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Wine Tasting for Beginners

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Arya barely had time to unbuckle her seatbelt before Gendry leaned over the center console to pull her into a heated kiss. One hand instantly tangled in his hair, while the other wrapped itself in his tie. Neither of them wanted to be there, much less dressed the way they were. But if they had to be, then they might as well make the most of it, right?


"Thank you coming with me." he said softly, breaking the kiss to nuzzle his nose against hers.


"And miss a chance to see you all done up?" she laughed. "Besides, your uncle has the perfect bathrooms to shag in."


Gendry growled and nipped her jaw as he dragged a hand teasingly up her thigh.


Recomposing themselves, the pair stepped out into the evening. Stannis' manor stood before them, lights shinning up to give it an even greater illusion of grandeur. As they proceeded up the paved drive, Arya's arm hooked tightly in his, soft music could already be heard from the garden in the rear. Arya had only ever been to two wine tastings in her life, and both occasions had been the dullest days of her life. There was nothing even remotely interesting about being given wine and expected to comment on it rather than truly enjoy it.


But Gendry had begged her, unable to turn down the invitation from the rich uncle. Besides, she really did love an excuse to see Gendry in a suit.


The rear garden was already a funeral without a corpse. Several people milled about, wine glass in one hand and cheeky opinions in the other. If Arya had to guess, they had only been invited as some form of status symbol, a bragging right of sorts to be able to say that Stannis had done his charity work for his less fortunate nephew.


The thought made her sick, but she was quickly distracted by an easy laugh that called Gendry's name.


"Gen, welcome!" She turned to see Renly stepping quickly towards the couple. Of the two uncles, Arya always had liked him best, and it didn't hurt that he shared the most similarities with Gendry.


The man pulled Gendry into a tight hug, which Gendry readily returned. As soon as they had parted, he turned to Arya, reaching to take her hand and place a light kiss to her knuckles. "Arya, blue was always your color." he gestured to the knee length dress she wore.


"Thank you." she smiled back. "Where's Loras?"


Renly gestured behind him, where Arya caught the blonde curls bobbing in a nod as the man carried a conversation.


"I can't believe Stannis' actually invited you."


Gendry shrugged. "Well we're here, so let's get it over with." then, turning to Arya. "Just so you know, it's free wine so I'm getting drunk."


"You get good and drunk at your uncle's wine tasting, and not only will I drive you home, but I'll give you another reward as well." she lowered her voice at the last part, raising the hand that wasn’t holding his arm to drag a finger behind his ear. If there was one thing that Arya liked more than Gendry, it was joining Gendry in making mischief at his snobby uncle's expense.


And what better way to do it than with drunk Gendry? Drunk Gendry was talkative Gendry. Drunk Gendry also knew how to come across as not being drunk at all. That is, unless you knew his sober personality.


“Twenty says you make Stannis’ neck vein pop up.” she heard Renly whisper on Gendry’s other side.


“You’re on.”


They soon found themselves with glasses in hand, started off with a light sparkling wine that they were told was from a new upstart in The Reach. Renly lead them around and introduced them to various guests. Arya did her best to smile and mingle and only sipped lightly at the small portion in the bottom of her glass. She actually enjoyed talking with an older woman who seemed to dislike the setting as much as she did. So it wasn’t until she turned from the conversation to find Gendry only just returning from another table, this time with his glass filled with a deep red.


“Gendry!” she laughed, watching him take a long drink. “You’re only supposed to sip!”


“I’m not going to get drunk by taking sips, milady.” he grinned, flashing red stained teeth.


The night progressed and Gendry drank his fill. Arya was only on her third tasting, not even yet feeling the effects, while Gendry was coming more alive by the minuet. She heard an easy laugh behind her and turned, expecting to see Renly, but no. It was Gendry, and he had a crowd.


“Now, please, explain this again.”  a man with a thick mustache inquired.


