“Opportunities in Disguise,” The Week in Wine, 3-9 July, 2017

Last week, I wrote about contentment, the genuine and almost ever-present contentment that I feel on a day to day basis living a life that is both satisfying and makes me very happy. If you read that post, you might recall that I had something of an impromptu epiphany that spurred my reflections on that topic. This week bore no such fruit, no such further epiphanies to be had, but nevertheless contained those parts of life that remind me of some of the more important lessons I’ve learned in life.

Twice this week, I experienced significant setbacks, once in the financial realm and another time in the academic.  In the first instance, which involved correspondence via email and telephone with government entities related to my student loans, I didn’t respond well. After a long and tiring day, the news that an application I’d submitted regarding my loans had been deemed “incomplete” was more than I wanted to deal with. Coupled with a tough day and my nearly two-year-old son responding with an emphatic “no” to literally everything I asked of him, I just had a beer and went to bed at 8:15PM, shortly after the children went to sleep. As I drifted off to Nod, however, I was reminded that how we respond to setbacks says a lot about who we are, and I resolved that when I awoke in the morning, I’d respond in the best way I could. I did, and several hours later, I believe the issue is on its way to being worked out.

Having recently thought that through, I was perhaps better prepared for the second setback when it came late last night. Sometime last year I realized that I publish scores of articles, essays, and reviews of wine in countless publications, not even including this blog, on an annual basis, however this has come at the expense of other things I once published, important things that I wanted to begin publishing again.  This summer, a goal of mine was to publish those other things again. I submitted three poems for publication in June, and I am wrapping up my second of three academic articles that I hoped to publish this year. Then late last night, an email from Israel, one of those dreaded “We regret to inform you” letters. Arrogant though I know this is, I was very surprised. I had submitted a well-written article based on my original research; I was certain beyond reason of the merit of my work. You “regret to inform” me? Why? Why not just be pleased to inform me that you’re going to publish my excellent article? This time, however, I took a deep breath, responded with an appropriate and dignified email, and went back to what I was doing. Not that I want very many more opportunities to practice, but I feel as if experience does help me to respond to setbacks the way I’d like to  do.

In addition to those two relatively trivial/earth-shattering events, it was a good week, full of teaching classes, traveling to near-Western Nebraska for a wedding reception and, of course, wine. Below are some of the oenological highlights of the week for me, with no setbacks included.

3-9 July, 2017


One real surprise this week came in an old Italian wine that was in the “questionables” bin in my cellar. This fourteen-year-old Berengario from Zonin was pulled on a whim, as I knew white wine would be paired with dinner, but I wanted red wine while I prepared it. I decanted it for over an hour and the tamed fruits, tremendous structure, and fun leather and forest floor and stewed fruit flavors made me wish I had another bottle. A nice discovery; I’ll buy more of this if I get the chance.


The dish I was preparing while I was drinking the Italian blend was Pad Thai, which I hadn’t made in a while. I nailed it, and I paired it with one of my favorite Sauv Blancs from Napa. This Varozza SB boasts terrific tropical fruits, stone fruits (peach!) and minerals. I could drink this stuff every night, and it was a nice pairing with Thai food.


I’ve had several Cabs from this wonderful Columbia Valley producer lately, but this Syrah was my first of that varietal from them. Wow. Bold yet refined, it paired nicely with steak, and we drank the rest of it by the fire that night. Beautiful fruit profile, I blogged about this earlier, so I’ll stop there, but definitely try this wine if presented with the opportunity.  Here’s the blog I wrote on this one, if you’re interested.



Another of my favorite go-to wines, when our neighbors came over to watch Nashville, which unfortunately we couldn’t do because the internet was out, we shared this wine. It’s a complex blend of varietals from Rob Griffin, the Columbia Valley pioneer I interviewed recently for a piece in Food & Spirits. An easy-drinker that pairs diversely, this stuff sells for around $15 a bottle, making it an extraordinary value. A great weeknight wine, I can’t recommend this one enough.


On our way out west for the wedding reception, we stopped at one of Nebraska’s best wineries. Established in 2001, Mac’s Creek is a consistent producer, and one of the first in Nebraska that I have found to age wine in French oak.  A white wine that gets French oak treatment in this region is pretty much unheard of, but the Highlands from Mac’s Creek is an exception. A nice, dry wine with complicated notes that range from tart green apple to white rose petals with a touch of vanilla on the finish, this is in my top five white wines from the state of Nebraska, and is a must-try for the adventuresome wine lover.


The final wine of the week to make the review was something very, very special. Sonja and I visited Ledson in Sonoma on our honeymoon, and a few times after on subsequent visits to California wine country. This spring, Sonja and I had the incredible honor of meeting Steve Noble Ledson, the owner and winemaker. A wonderful, gracious man who was instantly an old friend, we are already making plans to go back to Sonoma to visit Steve again… just as soon as our little Zooey is able to let us leave town without her for a long weekend. Until then, we have five, now four, bottles of Ledson wine in our cellar, and I thought this one would be prefect last night. Obviously, I was right. A simple tasting note: blackberry laced in cinnamon with incredible structure, this is easily, easily the best domestic Sangiovese I have ever had, full stop. I plan to email Steve tomorrow to see if there’s any more of it available. If you aren’t yet familiar with Ledson, you need to be. Start here:


So there you have it, another week in wine. I’ll continue to work on responding to setbacks with dignity and in a way that is productive. As I write this with him sitting a few feet away, Titus reminds me to model the right things for both he and his sister, and to make them proud of their dad. With my beautiful family at my side and all of the opportunities I could ever hope for spread out in front of me, perhaps its time I become one of those people who realize that setbacks are really just opportunities in disguise.

Cheers friends,


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