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February 5, 2015

In his peripatetic novel, The English Major, Jim Harrison nailed down what we need to know about love — this being Love’s month — and wine: “Desire,” he wrote, “is not subject to logic.” We love how — and whom — we love just because we do, damnitall.

December 31, 2014

I hunkered in my chair, rolling behind the desk, periodically gazing down through grimy windows 17 floors above Eugene’s winter-wet streets. Derelicts and “travelers” huddled in the park, smoking, yakking, looking to score, ducking cops. Through the pebbled glass on the office door, I caught sight of a deformed shadow. The door creaked open.

December 4, 2014

Christmas? Already? Light the lights, jingle those bells, let’s wassail all season long. It’s a love fest. Quick switch from giving thanks for our gifts, to giving gifts, with our thanks — and lots of love.

Now, you might imagine that because you have a wine fiend on your gift list you have this one in the bag: Plunk for a jug of plonk, plop into glitzy bag, designate, done.

Not so fast. True, there are thousands of decent wines in stores, and gobs of wine-related gadgets, but getting a wine gift just right can be challenging.

November 6, 2014

Slumped against the grimy wall, I rode the wheezing elevator, creaking and clanking, to the 15th floor of the old high-rise in downtown Eugene, then ambled down the hall, dodging peeling linoleum, stopped at our office door, Wine Investigations, flaking black letters on frosted glass. The door was ajar, Mole obviously already at work. I pushed in, tossed my ragged fedora on a hook, surveyed our “lab.” I couldn’t suppress the dread that rose in my chest.

October 16, 2014

I leaned back in my chair, propped my feet on my battle-scarred desk, stared out the window on downtown Eugene and watched as sheets of rain marched across the streets and flattened the tops of the maples. Even on the 17th floor of the burg’s oldest high-rise, the window wore a grimy film. But our office-cum-lab was spotless; obviously, Mole and his wife, Molly, had held us together while I meandered through political nightmares.

September 4, 2014

It’s time for our annual rendition of “September Song,” ’cause September is wine time. Just as a fr’instance, on Labor Day weekend, almost every Oregon winery/tasting room opens, even many not normally open to the public, and they dress up: music usually, nibbles sometimes, special events of various sorts and, of course, lotsa wine. In case you missed, make a calendar note for next year. Plan a major gig. Get out in the Oregon backcountry, so beautiful, so bountiful, it’ll take your breath away.

August 13, 2014

We’re getting hot. Summer swelter bears down on us. Gone are those sweetly cooling mists and marine-effect clouds and those lovely air-washing rains. I mean really hot, gasping, throat-drying hot — and just about the same time as our local growers are filling our markets with eye-popping piles of fresh produce.

July 3, 2014

Before launching into this month’s wine discoveries, let me briefly explain last month’s rant against racism and misogyny. Wine, see, is one of life’s little pleasures, but I find it hard to write about such pleasures when my mind is tormented by thoughts of hundreds of young girls abducted and enslaved by gun-wielding fanatics. I can hardly bear to think about their fear and pain, much less devote time and attention to tasty vinos while they suffer. 

June 12, 2014

After 500 years of science and billions of dollars spent spreading literacy, we have every right to hope that some ideas and behaviors can be banished forever. But no.

May 1, 2014

Among the world’s wine-savvy folks, there’s no doubt that Oregon can produce some of the planet’s best wines, especially pinot noir, notoriously tricky to grow, ripen and vinify into the wine that ranks among the most desirable to wine-lovers. Our state’s pinot noirs have emerged as distinctive for their depth and complexity but particularly for a certain freshness of flavor that seems to derive from our peculiar land and climate (plus the talents of so many winemakers). As a result, the north end of the Willamette Valley gets a lot of well-earned attention.

April 3, 2014

Poet T. S. Eliot famously called April “the cruelest month.” And of course he was right, in many respects, forgetting for a moment just how mean May might be. April here just bursts with life, “breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory with desire.” Nobody should die in April; that would be too cruel, “fear in a handful of dust.” Winter has perished, taking snow- and ice-melt down to the rivers, and our world erupts in flowers.

March 13, 2014

Mainly just to scare the shit outta myself, I spent most of a Saturday afternoon in one of the UO’s new science lecture halls, listening to three paleontologists describing the effects of climate change — warming — in Oregon, over the next century. The room was half-filled, mostly with very serious people, furiously taking notes. I looked for wild-eyed, barking-mad deniers but saw none.

