Big Bold Red’s are not a right of passage

big bold redDundee, Oregon is one my favorite places, it is in the center of the Yamhill Wine country. On multiple intersections there are signs encouraging those who are seeking “big bold reds” to visit some winery. At any quality retailer in Washington State the refrigerated section dedicated to domestic beer is likely to be heavily stocked with IPA’s challenging you with their hoppy bitterness, the stronger the better. Less obvious, but just as prevalent to those who are lured by good Scotch whisky, is the proclamation of peat and smoky taste.2920783.deschutesbrewery

Flavor, and taste are pleasures to be savored in all of their diversity, yet I fear that in our current propensity for competition and unisex-machismo we have turned drinking into a contact sport. “I drink white wine but have not worked my way up to reds,” is a frequent reply when I inquire if a person likes wine.

Let’s be clear, if you like wine of any color, you like wine. Some of the finest wines of Burgundy in France are from Chardonnay grapes — white. There are more Pilsners and lagers consumed in the world than ales, hoppy or not.

There is one rule about what to drink — drink what you like, with people you enjoy. Wine Spectator ratings are helpful, but only a guide; a wine in the 80’s is not vinegar, in fact it may be downright enjoyable. Yes, you often do “get what you pay for,” but price is only an indicator. I remember a $60 limited Oregon Chardonnay that we saved for a special occasion. It was good, but we both felt that the $20 label from the same vintner was just as good.

Should you try a big bold red, yes, absolutely! Because it is part of the pleasure to experience as many as you can, you may like it, but to drink it because you are supposed to, or because it is seen as some higher calling, not a good thing. TheWinesketcher loves bold reds, and hoppy brews, but for the flavor, not as a right of passage.

In the summer I drink less red wine than in the winter, rosé and white just work better on the sunny deck. Hoppy beers and pilsners work in the summer but when Fall arrives stouts and doppelbocks are a perfect match, along with a Barbera or a Malbec. (Oregon Pinot Noir is good year round.)

TheWinesketcher never tires of reminding the world that wine is a blessing from God, bringing people together, adding to the mystery we call taste. If you see me with my sketchpad at some winery, grab a glass of whatever you like most, sit down and join me. We may discuss taste and terroir, but I will toast whatever is in your glass and be grateful for making a new friend. Then tell me you read my blogs and I will do a sketch just for you, on the spot.



“Beer is made by men, wine by God.” Luther

The view from Torri MorSo how did this fascination of mine with wine develop? I remember the days of Annie Green Springs wine (last produced in 1977). Or Almaden jug wine, it comes in a box today; but a box would never work for a candleholder, which graced many of our tables, alongside concrete block bookshelves, and kerosene lamps, in the late 60’s. We thought Blue Nun was for special occasions. Growing up under the cloud that “good Christian boys don’t drink” added a cavalier mystic about the whole thing.

Somewhere along the way tastes and availability changed. In the late 60’s and the 70’s wine was either a cheap drink that tasted cheap, or the beverage of the hoity-toity. Us commoners drank beer; Bud or Miller, or spirits, mine was Black Velvet. We drank either for social status or for the buzz; thankfully my goal was rarely for the buzz, but I did fit in with the crowd.

Today I drink beverages for one reason, the enjoyment of taste. I drink San Pellegrino because I like the carbonation, wines of all types because of the tastes and experience, beers and whisky. The whole idea of intoxication is revolting, but the pleasure of taste is wonderful. And of course Martin Luther got it right when he said, “Beer is made by men, wine by God.”

1986-1987 marked a turning point in my life. Divorce, new job, new marriage, new city – all resulted in a new relationship to food and wine.

Pre-1986 my culinary repertoire included Hamburger Helper, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and dehydrated Potatoes Au Gratin. Special occasions might produce steak, baked potato, and broccoli. Beverages were usually beer.

On my own, living on a houseboat at Hayden Island in Portland, I began to cook, nothing exciting but less out of a box. Sautéed mushrooms, and some experiments that turned out badly, but I have not had Hamburger Helper since.

A new lady in my life who drank wine, liked good food, and listened to jazz changed it all; add a new boss who frequented fine restaurants, ordered wine I would never have known of let alone been able to afford, produced the climate for change. I developed a taste that my mother tells me I had when I was in the 7th grade experimenting with gourmet cooking; it just needed the right environment.

Our first wine club was Sunset Magazine, a grand adventure in each shipment for one such as I who had tasted so few. The dates and times get cloudy looking back all these years, but we visited a winery one day in Dundee, Oregon; there was a trip or two to Sonoma in California, the interest was growing.

Then Trader Joe’s came to Lynnwood. Wine from all over the world, at prices we could afford. Two-Buck-Chuck (Shaw) never did work, but there were plenty of wines that did. We tried new labels, asked for advice, all the while I was attempting to act as if I knew what I was talking about. In those days we splurged on $8 bottles for special occasions.

More trips to Sonoma, returning from each one with many bottles in the trunk, we actually had extra bottles in the house, a wine cellar! So sophisticated. The final push happened when our daughter went to George Fox College in Newberg, Oregon. It is located in the heart of the Oregon wine country. We quickly became regulars at a few of the wineries and restaurants.

Torii Mor was our first winery-based club, the rest is history; many more trips to wine areas, more wine clubs, lots of reading and tasting. Wine is more than the liquid in the glass; there is a style of life, the ambiance of the tasting rooms, the beauty of the vineyards, the pleasure of fellowshipping with friends and food.

Today I am often sipping wine with pen ink and paint; sketching a winery over a glass of wine is one of life’s great pleasures. These last 27 years I have been privileged to eat some wonderful food, taste some fantastic wines, and see some incredible sites. I am grateful to God every day for the blessing of travel, taste, and friends. Sante!