June 08, 2008

Wine as film

I usually try to resist grandiose metaphors or comparisons. Yet after trying a bottle of 2006 Evesham Wood Pinot Noir La Grieve Bleue, I can't help but think of winemaker Russ Raney as Oregon's Akira Kurosawa.

I'm no film geek, but I remember seeing Kurosawa's epic Ran when I was a teenager in the 1980s. I was mesmerized, though I really didn't know what was going on at the time. The movie was just so epic, with space between the dialogue and striking colors, costumes, and framing. Only later did I study Shakespeare and figure out this movie is an adaptation (perhaps) of the classic drama King Lear, but in historical Japan.

Happily I've never heard anyone criticize Kurosawa for essentially covering Shakespeare. In some ways, why would we. Adaptation in music, literature, and film is so common. Ran is so true to its director, its culture, and its own story. Is there any question of its authenticity?

Yet, in wine, something that retells or adapts from another place is so often criticized as being untrue to its own orgins. There is the common notion that we can't and shouldn't make Burgundy in the U.S. And of course we can't, literally. But as with Shakespeare, himself a considerable adapter of others' stories, can we not rightly and truly adapt wine from another place and reflect or retell its elements authentically in our own place, in our own way?

It seems to be no secret that Evesham Wood wines take their inspiration from Burgundy. Yet they are consistently some of the most compelling and authentic Oregon red wines out there. This 2006 Evesham Wood Pinot Noir La Grieve Bleue is a terrific example. The only real surprise might be that it's this producer's lower tier estate wine. If this wine is this good, I can only imagine how the top end bottlings to be released later this year will be.

The color is bright ruby, dark but translucent. The aroma is what I'll call "above the glass." Meaning, you don't even need to stick your schnoz in the glass to smell it. The fragrance is perfumed, sweetly ripe and spicy without oakiness but just so perfumed and inviting. How did Raney do this in such a year where it was so easy to pick late and end up with hyper-rich but not especially elegant wine?

In the mouth, this wine is unusually bright and fresh for this vintage, with cherry and cranberry flavors that over time fill out with richer but not heavy fruit and spice flavors. There's no alcohol apparent, but no sign of underripeness or overripeness, just amazingly ripe but still so quiet. Like Ran, full of color and vision but with lots of space between the sounds, patient and perhaps slow moving for some tasters but simply exceptional for this one.

In sum, here's a wine that reaffirms the notion that one can be to one's source yet at the same time reflect the inspiration of another place. This isn't copying or simply covering, and not even reinterpreting. It's adaptation, with the result setting the bar higher for what is real, true, and good about, in this case, Oregon wine. What an effort.

No comments: