Transcendental Vinification

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Most individuals who become what one would call “serious” about wine can relate their experiences back to a single, transcendental wine. For me it is easy. I had come to like wine very much. I had tasted many good wines, and had, since high school, been exposed to good wines and food pairings through work in restaurants, but none of those experiences is what I would call sublime.

I was working as a waiter in a now defunct Greek restaurant (“You! Go clean all the stainless steel!”) when I started hanging out at what was then the only wine bar in the Pacific Northwest. Enoteca was a subterranean haven for those who loved wine, as well as for cockroaches and sewage, due to the previously mentioned subterranean-ism and the construction of the Seattle bus tunnel. Housed in the Times Square Building, in what was once the presidential campaign headquarters for Bobby Kennedy, the structure was a sort of miniature flat iron building. There must have been something about that building, because Enoteca was a special place. Enoteca served 40+ wines by the glass, preserved by a huge industrial gas cylinder of argon, hooked up to a bleeder valve, which we would use to displace the oxygen in open bottles. A combination wine shop, wine bar and restaurant, customers could choose from any bottle in the shop and have it served for only a $5 corkage fee. The menu changed daily and was determined from what was fresh at the local Pike Place Market, and was printed on a rickety dot matrix printer. This probably sounds quite ordinary, unless you are in 1980’s Seattle, when the Spaghetti Factory was considered an exotic dinner out.

As you can probably surmise by reading between the lines, I eventually ended up working at Enoteca, but before I began my tenure I was a solitary customer at the wine bar. I would usually order a tasting of 3 or 4 glasses, taking amateurish notes in my pre-moleskine double entry ledger journal. The notes were brief, crude, and uncertain. Then came the wine. The vintage was 1976, harvested in my freshman year of high school. The region was Sauternes. Chateau LaFaurie Peyraguey. The color was golden, like pale honey, but unlike honey there was nothing cloying or simple about its scent. They say that our memories are stored in areas near our olfactory centers, and that is why a smell can trigger a memory of past events. Proust smelled a cookie and ended up with seven books out of the deal.

I couldn’t stop smelling the wine. I would taste it – and the taste was sublime – but the smell is what hooked me. You begin to be reluctant to taste when a wine’s aroma is so enticing, and, thus, you begin to savor it. It was one of those experiences, like having a word on the tip of your tongue, where you can remember a scent, but can’t quite place it. I knew it was something from childhood. I was six, or seven. It was morning, and there was a sense of spring and excitement to go outside. There was citrus fruit, but also cream, and something exotic. And then I had it. Trix are for kids. It was that first bowl of forbidden cereal. The decadent, sweet, yet citrus, creamy pre-BGH bowl of Trix in a bottle. Keep your cookies Marcel, I’ve got my own memories.

Published in: on February 11, 2008 at 2:44 am  Leave a Comment  

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