Notes from the Cellar: In other's words …

by Jeff Cox, Wine and Beer Merchandiser

This article was originally published in December 2008

There’s nothing quite like starting your day with a caffè doppio in Milan and finishing it with a Maritime Pacific Ale in the shadow of the Ballard Bridge.

I highly recommend it. I’m here to testify that a big dose of the world at large works wonders to replace bad juju and myopia with big-picture perspective — while providing fresh grist for the screed mill. Voilà …

Given my ‘druthers, I’ll take a humble two or three star over a luxury hotel any day. But then, I’d rather drink a 15-dollar bottle of Rhône or Tuscan wine than a bottle of Leonetti or Screaming Ego. And that’s not beside the point, either.

Luxury, be it in hotels or bottles of wine, is little more than a voluptuous homogenization. Traveling first class allows one to move about the world while never having to endure such petty nuisances as foreign language, food or people who fail to show appropriate deference.

Luxury offers comfortable, familiar plushness, with a few carefully chosen knick-knacks thrown in to give a sense of “local” color. The day that I can’t turn down a bed or carry my own bag is the day that I jette l’éponge (throw in the towel).

When it comes to lovely adult beverages, luxury is merely the upscale version of “international style” — the studied avoidance of any real style at all. Patterned after many successful political campaigns, “international” eschews actual soul, substituting homogenized, amped-up, sweet, über fruit, lavish new oak and mind-numbing alcohol levels. It’s the flavor of everywhere — and nowhere at all. Just the sort of thing for people who like that sort of thing.

Fortunately, the world is full of people who speak a local patois of anything but English and know it’s not about making a pile of lucre, but making a living and living well. It’s a place where ordinary, salt-of-the-earth people use inspiration and passion to make wines that speak the language of the dirt from which they’re born.

Like a real coffee, you can’t get it “to go.” You can make wine from nebbiolo grapes grown in Yakima, or syrah grown in Walla Walla but you can’t make Barolo or Châteauneuf du Pâpe from them. Yet given a chance to put down deep roots and express themselves in the local dialect, those vines can make wines that tell amazing tales about the real Walla Walla or Yakima — in an inimitable patois.

In the end, it’s really all about love. Make every glass count.

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