[Scene: Zen Palate, a spare and ominous restaurant in darkest Manhattan. A lone tree, devoid of leaves, stands near a black table.

Enter seven figures, alike yet different:

JASON Brandt Lewis, in jeans and glasses, cheerful and garrulous;

BRAD Kane, hoping the conversation stays off books with long titles;

CHRIS Coad, loud shirt, fine figure of a man;

LISA Allen, sharp as a tack, full of piss and vinegar;

STUART Yaniger, bearded, rational and merry;

JEFF Connell, soft-spoken and pleasantly cryptic; and

.SASHA, a poor starving soul.]

STUART: I have travelled many miles with the wine Callahan has requested. You who live in this area, where is Callahan?

LISA: Callahan is coming. He said he would be here. Do not worry or fret. Callahan will come.

JASON: I too have come from far away in hopes of seeing Callahan. Will he really arrive soon?

JEFF: If Callahan said he is coming, he will come.

[Enter a WAITER.]

JEFF: Can we get some kind of a bucket? To dump our glasses? To spit into?

[The WAITER stares blankly at the assembled figures, then exits.]

JEFF: I should not have said 'spit.'

.SASHA: Why won't he take our order? I am hungry.

BRAD: This menu is weird. Will they give me a plain plate of pasta? With marinara sauce?

LISA: It will do us no good to order before Callahan arrives. He would be angry. He would come, see that we have ordered, grow angry and take away all the wine.

BRAD: Screw Callahan! He always says to me "You're wrong!" Why should we wait for him? I say we open the wine and drink it all now, before he gets here!

[A silence falls over the group.]

.SASHA: I am hungry.

[More silence.]

BRAD: You are all cowards! I will open the wine, and we will drink it until Callahan comes!

LISA: Yes! Callahan doesn't scare me! Let us drink!

[They open a bottle of wine, a Wittman Westhofener Morstein Riesling Spätlese 1997. They taste it.]

CHRIS: This is a tasty wine, with a racy and reserved nose, light, spritzy honey and stone and gasoliney notes, along with some citrus, it is classy and lightly tangy in the mouth, wonderfully balanced between light sweetness and not-quite sharp acidity. A velvety young riesling. That's what I think.

JEFF: If only we had some of this wine when, so long ago, we searched for elegance...

BRAD: This wine smells sulfury.

STUART: It's a 1997, what do you expect?

LISA: I smell no sulfur. You are wrong!

BRAD: Harridan! You are the female Callahan!

LISA: Wrong, wrong, wrong!

JASON: Another wine!

[They open a wine, a Clos du Tue-Boeuf Pinot Gris Vin de Pays D'Oc Demi-Sec 1998. They taste it.]

CHRIS: This wine has a very light nose, light stones and honey-plumeria. It is very limp in the mouth, low acid and soft, and has an odd note that I can't place...

.SASHA: I like this wine. The '27 was better, but I could drink a whole bottle of this.

BRAD: [Spitting wine out] Ugh! Ugh! You like this?!

STUART: That note that you can't identify I call 'puke in the gutter.' But in a good way.

JEFF: Perhaps you will all come to understand this wine when your tastes have matured.

STUART: I understand this wine already. This wine is a Shemp.

LISA: Callahan will understand this wine. When he arrives.

JASON: Another wine!

[The WAITER enters, and takes everyone's order except .SASHA's. They open a Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Heimbourg 1992. They taste.]

CHRIS: This wine has a delicate, softly floral nose, light lychee & honey, very beguiling, but when you sip it it's very fat and thick--overextracted and a bit oily, although it finishes with a nice sharp tang that leaves you wanting more. It's a little confusing to me.

STUART: Callahan will explain it to you.

LISA: [Close to tears] Don't you see? There is no Callahan!

JEFF: I have seen Callahan. He will come soon, and he will explain this wine to us.

JASON: Another wine!

[They open a Cuilleron St. Joseph (White) 1997. They taste.]

BRAD: This is a killer wine!

