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Wine

May 5, 2016

I paused outside our lab door on the 15th floor of the old high-rise, the pebbled glass bearing the painted legend “Wine Investigations.” I pushed on the door, already ajar. My pardner, Mole, sat behind our scarred desk. He looked deeply morose.

A mopey Mole is a sad sight to behold. For newbies, my sidekick is the sweetest guy in the world. Everybody loves Mole, even though, at wine tastings, he’s invisible, leaving only the impression of a great guy. He also has an acute, critical palate, doesn’t take notes and never forgets good wines and wine-making.

April 21, 2016

When I first began to write about Oregon wine 20-some years ago (in millennia of wine, hardly a flash), there were only a couple hands-full of labels to track. Now we have more than 400, increasing almost daily. And the wines are often very good. This poses many challenges, not only for wine writers but particularly for the wineries themselves — their owners, their staff, retailers, et al.

March 17, 2016

Wine is just fermented grape juice. So what’s all the fuss and chatter?

There’s a prize in every bottle of good wine. And the prize can be very special, one that connects to memory, one that draws friends closer, one that opens experience. There’s often synergy with food: Wine makes food taste better, food makes wine taste better. 

Now, add time in the bottle. A minor miracle ensues. Horizons expand. Sweet tastes sweeter.

February 11, 2016

Valentine hugs and kisses to all y’all! But first:

Last month, we glanced briefly at benefits of maturing (aging) fine wines. The subject is too complex for one skimpy piece. Besides, we must tell the story of Bill Wilson, about time and wine and love.

In 1985, Bill was already in his mid-60s, white hair, walked with a cane, always wore his father’s Iron Cross on a ribbon around his neck. He ambled into Ambrosia, introduced himself. We talked wine.

January 21, 2016

Check the circa-1965 YouTube video of Mick Jagger and Stones crooning “Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is.” Mick looks like a kid; they all do, the whole band. Well, time is not on your side, or mine, or Mick’s or wine’s.

December 10, 2015

Traditionally, we use our December column to explore wine-related gifting for Christmas. This year, my wife — lovely Kat Chinn, a superb cook — asked, “Whatchagot for Kwanzaa and Hanukkah?” Ooops. She set off a firestorm of eye-opening research.

 

Kwanzaa

December 3, 2015

Traditionally, we use our December column to explore wine-related gifting for Christmas. This year, my wife — lovely Kat Chinn, a superb cook — asked, “Whatchagot for Kwanzaa and Hanukkah?” Ooops. She set off a firestorm of eye-opening research: 

 

Kwanzaa

November 5, 2015

Seems like only a minute ago we were sweating BBs in 104 degrees, high heat in high summer. A minute later, our granddaughter Meagan is donning her Katniss Everdeen Hunger Games costume for Halloween. Then we’re suddenly into the feast days, fussing about wines to serve, as Mole would say, “wit’ da boid.” He means turkey. I’m pretty sure.

October 1, 2015

Summer’s astrally over, and autumn’s cosmically begun. Grand times for grand wines, good time for Mole and me to issue apologies, make course corrections, loop into big red wines, all that change-of-season kinda thing.

September 10, 2015

So much to worry about — The Big One, global warming, wine growth and change. And if we really want that thrill of fear, we only have to whisper: President Trump. Shivers and trembling, fear and loathing.

August 6, 2015

In our lab at Wine Investigations, Mole and I were wilting. Temps outside, even at the 17th floor of the old high-rise, reached 105 degrees; inside wasn’t much cooler, though we keep all the wines comfy and cozy, in dark fridges, at 54 degrees, warming some, cooling others, before testing. 

For months, we’ve been searching for growers in Oregon who are experimenting with Italian varietals — sangiovese, nebbiolo, dolcetto, barbera and others.

July 2, 2015

If it’s July — and it is — and we’re getting hot — and we are — then, it must be time for pink wines. 

Years ago, when Mole and I launched our investigation of pinks, we were both skeptical. I had tasted too many insipid pinks. He took a kinda Italian view: “Pink wines. Why?”

For one, because they’re so pretty, in the glass, in the sun and across the palate.

June 11, 2015

A mole in a pout is a sight to behold, rare, and slightly scary.

Thinking I was early, I had ridden the wheezing Otis to the 15th floor of Eugene’s oldest high-rise, shuffled down the hall to our office, Wine Investigations, found Mole already in our lab, in a mope. “Hey, Sleut’,” he said, “whatcha got from all yer trackin’ wit’ out me?”

May 14, 2015

My pal/sidekick Mole always tells me the truth. One day last week, he leaned into me and, in a soothing voice, said, “Sleut’” — he calls me Sleuth, it’s an honor and I dig it — “youse gots a tulip jones.”

April 16, 2015

Spring? This was no stinkin’ Oregon spring. We were dry, warm; no endless days of sog and rain. Even the worst climate-change-deniers had to notice, even if no idiot thought to bring a snowball (or a bucket of water) into the Legislature.

Last year, around this time, we sat in a UO lecture hall, listening to paleobotanists tell us that, due to climate change (i.e., warming), Oregon grape growers should re-plant their acres in warm-country grapes, like those of the southern Rhone Valley of France.

March 12, 2015

We March into spring with a twice-told tale: Last month, we revisited merlot, great wine brought low by shabby winemaking and shifty marketing, then revived at its nadir, to become, again, yummy quaff. This month, the white side, same tale: Riesling is one of the world’s great grapes. The white wines made from Riesling grapes vary widely, from bone dry to heavenly sweet, yielding wines adaptable to dinner courses from aperitifs to desserts.

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.