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September 29, 2010

08 Brick House, Pinot Noir Ribbon Ridge Select

I left the wine business because we used to pull vines off the side of my house. Nobody'd asked. But we were bored, they went up three stories, and our 85-pound primary school bodies could pull them clean off. Twenty-five feet of solid vine. Like a fucking beanstalk. And vine after vine, all summer long, I have no idea which neighbor I was with. There was the Filipino one, five years older, probably a loser in school, who blew off his ring finger holding an M-80 that he'd asked me hold. There was the first black guy I met. There was an ugly girl who probably just placed fifth in America's Next Top Model. There wasn't an internet. And it took me three weeks to beat Zelda. Vines and busted fire hydrants, car alarms and Lemonheads were all we had. It's not just that that's how simple and pure and nostalgic this Brick House pinot is. It's that there was a smell to those vines against the chalky, red brick of my parents' first home and the bitter dandelion snow beneath us. I've been reading about how 2008 in Oregon might be one of "those" vintages. But I haven't been writing about it. Because that, of course, is the easy way out. To be honest with you, I have three vintages of Brick House in my cooler, and randomly grabbed this one without looking at the label. It's just as well. The way I thought maybe those vines would carry long into the sky, this pinot noir is a magical stalk to be climbed with hush and wonder. I wasn't landscaping for my allowance--I was pulling vines. And so I wasn't selling wines, I was trying to share some time with you. It's a classically Burgundian wine, meaning balanced and nuanced to the point of lineage. Its light, slightly sharp aroma gives to a wispy palate of black cherry skins, fennel gastrique, allspice, mukhwas, watermelon, tea, and white button mushrooms. All metaphor and history and lyricism aside, this is tremendously elegant, moving wine. I wish I were younger so it could be one of my first and help shape what I think about pinot noir. In that way, I consider it seminal, or at least elemental, built from the very roots of what it means--not to be "great" wine, but to be part of those precious few degrees of separation in Oregon, where the most humble of people make the most proud of wines. This is one of those wines. Not just a bottle, but a dot on the map. Spotted in ink. Bold and, we can hope, bleeding off onto its sides.

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