At Mending Wall

Walking the rows of fermentation tanks at the Mending Wall winery, the first impression is a sense of meticulous order that is borderline sterile.  It’s unnerving at first.  Sauce and I are standing in this enormous space holding glasses that contain a few splashes of Stone on Stone and our breaths come a little shorter.  Our gazes shift from tank to floor to expansive rafters back to tank then floor…our reflections stare back from either of these…then back to the wine in our glasses and then our eyes meet.  I’m thinking that I should have made the bed this morning and maybe I could have pressed a shirt for Sauce.  My mind starts making it’s way down a to-do list of things I have done only half-way or half-heartedly – it’s one part accomplishment and two parts failure with a dash of try again.  Just before I get to the part where I hyperventilate and start rethinking my career path I’m snapped back into the moment where Sauce is saying something to me about the wine…

Mending Wall Tryptic

Ah yes, we’re here for the wine – not for a regressive therapy session of self reflection.  Going deeper into this realm of wine greatness, we arrive in a barrel room that is stacked with the wines we’ve always wished for.  It’s here that the calm that lies beneath the powerful perfectionism is revealed.  A great sense of “anything is possible” fills the space that comes into focus as a blank canvas ready to become a masterpiece.  Self-consciousness subsides and I’m able to take part in a wine experience that flirts with the idea that creativity, genius, and methodical precision can come together for a common cause.  So this is Thomas Rivers Brown.

If our count is correct, Robert Parker has awarded 100 points to a Thomas Rivers Brown wines 8 times in the past 10 years.  Wine Spectator has given him the 100 point high-five 2 times.  With recognition like this, most people would have an ego to match, but it seems that Thomas maintains a certain sense of modesty about his wines.  He expresses a genuine appreciation for the mystery of the vine and a deference to what nature provides.  Seeing wine as a product of place, he cultivates his relationships with the vineyard sites he works with and matches the wine to the site.  He has seen much success from his patient and persistent practice in both Napa and Sonoma on sites such as Beckstoffer’s To-Kalon vineyard with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay from B.Theriot and Pinot Noir from Summa and Boars’ View both on the extreme Sonoma Coast.  We can only assume that there is a certain sense of satisfaction with the wines that have resulted from his work here, yet there is a continuing desire that drives Thomas to continue his search for another challenge.

What could challenge an incredible talent like Thomas Rivers Brown?  Perhaps it will be to seek out new vineyards – cooler climates – unexplored territory.  To continue his relationship with the land by matching grape to location to style.  To discover a deeper intuition with his craft.  And possibly to turn focus to his own label, Rivers-Marie, where he seeks to fine tune the tension between size and surreptitiousness.  Wherever and whatever his discoveries may be, we are confident that the final result will end up swirling in our glasses, showcasing in our gallery, and stealing our hearts.


Pull up a chair and read more….Mending Wall Seats

For a better BLOG on Thomas Rivers Brown: The Terroirist

Winemaker of the Year 2012: Food and Wine

Just more of us… www.tiffandsauce.com

 


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Memory of Taste: exchanging a Kiddie Cone Moment for a lifetime of Sense(s)

 

Taste Memory

There was (still is?) a little roadside hamburger stand in Wallowa, Oregon where my mother would stop in with a car full of us kids for a post-game treat on our way home from the softball field.  As I begin the telling of this story, the voice of Sauce is in my ear reminding me, “You have told me this story a million times”.  Perhaps I have.  But I will tell it again.

As we age (like a fine wine of course), this repeated story telling in an almost ritualistic fashion assures us that we’ve still got that glimmer of memories past.  That we came from somewhere.  And that we’re possibly even going somewhere.  We see children practice this ritual in a similar fashion.  Our three-year-old son tells us over and over a recounting of his daily events – trivial, complex, pleasant, and disturbing – it is all captured in his mind’s eye.  The most trivial usually being bathroom and bodily function related.  A more complex story covering emotions, questions concerning the universe and it’s existence, and long scenarios beginning with “once upon a time”.  He is comforted in his relationship to his narrative.

Going back to The Little Bear.  There was a vanilla soft serve kiddie cone for dessert.  Their signature touch was a red gummy cinnamon bear on the top.  It looked so appealing in that red-on-white cherry on top of a sundae sort of way.  But it tasted like – FIRE!

A few decades later, the fire has settled down into a warm bed of coals and I find a cinnamon gummy bear to be a sticky sweet nostalgic confection.  So where does this road lead me in terms of my Memory of Taste?  It is but a short side jaunt on the larger supersensory highway of a Lifetime Palate.  Retelling The Little Bear story in my own mind, and out loud just to tickle the Sauce nerves, reminds me that my best and most highly sensitive reception of taste was when I was a little girl, a baby even.  Where something could be so delicious – or so offensive – that it would stick.

So that’s it? We have lost the sharp sensory abilities of our youth?  The best wine quaffing opportunities passed us by when we were but babes on the breast?  Not entirely.   While I have not gone deep enough into the depths of science, I have a lukewarm assumption that as we age our perception of aromas and flavors does dull.  However, if we tune into the world around us, our bank of sensory memories continues to expand which in turn gives us a greater capacity for interpreting the sensory perceptions we receive.  To keep a sharp palate, we exercise beyond the physiology of tasting and smelling to log in to a longer term memory bank what otherwise would be a very short term experience.

And the how…It’s all just a presence of mind.

There are no “5 Easy Ways” or “10 Simple Steps” coming up, but rather suggestions for how your everyday sensory experiences can be heightened just by being present in the moment.  Take yourself on mental field trips.  Go to extremes and then contrast them.  Try a few versions of the following:

  • a hot & dry place and a cold & dry place (think desert vs. tundra)
  • a cool & damp place and a warm & damp place (think Redwood Forest vs. Tropical Rainforest)
  • a very empty space (think Vacant parking lot or warehouse or an open field)
  • a very crowded space (think New York subway/sidewalk, Disneyland at Fireworks, Costco on Saturday, the I-5 any second of any day)
  • a modern place (think Art Museum or Luxury Car Showroom)
  • a rustic place (think Horse Stable, Mountain Lodge, Roadside Hamburger Stand, Tombstone Arizona)
What did it smell like?
What was the intensity level of the aromas?
Now take those observations down in a mental note and return to them on your daily path.  If you shop a farmer’s market tune into the smells of the fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers.  When you step into a coffee shop for a quick chat over an espresso – stop and smell.  When you go for a jog, a ride, a row, a walk with your dog, or whatever is your choice of winding down – breath in.  Taking notice of the scents in your surroundings is building your memory bank for future reference.
Then go and uncork that bottle.  Follow those truly simple “3 Easy Steps”:
swirl, sip, repeat

If the smells and tastes from your glass transport you into your Memory of Taste, then congratulations, you have arrived at your wine destination.

More Places, Smells, & Memories for your reading and viewing pleasure: