How to Be Happier by Drinking Bad Wine

wine tasting Jared and I spent this weekend celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary at The Lodge at Geneva on the Lake, a small resort in Ohio’s wine country.

Yes, Ohio has wine country.

It borders Lake Eerie, and 90% of the grapes grown there are sent to Welch’s and turned into juices. The remaining 10% are pressed into sweet wines that are sold to tourists at the local wineries, establishments geared more toward the drinking and selling of wine than the making of it.

We spent Saturday night being driven by shuttle to several of these rustic restaurant/gift shops/wineries. At each stop, we ordered a tasting flight, which consisted of a cafeteria tray loaded up with plastic shot glasses filled with different types of wine. Over the course of our tour, we sampled roughly 20 varieties of local wines. So, I say this with confidence:

Ohio wines are not very good.

Grapes that are primarily grown to be turned into juice should not also be turned into wine, not unless you want your wine to taste like grape juice that’s been spiked with cough syrup.

That’s not to say we didn’t have fun. We did. In fact, I think we learned something while drinking all of that bad wine about how to be happier.

We sat in the sun, listened to live music, and laughed at our own descriptions of the offerings: “This smells like wet fox.” “I think this tastes like grandma.” After several shots of grandma’s juice, we  even made friends with our tour mates, which led to stories about child birth and nursing told around a wrought-iron table.

Scientists and sociologists would say that we enjoyed ourselves because connection makes us happier. And it’s true that I loved having quality time with my husband and swapping tales with strangers. But it wasn’t just the connecting that made me happy.

Figuring out that the wines at the second, third, and fourth stops were just as off as the ones we had tasted at the first made my brain kind of crackle and pop. Talking to a bartender about why they didn’t use aerators on the reds and hearing about when and how the wineries popped up helped me understand that the pattern wasn’t in my head.

Putting together the pieces made me happy.


On the drive home to Pittsburgh the day after our wine tour, Jared asked me if I’d go back. “Absolutely,” I said. “But I wouldn’t go to the wineries.”

“Really? I had fun on the wine tour, even if we didn’t love the wines.”

“I had a blast,” I said. “But now that I know, I don’t need to do it again. Next time I’d spend more time on the lake, at the state park, and checking out the antique shops.”

“Yeah, that’d be fun.”

“But I’d tell other people take the wine tour.”

“You would?”

“Definitely! I learned that I didn’t like Ohio wines, but figuring that out was fun.”

Travel magazines are always filled with stories of beautiful places to visit and delicious foods to eat while you’re there. What they don’t tell you – what they can’t tell you – is that the real joy of traveling is figuring out for yourself what makes a place beautiful or a food delicious. It’s learning on your own what you love and what you hate.

What I discovered this weekend about how to be happier is that it doesn’t matter what you find when you set out on an adventure. Learning that Ohio wines are ridiculously sweet – and why – was just as much fun as learning why Napa Valley wines are so damn good (and considerably less expensive).

It’s going looking that makes the difference.

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  1. Ashley says:

    Happy to hear you had a great anniversary! I didn’t even know Ohio had wines…but great lesson!

  2. Aww- love this! We try lots of wine around the country, typically in non-wine areas. Glad you had fun, even if the wine wasn’t great.
    Amanda @ Click. The Good News’s most recent post: Crawfish Boil 2013

  3. For a long time, I don’t think I stopped much to appreciate the little things — the journey. But I have learned over the last five months just how important that is. Love this post, Britt.
    Sarah W. Caron (Sarah by the Sea)’s most recent post: Blogging 101: Are You Making It Hard to Share?

  4. Great attitude, and I agree.
    Father Muskrat’s most recent post: the capitol muskrat

  5. Suebob says:

    Part of this quitting drinking thing for me has been a twinge of regret at the loss of the places I loved to drink. For instance, I love a nice hotel lobby bar anywhere, and I love our little local wine-tasting cave, where you can get snacks. But looking closer, I realized that what I was really missing wasn’t the alcohol, it was the feeling I get in those places – a feeling of taking a break, lingering, talking with friends.

    It is all about figuring out what really makes you happy, what you really want.
    Suebob’s most recent post: Sometimes Progress is Nobody Even Caring

  6. Angella says:

    We live in wine country that has GREAT wine, but I think the reason I like wine touring with Matthew (we do it every anniversary) is that I like the time we spend together.
    Angella’s most recent post: Climb Every Mountain

  7. Megan says:

    So you actually found wine that was too sweet for you? *shudders*
    Megan’s most recent post: Bros

  8. Leann says:

    Ah, Old Firehouse…wine may be bad, but you can’t beat the views.

    • Miss Britt says:

      We didn’t get to that one!! But I heard it was great.

      And yes, the area was gorgeous.

  9. Kristin says:

    Next time go to Penninsula and the falls, it’s more of a day trip I would think but there’s good sites, a great vintage shop and little diner.

  10. Marta says:

    Huh, what an interesting perspective. I’ve never thought of it that way. I tend to be so focused on what other people TELL me is good or bad that I don’t spend as much time as I should focused on whether or not I think its good or bad!
    Marta’s most recent post: Sunshine and Happiness.

    • Miss Britt says:

      So, I emailed you a chapter from my book that is sort of about this. Hope you enjoy it. :-)

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