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09.30.2007

When Wine Tastes the Best

Wine carries with it so much baggage that it can be hard to forget how to really enjoy it. Not that most wine lovers ever don't enjoy their wine, but when you love the stuff so much, it's hard to avoid having the wine be the focus of your attention. The fact that wine carries with it so much ceremony (cut the foil, pop the cork, smell it, taste it, pour) and so much information (the vintage, the producer, the vineyard, the region, the alcohol level, the grape variety, and everything else we know about the wine), makes it pretty difficult for the wine lover to enjoy wine the way that most wine consumers do -- without paying attention to the wine at all.

I've heard this condition likened to the situation of the movie critic or filmmaker who always finds it difficult to just "watch" a movie. But that's really what we wine lovers need to do, at least sometimes. We need to just drink wine without paying attention to the wine at all.

Because, as we all know, life is not about wine (unless we make wine for a living) instead, wine is about life.

I was reminded of this over the weekend, when I took an (unfortunately rare these days) jaunt away from civilization to go fly-fishing for a couple of days in the Sierras with my dad, who has recently recovered from a heart operation. I threw few bottles of wine in the cooler before I left, tossed in a bag of ice, my wading boots (yes, in the cooler, to keep the bottles from banging around) and headed out to the mountains.

After spending an afternoon fishing in the sunshine, catching several four-pound rainbow trout from a small private stream, and experiencing the first snowstorm of the season (replete with thunder and lightning) all within the space of four hours, we retreated upstream to the cabin that we rented and watched the snow continue to fall. When our boots were off and our hands were warmed up enough to operate again, I pulled a bottle out of the cooler, the label wet and slipping off, and poured some wine into porcelain coffee mugs which we sipped as we watched the snow fall on a moonlit meadow and a bunch of confused cows.

And that's why the wine tasted so damn good.

For a little while, no one cared what they we were drinking out of those mismatched coffee cups, it was just fantastic, and the right thing to have in hand while enjoying each other's company and while shaking our heads in bemusement at the beauty and unpredictability of nature at her finest.

And then the fishing guide asked what vintage it was, and I was back into wine geek mode.

But I didn't mind. I know the recipe for the best tasting wine in the world, it just takes a little work to get it right.

Comments (29)

abdrury wrote:
10.01.07 at 5:05 AM

Very, very nice. Suffice to say this piece is enlightening and liberating!

Good day sir

ali wrote:
10.01.07 at 5:35 AM

Thanks for sharing Alder - A great way to start the week - ALI

razmaspaz wrote:
10.01.07 at 9:05 AM

I don't know if I should be more impressed by "the best wine in the world", or the 4 lb rainbows. This weekend for me it was "the best scotch in the world" and 8" brook trout.

Wine Scamp wrote:
10.01.07 at 11:23 AM

What a great story! It's funny how one's attention to the juice can get in the way of one's simple enjoyment of the juice. Thanks for describing a perfect wine moment.

Doc wrote:
10.01.07 at 12:00 PM

Having just returned from a similar journey along the Snake through Id, Mt,& WY with my daughter, enjoying the fruits of my cellar, it is refreshing that someone else also enjoys the content as opposed to the vessel.

Geoff Smith wrote:
10.01.07 at 2:19 PM

Alder,

Have you read any of the various writings of Jim Harrison?

Geoff

Alder wrote:
10.01.07 at 2:51 PM

Geoff,

He appears occasionally in Kermit Lynch's newsletters I know, but haven't read much more than that. Got any recommendations?

10.01.07 at 3:28 PM

What a delightful story! The "experience" has as much to do with the wine as the chemistry or art of the winemaker.

greg wrote:
10.01.07 at 7:09 PM

I never enjoy wine as much at tastings as I do at home over dinner or in a restaurant. The context is very important for me.

Marco wrote:
10.01.07 at 10:31 PM

I can share a similar feeling:

I realized that having dinner with friends that are not wine experts makes me focus more on the pleasure of drinking a good bottle of wine than on the wine itself.

10.02.07 at 2:23 PM

I couldn't agree more, Alder.

Always great to read your musings . . .

Arthur wrote:
10.02.07 at 3:29 PM

Very tenderly written, Alder. It shows a soft side. I like it.

Rusty Eddy wrote:
10.02.07 at 3:31 PM

Thanks, Alder, for a great wine and fishing memory that mirrors my own of my dad, who died last year. He was a martini guy, but also knew that a crisp white wine (he didn't care where it was from or which son bottled it) was the best thing with fresh trout.

Rusty

Jeff B wrote:
10.02.07 at 4:28 PM

Alder-

Re: Harrison: "The Raw and the Cooked" and "Braided Creek: A conversation in poetry (with Ted Hooser)" are both tremendous books, and are highly recommended... best enjoyed with a bottle of some obscure Loire red from Kermit, I think.

Regards,

Jeff

Zach wrote:
10.02.07 at 5:37 PM

Great story Alder. You got me nodding and smiling in agreement.

See you Friday.

Matthew wrote:
10.03.07 at 11:01 AM

I enjoyed this post - and read it probably more closely than I read other posts; indeed, this is my first time I've been moved to comment.

elsbeth wrote:
10.03.07 at 12:21 PM

Wow, Alder, this is lovely. I'll sit out under the stars tonight and toast to you! Thanks for a great post!

lagramiere wrote:
10.03.07 at 10:14 PM

The Sierras, snow, wine from a mug! As those images played through my mind I was green with envy!!!!!!

Ulla Greenberg wrote:
10.08.07 at 10:03 AM

i'll drink to that!!!!!!!!!

Ron wrote:
10.15.07 at 8:37 AM

Great Blog, great heart felt story. True life is always the best blog. Alder, we call those times "moments". Here is a blog we did sorta like yours the first of the year...Monday, January 15th, 2007

Can the “Moment” change how a wine tastes?

Have ever had wine sitting next to a camp fire, outdoor fire pit or fireplace? And then; did you notice how good that wine taste? Maybe it was a first date, a boat ride on Lake Tahoe, the Grand Canyon or your 1st or 25th wedding anniversary. It could have been a sumptuous meal at a restaurant along the coast over looking the bay or harbor. It could have been before a “night to remember”. Maybe it was in the Alps, Hawaii, Europe, Asia or the Caribbean islands. Maybe it was the music, the song, the mood or what he or she was wearing. It could have even been the label on the bottle or the smell coming from the kitchen. Everyone can recall a wonderful event that was so special time almost stopped. You know one of those days or evening that you don’t want to end.
I believe the atmosphere, the view, the location, the celebration, the room, the special occasion can drastically change how a wine tastes. Here is the kicker, have you ever purchased that magical wine expecting the same results and been a little disappointed. Were your expectations so high that the wine could not live up to that “moment”? I know we have all done this and then looked at each other and said “it’s just not the same”. The reason it is not the same is because sometimes it is hard to replicate that exact “Moment” in time. It’s as if the stars were all lined up just for you that night. The moon was brighter, the night warmer or colder. The smells were better, the food taste amazing, the view fantastic and your company looked great.
You see; that’s the joy of opening another bottle of wine, it takes us away from our day to day grind, especially if you enjoy each sip as if it’s your last. Was it the wine, I want to believe so. This is why there are so may venues dedicated to wine and wine tasting. We all can attest to how much wine can make our daily lives just a little better. Even if you can not create that exact moment with that wine there is always another bottle to help create another memorable time. Happy “Moment” hunting!
Can’t wait for you to tell us what you think??

Aloha

Ron

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