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Friends Don’t Let Friends

By James Utt
By James Utt

I never ask for a senior discount at the movies. Not wanting to announce to those in line behind me that I am well, old, I pay extra for pride’s sake. One afternoon, dressed in my newest Tommy Bahamas and with just the right amount of hair product, I waited in line to see a matinee. When it was my turn at the window, I handed the young lady a twenty. She gave me a ticket and said, “Here is your change for one senior ticket.” I was betrayed by my own wrinkled face and thinning gray hair. The employee saw, with her young eyes, that I was eligible for the near death discount. Only extra butter on my popcorn could soothe the pain. I sat in the back row so no one could see the creeping bald spot on the back of my head that must have been expanding by the minute.

That hurt, but not as much as what happened shortly after. Man needs steak to live and I had just ordered one, ribeye, of course, at a fairly good restaurant in town. Thinking a hearty red would be the best compliment to this meal, I ordered a zinfandel. The server looked at me with a kindly smile and asked, “Will that be white zinfandel, sir?”

The world suddenly stopped spinning on its axis. The week before the ticket taker had outed me as an old person. Now this? Did I look like a person who drank white zinfandel? I had brought a copy of The New York Review of Books to read. This alone should have exempted me from such a question. (I don’t actually read it much, but it impresses the hell out of people at nearby tables.) Was the server unable to see that I was not a young person, who wanted something sweet for a cheap buzz?

“Do I look like the type of person who would drink white zinfandel? You have put an arrow through my heart,” I said, with a smile. She wasn’t wearing a wedding ring and perhaps a connection could be made here, despite her hurtful question.

“Well, I have to be sure, because a lot of tourists are in town for the festivals and a number of women like to drink it.” She was to show no further interest in what she probably perceived as a wine snob. A wine snob who was trying to chat up a much younger woman.

But, white zinfandel? As Chris Carter used to say on ESPN when there was a real blooper on the field, “Come on, man!”

White zinfandel is a cheap wine often made with low quality sugary grapes. Wine, and liquor in general, are not made to be sweet. Some, more generous than I, cut white zin drinkers some slack by saying it is a gateway wine that will put them, in time, on a pathway to better wines. But I see these drinkers caught in a web from which they will never escape. They will forever crave the sweet, fruity taste. They will have as comrades all those under age drinkers who want to get drunk, but do not want to taste the liquor. I can’t say for sure, but I would not be surprised if the stars ofDuck Dynasty” wash down their kills with goblets of white zin.

Oh, the humanity. I have read recently that white zin is making something of a comeback. But so are Birkenstocks. As I have said before, please remember the words of the social critic H. L. Mencken, who said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.” Think of all the poor yeasts that will give their last full measure of devotion to the creation of this type of wine. The New Testament says Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine. I would be really disappointed if that wine was white zin.

All wines are not created equal. And one that is not equal is white zin. If you ever get a bottle as a gift, know that the gift giver knows nothing about wine. Or they simply hate you.

There have to be standards or society crumbles. Say it with me brothers and sisters of the vine,

“Friends do not let friends drink white zinfandel!”


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  1. I love Heart Talk. Always makes me smile. Why is Mr Utt listed as a guest contributor since he writes regularly for the paper?

  2. Mr. “Jimmy” Utt,
    Loved your article on White Zin, , and I know you ARE old enough to get the senior discount since you were in the class BEHIND me at Tustin High School.
    I always ask for the discount since … I mean… why not?….. I’m getting Older!
    Hope to speak with you sometime soon,
    Your old friend
    “Uncle” Mott.
    Alpenhorn News, Lake Arrowhead, CA


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