February 6, 2014

This being the month when we celebrate the pursuit of Eros, Amor, love in all its forms — oddly appropriated to the name of a saint (Valentine/Valentinus martyred by beheading on Feb. 14, 273 CE) — we want to send some love to two figures whose passionate pursuits add pleasures to our lives. 

First, let’s welcome the opening of an elegant oasis on Eugene’s urban wine trail: Friday, Feb. 7, will mark the grand opening of Pyrenees Lounge at 946 S. Willamette in the former, now-refurbished Woolworth Building. 

January 2, 2014

It’s time to think about time, right? We stand on the cusp of a new year. Last year is already dust. 

January is named after Janus, a Roman god depicted as having two faces, one that looks back, one that looks ahead, a god for entrances and exits, transitions and terminations, god of time itself. 

December 5, 2013

I‘ve written so many of these columns (nearly 200 — zot!) that I can properly claim some traditions. This being December, annually I offer suggestions for seasonal winestuff for Giftmas. I’ve borrowed that term from a prodigy, Taryn Bazurto; it captures the vital thrust of this season without undue damage — I hope — to various religious inclinations among some readers. 

November 7, 2013

Give thanks. Go ahead and feast, share a grand meal with friends and family. Sure, it’s not easy to feel celebratory in these times. Tea Party Republicans did all they could to undermine our confidence, to extol Ayn Rand’s absurd “virtue of selfishness” and to profane the very concept of communion. But this season and the impulses behind it are ancient: We celebrate the harvest. We come together as a community of families to share our bounty, even if we face a bleak winter.

October 3, 2013

For the people who live on the ground, in the real world, being stuck between House Republicans and these heavy rains is rather like being jammed between a bunch of rock-heads and a really soggy place. The result, of course, is a lot of hurt. Makes it tough to write/think about wine.

September 5, 2013

September in western Oregon can be dazzling. It’s a transitional month, pregnant with promises but already yielding the year’s harvest, the bounties of farms, fields and vineyards. This month usually finds Oregon’s vintners trembling on the brink: The vintage can make or break over the next few weeks. Grape clusters hang on the vines, fruit daily richer in color, sugars rising, flavors changing almost hourly.

August 8, 2013

Last weekend, Kat and I attended the annual salmon bake at the International Pinot Noir Celebration (IPNC) in McMinnville, urban heart of the north Willamette Valley wine country. This remarkable annual event (2013 marked the 27th version) in wine culture draws participants from nearly all the regions of the world where pinot noir is cultivated and vinified —Austria, Australia, New Zealand, Canada (!), Germany, California and, of course, France (Burgundy) and Oregon.

June 13, 2013

Memorial Day has passed, so it’s OK to drink white. But, “The first duty of a wine is to be red.” That quip has been attributed to various wags, most enduringly to Alec Waugh, English novelist, who added, “the second is to be a Burgundy,” by which he meant pinot noir (not an unreasonable amendment, according to pinotphiles). Wine scholars have argued that Waugh was merely repeating an eno-adage that originated in the Middle Ages, or maybe with the antique Greeks. Whatever the actual source, a lot of bad attitudes about white wine have ensued.

May 23, 2013

Red or white? How about both? Memorial Day Weekend is a big deal for Oregon’s viticulture industry and wine aficionados alike, and boy do Lane County and Corvallis have a lot to offer. Let’s get down to it.

May 2, 2013

As usual, we begin this month’s wine column with a digression, about thinking and the emergence of taste, eventually returning to wine:

In classes I taught at LCC, we had a rule: no use of cell phones during class (exceptions for possible emergencies). One morning, I was filling the whiteboard with notes and noticed a student in the back row looking down at his cupped hands. My students might think I’m a bit dim about their current stratagems but I knew what was going on. “Kyle,” I said, “are you on your cell?”

March 14, 2013

I guess I let myself feel complacent, thinking that after the last election, when Obama and the Dems turned back the wingnuts, and D’Faz thrashed Tea-Partier Art Robinson, I could maybe relax a little, stop lathering about politics and concentrate on the pleasures of life: I’d think and write about my beamish grandkids, our bursting garden and, of course, bounties in wine.

February 7, 2013

Day-um! We just zipped through another year and it’s time again for our annual gushing about the Wines of Love.

But this year we begin with an adventure, a journey into the Hundred Valleys carved by the various forks and myriad creeks of the winding, wilding Umpqua River.