A Condrieu Revelation: My Wine Wake-Up Call

Here’s my entry in Jancis Robinson’s Seminal Wine Writing Competition the theme of which is how we discovered our passion for wine. Thrilled to learn that it made the cut! Winner will be announced tomorrow, September 28, so wish me luck. If you’re interested in reading the other entries (so many good ones!) here’s a link to the site.

 

 

Rosado a la playa (2)

‘I’m Lauren Walsh from Miami, FL and I blog at www.theswirlingdervish.com. While there are many reasons I have fallen in love with wine, the evening described in this article remains my most potent memory. Wine is entwined with life, as they say, and this experience represented a defining moment in mine. I’m currently a WSET diploma student and have turned my love of wine into both an educational quest and a contemporary writing project.’ Her (unedited) entry in our seminal wine competition follows. 

Let me begin by stating for the record that solitude is my preferred condition. While I’d say that I’m still a few ticks shy of qualifying as a full-fledged misanthrope, I tend to seek out the quiet spaces in our increasingly busy and noisy world. Unfortunately, those peaceful oases come along rather less often than I’d like, what with the demands of a hectic work schedule, a busy household, and maintaining friendships with the small circle of indulgent saints who will endure me.

But that’s what makes these moments so precious – they come, unbidden and of their own accord. I have found that these periods of solitude, as elusive as they are, tend to surprise me, sneaking up when I least expect them and probably need them most.

Back in 1999, in another marriage in another life, I was still living up north, in a far-flung suburb of Washington, DC. My neck of the woods was still considered “country” back then and, while the peace and quiet of living off the beaten path were much to my liking, the long commute to a demanding job was not. So, when I found out that my then-husband needed major surgery (and major looking-after), I arranged to work from home while he recovered. Ah! Bliss! No long drive to the office, no crazy co-workers – at least for a while. What more could I ask for?

It was the end of January; cold, grey, windy, horrible January. While I was grateful not to join the other commuters in an hour-plus slog to work every day, being at home was no picnic. My husband was immobile, meaning he needed help doing everything. Everything. And he was not a good patient, either, always irritated with me or the dogs or the food. And when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, a pipe burst in the master bathroom, wreaking havoc all over our house. I thought I was losing my mind!

But in the craziest times we always find some way to function, to get it all sorted out, and I did, too. The plumber finally arrived and sealed the pipe. I got the bathroom cleaned up and made an appointment with the contractor to come out and assess the damage. I settled down the dogs. Grumpy, complaining husband? Well, you can’t have everything.

After making sure His Grumpiness was comfortable and headed off to La La Land (courtesy of a nice dinner and much-needed sedatives) I went into the kitchen and sat down. The dogs followed me, and the three of us looked at each other as if to say, “Is this day over yet?” For the first time in hours I looked outside, glad to remember that a bigger world existed than the one inside my house. It was snowing!

At first a few sprinkles, then a burst of flurries, and then, a full-on, blizzard. Within the span of an hour, the grass wore a blanket of white velvet and the peach trees looked like they’d been dusted with sugar. Seeing the snow in all its beauty woke me up, stirred my senses, and I realized I was starving. I caught a whiff of the chicken stew simmering on the stove and went to make a bowl for myself. The only thing missing was a glass of wine.

Guigal Condrieu

I trudged down to the basement to ferret out a bottle of something that would work with the stew, which was more of a tagine, with dried apricots and cumin. My eyes fell upon a Guigal Condrieu from the Northern Rhône, a Viognier. At the time I was just beginning to be interested in wine and didn’t know much about it. I plucked the Condrieu from the shelf and ran back upstairs. Then I made a tray for myself and went into the living room, where a fire blazed, and I could watch the snow through the French doors. And for the first time all day, I sat in total silence. His Grumpiness was asleep. The dogs napped on the floor next to me. No TV in the background, no complaints emanating from the bedroom. Nothing but the crackling fire and the relief flooding over me like a tidal wave. I took a deep breath and wiped away the tears that were suddenly streaming down my cheeks. And then I took a sip of Viognier.

Wow! It was floral in a way I didn’t know wine could be. And there were apricots and peaches, too. It was full-bodied, and lush, unlike any white wine I’d ever had. Immediately I was transported to an exotic paradise, if only in my imagination. But the reality was unavoidable: there, in my living room, in the middle of a blizzard, in my first moment of tranquility after an excruciating day, I fell in love with Viognier.

I still remember that evening in vivid detail; the horrible day that led to an hour of beauty. A moment of perfect solitude amidst the madness. And I’m still in love with Viognier.

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