01 December 2008

01Dec- Two books on Pinot Noir

We'd made lofty plans to do work at the restaurant over the break but, instead -and wisely, perhaps- we all avoided each other as much as we could. Family-restauranting can take its toll.

Anyway, the extra time afforded me the opportunity to get some reading done.
The Grail: A year ambling & shambling through an Oregon vineyard in pursuit of the best Pinot Noir wine in the whole wide world by Brian Doyle

I ran across this slim, little book while looking on Amazon for the next book I'll mention. It seemed right up my alley, based on the title alone, and it wasn't terribly expensive. It turns out that the winery Doyle visits is Lange Winery, Pinot Noir from which I've enjoyed but that I can no longer find in town. Naturally. Beautiful, clean, restrained Pinot that I held on to as long as I could, particularly after Green's sold out, but the last 1/2 bottle of which I opened up after a long, difficult night when I needed something beautiful and pure to dilute the bad vibes.

I liked the book a lot, partially for its educational aspect (as it delves deeply and casually into the doings at a winery as well as pinot noir history and the nature of Oregon wines in general) but also for Doyle's style. It took me a chapter or so to get the hang of his breathless, run-on sentence way of writing but when I realized I liked it I also realized I liked it because I could occassionaly hear my voice in his. There's my ego for you: I like you because you remind me of me.
Anyway, I liked the book a great deal. Here's a touch with some pleasing imagery:
"October. I drive to Dundee through a dense fog but then as I drive up the hill to the winery I drive right up out of the fog into a glorious glittering gleaming day, the fog and mist swirling and whirling and tendrilling below like a cottony sea, and something about the way the day above the valley is a secret gift to anyone up on the hills makes for a sort of unspoken giddiness in the air, a willingness to lay aside the things you were supposed to do and just eat the incredible gift of light with your thirsty eager skin, which giddiness I feel my own solipsistic self, and I put aside the careful accounting of shipping and distributing patterns and records I had planned for the afternoon and get a glass of pinot noir from Gabe and go sit on the warm grass in the glorious light and let the sun soak into me like crisp golden water, and I find myself thinking, not for the first time, that a brilliant day in October in Oregon is maybe the best day anytime anywhere anyhow..."
That sentence actually goes on for a little while, but the picture he paints there is enough to wonder how much my family would resent me if I ran away to Oregon.

North American Pinot Noir by John Winthrop Haeger
Ooh boy, was this a difference in style. It was minutes between finishing The Grail and picking this book up and the contrast was marked enough that it could have rained in my brain. I heard about this book from a Carolina Wine Source rep (I want to say Richard, but I'm not a hundred percent on that) while I was at the Oregon tasting a little while ago. We were chatting clones when he recommended this book as being very informative. It is, for all intents and purposes, a text book. It's dry and dense but also incredibly interesting and engaging - if you're into that kind of thing. I happen to be in the mood for it so I'm really enjoying it. I've just gotten to chapter 5, the one about clones, and my head feels heavier for the breadth of Pinot Noir ground covered. Wine Spectator mentions his follow up book, Pacific Pinot Noir, as having the same faults as his first: interesting things lost among acres of grey text. Or something like that. Admittedly, the book has a very academic tone and, aside from maps, there are no illustrations or photographs, but if you know that going in I think it's a great book that I'm sure I'll be referencing for years to come.
So that's been fun. I've built a fire every night and cooked a good deal. I think I might have caught up on my sleep.

Now it's December. And Monday. And I haven't worked on the schedule yet. And I don't know what I'm going to get anybody for Christmas. And I'm kind of hungry.
Back to work.

reading Haeger's book with a glass of '99 La Poussie. Pinot Noir done Loire-style. And, yes, I'm aware of how that name sounds.

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