Posts Tagged ‘Riesling’

I forgot that Rieslings age well. It has something to do with a flavor compound with a 38-character name (TDN for short). Let this varietal age for too long and it starts to smell of kerosene—but if you give it just a few years, you’ll likely hit its sweet spot. This is one of those esoteric oenological tidbits my late husband taught me—filed away in a corner of my brain right next to the fact that Pediacoccus infections are bad, but Brettanomyces infections can be good—and that “aroma of geraniol” is an insult, and “aroma of pencil shavings” is a compliment.

So when a friend and I opened the last bottle I had of Peter’s 2008 Sierra Foothills Riesling this September, on the second anniversary of his death, I felt that I had to warn her: “This could be undrinkable.” Instead, it was delicious—“like nectar,” is how my friend described it. And in that moment, forgetting all of Peter’s lessons about Riesling, nothing about this wine made sense. Not its crystal-clear, pale yellow color, its delicate floral nose, its light, dry mouthfeel, its fruit. Not the absence of the person who made it.

Peter died at age 44, just 14 months after his diagnosis of non-small-cell adenocarcinoma. It was a mystery cancer of unknown primary origin that behaved like lung cancer, and upon diagnosis it was already evident in his lungs, right shoulder, and brain. For much of those 14 months, our family was able to live a kind of peaceful “new normal”—treatment cycles, breaks from treatment, quietly trying to observe and celebrate life’s big moments and small ones. His serenity and courage in the face of all of this was astounding, even to those who knew him well enough to expect nothing less.

For a while during this period, I intended to give The Home Glass—which began as Marin Magazine’s wine blog back in 2008 and which I continued to write until 2011—a reboot. I planned to document the reboot forced upon our lives, with wine, spirits, food, and family as the focus. But ultimately, even the few hours this would have involved seemed too much to give up in a year when time felt so precious and so fleeting. Better to spend those hours eating tacos and drinking margaritas with someone unparalleled in his talents for making both.

Oddly enough, it was stumbling on NPR producer Rachel Ward’s brilliant post on Medium, “I’m Sorry I Didn’t Respond to Your Email, My Husband Coughed to Death Two Years Ago,” that brought me back here—particularly these lines:

When you experience a loss like this, you get to see a really wild new amount of life. Suddenly the range of the type of sad you can feel, to the type of happy you can feel, is busted open. The spectrum from happy to sad isn’t a foot wide anymoreit’s as far as your arms can stretch and then to the edges of the room and then up the block and over into the next neighborhood.

I feel a version of this and have felt it almost since the moment we learned of Peter’s diagnosis. Everything was instantly amplified then and is amplified still: love, beauty, fear, longing, sadness, anger, more beauty, more love. It helps that my agnostic husband believed he’d come back to us in nature in some form—so when the trees catch light in a certain way, or a hummingbird watches closely as our daughter makes chalk drawings in our driveway, I have to wonder.

Willa often asks me how old her dad is. It’s almost never “how old would he be” if he were alive, because she’s six and is only just starting to wrap her mind around the conditional. I love answering all her questions about Peter except this one, because this one makes me stop and do an excruciating bit of math. Last Saturday he would have turned 47. When I think of Peter at 44, I can picture a 44-year-old person that I knew and loved and got to a spend a year memorizing. Forty-four-year-old Peter feels like a gift that I can still vividly recall and embrace and enjoy. But I don’t know 47-year-old Peter. I never will, and saying the age that he would have been out loud forces me to stare the magnitude of our loss straight in the face, in a way I almost never do.

Life doesn’t always make sense. White wines don’t age well, except for the ones that do. People grow older, except for the ones that don’t. Sometimes the best you can do is to sit back and take in that infinite spectrum from happy to sad. But one thing that always makes me feel better is observing and celebrating those details of life—domestic, culinary, seasonal—that remind me of Peter every day. And this seems a good place to record those details—once a month, at least. I promise that not every post will be this long or this personal—but do expect, on occasion, more home than glass.


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We interrupt these Zinfandel musings for an important message from the Federal Trade Commission. As you may know, the FTC recently announced new rules requiring bloggers to disclose any free goodies they receive, if and when they choose to write about said goodies or the companies that make them.

When I read about these rules in the paper, my first thought — probably a common one among those of us who’ve had longish careers in print media — was “it’s about time those pesky bloggers got held to a higher standard!” Then I realized “oh yeah, I’m now a blogger who receives free stuff.” So these rules actually apply to me.

And while I still think the aim of this mandate, which I assume is to call out biased and misleading coverage of everything from Malbec to mascara, is an admirable one, I do see the inconsistency that its critics have been grousing about. Print media, you see, is held to no such standard. It’s up to individual publications to form their own policies on freebies, and the most respected ones have earned that respect by ensuring the impartiality of their writers.

The down side of taking the high road is, of course, financial. When I first began writing about wine for a newspaper, a perfectly adequate “wine allowance” was built into my fee. In accordance with my editor’s wishes, I made my no-freebies policy known and was able to keep my nose clean. Then the recession hit, ad sales went down, and my fee was cut — twice. Had I not changed my policy (with my editor’s blessing), I would have basically been paying to write my column. Instead, I continued to taste wines blind and never felt obligated to praise a wine I didn’t like. And because no regulatory agency had ever opined on the matter, my readers were none the wiser.

Today, I still accept free wine, but I always try to make it clear to the purveyor that accepting is not the same as promoting. In my column, which appears in another publication, I still speak freely about wines I don’t like. In this blog, I probably won’t mention the dud wines I’ve just tried — but that’s only because it seems like a waste of space. You surely care more about what’s good than what’s bad.

In that spirit, here are three recommendations I can stand behind. The reds were sent to me for free; the Riesling was purchased by my husband. (Cheers to the FTC.)

2006 Red Right Hand Shiraz-Grenache-Tempranillo blend ($12) and 2007 Zeepard Shiraz ($16). These hearty Australian reds are just the thing for weathering a storm, and their price tags make them a guilt-free school-night purchase. Both would be a great accompaniment to meat dishes, but the Zeepard’s more nuanced flavors make it a delightful wine to enjoy without food as well.

2007 Targovishte Riesling ($6.99). My winemaker husband Peter, who is incredibly skeptical about most wines under $10, can’t stop gushing about this off-dry, crisp, and subtly effervescent Riesling. He praises its light fruit, floral, and vegetal notes and its great acid and balance. A fine choice to go with your Thanksgiving turkey — especially if you’ll be cooking for a crowd.

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