CHRIS: This wine is a pale straw-gold color, with a minerally nose, bright and mutedly yellowfruity. It is rich, tangy and slightly buttered-toast oaky. The fruit is charmingly dense and flavorful, with some crisp acidity to balance out the medium-weight mouthfeel. The oak is only very slightly distracting; this is very appealing.

BRAD: Like I said, a killer wine!

STUART: Wait! I hear footsteps! Is he coming now?

LISA: Yes, I see him! Hold me!

[The WAITER enters. He brings food for everyone except .SASHA.]

JASON: I'm sorry, .sasha, but I'm going to eat now. It will do me no good to be weak with hunger when Callahan arrives.

.SASHA: Yes. Go ahead without me.

JEFF: Let us open this now. [He opens the Desvignes Morgon Javernieres 1997. They taste.]

CHRIS: Since I suspect you're all poised to hear what I think of this wine, let me say that it is a richly-colored Beaujolais with a light earthy-plum nose and some tangy rich dark berry fruit, a crisp medium-bodied wine with a shadow of tannins. Serious Beaujolais.

.SASHA: I don't know what to think of this wine. I hated it at first, but now I love it.

BRAD: Either way, you're getting wayyyy too excited about gamay.

.SASHA: I can't help it. I am dizzy with hunger.

STUART: This food is delicious!

LISA: O man of many closures, what is in your mysterious unlabeled bottle?

STUART: Ah, that is what I have brought three thousand miles to lay at the feet of Callahan. We must not taste of it until he is here.

JASON: I too have come three thousand miles! Am I not as worthy of this treat as Callahan?

BRAD: Yeah, screw Callahan! Open it up!

JEFF: I have lost faith that Callahan will ever arrive. We must prepare ourselves to go on without him. Open the wine.

STUART: Well, okey-dokey, then. [He opens the Ogier Côte-Rôtie 'La Belle Hélene' 1997 Barrel Sample. They pause reverentially, then taste.]

CHRIS: This wine is a deep, impenetrable purply-red, with lovely scents of menthol, smoked meats, and a core of black raspberry and blackberry fruit that is dense, but not frighteningly tight. It is layered, rich and roughish, but it goes down smoothly and quickly. Hey! Don't take it all!

BRAD: Sorry.

JASON: This wine is the winner.

STUART: Yes, it wins the Thunderbird Prize; it is the first empty bottle. Let us observe a moment of quiet respect.

[They bow their heads.]

CHRIS: All that is left is this Zenato Amarone Classico 1988, which is a nice medium-dark color, has some velvety cherry-raspberry-raisiny-brown sugar aromas, but tastes a bit monolithic and simple, very little complexity here.

STUART: This Amarone tastes overripe.

LISA: Perhaps they used late-harvest raisins.

JEFF: Is .sasha all right? He seems to have passed out.

BRAD: He had a long drive. But we must move on to the dessert wines now--.sasha want a sweetie?

.SASHA: Aack.

[They open a Kurt Darting Muskateller Eiswein 1991. They taste.]

CHRIS: What a nice gold-amber color, and hints of orange rind and honey-apricot on the nose. A slightly unctuous wine, very thick, viscous and tangy, with just barely enough acidity, and a long, tangy finish.

BRAD: This wine has a ton of acidity.

LISA: This wine has a tiny bit of acidity.

BRAD: Plenty of acidity!

LISA: Wrong, wrong, wrong!

BRAD: Queen of the Harpies! Queen of the Harpies!

JASON: What's the matter with you New Yorkers, anyway? Another wine!

[They open the Château Bouscassé Vendemiaire Octobre 1995. They taste.]

CHRIS: This wine, pale straw in color, has a light, tight nose; soft pineappley-flinty-nectariney notes drift around the glass. Tastes a bit thin, too, yellowfruity and not terribly sweet. Thin, light and crisp.

BRAD: Here, have mine. [Pours his wine into CHRIS's glass.]

JEFF: .Sasha is dead.

.SASHA: I am dead.

JASON: Another wine!

STUART: There is no more wine.

JASON: It's Sunday... we cannot buy any more... damn you New Yorkers and your blue laws!

LISA: We should go.

JEFF: Yes.

STUART: Well, shall we go?

JASON: Yes, let's go.

[They do not move.]


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