Notes from the Cellar: Prelude to the sequel

by Jeff Cox, Beer and Wine Merchandiser

This article was originally published in December 2009

Here we go again (already). Another lap around the sun almost done.

With mere weeks remaining of the annual descent into darkness, it’s time to have a look around before commencing the long, slow climb back into the light. Perhaps it’s because it coincides with trading in the used calendar for a fresh set of months. Perhaps it’s the darkness (what does the new year feel like on the other side of the equator — or even in California?).

In any case, the hibernal equinox inspires a measure of introspection and assessment that just doesn’t happen in June. It’s time to take stock, to make a few lists — one for the things from this last go-round that are worth turning into habits, and another for the stuff that requires a prompt and permanent cure.

Here then, is some of the best of aught — nine as I saw it, stuff that called forth the muse, floated my boat, and ultimately changed the course of my ship.

The Languedoc

Every time I visit this region, its spell of enchantment grows stronger, as does my thirst for its wines. The Romans knew this place; their traces are everywhere. So are the ghosts of the Cathars, a religious group that was exterminated by the Catholic Church in a crusade that has been described as one of the greatest disasters in European history.

One hears echoes of that past in Occitan, the regional dialect that once was one of France’s greatest literary languages. The Languedoc is a place of contrasts, at once verdant and dry, welcoming and forbidding.

It’s also a feast for the senses, with its magical light and intoxicating aromas of wild juniper, pine, cistus, truffle oak and wild herbs, to name just a few. Those savors and that soul are a bright thread that runs through the wines of the region, wines that offer some of the most exciting flavors and values available.

The Gorge

Destiny? Serendipity? This is where east meets west, dry meets wet, and desert meets mountain and maritime. It’s where some of Washington’s most exciting wines are being made by a group of passionate, committed, fiercely independent producers. It’s where inspiration forms an alliance between Old World grace and style, and the inimitable character of Washington fruit.

Like that magical madeleine in Proust’s “Remembrance of Things Past,” a great bottle of wine should take you places. It should inspire your senses and leave you reaching for words to describe the flavors that strum those resonant strings in your memory and soul.

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