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A Dose Of Reality For Wine Enthusiasts

What would I do with myself if I ever hurt or killed someone while driving under the influence of alcohol? It is a sobering thought, one that readers certainly do not expect when they read this column. But it is a concern for all of us who drink alcohol, especially those of us in the trade.

You could call this week’s column a dose of reality, and my sincere call for care and action to those of us who enjoy wine to its fullest.


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A super sexy Sangiovese | Photos from Roberto Viernes

No organization has raised the awareness of drinking and driving more than Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Toni Muranaka is executive director for MADD in Hawaii, and she also happens to be a personal friend. So I sought her out for more insight, and some of the statistics that are listed on MADD’s website are truly frightening.

Every day in America, 28 people die as a result of drunk-driving crashes. Drunk driving costs the United States $132 billion each year. On average, one in three people will be involved in a drunk-driving crash in their lifetime. In 2012, 10,322 people died in drunk-driving crashes – one every 51 minutes. Locally, 41 percent of all traffic deaths were drunk-driving fatalities.

An average-sized person metabolizes alcohol at the rate of one drink per hour. A standard drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, each of which contain the same amount of alcohol. Keep in mind that, if you are smaller in stature, it will take you longer than a larger person to metabolize the same amount of alcohol. What you eat and drink (other than alcohol) also can have an effect on your metabolism. If you didn’t already know, the legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) in Hawaii is .08.

MADD’s message is clear: “MADD urges that those Americans of drinking age who choose to drink do so in a responsible manner, avoiding any driving after drinking alcohol … our cause doesn’t need a cure; it already exists. It’s you and me, our friends, our neighbors. It’s all of us choosing to drive sober or designating a non-drinking driver if we drink alcohol.” Muranaka adds that “Drinking and driving is 100 percent preventable – don’t choose to booze then cruise.”

It seems so simple to have someone who has not been drinking alcohol drive you home. One of my closest friends and drinking mates loves to say the magic word: TAXI! These days, it is just too easy to get a ride home. The Uber app connects you with a driver directly from your smartphone. There is no exchange of money; it is all paid for through your account. For you men out there who are twice as likely to drive drunk than women, have your wife drive. There is no need to be macho and pretend that you are “OK.” It’s not worth it. And if you have to sleep it off in the car, that’s better than driving under the influence.

I am truly blessed to be able to do what I do and drink the wines I do, and I appreciate it. I never would intentionally risk my livelihood, my life or anyone else’s life for a “good time” under the influence of alcohol. I hope that after reading this column you, too, will take that extra step to make sure that you do not drink and drive.

Recommendations: 2009 La Spinetta Sangiovese “Nero di Casanova” ($20) I’m not sure Sangiovese can be any sexier than this one, especially at this price. This tastes more like a $50 Brunello di Montalcino, for goodness’ sake! If you can find it, don’t get just one bottle. If you do, don’t say I didn’t warn you. 2009 Chateau de Pez ($60) In the world of Bordeaux, where you have to pay well over $100 to get any famed Chateau, this Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel is a fabulous alternative. It is velvety, replete with strawberry and raspberry fruit. On top of that, I can’t believe the 2009 vintage of this wine is still available in Hawaii. Most 2009s are sold out because it was such a terrific vintage.

Roberto Viernes is a master sommelier.

Twitter: @Pinotpusher