It’s so comforting when, as you enter a celebration, you’re met by someone who smiles and sincerely says: “Welcome!”

Of course, many of us encounter someone who welcomes us everyday — whether that’s in a grocery store, the bank, your favorite restaurant or, again, at a party. I was recently the recipient of two such smiling and sincere welcomes.

I was invited to give a presentation about how our tastes for various beers and wines change during the year. So, at 7 a.m. and at a welcoming place (the Marshall YMCA), I found myself entering a room and being welcomed by some smiling and joking faces. I love that type of welcome. In some places, this kind of “kidding” is known by other words but we’ll not go there.

We kidded with each other and it was soon time for me to pontificate about taste buds, cold and hot weather, hops and malts, favorites and not so favorite beverages and to tell stories.

Ah, stories! Do you realize you are full of stories I’m always amazed how when I ask someone for their story, a usual response is: “I don’t have any stories!” Oh, yes, you do. All it takes is a simple question or two and the stories began to appear and, so, at the early morning meeting, I told some personal stories about how wine and beer became interesting to me.

The entire morning affair was fun and it started with someone greeting me with a smile and a hearty “Welcome!”

A couple of days later I attended a friend’s (we’ll call her BS) family’s high school graduation party. Again, I didn’t even get in the front door and she met me with a huge smile and a boisterous “Welcome!” Even among a lot of people I didn’t know, BS made me feel comfortable and then she introduced me to a line up of home brewed beers.

You know, there are times when life is really rough but the roughness is eased by a sincere welcome and, when you get to sample home brewed beer, those rough edges of life disappear and here’s why.

As one samples a homemade beer, you are tasting someone’s passion. You can hear their voice, see their face and read their eyes as they tell their story of making the brew. Of course, the tasting was fantastic. The oatmeal stout and the barrel aged beer — to name two of my samplings — were darlings.

I had been ordered by BS to bring a growler to the graduation party and I did so. I focused on the barrel aged beer and allowed some of it to pour into my growler — remember I said life is rough at times!

Why did I choose the barrel aged beer? It’s aged in used bourbon barrels and I am fascinated by anything that’s aged in bourbon barrels. The drink — either wine or beer — will pick up the subtle flavor of bourbon and the vanilla/oaky taste of the barrel’s wood. This home brew reminded me of Brau Brothers’ Bancreagie — rich, tasty on many levels and totally sincere. Well made, BS’s spouse!

However, even though I appreciated being welcomed at these two events, I wonder if we’re not so often in the act of welcoming something that it becomes second nature to us. Thus, we don’t even notice the first time event. For example, when you try a new wine.

I had the opportunity try a very nice red wine blend from Walla Walla, Washington called Dark Cluster. The name interested me and, as I sampled the wine, I tried to identify the grapes put into the wine’s blend.

Dark Cluster had a rich first taste which is produced by the majority of the wine being made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Along with the richness came a soft mellowness that is brought by the addition of Merlot grapes. At the finish, you’ll notice a bit of spiciness — brought to you compliments of the addition of a few Zinfandel grapes. If you seeking a new Washington state tasting adventure, try Dark Cluster. I’m glad I welcomed it into my life.

After tasting that wine, I sensed the need to welcome back an old friend from Round Lakes Vineyards and Winery — St. Pepin. This Minnesota grown wine is almost the exact opposite of Dark Cluster. It’s a very soft and sleepy white wine. It welcomes you with a bit of lemon and melon taste, has a very soft citrus aroma but ends with a refreshing crispness that invites you to take another taste.

If, in your world, you like to welcome the sun, the moon or whatever, pour a glass of St. Pepin, relax and enjoy!

Welcomes come to us in so many different ways and, as a nation, we have been welcoming for centuries. Like my early morning event where I was welcomed and at the graduation party where BS welcomed me with open arms, let’s not forget to welcome people, things and places into our lives.

Next week, are you sweet or…?

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