Learning about wine, for me, has been most affected by the stories, the ones I experience as well as those that are told to me and the ones I recount to others. A mentor in my graduate program recently encouraged me to tell a story in an essay I was submitting for a scholarship, to get rid of the stale, formulaic cover letter writing I assumed was the “safe” route to success. However, just as the pioneers of early winemaking in the U.S. did not achieve success by being safe or formulaic, it has become apparent to me that neither is educating my passion for wine. This, my friends, has become a process of storytelling and that is what propels me to stick with it in spite of a busy schedule and nights when I would rather sit in front of my computer watching reruns of Californication (although that still happens sometimes). I get so much from listening to winemakers talk about their experiences, reading the stories other wine bloggers post about their adventures, and exchanging sentiments with a friend over an especially beautiful wine.
This past Saturday, I attended a tasting event at Sundance Wine Cellars in Eugene. I have traversed this tiny little town, stopping in wine shops and markets in an attempt to locate the best selection of vino I could find, and had no success until I stepped through the doors of Sundance. It proclaims itself as possessing the largest selection of wine in Oregon and the largest selection of Oregon wines in the world. Every Friday and Saturday, the shop hosts tastings, so a group of us met up to check it out. Thank you to Aris for snapping all the pictures, as I was far too distracted by the immense selection of wine to get my wits about me.
You can understand my distraction, as row after row of wines from France, Italy, Spain, Chile, Argentina, Oregon and Napa feasted on my proclivity for distraction. I tried to remember what I had learned about wine so far, and was beyond excited to realize I now had a go-to shop for all my wine education needs. You see, I am a extremely sensual person, meaning in order to fully absorb knowledge, it works best for me to taste, smell, and feel it. If I am learning about a white wine from Alsace for example, I can read facts about it all day long until I am blue in the face, but to truly get it I need to pair my reading with action. Thus, I will drive over to my newfound wine store, go through the process of selecting a Alsatian dry Riesling, and proceed through the ritual of sight, smell, and taste. Then the wine from Alsace will become real to me and I will then believe I have truly learned something about it.
The same logic can be applied to my knowledge of Burgundy whites. I had the great fortune to taste a glass of Domaine Rémi Jobard Meursault les Chevalières 2006 on Saturday evening at Sundance, and as I expressed via my Twitter, it was an almost spiritual experience. Robert Parker talks about the tunnel vision he experiences whenever he tastes a wine. The world drops away and the only things that exists are the person and the liquid in the glass. I took a sniff of that beautiful French chardonnay, my eyelids slid down, and I began to grasp what winemakers speak of when they discuss terroir. I smelled and tasted the dirt, the sun, the place where the wine originated, and it was grand.
Wines communicate a narrative of a place and a time and we cling to their stories. Why not emulate them and share our stories with one another?