Friday, October 29, 2010

Plan to Cellar Me

As of 5:30 today, the most interesting person I'd spoken to all day was the pulmonary specialist who'd administered a series of breathing tests to me at MCV.

With his exquisitely deadpan sarcasm ("Men are pigs"), unbelievably sharp wit and clear pleasure in giving me a hard time about absolutely everything I said, he was the perfect late-morning foil for me.

But when my best conversation of the day comes from the man holding a breathing mouthpiece in place while I'm holding my cheeks, it's clearly time to get out and find some fresh conversational partners. STAT.

Stop #1 was River City Cellars because (and I quote) Rhone rock star Eric Texier was in the house. His organic and bio-dynamic wines reflect his emphasis on the growing end rather than how grapes are manipulated in the cellar ("No oak, no tricks."), so the tasting lineup was stellar.

And he was a delight to talk to. As I was tasting the 2008 Cotes du Rhone Rouge, a blend of grenache, clairette, grenache blanc and roussanne, he asked how I liked it and I responded positively.

"I make lean wines because that's what I like to drink," he explained. What a great wine-making philosophy. No wonder he's smiling.

Eric said he had liked the California wines of the 70s because they were leaner then and sees signs that California's wineries are moving back in that direction.

He said that the interns who come to France to learn from him, many of whom are from California, are leaving his winery with a new found appreciation for leaner wines, so he's hopeful for a subtle shift in focus there.

His 2007 Cotes du Rhone Brezeme Rouge Vieilles Vignes "Domaine de Pergaud," produced from 60-year old syrah vines was sumptuous. The tasting notes, which he had not written, referred to it as age-worthy and the wine equivalent of crossing Albert Einstein and Marlon Brando.

"Does that mean this wine could be called smart and sexy?" I had to ask. "I would never call my wines sexy," he said smiling. "Too lean." I left with a bottle of the 2009 Cotes du Rhone Brezeme Roussanne, richly textured and full bodied with floral, herbal and riper fruit aromas. Most importantly, it was noted, just as age-worthy.

Mid-tasting owner Julia came up behind me and supplied her usual smart-assed wit. "I was just noticing what great tights...and then realized, oh, hi Karen." Everyone has to be known for something.

It was a short distance to the VMFA for the Friday night movie, this time the 1932 cult classic Freaks. We're talking about a film that was banned by any number of cities and states; hell, MGM even had the lion removed from the opening so as to disassociate itself from this scandalous film.

The screening began 1932-style with a cartoon (Felix the Cat) and a short (Rabbit's Moon) before launching into a near-documentary about side show freaks. Director Tod Browning used real sideshow artists, which was the shocking part for 1930s audiences (well, that and the excised castration scene at the wedding feast).

There were Siamese twins, a legless man, a man with only a torso (who could roll and light his own cigarettes), a bearded woman, an armless woman who did everything with her feet, midgets, a hermaphrodite and too many others to mention.

The story focused on the normal nature of the freaks and the evil nature of the supposedly normal people. As is usually the case with older films, I was fascinated by the period details. The carnival troupe stayed in wagons, eventually pulled by horses when they left for their next location. The wine at the wedding feast was a 1914 bottle.

The film was also notable for the fact that it could never be made today; between medical advances and political correctness, such a cast would be impossible to assemble. But it wasn't hard to see why Freaks was a long-time mainstay of the midnight movie circuit.

Afterwards, it seemed easier to climb the stairs to Amuse rather than drive somewhere for the last part of the evening. Stephen was bartending and while the dining room was mostly full (even the overflow room looked full), I was the lone bar sitter. No complaints here; that just means I won't be keeping the bartender from doing his job.

The first thing out of his mouth was when his brother's band would be playing the National, so I guess he remembered me from our last conversation (always a pleasant surprise).

I admired the dining room at night since it was my first late evening visit. The lights were orange-ish this evening, a nod to fall he said. His preference is for the purple lights, which I haven't seen but are probably very mod-looking in that space.

I couldn't see any reason to resist one of the specials, empanadas with pork belly, mushrooms and Camarano with a Cabernet creme fraiche. My devotion to pork belly is already in the public record, but this new treatment, and especially with that wine cream sauce, was superb. Delicious even.

Because we'd both recently seen documentaries about food, we got off on a tangent about eating, small-scale farming, health and nutrition and food in general. It was great to have someone as into those subjects as I can be and the talk ranged all over the place as a result, right up until closing time.

I thanked Stephen sincerely for his company. Enjoyable as it was, though, it still wasn't what I really want in terms of having someone to talk to.

But after all, I'm out, I'm about and with any luck, I will eventually enjoy a regular conversational partner again.

I'm shooting for someone who will consider me age-worthy.


  1. I figured a good glass of wine is enough to fix all your ills

  2. I was trying to say that I'd rather have a regular conversational partner than rely on assorted semi-strangers.

    Our music and food conversation was most enjoyable, as I acknoweldged to Stephen.

    Stop stirring up trouble, other Stephen!

  3. hahaha--but if you didn't rely on the mixed nuts you wouldn't have a blog anymore!

  4. Sharing my musical adventures isn't enough?