“Oh, yes, well,” Gendry started. Arya noticed his posture had changed. He was standing straighter than normal and was holding his wine glass by barely the tips of his fingers. If she didn’t know any better, she would have thought that he fit in well with these people. “It’s called the hearing test. See, when wine has been allowed to breathe properly, if one listens close enough then you can actually hear it and tell that it’s ready. See?” Gendry held the half full glass to his ear. His brows nearly touched as he feigned concentration.


“Remarkable!” the mustache man exclaimed.


“And where did you say you learned of this?” a woman with white gloves asked skeptically.


“Oh, I’m sure Stannis would have told you! I spent a summer at Casterly Rock and they have a quaint little vineyard there, The Imp’s Delight, they call it. I don’t believe I’ve ever tasted anything so close to heaven as their dry white!” Gendry placed a hand to his chest and closed his eyes while the small crowd around him murmured.


Arya snickered to herself. Content on watching the show as several of the onlookers began holding their own glasses to their ears and making little “Ah ha!”s and “Oh yes, I can hear it!”s She was so entertained that it surprised her slightly when two figures quickly flanked either side of her.


“Look to your left but be discrete.” Loras’ voice whispered to her right.


Darting her eyes to her left revealed the other figure as Renly, but beyond him stood Stannis. The man watched Gendry in deep curiosity. Arya suddenly wondered if his uncle had ever seen Gendry truly drunk before. The thought only brought on a sudden snicker, which she turned to hide in Loras’ shoulder.


“But this,” Gendry continued, holding his glass up to the light. “this is close. I wonder, does this vineyard use the Kissing Method?”


“Kissing method?” interjected an older lady with purple lipstick. “What on earth is that?”


“Believe me, my dear lady, it is simply the best way to care for one’s grapes! Very intimate and gentle.” Gendry smiled sweetly and placed a hand on the lady’s shoulder and bringing her to blush. Arya narrowed her eyes slightly. She would have to remember this to tease him with later.


“It is achieved by lightly caressing the grapes every evening before sundown. Brings about a deeper flavor and most think that it really does help the grapes to be their best knowing that they’re cared for. Then, just before they are harvested, every grape is given a gentle kiss with tongue to release a thrill of passion into the juice.”


Some of the ladies sighed sweetly and some of the men took a sip from their glasses to seemingly try and detect said passion. Renly was whimpering behind his hand, tears welling in his eyes. Loras had to set his glass down all together and muffle his laughter with a crab cake. Arya herself was fighting for her own composure. She thanked the heavens that she had worn smudge proof makeup and dabbed at her eyes with a napkin. It was only by chance that she glanced back over to where Stannis was standing.


He had a different look now, and she quickly nudged Renly, who quickly caught her gaze. Unmistakable realization was dawning on Stannis’s face. She was across the garden in an instant, saddling up to Gendry’s side just as someone posed a question regarding the earthy tones behind a new round of deep red.


“Oh I couldn’t bear to break confidentiality on vineyard secrets!” he said in feigned shock. “However, I have heard rumors of…..”


Arya took his glass in one hand and his arm in the other, shooting her most charming smile and begging their pardon while she lead Gendry back over to where Renly and Loras were standing.


“Did I do good, milady?” Gendry smirked, his words only just beginning to slur as he leaned down to peck her lips.


“I’ll say.” She said, gesturing over to Stannis, who now had a very prominent scowl directed towards his nephew.


“Oh shit!” Gendry laughed a little too loudly. “Has his neck vein popped up yet?”


Arya grabbed his shoulder to drag him towards the exit gate. “I think that if we don’t leave soon then not only would his vein pop, but we wouldn’t be getting one of those nice checks that he sends for Christmas.”


Gendry paid no mind, but waved goodbye over his shoulder to Renly and Loras and called out that they could send his money any time.


“I don’t know why I take you anywhere.” Arya chuckled as they slid into the car, herself in the driver’s seat while Gendry reclined his own seat and put his hands behind his head.


“Because I guarantee a good time.” he replied smugly. “And because I’m going to use that kissing method on you when we get home.”


“Will I need to wear purple lipstick?”


The look on Gendry’s face sent her into hysterics, leaving them sitting in the car for a good half hour before she could finally drive away.