Notes from the Cellar: On the road (continued …)

by Jeff Cox, Wine and Beer Merchandiser

This article was originally published in July 2008

(Chico, Calif.) — Highway 99 narrows to two lanes, a northbound gray ribbon vanishing into distant almond orchards. On either side, a sea of exuberantly green grass wears the morning dew in the early light. The sun hangs low, spreading gold, peach and blood orange-tinted light between the Sierra foothills and a bank of low clouds.

Inside the car it’s tranquillo, save the white noise of the road and the French horns’ and violins’ call and answer. Ten miles down, 650 to go, and Throckmorton’s all-Beethoven soundtrack has just begun.

Throckmorton’s tastes usually run a little more intense, mind you. Not that he isn’t sophisticated — with a discerning palate, season opera tickets, a taste for great Burgundy, and a laser-beam brain. He’s nobody’s rube. But beneath the veneer of a 40-something “adult” there’s the soul of a hyperactive 13-year-old with a predilection for metal.

Me, I’ll take high lonesome, some tasty pedal steel, the twang of a Telecaster and the dirt-kickin’ shuffle of serious honky-tonk. I love everything from Bach to Bartok, but classical music never seemed to harmonize with steel belts hummin’ on the asphalt.

This morning, however, the simple opening theme of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony enchants me like the first waft of cherries, tar, rose petals and spice from a glass of Barolo. It gets me thinking.

Genuine twang is like fine bourbon, assertive and to the point, a tale of home, heartache and desire stripped down to the roots. It’s a well-turned phrase that gets to the point like the smoky bite of well-aged whiskey — short, sweet and plain as day.

Now, turn it up. Full-throttle electric music shouts its message with a vengeance. Like a 90–plus point Napa Cabernet or Walla Walla Syrah, it’s all about sheer amplitude. One hundred decibels or 15 percent alcohol, take your pick, it doesn’t get much more obvious than that.

Not that short and sweet, or big and brash reduce the fundamental truth at the heart of the matter. But short and sweet bypasses the path less travelled, the quiet road that goes where the wild things are — while some truths never sing louder than pianissimo.

But what do I know, anyway? Except that it’s early morning, I need another cup of coffee, and I’m fantasizing about Barolo that’s 600 miles up the road. The third movement opens with the violins playing a simple, five-note theme. It’s going to be a nice drive.

… to be continued

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