Notes from the Cellar: On the Road

by Jeff Cox, Wine and Beer Merchandiser

This article was originally published in April 2008

(With apologies to Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson)

(Cannes) — “Pour vous, prix confidentiel,” he says in a conspiratorial tone, pulling yet another price list from his brief case. He puts the sheet of paper on the desk, looks me in the eye and lowers his voice, “Confidentiel, vous comprennez?

Eh oui, bien entendu,” I respond. He glances from side to side at his two “collègues” for effect, then, apparently satisfied, slides the paper across the desk for me to read.

The Gallo folks may have written the book on sales tactics but they don’t have a thing on this old boy. Still, in spite of the sales job, I’m not buying. The wines are pleasant enough and technically correct but lack the character I’m looking for, showing the sort of homogeneity that’s comes when you produce a couple million bottles a year.

Oh well. I have other options — thousands of them.

My walk to school used to take me across the interstate. I don’t think that a day passed when I didn’t look longingly at that ribbon of asphalt and the wall of mountains into which it disappeared, some forty miles up the road.

The mountains and their distant mystery beckoned with the promise of adventure, while the highway offered the means to get there, a ticket out of my daily oscillation between school and home.

Finally, one clear, cold day shortly after my fourteenth birthday I cashed that ticket in, stuck out my thumb and headed north. My taste for travel thus whetted, I haven’t been able to stand still since. Who wants the same flavor or view day after day, when there’s always another bend to round or another glass to taste?

There’s nothing like hitting the road for getting a sense of one’s place in the world. It’s a question of scale — the further back you stand from the big picture, the smaller your own little pixel appears. It’s a humbling reality check.

(Montpellier) — The sheer size of the exposition is daunting, 12 halls the size of large warehouses or aircraft hangars housing 1,600-and-some-odd wine producers, each with a full range of wines to present. I’ve got an embarrassment of options — and some serious work to do.

Onward. Fifteen paces, a left turn and the words “Lirac” and “Tavel” jump out of the periphery. I’m ready to start this, the sixth straight day of tasting, on a delectably refreshing note. “Bonjour …

( … to be continued)

Also in this issue

Pacific Northwest's first Green Festival

With its focus on sustainability, Seattle is a natural place to host the nation’s largest “green” consumer show, the Green Festival, a joint project of Global Exchange and Co-op America.

Insights by Goldie: How sweet it isn't: GM sugar beets

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — to its shame! — recently approved a request by Monsanto to increase by 5,000 percent the amount of the toxic herbicide (glyphosate) residues that sugar beets can contain. The roots are the storage unit and producers of the sugar! Now there’s a tasty treat for the kiddies.

The hands that feed us.

When we think about the food we eat, we may wonder about how and where the food was grown. But rarely do we think about the two million farm workers nationwide — and the 300,000 here in Washington — who tend and harvest the fruits and vegetables we enjoy so much.