Friends, Wine and Nuance

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe other night, six friends came over for a wine tasting, friends found through different aspects of my life, some through the ritual of church, some through the shared experience of raising children. We are all at different points in our lives, working part time or full time or home with the kids. The evening’s conversation flowed with humor, rolled along with reflection and intellectual curiosity, never stalling, but lingering at times as it changed direction, filtering through our different perspectives.

We compared two French blends, one a Bordeaux, Chateau de Macard, 2009, the other a southern Rhone, Ortas Rasteau, 2007. The Bordeaux blend was 50% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot, and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cote du Rhone was 50% Granache, 35% Syrah, and 15% Mouvedre, both from the same country, of the same color, but completely different regions and blends. What would we learn? We were hoping to perceive and understand the nuanced differences of the two blends.

Chateau de Macard, 2009

Chateau de Macard, 2009


Like a lush forest, the Bordeaux drew me in with its aromas of wood and soil. The wine rolled through my mouth with a texture of medium body and crisp acidity hinting at flavors of coffee and sour cherry, lingering for several minutes after the swallow

Ortas, 2007

Ortas, 2007

The Ortas Rasteau was a little lighter, and a little more acidic than the Bordeaux. The wine began with aromas of anise and vanilla continuing along with cherry and just a hint of olive. The tannins were soft and like the Bordeaux, the Rhone lingered after the swallow

La Haite du Fief, 2009

La Haite du Fief, 2009

Our next tasting was comparing two Syrahs, one old world, one new. The Cave de Tain from Crozes-Hermitage opened with a smoky umami aroma, earthy and herbal. This was the heaviest wine of the night, but with good acidity and medium tannins to keep a balanced structure.

Thorn-Clark, Shotfire, 2010

Thorn-Clark, Shotfire, 2010

The new world Syrah was from Barossa, Thorn-Clark, Shotfire, 2010. The aromas said oak, the flavors sour cherry with a citrus quality followed by licorice. It was acidic, lingering in the aftertaste

All four wines were well balanced and given high marks from Wine Spectator. But each one, through its individual aromas and flavors, had a little different story to tell.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Other Side of Fear and Rain Shadows

When my son was seven, he was determined to pass level 3 of swimming. But to do that entailed diving off the diving board. That was something he had never done, and he was scared. He tried at every lesson, and chickened out every time. One day on the way to the pool I paraphrased to him a quote I had found on-line. “You know, Bob, courage isn’t not being afraid. Courage is being afraid, and doing it, anyway.”

Everyone’s afraid of something. There are the big universal fears like death and failure. But for most of us, our daily lives are full of small fears. Any time we do something that is outside of our comfort zone, more than likely that discomfort is caused by fear; spending time with people we don’t know well, speaking publicly, doing anything for the first time or even trying a new food. “I’m not comfortable with this,” often means, “I’m a little afraid.” Oh, but what great freedom it is when we are able to release our fears. Fear holds us back. But courage often gives us a wonderful sense of flourishing forward unabated, as if we have become unstoppable. Often, the power that courage gives us  is the freedom to experience and create beautiful things.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat do Mendoza, Eastern Washington, Alsace, Victoria, and South Island all have in common? I’ll give you a hint. It has to do with the Andes, the Cascades, the Vosges, the Great Dividing Range, and the Southern Alps. They all benefit from the rain-shadow effect. When a rain cloud moves into a mountainous region heavy and pregnant with rain, she is too heavy to lift herself above the mountain. It is only by releasing her precipitation that she is able to rise up high enough to clear the peaks and continue eastward. This creates, on the eastern side of the mountain a terroir perfect for vineyards. Because of the rain-shadow effect, areas such as Mendoza, Eastern Washington, Alsace, Victoria, and South Island are optimal for growing grapes.

Bob wasn’t able that summer to overcome his fear of diving off the diving board. But he was able, in spite of his fear, to make the dive.

Sometimes we have to release our fears in order to create. Other times, when our fears won’t release us, we have to power through to get to the other side of scared.