Finding the fun in the work of a wine columnist

W&DCover

My long marriage ended in divorce, which was more or less finalized a year ago. Most people we knew or met thought us to be an unlikely couple, in part because we had different temperaments and interests. She was a passionate academic with multiple degrees, while I found pleasure in sports, music and in other directions. Her summer interests took her to Israel where she participated in archaeological digs and taught Holocaust studies while I have preferred traveling to different wine destinations, sometimes several a year. I also attend many winemaker luncheons, dinners and regional educational seminars in Manhattan and get the opportunity to talk, in depth, with industry professionals to discover their perspective on the grape.

She had been a successful marathon runner and loved sports where she could go the distance, be it swimming, snow-shoeing, running or walking, which allowed her to tune out for several hours at a time. I always preferred my exercise to be camouflaged in sports like softball, ice hockey, rollerblading, skiing, road biking and mountain hiking. I would finish my sport du jour and have realized a great workout, but the exercise was almost secondary and a side benefit to the enjoyment of the event. I continue to coach skiing at Killington in Vermont and, until recently, I played a couple of different men’s league sports.

One night she was in one of her moods, looked at me angrily and said, “I don’t know anyone who has more fun than you do. You ski, skate, play softball, go hear music, play golf, travel, dine with winemakers. Fun, fun, fun.  Life’s more than just about having fun.” But I think life’s so much more than work.

Maybe some of us are blessed with the temperament that finds the fun in work. Or maybe some of us are lucky enough to have glamorous work that takes us where the fun is. On one of my press trips to the Pacific Northwest, I met a longtime wine writer who told me, “A croissant in Paris tastes better than it does anywhere else. That same croissant won’t taste as good in another city. The same holds for pastas in Florence or chocolate in Zurich.”  I have found this to be true and I have also found tasting wines on location with a winemaker at a winery will somehow show more accented and saturated flavors. There are many wineries to visit that don’t require a passport or even a plane ticket. I recently visited Hopkins Vineyard (Hopkinsvineyard.com) along the Connecticut wine trail in New Preston, Litchfield County, and was quite pleased with the quality of some of its wines. The late harvest Night Owl dessert sweet wine, crafted from the Vidal Blanc grape, was delicious and unctuously sweet and well priced at $15 for a 375ml bottle. There are now at least 24 wineries within striking distance in Connecticut and many are worth the ride.

I have also visited wineries on Long Island where many of them are now fully established and hitting their stride. The Lenz Winery (Lenzwine.com) in Peconic and Macari Vineyards (macariwines.com) in Mattituck on the North Fork are both making wonderful wines that can go head to head with some noteworthy wines of the world. There are close to 50 vineyard options on the north and south forks of the Island and several limo companies offer winery-to-winery transportation. The Hudson Valley is home to more than 50 wineries. A leisurely drive along the scenic and historic Hudson River should include some winery visits. Several of these wineries have restaurants and some organize live music, balloon rides and other entertainment.

So as an alternative to visiting your neighborhood wine store, take a trip. Get in your car, hire a limousine, jump on your bike. Within an hour’s drive from where you are right now, there are vineyards and winery or brewery options. All of these destinations offer on-premise sales of their wines and all will offer case discounts. There is just something lovely, romantic, exotic, fun and almost otherworldly about tasting at the source. And when you open that same wine at home you can be transported back to the source — if only for a moment.

Write me at Doug@dougpaulding.com.

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