A high school friend of mine is getting married, and for her bachelorette party, a number of us took her on a limo wine tour in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York this past weekend. We started our tour at the Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards on Seneca Lake near Watkins Glen. All was going well, until the bartender broke into a festive date rape cheer.
Hazlitt is known for its house Catawba wine, Red Cat and its white wine little brother, cleverly named White Cat. Apparently, for every tasting group, the staff tells the history of Red Cat; there’s even a little chant to go along with it. According to our bartender, the story goes that Papa Hazlitt was out of town, so his sons decided to have an impromptu hot tub party on the beach in his absence. They swiped some of his sweet red Catawba and found that the ladies in attendance were more likely to take off their clothes the more they drank. They quickly dubbed it “Hazlitt’s Horny Juice,” a detail that lives on through the HHJ on the bottle floating in the hot tub on the Red Cat labels.
After recounting this “hilarious” tale, the bartender then leads the crowd in a round or two of the Red Cat chant: Red Cat, Red Cat, it’s an aphrodisiac. Red Cat, Red Cat, will get you luck in the sack. The goal is to rile everyone and convince each group to outperform the last in ever-louder and more enthusiastic renditions of it. The bartender gently laughed at me when I told the other girls in our party that I was uncomfortable joining in a joyful rendition of a song about getting girls drunk so they’ll sleep with you. (I’ll give him credit; he was friendly and perfectly polite the rest of the time I was there. I’m sure it’s not the first complaint he’s overheard.) Situations like these are always so frustrating, when something is clearly Not Quite Right, but everyone wants to go along with the fun anyway.
Needless to say, I did not purchase any wine at Hazlitt Vineyards. I like a good, dry red, and the sweeter-than-Welch’s Red Cat was not my cup of tea. But the Cabernet Franc was smoky and smooth, and I’d have gladly bought a bottle if their company policy wasn’t to openly glorify date rape. I sent them an e-mail to that effect, though I doubt they’ll take the time to respond.