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The Cruelest Month

Truth dare not speak to us, except in wine

Maybe the great poet T. S. Eliot had it right and April is the cruelest month, but March has been pretty nasty, and not just for weather. Pick a region, pick a country, and we often find nightmare tales of human cruelty. It seems a particularly vicious time for violent repression, especially of women — oh, and journalists (more than 900 killed since 1992, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists), anyone inclined to speak truth.

Lies seem to be the order of the day, and telling truth can get a person killed, or worse. Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, is paying the price, hounded and pursued, his life shredded, for exposing the truth beneath “diplomatic” lies. The poor soldier who allegedly slipped “secret” documents to WikiLeaks, Private Bradley Manning, has undergone nearly two years of imprisonment (including undisguised torture), with no relief in sight—and no trial.

Of course, it’s almost always been against the law to tell the truth, going back far beyond Copernicus and Galileo. Why? Could the reason be that the brutality of power likes to dress in the costumes of myth and fantasy? Emperors love to parade their newest clothes. But what would happen if we just told the truth?

These and related questions came to me just yesterday when I was chatting with my old pal T. Lee. Like me, T reads a lot of non-fiction, history and such, which means nearly constant contact with terrifying information. What’s strange, though — and here’s an a previously hidden truth — is that we’re both unreformed Romantics: despite all we know and all we learn, all evidence to the contrary, we still believe that most human beings are kind, decent, rational and peace-loving. 

All right, that might not be much of a revelation, not like admitting that I actually like some merlots. But it’s important to acknowledge certain facts. It can be a beginning.

Try to imagine how the world might change if, say, Rush Limbaugh suddenly admitted that, after all these years and all those rants, he’s always been a closet Homo sapiens. Wow. Would advertisers return to his show? Would he lose listeners, or gain some? Would it change his hat size, or his relationship to those big cigars?

Ah, well, In vino veritas: There’s truth in wine.

AlexEli Vineyard and Winery is located in the east Willamette Valley, suspicious in itself, but these folks are also deeply committed to growing good grapes and making superb wines, particularly in the style of Alsace (a region of, yes, France) exhibiting a respect for flavors and character that indicate latent Homo sapiens tendencies with artistic undertones. We promise to investigate vigorously, starting with more AlexEli 2010 Muller-Thurgau ($15—pronounced MOO-ler-TER-gow), a white wine made from a Riesling hybrid. The varietal is not widely known or popular in the U.S., but it’s widely planted in Germany and was used to make really insipid, semisweet wines like Liebfraumilch. Given some love, as at ElexEli, we get lively, floral/pear/peach flavors with just a touch of sweetness, balanced by crisp acidity, truly a match for spring veggies and creamy pastas.

Seek it: Lone Oak 2008 Pinot Noir Reserve ($19). The vineyard’s in Monroe, hotbed of fine pinot, home to Broadley. The 2008 vintage was terrif and this is true pinot: medium body, charming spiced-cherry notes, careful balance, delish.

So what about Ehlers Estate 2007 Merlot, Napa ($40)? Owned by medical docs who donate all proceeds to heart research, the truth of this wine … nah, you probably can’t handle it. But it would set you free.