Eugene Weekly : Wine : 6.9.11


On War and Wine
Fortified, once more into the breach
By Lance Sparks

Its dawn of summer 2011. Ordinarily, Id be rolling around our ratty office/lab on the 22nd floor of Eugenes shakiest/oldest highrise. Id drag my chair over to the grimy window and peer down on the Park Blocks, feasting my eyes on the burst of flowers and the bounty of springs early harvest. I wax sappy when I see Eugeneans strolling the market, loaded down with plant starts for their gardens, armloads of flowers, bags of organic groceries.

This year, though, were still soggy, wet, cold, huddled in winter gear. The rhodies have erupted, sure, but the roses are still tight and our world seems to be melting ã along with our schools.

And Im thinking we need another war.

Partly Im thinking about war cause its Memorial Day as I write this and I cant help remembering my stepfather and how war brought out the best and worst of that man. The best, heroic: He was a young pilot, Navy lieutenant, assigned to fly Catalina seaplanes, rescuing downed flyers from the Pacific. Whatever the weather or the seas, hed splash down that rattle-trap and snatch a brother from the watery grave awaiting him.

In one grainy black-and-white snapshot, the skinny, ginning, khaki-clad “loot” stood by his Cat, pointing at bullet and shrapnel holes that riddled his birds wings and fuselage. Clearly, it was a near-miracle the crate flew at all.

He and thousands of other young men and women survived that bitter war, but some struggled with peace. My stepdad was not a nice guy; he drowned in gin the hero inside himself and fattened into a drunk who used his fists on me, my four sisters and our mother. He found a better life in later years, post-retirement, but he never again located the hero. Maybe he needed his war.

In 1910, the great American philosopher William James published his essay, “The Moral Equivalent of War”; there, he argued that “War is the strong life; it is life in extremis; war taxes are the only ones men never hesitate to pay.” James added that wars “dread hammer is the welder of men into cohesive states.”

There it is: War finds the hero inside the jerk; war “welds” us into “cohesive states”; start a war and well gladly pay. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have dragged on for 10 years and will cost us $159 billion this year.

So, school budgets collapsing? Declare a war. Call it a war on ignorance. Call us to battle.

Problem solved, pour the wine:

We desperately seek drinkable pinot noirs under $20. Plowbuster 2009 Pinot Noir ($20) is terrific, deep, rich, complex and craftily balanced to achieve texture at once firm and smooth. Flavors are nuanced, from black cherries to blackberries with a dash of spice. Deserves a medal, maybe several; it also rewards service in good stemware.

Spendier but classic: Boedecker 2008 Pinot Noir Boris ($29) is excellent, a blend of barrels selected by Sundance manager Boris Wiedenfeld. Texture is firm, flavors definitively Oregon pinot (black cherry/raspberry/pepper). Give this wine some air before serving in Riedel glasses, with a tender steak.

Lagarde 2009 Roque Sestiere Corbieres ($12) delivers several surprises: first, this dry white from the Languedoc region of France is aromatic and refreshing but with a silky mouthfeel; second, were told that the grapes used are all Grenache Blanc, unblended with the usual half dozen white grapes allowed; third, its delish and delightful ã floral, citrus, mineral, well-matched with shellfish.

Fortified, we march again to war. Soon, our schools will thrive. Salud.