Eugene Weekly : Wine : 12.10.2009


The Gift of Wine
For a memorable season
By Lance Sparks

Every year around this time, we here at Wine Investigations get into our Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/Solstice jangle and just jingle through the coming weeks. We deck our halls, don gay apparel, dash through the snow (rain, fog, ice, whachagot), try to mix in some naughty with nice, add dollops of spice and generally get ready for rounds and rounds of celebrations with pals and family, anticipating the coming of the Uber Elf his-own-self. In short, we feel the buzz in a big way.

In part, our work, just by its nature, pumps up the buzz. In wineworld, we pretty much live on our noses, ’cause such a huge portion of the wine experience involves aroma, and, as most folk know, aromas can trigger deep memories and associations powerful and primal. The scent of baking pumpkin, with cinnamon and allspice; a whiff of cranberry relish and roast bird; the olfactory symphony of pine and fir emanating from a Christmas tree; a freshly sliced quince; any of these can throw us into a head-spin that rips decades off our psychic calendars, and we’re suddenly 8 years old and dizzy with delight, head swimming in a miasm of scent, staring across a feast-laden table, one corner of which blocks the sight of a gleaming new, bright-red Radio Flyer wagon. See it? 

Wine lovers live for this kind of riff: We dip our noses into a glass and inhale deeply and let those volatile phenols send waves of impulses across receptors, uncorking limbic cascades of past experiences. Just one example: Over Thanksfeasting weekend, we rolled out to Monroe, to Broadley Vineyards’ tasting room, to sample the first pinot noirs from the ’09 harvest. Barrel-tasting it’s called, and sometimes all we get are hints and allegations; the wines are very active, undergoing daily changes, some of them so emphemeral that what we taste now might or might not remain through the next year when the wine is actually released. We’re tasting promises. Some will be kept, some maybe not.

Broadley’s new pinots — all of them — were exciting, but then we came to the one designated 2009 Jessica (after Morgan Broadley’s wife):  One sniff and a flood of memories wafted up — a ’47 Richebourg, a ’99 Domaine Leroy, a lavish and lascivious dinner with Kat … The aromas/flavors evoked nuances of cherries, spices, roses, barnyards, on and on. One sip demanded another.

This is why the gift of wine works wonders for lovers of the vine: It makes memories, some so durable as to defeat Time itself.

For a memorable season, try these:

Valley View 2007 Viognier ($22): floral, sure, big draughts of white flowers, but firm and stylish, a lovely match with fresh crab.

Patricia Green Cellars 2006 Panama White ($45): A sauvignon blanc like no other, so creamy and rich with citrus, peach and floral notes. The bottle itself is worth saving.

Meriwether 2000 Prestige Cuvée ($30): Among the best of sparkling wines we’ve tasted, a balanced blend of pinot noir and chardonnay, with needle-point bubbles, just superb and a remarkable bargain in this category.

Mole and I, and all the crew at Investigations and at EW, wish all of you the sweetest and most memorable of holidays.