We're headed to Chapel Hill, North Carolina for the weekend, the home of Derek's alma mater. It's not far from my own college either, the illustrious Appalachian State University. I haven't been there in several years and as I ponder going back to a place that was so important to me, so long ago, I have to wonder; am I better off now? When I was a young hippie in college in the mountains, skipping class to go hiking and spending my weekends partying on the New River, I thought the world was filled with infinite possibilities. Now I am 31, unemployed, living in Los Angeles and frankly feeling a bit defeated, a bit like the world holds no more possibilities for me. But now I am at least armed with the years of travel, the life experience and the knowledge I have accrued since college. Which is good, right? Or, is it?

In college I drank jug wine, the really disgusting stuff you can buy at any grocery store. I thought it was great, romantic even. I would sit out on my back deck surveying the mountains, or on the floor next to the fireplace staring into the flames, pour myself a giant glug of “burgundy” from my big old glass jug, and feel like I was in some great novel. I had no idea that I was drinking sludge. I had no idea that wine came in more options than just red and white. Now, a decade later, and a recovering wine snob, I have been known to turn down wine if I deem it unworthy to pass my lips. Now I know that wine comes in as many infinite flavors as the possibilities I once felt were laid out before me. Now I know how wine is supposed to taste. So, am I better off knowing that Rousette de Savoie exists? Does this make me appreciate wine more or less? Have I lost that carefree innocence that allowed me to enjoy wine on a purely romanticized level? Or have I gained the knowledge that allows me to enjoy wine on a completely different level, a higher plane?

You can't get much more obscure than the wines of Savoie. Located in the French Alps across the border from Switzerland, Savoie is home to some crazy wines. They have a tradition of making their own uniquely styled wines from grapes like Altesse, Chasselas and Mondeuse. Their reds can be interesting if not a bit light, but it is their whites that can be truly fascinating. Earthy and aromatic with very little fruit, they could fall into the category of “manly whites.” Vins Jean Perrier et Fils is a family run winery with a long history in Savoie, and though the winery makes traditional wines, they have updated their winemaking to include more modern practices. Their 2007 Rousette de Savoie is made up of 100% Altesse and is a beautiful example of what Savoie has to offer the wine world. The nose is filled with heady aromas of grass, herbs and petrol. On the palate there is a slight tartness of green apples along with a steely almost loamy minerality. It is a wine that practically screams out for oysters. It is a wine that I can appreciate now, in my older age, and that I most likely would have not enjoyed during my college years. So yes, I would have to say I am better off, at least when it comes to drinking.