‘Tis the season for cracking open special bottles and indulging in decadent feasts. No one on the planet loves those things more than me, so it is safe to say I’m pretty much in my element any given December. But the last eight days have taken me out of my usual festive comfort zone. I served as a juror in a what turned out to be a harrowing criminal case that was, in the end, not nearly as cut-and-dried as it initially appeared.
Ugh, jury duty. In the run-up to Christmas, especially, none of us wants to be reminded of the crimes that take place within our community, let alone the desperation that sometimes drives people to such acts. For sure, eight days ago jury duty was the last thing I wanted or needed right now. When picked, I groaned inwardly at all the tastings, meetings and lunch dates that would need to be rescheduled, my already huge backlog of malingering unanswered emails and articles still to be written, not to mention family commitments. Yet, now that it is done, I feel that I have learned more this December than I have all year and that I can aim to be a better person for it.
Rarely, if ever, do we have the opportunity/responsibility to give our time to truly help toward the betterment of our society. To listen intently to a considerable body of carefully collected evidence. To deliberate upon that which is fact versus fiction. To make our community a little safer for our neighbors and loved ones. Or to vindicate those that have been wrongfully accused. To make a difference in people’s lives.
This experience has allowed me to step back and appreciate privileges that I have taken for granted. That as Americans, we are afforded a trial by jury. That a group of ordinary citizens from all walks of life and without biases can come together in judgment and either agree or agree to disagree with tolerance and respect, possessing a common goal of beyond a reasonable doubt. Our justice system in the United States may not be perfect, but I have faith that it works.
In our modern world of social media and the internet, we have come to operate under an illusion of transparency. We make judgments every day about the comments, information, photos, memes and general rantings of politicians, celebrities and our peers and we are likewise judged. But what we selectively reveal (and is revealed to us) is mostly a carefully crafted mask depicting a gilded representation of who we are, what we do and how we feel. Accountability for intention to mislead is only as long-lived as our Instagram, Facebook or Twitter feeds. I find myself wondering if the stick we use to measure concepts such as “good,” “right” and “just” has become so unrealistically long that only the idealistic social media masks we have created for ourselves can possibly hope to measure up and that the real people underneath have no hope.
Christmas and New Year’s should not just be occasions of joyous celebration, but times to be reminded of how fortunate we are and that many are not so fortunate. For many, the pressure to make ends meet or just get through the day causes them to sometimes make bad decisions, some with criminal consequences that deserve punishment. In our modern times, we are perhaps more prone than ever to make snap judgments based on appearances. Before we judge, we need to pause to decide when there is enough valid information to make a judgment and when there is not. Sometimes, the greatest gifts we can give to those most in need are tolerance, a deeper effort to understand and the benefit of a reasonable doubt.
After that sobering commentary for thought, I think we all deserve a glass of something special and little holiday fun reading. The team at Robert Parker Wine Advocate has got you covered. We recently published just over 300 new tasting notes on wines from Napa Valley and Sonoma as well as a bevy of Wine Journal articles, including our continued roll-out of our Reviewers’ “Best of 2018” articles, detailing their greatest wine discoveries of the year. And don’t miss our End of December Issue, publishing on Friday, December 28, packed with reviews of wines from Austria, Burgundy, Northern Rhône, Spain, Italy, Greece, California, Eastern Europe, Portugal and even China and Colorado.
From all of us at Robert Parker Wine Advocate, Happy Holidays!