Thank you to the many of you who asked me to post this piece: it is an essay that I wrote for the print edition of The Pulse of the City the week after the long arms of Hurricane Ike--not yet satisfied by the destruction of Galveston, Texas--laid waste to a large portion of the power grid covering the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys in September 2008.
--Power (Loss) Provides New Perspective--
The power is off in my house as I write this. It’s been off for a while and no doubt will be off for a few more days yet. I’m actually writing longhand, which is not my typical way of writing these days. The house is quiet, my family is asleep, and it would be hard to not enjoy the poetry of a moment like this. The scratching of my pen is the only sound this side of my breathing, and the candles in the center of the table gird me and my surroundings in an appetizing red-yellow glow. I’m drinking red wine. It is beautiful, but it is really not what I wanted to open. I’d rather drink something white, but since refrigeration becomes a problem when the power is out, I have chosen to curl my fingers around the stem of a New Zealand Pinot Noir--it is as fragile and tensile as any good Riesling, but it grows beefier with every sip, until I have some water, and then it seems edgy again.
I’m not trying to indulge some pretentious nonsense. This is just an illustration of how I am interacting with wine at the moment. It reminds me of the slightly thrilling sensation of driving alone at night: self-aware, open to knowing the impact we have on our surroundings and the way our surroundings affect us. We are not usually in this state (or at least I am not), so we are not usually decoding the messages our senses are receiving.
We are so assaulted by information that it has become a cliché to mention it. We barely have time to process what we get paid to do, much less concern ourselves with such avocational topics as wine. We’ve been primed to turn off some receptors, which allows us to sit through an exciting action film or watch a friend embarrass himself. Turning our senses back “on” is not easy, but doing so allows us to be immersed in the world and the world to be immersed in us. This requires a lot of energy, but I’ve found it to be worth it.
So what the heck does this have to do with wine? Well, only everything! Wine is one of the few things that engages all five senses at once, while at the same time stimulating the intellect (provided the wine is of genuine interest for one reason or another). It is perfectly easy to slurp down wine just for fun, but it is more rewarding to let the wine both tell its story, and help shape the story of drinking it.
I realize that this runs the risk of sounding like snobby new-age esoterica, but think about how you interact with food and drink. Does it interest you only for sustenance; do you like it for all of its facets, warts and all; something in between? Either way, it will affect the way you remember the food or drink, as well as the way you relate the experience of it.
Back to the story here--that New Zealand Pinot Noir which is getting more muscular with each sip is really a delight to drink. It is the Olssons Jackson Barry Pinot Noir, and I would recommend it for its multi-layered complexity as well as its ability to overcome a big hurdle. As I said, I didn’t really want to drink this wine. When I realized the refrigerator wasn’t going to get my wine cold, it was either rally and find something else to drink, or go without wine altogether. I obviously chose the former, and in doing so, though it was not intentional, I have gotten to relate the experience of it.
After all that, if Hurricane Ike hadn’t treated our fair city like Tina so that I had to make a choice, I would be drinking Champagne right now. And with those bubbles tickling my nose and a working overhead light, this would have been an entirely different article.
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