Friday, May 09, 2008

A Life History, Captured in Grapes

Andrew and I have done something that feels, to us, particularly California: we've become members of a wine club. This isn’t a wine-of-the-month club or anything like that; all wineries around here offer clubs, which usually get you twelve or so bottles of wines a year in shipments of two or three or six, and many of the selections are available only to members. A few months ago, we found a winery whose wines we love; and we finally took the plunge and became Priority Release Program members.

The first shipment of six bottles arrived yesterday. In the box came a lengthy description of the included wines, with suggestions like “Enjoy now, or cellar for 10-15 years.” We likely will not be cellaring any wines (that’s a new verb for me—I like it), for reasons such as these: we don’t have a cellar, we don’t know enough about wine to confidently know the difference between a new wine and a fifteen-year-old wine, and the thought of trying to transport a wine collection when we inevitably move again kind of gives me hives. (I’m not sure I’d trust a wine collection in a ReloCube.)

Along with the wine descriptions were details about when the grapes for these particular wines were harvested. For example, I now know that the grapes for our 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon were harvested from October 22-25, 2003—about six weeks before I even knew the existence of an Andrew Littell. The day we left for Marrakech in October 2004 was when the grapes for the 2006 Zinfandel were pulled from the vines. And the grape harvest for our 2007 Sauvignon Blanc took place between August 23 and September 14, 2007—right around the time when Andrew and I were living in Citrus Heights without any furniture, planning our wedding.

Anyone who’s seen Sideways has thought about the fact that wine is a living thing, and that rain and temperature and sun in any given month or year determine how a particular bottle of wine will taste. These ideas never really registered with me, and I’m still a long, long way from being able to differentiate one vintage from another; but now, living so close to Napa and Mendocino and the Anderson Valley, I’m finding a new appreciation for understanding where wines come from, and when. They’re like little time capsules, literally holding a taste of the past.

Some day, when we’re a long way from Sacramento, we’ll wander into a wine shop, find a Mendocino pinot noir, look at the label and say, “2008? We were living in California then.” And I suspect that wine will taste different simply because we were there: in the staggeringly bright October sunshine, in the chill mornings of March, in the warm April afternoons. And perhaps we’ll be glad we’d been there, as we clink glasses in whatever city has become our home, having left northern California behind.

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