Notes from the Cellar: Running laps

by Jeff Cox, Wine and Beer Merchandiser

This article was originally published in February 2009

Lily Tomlin once wondered whether life is too short to take “**it,” or whether life is too short to mind “**it.” When you think about it, it’s a question that’s as profound as it is humorous, one that gets right to the crux of how one chooses to navigate one’s way through “life.” (Isn’t it interesting how the really deep stuff is always funny or just plain absurd on some level?)

It’s a question I’ve kicked around from time to time and, as I near the end of my fiftieth lap around the sun, I can report with a reasonable degree of confidence that the answer is both. Or neither. The real trick is in knowing when to turn the other cheek and when to dig in your heels.

In big-time, “real” wine publications, there’s a yearly summing-up — be it Wine Spectator’s “Hot 100” (a list of what the genteel practitioners of gracious living should be drinking) or Robert Parker’s reminiscences about epic meals at hallowed temples of cuisine and the absurdly rare bottles with which he’s washed them down. Et cetera.

I’d like to offer something similar but my year’s tasting notes aren’t nearly extensive enough to render a definitive list. While I’ve dined with great satisfaction on more occasions than I can count, I’ve neither the volition nor the notches in my belt to go fork to fork with Mr. Parker. Instead, let me offer observations from this most recent orbit.

Wine provides reliable metaphors for life’s riddles, big or small. And vice-versa.
The number of slick, high-tech gizmos in a winery generally is inversely proportionate to the character and soul of the wine they’re purported to “make.” This algorithm also applies to marketing budgets, celebrity enologists, and “barrel regimens.”

Curmudgeon, cynicism and criticism are three of the most frequently misused, mis-defined words in the English language. Look ’em up. Similarly, there’s a big difference between idealism, innocence and “go-ahead-and-steal-my-lunch-money” naïveté.

The more a winery boasts about the terroir and “minerality” in their wines, the less likely its wines show anything but overripe fruit, too much oak, or both.

France, Italy and Spain still offer some of the world’s greatest, most character–laden wines — and by far the most bang for the buck.

Ease, accessibility and the path of least resistance aren’t necessarily good things. The world isn’t a simple place and its depths and complexities are arrived at only with thought and effort. It never gets easier — only better.

Finally, a disclaimer, a promise and a resolution, all in one. Like my amigo Throckmorton, I call ’em the way I see ’em.

While some of the stuff in this periodic screed may rub some fur the wrong way, the purpose is to cut the BS, not promote it. Ergo, I promise to tell it the way I see it, sacred cows be damned — and resolve to just get better at it. Santé, y’all.

Also in this issue

Life in the margins

The Willits farm in Washington’s Dungeness Valley encompasses many components of a native environment. Despite appearances, this environment is largely the result of human effort. John Willits planted his willows and the windbreaks that guard the limits of his beet field. He dug his pond, broadened the margins between his fields, and let them go wild. Not long ago, some might have questioned the wisdom of surrendering productive farmland.

News bites, February 2009

Washington farm statistics, Weight gain linked to recession?, Color additives from insects, and more

Your co-op, February 2009

Talk to the Board, Board meeting report, Elections coming, and more