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Wine

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.

January 3, 2013

Zot! I never could’ve guessed that here and now, at the end of the whole world, indeed all existence, I’d be strapped to the bench tapping out another wine column. I always imagined myself huddled with my loved ones, sharing final kisses, maybe slurping down that last bottle of 1961 Dow’s Port as the mushroom clouds rise on the horizon.

December 6, 2012

Election’s over and Santa sent Artie back to Cave Junction with a lump of coal, also Gov. Poopiehead back to Ogden or wherever, so we’re ready to red-line the jolly-meter, even if it’s mostly pretend (the Refumblicans are still dangling America’s economy over the fiscal cliff). Folks who know me are aware that this time of year I morph into sap mode; I get giddy with giving gifts.

October 31, 2012

I’m writing days before this ominous election, a harsh test of our fragile democracy, a chance for us to learn if mere money can overwhelm the process. One test: If voters have elected a zombie fraud, financed by a Wall Street hedge-fund vampire, over Peter DeFazio, one of the most principled congressmen ever to sit in the House, then maybe we  have little reason to hope that this experiment in democratic self-rule has much chance for success.

October 3, 2012

Glorious autumn: I’ve sojourned in Eugene nearly 50 years and I don’t recall an autumn more lovely. I just want to wander the streets, besotted by colors and aromas, tipsy with nostalgia for autumns of my childhood, lingering now in the autumn of my life. For viticulturalists (grape-growers and winemakers), autumn 2012 has them trembling; despite our soggy June which reduced crop size, these long stretches of warm days and cool nights have led to rising sugars and deepening colors in the clusters, promising what could become a classic vintage. Harvesting has already begun.

September 5, 2012

I know I’m supposed to be writing about wine, and, oddly enough, a lot of people are interested in learning about the various wines. I’ll get around to wine. Promise. But these are ominous times, and as a hedge against what I fear might be an election that proves that super-rich oligarchs can simply buy a democracy and loot the public treasury with impunity, I’m trying to prepare myself.

I’m trying to learn Republican. It ain’t easy. The language is strange and the logic is twisted.

August 1, 2012

At last we’re getting hot. Well, not actually hot, at least not here in the moisty Willamette Valley. Elsewhere, all across the country (and wider world), people are baking in drought conditions, crops drying and dying, herds starving, swarms of locusts consuming every green leaf and shoot. “This is what global warming looks like,” said one climatologist.

July 5, 2012

I just wanted to make a bit of sense about wine. Silly, because so often wine involves feelings, not reason.

June 7, 2012

This year, after decades as a teacher of writing and literature at Lane Community College, I’m finally retiring, takin’ off my chaps, hangin’ up my spurs, drapin’ my guns over the bedpost, kickin’ off my boots and slouchin’ to the rockin’ chair. And lest some tax-dodgin’ right-wingnut works up a froth about my becoming a PERS burden, I’d like to point out that I’ve paid my dues: I’m 69, started paying taxes when I was 16, taught my first college-level class at UO in 1966, did 10 years at UO, five years at PSU, taught my first class for LCC in 1981. I’ve never had a summer off.

May 17, 2012

Above us, avian overlords command the sky. They are capable of traveling great distances across open sea, hovering motionless in midair and swooping down to seize prey between sharp talons. Sure, some of them seem harmless, but who really knows what they’re doing when they’re soaring overhead, hiding in the trees like government assassins or peering into your bedroom window like spies? 

May 17, 2012

Micah and Laura Bodner’s winery could fit in your garage, if your garage had a little more head space for punching down a 1,000-liter open-top tank. To facilitate the dynamic process of opening a winery, the Bodners first needed leverage. So they removed the ceiling in a barn and squeezed in equipment wherever it would fit.

May 17, 2012

The year was 1981, not really auspicious. The place was Monroe, Ore., population about half a thousand, a village, really, approximately halfway between Eugene and Corvallis. 

Experts said it shouldn’t be done, couldn’t be done. Nope, the viticulture expert/consultant scolded Craig and Claudia Broadley, explaining that they wouldn’t be able to ripen grapes on this particular slope, this particular hillside in, of all places, Monroe, all the way down at the south end of the Willamette Valley.