Eugene Weekly : Wine : 12.2.10


The Insider
Holidays bring out the wide-eyed kid
By Lance Sparks

There’s a little boy living in my head. I know him, sorta, just because he and I are the same person. At Christmas, that little guy puts Adult-me through some sharp — and often very pleasant — changes. Adult-me strolls through streets, passing shop windows adorned with Christmas foofoo, and the grown-up scorns the obvious commercialism, the use of those plastic fantastic emblems of Christmas mythology — ersatz Santas, chintzy “presents,” goofy-looking reindeer, absurd “elves,” all the jangles and jingles. Then Kid kicks over the traces and whispers candy-cane-flavored commands that effectively exile Adult to some island in the mind where sense gives way to sensation. Perspectives shift: windows grow taller, even imaginary snow is suddenly deeper, and all colors — especially reds, greens and golds — become super-saturated. I feel certain that if I just wished it hard enough, surely I could fly. 

I can’t resist those changes. The cynically well-informed adult knows that it’s all Orwellian conditioning — 10,000 repetitions between birth and adolescence — but Kid lives and revels in the myths. Ultimately, we reach a kind of compromise: Kid gives up wishes for all the presents in the world — especially the Red Ryder BB gun and the half-scale Harley with the flaming gas tank — and Adult aims at giving presents to everyone.

Which, of course, brings us back to wine, Adult’s domain. Adult loves to give yummy wines to pals. That might seem rather childish, because wine, we remind ourselves, gets quaffed and is gone, doesn’t last nearly as long, say, as a Red Ryder BB gun. Not really true: Great wines often make great memories, some of which last to the end of our conscious days, and much longer than the BB gun (usually broken in the middle of the First World BB-Gun War). The wines’ aromas and flavors get sculpted as deeply in memory as Christmas scents of pine resin and spiced pumpkin. 

Now, if Adult-me had a jam-packed piggy bank, I’d buy bottles of Leonetti Cellars 2008 Merlot Walla Walla Valley and tie bows on ’em for chums who didn’t grasp that great domestic merlot could be anything other than flabby/fruity red glug. Leonetti winemakers have shown that Washington merlot can be profound, deep and rich in flavors and structured for food. Of course, at $80 a bottle, only the rich or the dearly beloved get to learn the lesson.

Adult-me wants friends to savor two pretty whites: Gorgeous Savvy 2009 ($13.50) is one of a family of well-made sauvignon blancs wearing Oregon labels; this one is crisply dry but generous in flavors/aromas of citrus and tropical fruits, with nifty acidity. 

Sure, we’re buy-local diehards, but all wine is local somewhere, and some wines just seem to escape, only to bring us their gifts. Falanghina dei Feudi di San Gregorio 2007 ($17) is a dry white popular lately in Sicily and southern Italy. Falanghina (fal-an-GEE-na) is an ancient grape variety opened by modern wine-making to reveal charming delicacy of floral aromas and complex flavors, evenly balanced.

Plain package, nice gift: Label reads 2007 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley ($15), couldn’t be simpler, but the wine is fine, with typical cherry/berry flavors, food-adapted acidity, bargain-priced. Back label reveals Spencer Creek origins, one of home-boy Dan Cooley’s surprises.

The Kid sez we’re done, time to get at the pies. Merry Giftmas, y’all. Did I mention the Red Ryder BB gun?