John Wesley, the Methodist minister, once said “If I die with more than ten dollars in my pocket, you should call me a liar.” I have always felt similarly, lived similarly, if for slightly different reasons. To me, money serves three purposes: it can be used to pay the bills, it can be used to help others, and it can be used to offer me and those I love amazing experiences in this vast and beautiful world. And on that note, Sonja and I had been planning a vacation for next summer that would take us to seven European countries that I had never visited, six for my beautiful and well-traveled wife. This, the consolation prize after Sonja’s boss pulled the plug on our planned summer-long resettlement in Croatia, was something I was getting more and more excited about each day.
And then I did something stupid. For reasons I cannot fully explain or comprehend, I made a single spreadsheet with every last one of our debts upon it, including mortgage, student loans, cars, all of it. And then a tally at the bottom. The number was staggering.
It’s funny what kids will do to your worldview. With two beautiful young children, the idea that my life insurance payment would only really amount to burying me and breaking even wasn’t good enough. And so, after some discussion in which we concluded that our five year anniversary trip to Sonoma should perhaps be done as a stay-cation, Sonja and I also decided that a domestic vacation would be far more practical this coming summer. It was a decision we made together, and it makes sense, even if it brought with it an aura of disappointment. The task at hand now became figuring out where to go that would not feel like settling.
I’ve always been surprised by people who don’t want to travel outside the United States. I consider it a character flaw, actually. Equally, I’m surprised by Americans who travel the world, yet have seen so little of our own beautiful country and all of its diverse and stunning landscapes. It didn’t take long for Sonja and I to decide that a place that neither of us had visited in years, and which had plenty of beautiful landscapes and other wonders to offer, was what we wanted, and we quickly landed on Washington State.
I got on the phone with Jay, a fellow “featured user” with Vivino and a friend who I have tasted with over the years, and together with input from Sonja we began to plan a trip that will involve visiting Seattle, running a half marathon, some time on Puget Sound, and then a drive over the mountain pass and Mount Rainier to the “Taste of Walla Walla” wine tasting festival. The mountains, the rivers, the ocean, as well as the city, the dining, and the wine — it’s all got me just as excited inside as did the trip to Europe, and I sensed that Sonja felt similarly. This vacation will, I am confident, in no way feel like a consolation prize, in no way feel like settling. Vienna and Prague will still be there once we have a few of our debts paid off.
Then yesterday in the mail came a shipment of wine from Dave Phinney, one of my all time favorite winemakers. Therein were wines from his Locations series, wines made all around the world. As if a sign, I enthusiastically bypassed “FR” (France”) and “E” (Espana), grabbed the bottle from Washington State and poured Sonja and I a glass each. Dave’s wines have always been overstated, hyperbolic even, and while this remains true of his Locations series, I also find that they are the very definition of terroir-driven and attempt in every way to be a pure expression of place, a goal at which they almost inarguably succeed.
From the first swirl of the bowl, the aromas of luscious blue fruits that to me is the quintessential “tell” of Washington wine greeted my nose. A blend of Syrah, Merlot, and Petit Sirah, this deep purple beauty boasts the velvety blueberry and soft violet I’m used to from these varietals in Washington, adding hints of cocoa and very subtle earthy notes for an experience that is both familiar and enjoyable. There’s enough structure to hold it up for some time, though it was made to enjoy now. Best of all perhaps, these wines retail for under $20, making it quite possibly the best QPR on the market today.
Many of my favorite producers in Washington State are making phenomenal wines, and I’ve reviewed several on this blog. That said, this wine, from a world-class winemaker and a creative genius, costs a half to a fifth what most of my favorite Washington wines cost, and is arguably just as good as most. Like Sonja and my vacation to Washington, this wine from Washington is in no way settling for something less, but instead, is an opportunity to experience something new and wonderful at a cost that will allow you to pay your bills, and to me that makes it just about perfect.