Notes from the Cellar: Resolve, et cetera

by Jeff Cox, Beer and Wine Merchandiser

This article was originally published in January 2009

There comes a time when birthdays and brand new calendars make a person think. As more and more calendar pages find their way into the round file marked “history” (not recyclable, sorry), one commences to think even harder.

Then there comes a day when you realize that the damned glass really is half empty, even when you look at it with your best pair of rose-colored spectacles. Of course, if you’re lucky or smart, you’ll have that particular “aha!” moment long before the grail truly is half gone, when it’s still just a sip or two shy of where it was the last time you thought about it. In either case, you’re onto something.

In this line of work, finding something to drink never is a problem. Even prodigious drinkers, such as W.C. Fields, Jack Kerouac or Charles Bukowski, likely would be daunted at the volume of sample bottles that come my way.

I realized a while back that I had settled into a routine where I came home, tasted a few wines, took notes on the ones that showed promise, dumped the rest — and continued sipping slowly throughout the evening.

I wasn’t consuming alarming quantities, wasn’t getting hammered, and didn’t think there was any danger that I was becoming a lush. But the point was that wine was becoming a routine and I often was not particularly aware of what I was drinking. We’re talking wine as Muzak.

Drinking, of course, comes with a whole set of potential messy issues. But in this case, that’s not the point. The crux of the matter is that whether we’re talking food, wine, sex, music or simply walking down the street, the contents of the glass are finite, so you’ve gotta make ’em count.

“Aha!” moments abound. A couple months ago, I tasted a selection of Italian wines with Master Sommelier, Laura Williamson. Laura’s palate is formidable, her knowledge daunting, her memory voluminous. But what’s astounding is the zeal with which she approaches her métier and the abundant, unabashed joy she takes in it.

As we tasted, Laura paused repeatedly to apologize “for being such a geek” amid discovering and describing astonishing levels of nuance and complexity in the wines. No apologies necessary, Laura, and to say it was a pleasure is a tremendous understatement. Imagine listening to jazz with Wynton Marsalis and you get the idea.

Fast forward to now. I resolve to be a geek. Whether it’s music, books, food, conversations, or just walking down the street sniffing the breeze, I aim to go forth with eyes, ears, nose, mouth and mind wide open — and never to fill my glass with something that doesn’t offer character, integrity — and pleasure.


Also in this issue

Your co-op, January 2009

Talk to the Board, Board meeting report, 2009 board candidate slate, and more

Shopping and eating on a budget

No doubt the financial meltdown is causing us to rethink spending on even the most basic necessities — and food is no exception. Some people are choosing more economical meats (indeed, sales of Spam are skyrocketing), while others are eating out less frequently; 45 percent of Americans report cutting down on the number of meals they ate out in 2008.

News bites, January 2009

Washington state organic survey, New NOSB chair, EU allows deviant fruits and vegetables, and more