La Spinetta, a profound time- and space-warping conversation

June 5, 2013 § 2 Comments

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Several of the glorious rhinoceros-decorated bottles of La Spinetta, surrounding my custom-rigged Riedel Oregon Pinot Noir glass. I know bottles look better in photos when there’s still some wine left, but…well, y’know…

This week in the Portland Press Herald, I write about La Spinetta, a winery that began in Piemonte but has expanded into Tuscany. Their wines from both regions are extraordinary, and somehow the spirit of the Rivetti family who make these wines possible suffuses both regions, and all their terroirs. Wine is about place, but not just place.

A line I originally wrote for the article got cut in the editing process: “The wines of La Spinetta open profound conversations about time.” I stand by that. These wines clue us into how clueless we are about true time.

Here’s something else I wrote for the article, but I cut it out myself due to space considerations:

In fact, you were supposed to have read this article last week, but I flat-out missed my deadline. I’d given the wines the usual few days it takes me to drink, observe, and compose my reactions, but then there was both too much to say and not enough. I had to send a sheepish email to my editor at the last minute confessing a sort of existential collapse, an anguished sense of my own limits. I thought I’d have been done with the wines as usual, but I wasn’t. And the wines certainly weren’t done with me.

True story. I mean, I really did miss my deadline for the column, because I was too taken with the wines to say anything about them. With La Spinetta, everything takes longer than usual. Please, drink these wines, and do the time warp again…

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May Day! Drinkers of the World Unite! Lose commodity-wine fetishism!

May 1, 2013 § 1 Comment

The other possible quotation to have put in that headline is “Ask not what your wine can do for you, but what you can do for your wine.” Kennedy’s birthday is coming up later this month, but today is International Workers Day, so Marx trumps JFK.

Both lines are relevant to my column in today’s Portland Press Herald, wherein I try to loosen the grip of what’s-in-the-glass fetish, and open up the conversation about the true juiciness of wine residing in process. That’s it: Wine is a process, not a product. A living thing, not a lump of money or sense-satisfaction in a convenient tasty-liquid format.

The column is kind of long-winded (big surprise) with perhaps too little payoff, but I felt I needed to write it to set up how I’m going to shift the perspective of future columns somewhat.

Most of it came out of my recent trip to Slovenia and Italy, and several moments of revelation therein. Visiting different winemakers in Vipava, Karst, Trentino, Friuli, and the Veneto, I heard different perspectives and arguments on viticulture and vinification each time: simultaneously, everyone was disagreeing with each other and everyone was right. I wanted them to get together and discuss. I wanted the truth!

But they won’t all get together. So it’s up to me, you, and other interested drinkers to connect the strands. To approach each taste of wine (and/or of life) as if the only important matter is the story, the entire sequence of events and methodologies that led to the wine’s birth, and its ongoing development in bottle, in glass, in mouth, in soul.

You thought you knew what wine was? Hah!

April 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

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A scrumptious Minervois from Benjamin Taillandier

My most recent Portland Press Herald wine column is the third in a series on “natural” wine. Regardless of your feelings on this category of sorts, it’s growing in importance, and the debates are worthwhile. They signal where wine drinking is going in this country, in this world.

This week I try to focus on what to expect from the tastes of natural wine. What to expect is…the unexpected! That’s the point. Some of the wines taste just delicious, some are…interesting. Which can be great, and still delicious, or not good at all. Just like other wine! Either way, familiarize yourselves with them. Your world will open.

clos lojen

The indigenous Bobal grape makes this Manchuela wine

I’ve met a bunch of people lately who are ordering cases, because they’ve found something in wines fermented with natural (“wild”) yeasts and bottled with either no sulfur or a tiny amount, that tastes like life — like a more vivid, lifelike version of life!

Jesus, Priorat’s good

December 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Jack Kerouac, Jean-Luc Godard & Jesus Christ walk into a wine article; who comes out alive? They all do: Priorat has the power to raise the dead. Sounds like a joke but it’s dead serious. Priorat is serious wine. It’s wine to adore, hate or fear. I adore it. It’s got the power, in the words of one of my wine heroes, Rainer Christ, to “set off impressions, visions, possibilities.” Which is why those illustrious gurus make appearances in my latest column.

Thanksgiving wine? Ask the (other) experts…

November 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Today’s column passes the keyboard to some of my colleagues in retailing, as each offers one and only one recommendation for a Thanksgiving wine. I figured, a lot of what we winesellers do this time of year is talk about which wines we’re going to drink at America’s holiest meal, and we hope we can convince customers to buy the “right” wines for that day. Well, here’s part of that ongoing conversation, in print and online.

The cool thing for me was how many suggestions were good. They’re overwhelmingly from northern-latitude, cool-climate regions that prize minerality, low alcohol and vibrancy, over weight, concentration and stunning-ness. It’s just one meal, after all. Anyway, who on earth has a problem with Austria (the big winner), Alsace, Alto Adige or Burgundy?

Rainer Rilke, Pauline Kael, Archibald MacLeish, Lester Bangs: here’s your wine

October 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’m still unsure whether the wine column I wrote this week is especially true or especially balderdash, but dammit I think it’s the former. It might strike you as “over the top” or irrelevant to wine, but at least it’s honest and wine should be about honesty. Most of the feedback has been good, though one reader told me he wondered why I was so upset.

I’m not upset at all! Just impatient with the consumerist mentality of wine-buying (ha! what kind of oversensitive jerk gets upset about consumerism when we’re talking about buying?!), and unwilling anymore to cordon off parts of my actual life (poetry, music, heart) from the other parts (wine, food).

So, if you want a “hot list” of what to buy next, read Wine Spectator. If you want to come along as I try against the odds to feel my way into a mode of being in which everything is connected and we react to objects and experiences of value with love rather than wallets, read this!

Wine = reality = truth ≠ language

July 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

My latest column in the Portland Press Herald acknowledges the ultimate futility of (wine) writing, while simultaneously rescuing it from ignominy all the same. Despite, with qualification, what Eric Asimov says, there actually are good reasons to try to adhere language to wine, even though it often fails so miserably and sounds ridiculous. Just because a wine has “poopy elements” doesn’t mean it tastes like poop. And it sure doesn’t mean you won’t love the wine.

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