December 23, 2013

Celebrating a Christmas past

The holidays are for celebrating and that includes special wines, though not simply wines for drinking. We can always find a drink. Rather, I'm looking for something more, wines that take me some place in my life as well as the wine's life.

In wine, we often talk about terroir, a wine's sense of place or "somewhere-ness," to borrow author Matt Kramer's term. Wine is great for its ability, at its best, to transmit something specific to its place of origin, something worth savoring.

Less often do we note the intangible connections wines bring to our lives, the parts they play as a perpendicular in our lives. Take for instance the Christmastime wines you may have enjoyed over the years. Those wines can provide a thread between the years and our memories, where the taste of one wine now can convey us and add definition to our past. We may not understand that definition, we may not be able to make sense of it, but there's something there, and wine for me anyway is the conduit.

So the other night, the Saturday before Christmas, I opened this surprisingly delicious if still very young Burgundy, the 2006 Ch. Chorey Beaune "Les Teurons" 1er Cru. The wine is one thing - oak framed, perfumed with a scent of hazelnuts, red fruits and shoe polish. The texture is finely tannic, with flavors of slightly bitter tree bark and red fruits that evolve and gain richness over the evening, the whole thing taut with a sense of energy and youth that suggests long cellaring potential. 

This is fine wine, plain and simple. 

But this wine is something more. Five years ago on this same Saturday night before Christmas, I remember similarly enjoying a great bottle of Barbaresco from Produtorri del Barbaresco. Perhaps I wrote about it here. The wine itself is just a connector here, to that snowy December when my dad was ill. I lit a fire that night and enjoyed the wine so much, knowing we had no control over how we were getting to the airport the next day much less whether or not any planes would be leaving.

I just needed to get home for that last Christmas with Dad and for that night, the wine made those worries melt.

Somehow we did make it to the airport, thanks to a neighbor from New Hampshire who knew how to drive through plowed walls of snow and other road hazards that had shut the city. And somehow we made it to LA, thanks to Jet Blue. I don't remember many other flights getting out of Portland that day and with the roads in horrendous shape, it wasn't like we had any other options. Missing that Christmas certainly wasn't an option so this had to work, and it did.

So, with this delicious Burgundy and a roaring fire on a cold but thankfully snowless night - we're traveling south tomorrow to spend this Christmas with my mom -  I'm at once totally satisfied in the moment but also compelled to feel again that impossibly important journey five years prior, the touchstones equally delicious Barbaresco and Burgundy that had no intention of being part of my life but are. 

What more could I want.

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