Sunday, February 13, 2022
I want to talk about wine.
Wine is quite possibly the most perfect thing ever invented, which sounds strange to say given how many bottles of bourbon I have on my counter and how many bottles of wine I don’t.
I’ve recently started drinking wine again after a long hiatus during which I mostly drank bourbon and cocktails. There’s a lovely winery a few miles from us and we joined their wine club recently. It was one of those spur of the moment things you do because you get a discount on your order and at the time we were buying a lot of wine for gifts and things. Since then I’ve had a few extra bottles to try here and there.
But I really started drinking it again when some friends gave us a wine Advent calendar this past Christmas.
That was 24 days of wine and I’ll tell you, there’s nothing quite as good at kickstarting your re-love-affair with wine as 24 days of it.
I discovered one called Grenache that I quite like. Enough to go out and buy half a dozen more bottles of. And I also found out that I like Syrah, after confusing it with [insert something I confused it with but can’t remember here] and thinking for a long time that I didn’t like it.
Here’s what’s so great about wine:
It’s collective. There are few things in life as joyful as sitting around a table with people you love and sharing a glass of wine.
It’s solitary. There are few things as satisfying as having a glass of wine while cooking dinner.
Having a glass of wine while cooking dinner simultaneously does two things: it makes it more likely that I will drop something on the floor and it makes it less likely that I will care that I dropped something on the floor.
This, in one sentence is the beauty of wine.
I know so very little about wine, except what I like and what I don’t, but not off the top of my head. Only at the point at which it goes into my mouth. I know a fair amount about whiskey and bourbon, probably because I’ve toured a number of distilleries and also have a brother whose life mission it is to taste every bourbon on the planet.
But I haven’t been to many wineries even though I find them to be some of the most beautiful places on earth. The vineyard here is pretty, mostly because it sits on top of a hill that overlooks more hills. There is an outdoor pavilion for sitting and sipping and listening to live music, and a stone patio that is charming and rustic in that way that makes drinking a glass of wine much more delicious.
Part of the thing about wine is that it doesn’t even have to be great wine. If you pour it into a giant globe glass with a tall, thin stem and let the sun shine through it and swirl it around while sitting on a stone patio overlooking hills, it’s really quite good no matter what. Especially if you add a little cheese to the equation.
Wine tastes better if it comes from a bottle with a beautiful label. It also tastes better when it comes from a bottle with a beautiful label and a cork. I know technically that a screw cap doesn’t change the flavor of wine, but actually, it does. In your brain, where things like that matter.
The most beautiful vineyard I visited was in Santa Rosa, California. Paradise Ridge. It was also on a hill, overlooking the mountains. It was also attached to an art installation, made up of pieces of past Burning Man events. There was a photography studio, and a zen garden with wood carvings from a local artist.
Wine tastes better when there is an art installation.
I use many, many words to describe many, many things, but sometimes there aren’t the right ones, so I will just say that Paradise Ridge is one of those memories that you have in shades of warm colors with soft edges and a bokeh background.
A couple of weeks after we visited, it burned to the ground in that year’s wildfires. I cried.
They planned to rebuild but I lost track of them after that, partly because I really wanted to hold onto my soft-focused memories of sunny wine and artwork, not the charred remains of what it used to be. But judging by their website it seems like they did just that.
Wine, in general, tastes better knowing that.
Long before bourbon, long before cocktails, wine was my first love. My earliest memories at home include a gallon jug of wine sitting under the kitchen sink, probably because it didn’t fit anywhere else. Maybe it was Gallo. That sounds right, although I’m sure someone will jump in and correct me if not.
When I got married, and could do things like buy my own wine, it didn’t occur to me to do anything but get that gallon jug and put it under the sink. It didn’t occur to me to wonder if it was good or bad.
It wasn’t until I tried Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio that I realized there might be something else out there that tasted better. Good, even.
I don’t remember when or why I had it, just that my father spent the next many years buying it in cases to give to me and my mother, who jumped on the bandwagon with me.
Did I mention that I know very little about wine? I mix up Cabernet and Merlot, forget that I don’t usually prefer Chardonnay even though somehow I always end up ordering it, and almost always judge a wine by it’s cover.
Still, it’s one of the most perfect things on earth. It goes with fruit and cheese, with chocolate and cake, with hamburgers and filet mignon. It’s sublime with spaghetti and delightful with sausage.
It accompanies a summer afternoon on the porch as well as a winter evening in front of a fire.
A few years ago I was diagnosed with Essential Tremor. I’ll be honest, I don’t know why it’s called essential, because I probably could have lived just fine without it. But it freaked me out so I went to the doctor. He looked into my eyeballs, made me draw circles, tested my hand strength, watched me drink a glass of water, then asked what seemed like a strange question.
Does drinking a glass of wine make it better?
Actually. Yes, yes it did.
That was the thing that clinched it for him. He prescribed medication, not wine, which I always thought was a bit of a failing on the part of the medical profession.
If wine is the most perfect thing on the planet, then drinking one glass of it is the next most perfect. One glass of wine makes everything just as soft-focus and pleasant as my memories of Paradise Ridge.
Two glasses of wine is tricky, because it can go either way. Any more than that and you are reminded in no uncertain terms that you are not in college anymore.
Of course, that doesn’t stop me from drinking an entire bottle at a time. I almost always swear I will never do it again, and always do it again.
When Kevin showed up a couple of weeks ago, he brought me a few boxes of my things from Brigantine. In them, were some long-stem wine glasses. Nine or ten of them. The good news, is that it will be at least nine or ten days before I drop and break them all. A lot of wine can be drunk in that time.
I feel like I’ve given wine its due as best I can, and even if I haven’t it’s time to go drink some. Grenache, to be exact. In one of my long-stem wine glasses. With chicken, because whoever made up the rules about what kind of wine you have to drink with what kind of food just doesn’t appreciate the inherent perfection of wine, even the type that comes in a gallon jug.
Photo: a tiny piece of the art installation at Paradise Ridge winery.