Monday, June 29, 2015


I thought, I'd break training
in our dervish news cycle, to 
respond to something pleasant.

Against expectation, and with
that spontaneity we grow accus-
tomed to, little by little, in
our changing climate's beguiling
face, this swath of Virginia was
enjoying last weekend a rapid 
collapse in the mercury (now re-
stored to us, as an element sea-
soning our fisheries, by a won-
drously epicurean Supreme Court), 
just as our pulpits were prepar-
ing a prayer for snow. Who would
not, then, place a call to his
butcher, to commission a stand-
ing rib roast? A staple of win-
ter, suddenly calling us.

I was caught twice off guard. 

A premier cru pinot noir at
18 is not a wine for pairing,
I discovered at Sunday dinner,
routine as that alliance is
in its youth, with roasts of
beef, woodcock, and crisp boar.
It is a vision from Rimbaud.

To this one-off lad we owe a 
debt for discovering the daz-
zling qualities of the oblique
against the starkness of noon.
The coinciding of that febrile
delinquent's imagination, with
discovery very few have ever
dreamed, represents not a
capture so much as an immut-
able emanation of an annointed
sensory logic, as we savour in
Minor White. The taste for it
is not rare, only its embodi-
ment is. We others move, in
such fields, from shock to ar-
resting shock, and learn to
yield autonomy to each glory.

I have seen it: to its inher-
ent ruby core has been laid a
mantle of irridescent vermeil.
I knew I should have listened
to Homer.

For some years I have stood
fast against toasting a sin-
gular occasion, with a wine
of extraordinary character.
The occasion is adequate to
itself, while such a wine
offers to illuminate innocent
spontaneity with chapter and
verse of unforgettability.
Men of commerce dispute this
advice, exposing themselves 
and the wine to disappoint-
ing experiences. (I always
wondered what was the matter
with James Bond, to call for
a Bollinger Grande Année so
predictably, and at such con-
flict with his palate's great

But this scruple has only led
to the dispiriting consequence
of distancing one from the bet-
ter growths, for in Virginia,
we abhor spontaneity almost as
avidly as we mistake the great
occasion. Is a Gevrey-Chambertin
from Les Cazatiers, under the
midwifery of Père Serafin and 
Fils, to go unremarked by acqui-
escence to these habits? I fear,
in a way, that the reception
of its '97 vintage, today, is
vulnerable to some hack enthu-
siast's boast, on price alone.
But this is not a grand cru,
so the risk of that slander
by association may be slight.

Could there be a price too
great for unseasonable relapse
in Summer temperatures in Vir-
ginia? That anomaly verges so
treacherously upon the defini-
tion of the great occasion, as
to keep one apart from wine,
for the duration.

Nor will this do. We all need
to yield to happiness, some-
time, but then there's always
Rimbaud, to haunt us with the
great wonder of a beauty, ut-
terly recast in our absence.

As the great growths of Bordeaux
only swagger down the fairway of
their second decade in bottle,
with a back nine no palate will
ever hold against their lineage,
those of Burgundy have begun the
untimable unveiling of enchant-
ment the southern département can
never reach. In them the biology
and the chemistry are the same,
but it is as if the elements are
not. And they are raised to re-
semble nothing haunted by the ac-
tuaries of the cellar life. In
them are the halo, the shadow, 
the shimmers of yet accosting
radiance. Does Rimbaud get it

   Golden dawn and tremulous evening find our brig
   off shore, facing this villa and its dependencies,
   which form a promontory as vast as Epirus and the
   Peloponnese, or the great island of Japan, or A-
   rabia! Temples lit up by returning processions, 
   immense vistas of the fortifications of modern
   coastlines; dunes illustrated with warm flowers
   and bacchanals; grand canals of Carthage and Em-
   bankments of a louche Venice; languid eruptions
   of Etnas and fissures of flowers and water in
   glaciers .. are open to the minds of travelers
   and noblemen which, during daytime hours, allow
   all the tarantellas of the coast, and even the
   ritornellos of celebrated vales of art, to deco-
   rate wondrously the façades of the Promontory-

No, on the whole, we'd have to
admit, the little monster has
produced a promisingly service-
able tasting note for our Am-
trak stewards, on an overnight
to Miami, swaying off its own
peninsular promontory. But is
it nice?

   Yes. The fruit is not so much stripped, as bur-
   nished; the already modest (13.0) alcohol is so
   well aligned with phenols, acidity, and solids,
   the ordeal of fermentation so long forgiven, its
   energies now are entirely those of projecting a
   signature spice of the skins, and the long, very
   long contemplation of the little shit's absolute-
   ly apposite golden dawn and tremulous evening.  

We don't need such a creation,
but I set down my glass in dis- 
covery of a place in it. 

We don't need such a nature,
but I set down my glass in
grateful fellowship.


Jean-François-Arthur Rimbaud
Les illuminations
John Ashbery
op. cit.

Minor White

The New Yorker

Decanter, Riedel, Austria
Glass, Volnay #3, Baccarat, France

Chuck Williams, Sutter Street

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