I was writing last time about how it’s been rather pleasant to think, fantasize, etc. about wine during this time of Lenten abstinence, as a surrogate for drinking it. (Practical note: two weeks to go!) I took this daydreaminess to a new level on Saturday by attending a wine auction.

I’d never been to one, and I’m not sure there really are or have been (m)any others around here. But Leland Little, a local auction house, decided recently to add wine to its portfolio; their new wine director, Mark Solomon, a really nice guy whom I last spotted at our restaurant drinking a ’99 DRC, came by and invited me. I was on a pretty tight budget, but I looked at the catalog of bottles on offer anyway. (Like I wouldn’t?) Most of them were hopelessly superannuated—it is not true that wine gets better with age. Or perhaps it’s truer to say that some wine gets better, for a while, and then gets worse. There was a lot of Bordeaux from the not-very-good 1972 vintage, all way past its prime, and with scary looking ullage in some cases. There was a fair amount of California stuff that I wasn’t interested in; there was a lot of status wine you can’t really drink at this point—you’d be best off to stick it on your mantle and show it off, and thereby appear to be a wine snob of terminal rank. This stuff is meant to be consumed, people! It ain’t trophies!

But there were a few lots that had promise and appeal, so there I was—brochure in hand, handwritten notes, dollar amounts—on Saturday. Not long before they got to the wine portion of the auction (this was an all-day affair, hundreds of things for sale from 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM), a guy in front of me spent about $20,000 on old vases in about 10 minutes. In other words, this was not a room for amateurs. Great bargains were generally not be had.

Good thing I had my notes. Each lot of wine was hustled through the process in about, oh, 45 seconds. The auctioneer did his rat-a-tat thing, the internet-bid guy kept going “hup!” and the phone proxies kept going “yep!” and a few of us in the actual room occasionally raised our hands and that is how a wine could start under $200 and sell for over $500 practically before you could even say the entire name of it. Good thing I had previously crunched my numbers. I bid on a few things but didn’t quite win the Sociando-Mallet 1983 or the Abbona Barolo 1989; just barely refrained from upping my bid on the Smith Haut-Lafitte (also 1983); got blown away on the A. Grivault Meursault 1990 “Clos des Perrieres.” It was Heather who noticed that the vast majority of the wine, thousands of dollars’ worth—including all of those dead 1972’s—was bought by the same phone bidder, the mysterious “No. 51.” Hey, pal, leave some for the rest of us next time.

But it was a lot of fun, and in the rather giddy experience of looking and bidding, I actually felt I had had a little wine by the end of the day. I even managed to lay off buying a beautiful little Santenay that’s been sitting patiently on the Hillsborough Weaver Street’s shelf, getting better with age, for over a year now.

There was another reason I felt I had had a little wine, too.

Even though Saturday was a beautiful day and I was pretty well rested—and had, of course, had nothing to drink the previous night—I had a splitting, partially blinding headache all day, the kind you associate with a hangover: right behind the eyes, unshakable, malicious. After the auction, I went for a short but brisk run in the late-afternoon warmth (80 degrees!), in order to try to shake the ache loose, and then went to work. At work, I feel compelled to add, a guest brought in a couple of rare wines, and I confess (this Lent procedure being a Catholic thing) that I had a sip of the Bollinger 1998 pre-phylloxera special bottling (wow), and another of a Chambolle 2001 “Les Amoureuses” (another installment in my ongoing, what-is-wrong-with-me failure to “get” Chambolle; I’ve had basic Bourgogne Rouge that gave more pleasure for far less money).

Headache subsided, then returned, with a criminal vengeance, by 10:00. I popped some ibuprofen before bed and felt better today, but seem to have pulled a muscle or something on the top of my foot. Had to take it easy. Limping.

Which leads me to this: is not drinking having an indirect but powerful effect on my corpus? Have I gotten accustomed to it in such a deep way that not having alcohol could give me a weird, apparently sourceless headache, which could in turn lead obliquely to a compensatory run that would result in an injured foot? Maybe it isn’t that I’m having a direct reaction to an alcohol-free period, but a second-order one instead, defined by domino-effect problems. Maybe this is what a modest but incessant pattern of use leads to: ramified, fragmented consequences, rather than DT’s and sneaky benders. Food for thought, or rather, wine.

I said last time that I had made a little breakthrough, a discovery, an illumination of sorts. Didn’t get to that in this entry. Will next time.