“I Need a Big-Dar.” The Week in Wine, 9/11-9/17, 2017.

Sunday morning, I was downtown early for the start of the 42nd Annual Omaha Marathon. I was chatting casually with folk who had arrived equally early. A seemingly nice lady, in her 40’s, maybe early 50’s, was talking up a storm while I listened, occasionally giving someone directions to the registration tent or starting line. Eventually, the woman mentioned that she was from California.

“I love it out there,” I began enthusiastically, glad to finally have something in common to speak to her about. “I’m a huge fan of the wines being made in Napa and Sono–”

“It’s a great place to live, but the politics suck,” she interrupted.

“I think that’s true of the entire country,” I joked, hoping to avoid the topic. No luck. She followed it up with one of the most appalling statements I’ve heard in quite a while that didn’t contain a racial epithet.

“It’s a great place to live if you’re homeless,” she informed me, and a few other people who were in the vicinity.

I looked at her as if I had just noticed that she had a tail. “No place is a great place to be homeless,” I thought, but I knew that this person’s level of entitlement was not going to be reduced by logic; she was, after all, spouting her rhetoric to complete strangers, apparently oblivious to the idea that there are people in the world who actually care about the impoverished of our country. As I walked away without saying so much as another word, I reflected on how fitting it was that someone who could afford to fly across the country to go jogging was also an enemy to those who flew nowhere, could not afford running shoes, and would probably have been grateful for scraps from her table. I ran the first few miles angry, wishing I had a biggot radar, or “Big-Dar,” to help me avoid people like her in the future.

Sometimes, I look at wine as a superfluous thing. Sometimes I’m ashamed by the value of the wines that I consume. But then I think to myself that mine is not a life of indulgence or intolerance; I enjoy beautiful things and, yes, I often treat myself, but I also treat others with compassion, attempt to do useful things, and pray every night at dinner with my family and every morning in my car on the way to the gym that I may give back more to this world than I take from it. And on that note, many of the people I know in the wine industry are of the same mind, giving back money, wine, and their time to benefit those in need. This first wine is from a producer who is among the most generous of any I know.

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An amazing wine from Optima in Sonoma, I shared this on Thursday night with two friends who had both had a really tough week. Mike and Nicol Duffy donate wine to all sorts of important events, and are quick to support a good cause. I enjoyed telling my friends about them as we shared this bottle.  A sophisticated wine for a rag-tag group of imbibers, we enjoyed its subtle complexities from nose to finish. Together we sat and sipped this wonderful wine, speaking quietly, and time began the work of healing.

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I opened this one Friday night to share with our neighbors, pairing it with a dinner of simple pasta with meatballs. A lighter-bodied Cabernet than most, the glassy floral fruits made of a wine that I found both easy-drinking an a beautiful change of pace. It was enjoyed by all.

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My friend Zach knows that my sherry game is lacking, so he provided me with a few to learn on. This one is a honey of a wine, with oxidized fruit flavors of prune and raisin adding depth to an otherwise sweet experience. It paired beautifully with cake and made me want to continue learning about the wonderful wines that are sherry.

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Saturday night. I was running a race in the morning, but a long day that included a Husker loss and a Titus tumble down wooden stairs was enough to convince Sonja and I both that a bottle of wine was in order. I went to the cellar to grab one, and selected this killer Syrah from a tiny boutique producer that Sonja and I met in Sonoma on a trip several years ago. He’d signed the bottle to us, and as we lay in bed with the bottle on the nightstand, sipping at a beautiful, full Syrah with powerful notes of smoked meat and blueberries, we ended the day by sharing a pleasant memory.

I remain aware that wine is self-indulgent. So is running half-marathons in expensive running shoes. So are the long, thoughtful walks I take in the evening. I think that ultimately, life was meant to be enjoyed, and I am most certainly enjoying mine. I don’t believe for a second that this prevents me from giving back to the world. I do however believe that how we talk about and regard others, especially those who are less fortunate than ourselves, says all anyone needs to know about who we are as people. I shall continue to tune my Big-Dar for future use.

Cheers,

Mark

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