January 16, 2011

Bandol, and thinking of remote

Remote is a word that tantalizes. The thought of being somewhere, we hope with someone, remote, whether actually far from civilization or more simply far from one's own civilized norm. Paris comes to mind, a city where foreigners can lose themselves and yet feel remote amid millions of other people.

Many wines come from more typically remote places like western Australia or Argentina's Patagonia. Places where few people live or even visit. Yet for any of us, there are places synonymous with wine that can provide that remote feeling, whether we travel there in actuality or simply through a glass of wine. Oregon is surely one of those places. It's a wonderful place to lose yourself, even if you never leave your home to taste our wine.

For me, remote is somewhere like Bandol on the Mediterranean coast of France. Not because the autoroute doesn't go right through it. Nor is it a place where few people live or visit. But where else would you want to take your love, to eat and drink and walk and wander? And perhaps other things, all with the aim of letting go and finding things you never knew you were looking for.

Tonight that meant coming home from the winery, full of thoughts about winemaking details and wine business realities, all good things but wonderfully in need of something remote. So I opened the 1998 La Bastide Blanche Bandol to match with steak, new potatoes and brussels sprouts braised with pearl onions and walnuts. Not a classic match, but when you need somewhere remote, you just go with it. The good wine, good food rule in action.

The wine delivered. Imagine walking in the hills of southern France, uncannily familiar to me when I traveled there once and found scenes that reminded me of my native Santa Monica Mountains. The brushy herbs and dusty soil, mixed in wine with aromas of strawberries and meat. The fierce tannin of the mourvedre grape, tamed by the steak and nuts and potatoes on the dinner plate. Some sweetness of bottle age showing through, that impossible to describe scent and flavor like caramelization or torrefaction. Impossible like trying to capture and express the feeling of remote, that once in a lifetime feeling of something, some place, someone more special than you've ever known.

Wine is hardly the only conduit to remote. But I like its ability to transport us to so many places, many of them holding the possibility of remote. The only thing to top it will be to actually travel there, with that someone, and let go.

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