TASTING THE PAST
Admittedly, learning about wines outside of what’s on a retailer’s shelf or a restaurateur’s wine list is a bit limited. The flavors you might enjoy, but is the wine as memorable as being in that wine’s own region of terroir, and connecting more dots? From my own personal experiences, I have to say perhaps not as memorable. Now, if you can get a sommelier to your table and get her or him to share wine knowledge, you’ll add that to your experience of wine. That’s a bit more expansive.
But, what about world travel… right to the region where the wine is grown, harvested, created, bottles, and poured into a glass for you? You will remember that occasion and the wine that accompanied it, perhaps forever, as it did for Kevin Begos.
Last fall, I read Tasting The Past, by Kevin Begos. It’s a truly engaging book, and one of my favorites for the 2018 wine book reviews, from books I devoured over the year. I took the book with me to Italy, to be read on the long flights from San Francisco to Rome, Italy and back again. I’m going to quote from the opening words of Kevin’s book, because they HIT ME HEAD ON; they’re so relevant to my title and backs up my perpetual thoughts of travel to completely “get” a wine, which then becomes truly memorable, from so many angles.
Alone in Amman, Jordan, I looked at the mini-bar skeptically yet wistfully. Finding good wine in a hotel room is a tantalizing concept, but I had a rule: never buy the stuff. This place had rustic tiles and carved wooden doors in the lobby that gave way to generic rooms….and I hardly knew anyone in the city. I went over to the TV cabinet, opened the door again, and sadly contemplated the row of bottles next to the little refrigerator. One red wine had an unusual label with old-fashioned type and images. It read:
Produced and Bottled by Cremisan Cellars
That seemed odd. It was the spring of 2008, and there were still vineyards in Bethlehem? My hazy Catholic taught me that people drank wine there in biblical times, but I’d never seen Cremisan on a store shelf or restaurant list, on in a review. The label said they started making wine in 1885, which I found interesting but also curious. Had no critics checked it out. The winery is just a few miles from Jerusalem.
The bottle was the only thought-provoking thing in the room and I was tired, physically and emotionally, from a Middle East reporting assignment. With low expectations I broke my rule, pulled the cork, and took a sip. Wow. I perked up immediately. The dry red wine had a spicy flavors, sort of Syrah-ish, but not quite. It was drinkable, balanced, and pleasingly different, with even a hint of earthy terroir. I went to bed happier, imagining it might be fun to visit Cremisan.
One little bottle of wine and one giant, real-life memory for Kevin Begos. This is what stepping outside of a repetitive comfort zone of “I’ll have the Chard,” or, “I’ll have the Cab” can do for us.
For Kevin, it took him on a journey of the past that crafted this newly released book. He’s going to take what you currently think and turn it upside down, a bit. Your most powerful history lesson, for 2019.
More on this throughout the year. I’ve got to get you inspired to read this one, too, if you’re at all into the history of wine for business or just simply pleasure.