sad. (I have another theory, in addition, which is that the word for wine in both French and Italian is much easier than the word for, “Um, excuse me, but do you have any tap water, because I really don’t want to pay 4 Euro for a bottle?” ) Interestingly, the words for ordering coffee are also easier than the words for water, or at least more fun, as indicated by my favorite order: Due cappuccini, per favore. The words alone are like clouds of whole milk foam in my mouth. Mm. Anyway, I ordered a house wine last weekend during a trip up to the magnificent Redwood National Park and was sorely disappointed. Although in a small town, this was a nice-ish place, with homemade pasta and all that, but my glass of house red tasted like Manischevitz mixed with cough syrup. Earlier in the day, I had licked a bit of redwood tree, just to see, you know, how it tasted. (My friend Josh said that bears like to chew on the trees because the sap is so sweet, so how could I not give it a try?) Well, to this Sarah Bearah, it tasted like soggy bark, and YET, that redwood was still preferable to the house red. I actually didn’t ask the bartender where the wine was from and then I had this feeling like maybe he was testing me to see if I’d actually notice how bad it was and say something. If it was a test, I failed: drank the whole thing. I never like to make a fuss. Plus, my generous hosts had paid for the glass and I certainly didn’t want to make them feel awkward. So I’m just saying that if we could work a little harder on the great house wine issue in America, we could all avoid such incidents. And go see the redwoods, by the way, because they’re incredible. But leave the tasting to the bears.