Saturday, August 13, 2011

Warm afternoons and beautiful wines

Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance - Benjamin Franklin

Though I have three bottles of wine sitting in various locations about the house (an Italian Verdicchio in the fridge, an Argentinean Bonarda next to the microwave, and a beautiful French Rosé in a brown paper bag underneath the bed), I thought I would write today about shopping for wine. I normally buy wine in the grocery store, a mission secondary to actual grocery shopping, and the experience is often cold, both literally and figuratively. In Fred Meyer, the wine section is sandwiched between refrigerated cases of Miller Genuine Draft and a shelving unit that offers both jugs of Carlo Rossi and donut holes. A far cry from the hills worth of grapes, warm glasses drunk by candlelight, and dashing European men we envision when we think about our ideal wine experience. The grocery store, instead, makes picking out a wine rather impersonal—rows of chilly bottles stare indiscriminately at you and it’s very rare that one jumps out and says buy me.  

And so, a few days ago, I had the rare and lovely experience of stumbling upon a beautiful wine store. Tucked into an odd part of town I rarely visit, next to a bookstore and a burrito place, was Sundance Wine Cellars. Walking in, I was struck by the bright room, filled with afternoon light… and then I noticed the aisles worth of wine. An employee that greeted me warned me not to get overwhelmed, as if it was a common ailment that happened to all wine lovers that came inside. And it turned out to be a very good warning as I found myself instantly lost and rather stricken in the rows and rows of beautiful bottles. In bright, unfinished wood boxes, the wines beckoned quietly. I found myself wandering through wine displays as if I was traveling through appellations and I couldn’t stop myself from touching the bottles. There were wines I knew and loved well, but there were so many that I’d never even heard of, and so the experience became one totally centered on traveling through this library of wine, instead of shivering in the center of an unhappy aisle.

In a happy wine bliss (and with two new wines to try), I had the good fortune to stumble upon an even more awe-inspiring wine shopping experience. Tucked in a tiny little room in downtown Eugene is a store called Authentica Wines. The high step into the store made me feel as if I was climbing into a new world. Against the wall were beautiful wine posters, one in black and white of a woman, a wine glass casting a shadow along her back, and along the floor were little crates full of wine. Inside the bright wood boxes were bottles of wine nestled in straw. Little pedestals and wrought-iron tables held tiny collections of bottles that glistened in the afternoon light filtering in high windows. White strands of Christmas lights hung lazily on the walls and around displays, giving the room an air of understated festivity—as if shopping for wine was a holiday in itself. And on each bottle, the proprietor had written the prices in a silver pen, barely noticeable, but so remarkably thoughtful that I couldn’t help but notice. As the proprietor recommended me a Rosé (the most beautiful Rosé I have ever seen), I noticed that every single wine in the store was beautiful in itself. There were no gaudy pictures, no harsh colors, no vivid or jagged lettering on the labels, only absolutely stunning bottles of wine.

I left the store with my heart tight. There is quite possibly nothing I love more than beautiful things, except maybe wine—and this store brought the two together. I suppose that I am trying to suggest that wine shopping should, unless in the case of a dire emergency, be a beautiful perusal instead of a harried, chilly grocery shopping experience. Most cities, wine-enlightened or not, have wine or liquor boutiques where buyers take great time to know the wine merchants, growers, and drinkers. And those buyers take time to find wines that you’ll love. It makes an amazing difference. So find a wine boutique or wine store close to you and support someone who loves wine just as much as you do. 

No comments:

Post a Comment