My husband and I recently celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary. 24 years…That is one year away from a quarter century. I repeat…a quarter CENTURY! (Translation: We are old.) To celebrate, I’d like to say that my husband purchased me one of the “traditional” anniversary gifts. You know…40 years is ruby. 50 is gold. 60 is diamonds. (Seriously? Is it necessary to wait 60 years to get diamonds?)

But guess what 24 years is…Musical instruments. Yep. I did not think there was anything less romantic than the traditional first year anniversary gift of paper. At least paper is practical! But musical instruments? Hey honey, I wanted to let you know I was thinking of you so I got you this tuba. Or a clarinet. Because nothing says love more than something from woodwinds family.(Quick side note…I did find another wedding registry that recommends “stone” gifts to commemorate one’s 24th anniversary. The site suggests stone sculptures of one another as gifts. Personally I’d rather have that tuba.)

Now the last time I picked up a musical instrument was in high school. (I had a short lived career as the cymbal crasher in our marching band). Therefore we decided to forego anything from the traditional registry. Instead my husband and I decided to attend a private wine tasting at a new vineyard named Lazy Acre right outside of Lake Mills. Lazy Acre is operated by a high school principal (Mr. M) and his wife. Anyway Lazy Acre has been producing grapes for the past three years, but this is the first year that wine will be available for sale. So Mr. M asked if I would like to taste the wines and provide consumer feedback as they were evaluating what would be the best “sweet” and “dry” wines to sell.

Now this was quite the honor for the Iowa Roadie… to be asked to give my semi-professional feedback. (OK…So there is really nothing remotely professional about my opinion other than I am a connoisseur of cheap wine, and I write a goofy blog about dive bars for fun.) But I was touched nonetheless, and the idea of a private wine tasting was music to my ears (courtesy of the 24th anniversary tuba).

My husband and I arrived at Lazy Acre and were given a tour of their beautiful property by Mr. M. Currently the vineyard is gearing up for their third annual picking and grape stomp on September 15. (To participate, go to the Lazy Acre Vineyard Facebook page and register.) Lazy Acre is also building a new lodge in which to host future events. The property is quite lovely, and who does not like the idea of squishing their toes in a vat of fruit? Lazy Acre Vineyard will definitely be THE place to be. (And I’m not just saying that because I was bribed with free wine samples.)

So for the wine tasting, my husband and I joined Mr. M’s son Joe, and Talented and Gifted teacher Amy. (I must admit that it is a bit disconcerting to be seated next to someone involved in a gifted program. There is nothing either gifted or talented about the Iowa Roadie. Plus being seated by someone so smart, we might be expected to use words with more than one syllable. This is a challenge even without wine!) But both Joe and Amy proved to be delightful company who did not feign horror as the Iowa Roadie stuffed herself with the complimentary cheese and sausage on the table.

Now the wine taste test was a little like going to a sneak preview of a movie. We were sipping wine not available to the general public yet. It was like a backstage pass into wine ambrosia. Mr. M gave us each a sample of the red wine without sugar. Then he proceeded to give us three more red wine samples, each with a bit more sugar than the previous cup. We also did this for the white wine. We were asked to rate each of the wines, as Lazy Acre wants to market only four varieties–a dry and a sweet–of each color. We were also asked for adjectives to describe the wine, as they would be used in the wine’s marketing. (This is where TAG teacher Amy had the advantage, as she is naturally blessed with a more extensive vocabulary.) Besides my adjectives of “good” and “yummy,” I also suggested “sultry” and “velvety.” (Upon reflection, those words were better suited to rate a B-level porn film than a classy bottle of wine.)

I must admit that we did not sample a bad wine. All eight samples were ever so “scrumptious” and “exquisite.” (NOW I think of the good adjectives!) As we were leaving the Lazy Acre wine tasting experience, Mr. M happened to mention a liquor store in Lake Mills that offered free samples. As we were already in the classy taste-testing mode, Mill Street Liquor seemed like a very logical stop. (Because what DOESN’T sound classy about free samples in a liquor store?) Plus the idea was too intriguing to pass up…with the magic word being “free.”

We pulled up to Mill Street Liquor at 8:05, and even though its sign said closing time was 8 pm, the door was still open. We apologized for our late arrival, but Lynn, the gentleman working, did not seem the least annoyed that we were keeping him from clocking out. Instead he invited us to sample whatever we liked. That’s right. Sample Whatever. We Liked. This new concept, as incredulous as it was, also baffled me. Wouldn’t they lose money? That question was quickly answered when, after sampling, we purchased three bottles (please don’t judge) of various beverages (including an iced coffee rum!) that we never would have bought prior to tasting them. (Quick side note…Those three bottles of alcohol are now sitting on a shelf in our basement collecting dust…because it is never as much fun to drink at home on the couch than at the free sample liquor store.)

Right across the street from Lake Street Liquor was a corner bar named Gene’s Place. (Gene’s Place did not actually have a sign, so I had to rely on google to tell me where I was.) Sadly, unlike our previous two stops, Gene’s Place did NOT offer free samples…although they did have free popcorn. Per Iowa Roadie rules, we found ourselves seated at the bar next to a gal by the name of Tara. Tara has been employed for the past 11 ½ years as a dice dealer at the casino down the road. She is a loyal Chicago Cubs fan (per the tattoo on her arm) as well as a certified EMT. Also seated at the bar was a young man who recently rode his Harley motorcycle out to Colorado. Due to trust issues, Harley guy had broken up with his girlfriend of four years that very morning. (I felt a bit guilty celebrating Tuba Anniversary as he wallowed in relationship sorrow.) Fortunately Harley guy seemed to harbor no hard feelings toward the Iowa Roadie’s 24 years of wedded bliss. (He’s probably just glad he didn’t have to celebrate with a tuba!)

We had a delightful conversation with both of our bar mates, who toasted our anniversary and wished us another 24 more years. Guess what the 48 years gift is… Optical.

On second thought, I think I’ll stick with the tuba.

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