How do you feel?

What affects how you feel about the stuff in your life? With a raised eyebrow, you might respond by saying, “How much time do you have for my answer?”

The obvious answer to this question is — everything.

From your sleeping habits to the clothes you wear, from the weather to your family, from your work (or the lack of work) to how much you exercise and from the way you greet people to the food and beverages you consume, everything affects how you feel. I’m sure you could add a few things to this list but the fact remains that all the stuff of life, good or bad, influences us.

So if everything in life influences us, what sort of effect does the stuff of life have, for instance, on our favorite beverage? As it turns out, a lot.

One of my pet peeves about dining out is when the restaurant’s lights are so dim, you can’t read the menu. It has happened to me a number of times and I try to make the most of the situation by talking with my fellow diners about what they’re going to eat. I usually muddle through the ordering ritual and at a recent dining experience and after ordering my food, I ordered a glass of wine to sooth my ruffled feathers.

I ordered a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon from California’s Edna Valley Vineyard. It’s one of my favorite wines and I deeply enjoy its rich color, medium cherry taste and soft tannin finish. The wine arrived in the dimly lit restaurant and I immediately sensed there was something wrong. Because of the low lighting, I couldn’t see the wine’s normally gorgeous red color and when I tasted it, it was off. Here’s what happened.

When we have a favorite wine (or anything else, for that matter), our brains are hardwired to “see” it in a certain way. When that certain way is upset — like not being able to properly see my wine — our brain is momentarily confused. It was expecting the “normal,” we gave it something different and that causes some momentary mental and sensory distortions. Thus, although I was expecting to see the normal color of the wine and, since I didn’t get that normalcy, the wine not only looked different, but tasted off.

If the dining area is too bright, that’s also a distraction. Our enjoyment level is directly synced with our expectations and if we have to squint during the meal, all other sensory experiences are negatively impacted. That delicious bottle of Cupcake Vineyard’s Moscato d’Asti will be irritatingly too sweet and you’ll probably end up being grumpy.

The same thing happens if the restaurant is too noisy. Our attention is distracted by the noisy people or music and we can’t enjoy our food and drink as we usually enjoy them. We don’t receive the expected taste because our attention is rattled by the distraction. I like Fulton Beer’s Sweet Child Of Vine IPA and at a recent outing and because of the loud music, I didn’t receive my normal taste sensation from the beer and was disappointed. I became grumpy. Too many distractions and our senses are overwhelmed.

Conversely if the restaurant’s lighting and background ambiance is appropriate, one’s dining experience is hugely enhanced. The wine will look perfect, have the expected taste and the dining experience will have a lasting impression on you. So you see guys, there’s much to be gained by choosing the right environment for your next restaurant date with that special someone!

There’s something to be said about a candle lit dinner but only if the setting is quiet and there’s enough light to read the menu! I’ll never forget that special glass of Chianti as I was sitting in an Italian restaurant with that special person — it was perfect and I felt good.

Next week, what do all the numbers mean?

As always, eat and drink in moderation but laugh with reckless abandon!