“Necessary Small Comforts,” Basel Cellars

Long days end more smoothly if I have time with my kids and, ideally, a chance to make dinner. I don’t know precisely when cooking became my preferred method of catharsis, but it undeniably has.  This time of year is tough on teachers; physically we may be near the point of exhaustion (I missed my first workout of the year yesterday morning by sleeping in), and mentally, emotionally, we are often pretty drained as well. I know I am. In that light, the warmth of a kitchen, the sound of my kids playing, and the smell of good food simmering somewhere are small comforts that are necessary, and help to keep me centered.

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A few nights ago we had our dear friend Gary over for dinner. Gary and his wife, Cece, hosted a Passover Seder that was Sonja and my third date. Cece has since passed away, but we still love seeing Gary whenever his globetrotting self is actually back in the state of Nebraska, which feels rare. So with Gary coming over, I made a meal, set the table, and paired it with some wine I’d been tasting through earlier in the day from a Washington producer I’ve recently come to be acquainted with called Basel Cellars.

Basel Cellars isn’t currently available in Nebraska, but I’m going to seek to change that. Their wines to me are reminiscent of the distinction between Washington and California; the juice receives the same royal treatment in barrel as do many of my favorite Napa Valley wines — the Claret and the Malbec, just for example, spend 20 months on French oak. And yet these wines have a distinct sense of place, a pronounced element of terroir that I can only attribute to their northern climes. The velvety, silky-smoothness of these wines makes them easy-drinking, while the depth and complexity make them worthy of further consideration. Wines like these are why I’m becoming such a huge fan of Washington State.

Basel Cellars produces small amounts of wine, 600-3000 cases, depending on the varietal or blend, and as you can see the current vintages have spent substantial time in bottle. All of these seemingly “little” things are indicative of the quality of these wines, which I felt drank exceptionally well. I was enamored with the Malbec, which paired nicely with the beef tips and pasta dish I created, though I loved all the reds. The white Bordeaux-style blend was Sonja’s favorite by far. All of these wines retail under $30, and all of them are very worth trying.

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We had dinner and caught up with Gary. He had brought Sonja a Starbucks mug from Japan to add to her collection, one of the prettiest I’ve seen. When dinner was over, Gary hit the road, we put the kids to bed, and then poured ourselves one more glass of wine. Lately we’ve taken to talking in the living room in the evenings, another one of my small but necessary comforts, but we were both so tired that we sought a prostrate position, putting Ricky Gervais’s new standup special on Sonja’s tablet as we lay in bed. I think I fell asleep somewhere in the middle of it.

It has been a long week — and today is only Thursday. Impending deadlines for various publications I’m writing for keep me more than busy and help move the time. Today, I’ll find out if I got a grant to go to India this summer. Tomorrow, our piano will arrive. Saturday, due to impending snow and freezing conditions despite it being April, my pergola project will go on hold, perhaps in favor of cleaning up around the house. Life is busy. Life is full. Life is good. And so is the wine. I plan to have another glass of that Basel Cellars Claret when I get home tonight, red wine being perhaps my favorite of all the small yet necessary comforts.

Cheers to those necessary small comforts,

Mark

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