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February 25, 2010
Nobody invites me to dinner anymore, but my local crafts store is beaming. Until last October, I didn't know people actually made "wine bottle lamp kits," but as soon as I discovered it, I realized that the many generous distributors, winemakers, and PR-professionals ("Hey, we *love* your blog and would *be honored* to send you a free sample of our most *prestigious* wines!") were killing two birds with one stone. I will never be without beef burgundy, coq au vin, or a quick dinner gift for my neighbor's bi-monthly, we're-accepting-that-we're-30 "gatherings." Industry, you've turned me into a re-gifter. And I guess lamps are better than a cinammon babka. But your highly allocated single block South Latvian A9 clone cab (aged six months in French oak only, of course) has become my labelmaker. Hello, my name is Tim Whatley. I made this for you out of garbage. Sometimes it's a lamp. Sometimes I'll bring the wine itself. Especially the Kosher wines, which make me look considerably more expert and thoughtful than anything I would've picked up on my own at the liquor store. Welcome to the secret life of wine blogger samples. I thought it fair to finally tell you, we hardly ever drink what you send us. We want it--oh we absolutely want your free wine. But we probably won't write about it. Ethics aside, the truth is I'm almost never in the mindset to criticize a free bottle. Much of what I like about wine is choosing the bottle for myself. Sifting through the 20-page-too-long (i.e. 21-page) wine list to find a bottle of Rasteau you know isn't marked up beyond standard retail. Asking a store clerk for some help--only to realize he's clearly shilling a quota wine--and immediately picking up the bottle next to his recommendation just to crap on his commission (try helping me find what I really need next time). If there is one absolute truth amongst us bloggers, it's that we really enjoy what we do. We enjoy wine as much as waking up in the morning. We feel the same about food. Our sustenance is a wanting for everything to be an "experience." It's how we get away with so often making close to no sense. A hundred, 10,000, eight. The pageviews will vary, and I genuinely don't care. I don't have a boss. I'm not on a "roadmap to excellence." I don't have to get better or worse. There is no masthead. I'm allowed to be biased. I can change my mind. And I can sit in the dark with my feet up listening to Cold Cave and drinking your wine with a Domino's pizza and cookies. Cut-out cookies I rolled myself, mind you, with an empty bottle of that cab (for finer pastries like croissants or dough that has to be rolled individually like flatbread and kolaches, I prefer the precision of a riesling or Trimbach pinot gris). But, like any gift no matter how bad, I do remember each one of these. And if it's the thought that counts, I count a new friend every time the doorman leaves a tag on my box and I find a small shipper of wines from someone I've never met. I take care to let them settle for a few days. I store them in my Eurocave. And the next time I'm at my local wine shop, I'll perk up if I see your bottle on the shelf. If it's any good, I'll buy some. I'm not a critic; I write about wine, which is really just a symptom of needing to talk about it too much. I don't have a point system. I'm not a judge. Trust that your samples are, however, going to a good place. That they litter my living room, scattering the moonlight that trickles in between the blinds. That they're in my periphery every time I write a new post. A part of everything I do. And if it never helps you sell a bottle, know at least that you've sold me.
February 17, 2010
06 Gypsy Dancer, Oregon Dundee Hills A&G Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir
I wouldn't go so far as to call this an addiction. But, well, maybe it's not wrong to call it an affliction. You need rhythm to move around the constant desire to drink wines like this. I have to tell myself: get through work, the bus ride is shorter than you think, a few quick miles on the mill will cancel out the calories. For godsake, I have other things to do. And then there's that cliche about how can you appreciate anything you do all the time. So I left wine. Well, the trade at least. But it took me a few years to realize how much that was probably for the money; how much I actually left the wine business so I could drink more wine. That a solid career path, a stable relationship, books--that was the only way I'd ever get the resources and security to afford--with money, with time, with perspective--pinot noir. I could've kept it simple, sold more critter labels, and made a decent living. But I always wanted something with the movement inside. Not a flutter of some cartoon wings, a quiver of the pancreas. And that's what pinot gave me. Motion, sometimes slow, sometimes fast. An instant replay of my favorite times. So spread my ashes in the Dundee Hills (well, you'll have to ask my parents or fiancee first, but at least appreciate the hubris for now). To me, that's the free spirit that Gary Andrus was channeling in this, one of his final pinot noir bottlings. The former influential figurehead of the revered Archery Summit estate, who passed away this time last year from complications of pneumonia, lives on. More a continuation of his seminal Oregon project than any sort of revolution, I actually find the Gypsy Dancer wines even more nuanced: an entrechat crossing the typical flavors of black plum, cherry jam, and cassis with spikes of pink and tellicherry peppercorns. You have to slow your reflexes to understand it. Resist the urge to follow one quick taste with another glass. Pardon me, but there's a real story here. And I don't say that lightly or just because it tastes so damn good. I say it because Gary and his wife Christine didn't go about this lightly themselves. It wasn't just another business venture. That's not why you cut your yields so low even Burgundy would balk. It's a wine of new beginnings. Here is who I am now, who I am because of who I was. Familiar, familial. Relational. Passed down. To me and you at the store, at the bar. Sure, we could be so lucky. But also to that brotherhood of winemakers, the Bergstroms, the Haminas, the New Zealanders, the Californians, everything he touched, everyone, his wife, and his daughter: Gypsy. What moves us will not move on.
February 11, 2010
07 Cuatro Pasos, Mencia
Listen. Come close. So, now tell me. How's my breath? Well, yours is pretty terrible, too. But we'll talk some, eat a few tapas, and, I promise you, make out before the moon turns the night blue. Because anything off tonight is as much my fault as anyone else's. It's not me, it's us. That could very well be mencia's slogan. men THEE uh. It tastes a lot like whatever that middle syllable is supposed to be. I never thought a wine could make me google the word dipthong. But watch how your tongue bats the roof of your mouth and you exhale, sigh, calm the tremelo of your slurping winegeek taste. Come on you Ramen-critics-in-another-life. You know who I mean. For the rest of you (god bless you), what I'm saying is that this people- and food-friendly Spaniard is every articulation of the wines you enjoy. The ripe but structured aroma. The subtle tannic reference to Bordeaux. The musk for the man. The fruit that tells his fiancée, yeah, he is so gentle. It moves and changes with us. Inhale. Exhale. Love and hate. This is Major Tom to Ground Control. Ashes to ashes. Funk to funky. Let us all be mencia junkies.
© 2005-2011 Nilay Gandhi