As a child, I totally judged books by their covers.
How could I not?? It was a process that had proven success. I knew the sort of stories I was attracted to and I knew how to get them. My preferences at that age consisted of a specific genre, namely books with a female protagonist, a romantic setting, and at least a hint of magic. My hunting ground was the local library, or, if I was lucky, the late Borders. (RIP.)
Normally these books would come covered in a portraits of whimsical forests, or replicas of oil paintings where the girl was gazing listlessly along a creek. Some had night scenes in which the moon and landscape gave me the notion that the story would come beloved creepy undertones. Those ones always proved to be promising, and would serve as my October books when I was looking to be sPoOkeD!
And so I am not at all surprised that this activity has followed me into adulthood, but instead of books, it’s booze.
Thus, what brought me to Lenore, the 2014 Syrah named for Edgar Allan Poe’s sweet bae. I saw the label amidst a wall of Washington and Oregon wines lining an aisle in New Seasons. New Seasons is Oregon’s version of Whole Foods, except smaller and not evil. Being in their wine section is like being in Harry Potter’s department of mysteries; I want to read them all, but doing was so would trap me into a dark nest of intoxicated insanity.
Luckily, I used the good ol’ Judgey McJudgerson tactic and went with my visual instincts. There she sat. Lenore, prettier than the Mona Lisa (come at me art nerds) and hiding a shy but dirty secret. Here’s the secret folks: This wine was tannin-y AF!
Not that this was a bad thing. I like the occasional tannin-filled wine, so long as it’s not 100 percent dried out bitters. A good tannin-y wine will talk to you. It is sexy. It will say, “Teehee, I just threw a shock to your system. If you thought that was crazy, get a load of this…”
Which is totally what Lenore did. Not only does she have a secret, but homegirl is talkative. She begins with the aroma of pepper jam and blackberries, filling your nose with a misleading aroma of a summery cheese spread. But then you take a sip and your mouth is exploding with cloves, black pepper, dirt, and the burnt part of a marshmallow. Just as you become adjusted to the whammy that attacked your palate, Lenore softens. She melts into a dark chocolate, leaving a cozy and hot mouthfeel.
The entire experience reminded me of tea, specifically the chocolate chipotle chai I had just a few days ago at Tao Chai Te. I ordered it sans sweetener, and then added *just the littlest bit* of honey. Lenore was like this, with even less honey. (It also sort of reminded me of sex, but saying tea is classier. And look at Lenore! She's classy.)
Her wine is like those moments in life when something is so bold and passionate that you must have to hold onto it, hoping that one day to might reveal a sweeter said. But if it did, it wouldn’t BE itself, and therefore not nearly as good. So you let it be dark and sultry and complicated and experience that for what it is. (Can you tell that I’ve been up for 18 hours yet??! WEE!)
Lenore is a reference to two of Poe’s poems: Lenore and the Raven. The Raven is the more famous of the two, telling the story of a sad man who can’t decide whether he should forget about his bae or move on. Like many of us tend to do, he’s getting a slight twisted pleasure out of his loss. If that weren’t enough, a talking bird has popped in to utter a single catchphrase as if he were a parrot going through a Taking Back Sunday phase.
Regardless, it's a good poem! And good wines are so much like a good narrative. They allow you to press the pause button and focus on your senses and heart. As warm wine floods your system, or a painfully nostalgic moment creeps into your mind, you are reminded that by goddess, you are a human! You are alive and it is cool and okay to feel sad every now and then because if we didn't we wouldn't have shit like Lenore, and we sure as hell wouldn't have The Raven.
What I drank: The Corvidae 2014 Lenore Syrah. Corvidae is the Latin name for the family of birds that consists of the Raven, Crow, Magpie, and Jay. These four birds are flying all over the PNW, creating the already slightly-gloomy skies with magic.
Where it's from: The Yakima Valley in Washington. The climate here creates complex, dark fruit with lots of acidity, and the rolling foothills of the Cascade mountains put the grapes at a good angle for when sunlight stars to stream in. Merlot is the most popular out here, but Syrahs are on the rise.
Where I drank it: Mostly my back patio out in the garden. I'm currently living in an Airbnb , and we have a stupidly lovely back yard shrouded in oak trees and pine cones, with a nest of baby crows sitting high up in the branches. I'd be an idiot to drink it anywhere else.
What it tasted like: The darkest book with all sorts of dirty twists and turns and passionate love scenes that spell sex on the walls. Like Gone Girl but in the early 19th century. Jam and pepper on the nose, then handfuls of olive, herbs, allspice and smoke. Tannin party. Smooth Vanilla Coke to finish.
What to drink it with: Fat, stinky and soft cheeses. The high tannins of this wine waltz nicely with the mild earthiness of a triple-çréme Brie, or something else along that nature. Not a wine to pair with books; there is already so much going on that combining it with another narrative might be too much stimulation. Instead I recommend a blank page or a friend. The complexity of this dark beauty triggers creativity, and you'll want to talk about it. Or at the very least, write it down.