Three days to pay day. Keep it low. In and out. Yes, that lonely Jackson in your wallet is all between you and having any sort of monetary worth attributed to your name. Keep your head low and never look up to the horizon of the store. If you do, you will only see the tempting aisles of Bourdeaux, Alasce, Burgundy; Piedemont; Marlborough; Mendoza; and then the smaller designated areas of supreme frugal interest, the Chile and South Africa sections.
That was the plan, as I troted into the wine store. For a time I kept my head low, weaved through the Australians, the Chileans and South Africans, knowing the path better then the back of my right hand. Coming to the domestic aisle my sight honed onto the left shelving, which is precisely where the inexpensive pinot noirs begin their slow, then abrupt, ascent in price. Being a cold night in Decemeber, there was soup to made later in the evening. Not some light, insipid, sodium spruced concoction of boiled vegetables, but soup. A thick and hardy vegetarian pea and mushroom soup that would give challenge to any lentil side dish’s weight. Pinot seemed to fit the bill; having the knowledge that light, forward and silky go quite well with any sort of greenery you can toss up in the kitchen. Soups included. I took up a well-known name stay, the very brand that first introduced me to pinot noir:
Cycles Gladiator Pinot Noir 2010 – $10
Lavender, spice and a summer warmth wash through the nose. The wine itself is juicy, florid with forward strawberries and silky textures, like drinking a red stream – not the Kubrick kind of red stream from “The Shinning”, but, you know, a wine stream. There’s some undistinguished undertones, but when your talking about cheap pinot, you’re just happy when you don’t run into a thinned mess.
A very worthy wine.
Happy with the decision, I lunged for the door –– but wasn’t that a Elk Cove’s ’09 on sale (!). Forward, man. Forward.
Then a familiar face crossed my vision. Circular spectacles, nondescript peppered-brown hair, a perfectly combed, bushy mustache. It was Keith McCord. The name may not mean much to anyone outside of closed circuit television in Salt Lake, but this man was a news anchor. Had been since I was small. I’ve known that mustache since I was a boy, and could spot it out of mass of people without half trying. Some mustaches have very distinct characters. It flapped at me many nights after Stark Trek at ten o’clock on Wednesday nights. I really had no idea if the man was still in television –– I haven’t watched a news report in years, the one aspect of my life that I feel is worth gloating about. And now, the ‘stach was tangible, not longer a figment. And it drank Italian.
There’s a colloquial term being tossed around by the hipsters down at the coffee house that could be attributed to me after what I did next. Creeper, is the word. There is a discomforting aspect to following anyone around to see what kind of wine they enjoy, I’ll give you that. But I will counter, and instead proposition you with own term: Vino study. I was studying. That’s it. Like Socrates, the only aspect of this world I’ve gotten straight is that I know nothing. This is especially true when it comes to wines from foreign lands. Italian wines are of this example. And so, it’s always nice to see what others are buying. And let me tell you, McCord had the look of someone well versed in the Italian wine world.
The man had good taste, that was immediately clear. He chose a Chianti that I had had some time ago that was rather rose-y, sumptuous and moldy in the best way imaginable. He got two off them. Good to know I wasn’t off the mark. His two other picks were of a pricier nature, but he got several bottle of each all the same. Which means it’s got to be something extraordinary.
Don’t question my logic, I know it wasn’t intellectually spurious.
I waited for McCord and his voluptuous ‘stach to move on to the registers. Like a vulture on the remnants of a fox’s spoils –– or, Robert Parker on a Sonoma Zinfindel, your pick –– I swooped in and got a bottle of each respectively. Tasting notes will come sometime down the line.
I left feeling like I had filched. And this lead me to the question, was that ethical?
A perfect segue to the next evening: The Philosophy, Graduate and Faculty party. These parties are always a challenge; you usually need to spend a week or so in preparation, reading Spinoza or Nietzsche or Kierkegaard to better interpret half of what they’re all going on about –– And, with a few glasses of wine in you (!). This is a unique problem for me, actually. Parties and other sorts of gatherings tend to allude me more and more as time goes on. Perhaps its all the writing, seclusion, and the drinking that causes each. But I had a ethical question, damnit, and someone here was going to answer it for me. I took the first glass of liquid courage and went on about my search.
Montes Classic Series Merlot 2011 – $9
A chalky and high octane nose. The wine itself is supple with a surprising relative balance of light cherry, plum and some fallen rotten leaf. Its a tad unassuming and lacking a depth worthy of note, but it’s going to please.
“Was it ethical for me to hawk-eye that newsman?” I asked one of the philosophers.
“You wouldn’t get arrested,” he replied back, sipping afterwards and looking for another conversation to quickly cling to.
“So ethics is…what? Just some sort of eye of the beholder thing?”
“I don’t know,” he said with a sigh. That’s what we’re still working out.”
“Okay. Sure. Got it, otherwise you’d be out of the job.” He nodded and laughed with an awkward flair. “But what do you think?”
“Stevenson thought it was all some sort of linguistic power play between beliefs and attitudes.”
“Right. But what do you think?”
After a moment of reflection, “Plato thought there was a meta aspect to ethics. Like, order to the soul.”
“So it’s predefined? You think it’s predefined? Like, innate?”
He could only shrug.
“And so, somewhere out there is a rule, or code that can tell me that stalking Keith McCord was unethical?”
His hand shot up quickly. “Michelle!” he called out to the personage moving up the winding staircase.
No closer to my answer, I moved on to the next glass:
Altos Las Hormingas Mendoza Malbec Clásico 2011 – $9
Easily identifiable floral note with some minerality on the nose. Mouth-coating and broad in range with some appreciable spice in the front and back. Heart warming and restrained, it had a loquacious and lounge-y kind of feel –– meaning it has no problems being heady –– which is perfect for the price.
No one had a solution to my wine snooping quandary. One woman was just as intrigued as I was about what wines McCord had chosen, and hand no personal qualms of note herself. The only one without a beard I talked with trailed off the ethical question and was instead troubled by this news anchor’s decision to imbibe.
“He could have been buying it for another anchor,” I attempted to relieve.
“Why wouldn’t they buy it themselves?”
“Well, hell, maybe it was for some kids waiting outside that paid him to get it,” I speculated. “There must be some kids out there with grandiloquent speaking parents who know what the ‘good stuff’ is.” This did not help.
And then I found a large and chatty fellow, who reminded me of Ignatius from Confederacy of Dunces, sans hotdog stand, who countered my question with another question.
“Do you think it was ethical?”
“No. That’s why I’m asking.”
“But you wouldn’t be asking if you did not suspect something could be the matter?”
“An so…I’m creating the problem?”
“Well, if it’s stemming from me, and I feel uncomfortable with it, then it must be wrong in some capacity?”
“Firstly, let’s define wrong. What is wrong?”
“I uh,” I fumbled. I should have read more Protagoras. “It’s whatever society deems is right?”
“Is it? We’re the Sophists right, then?”
Feeling like I had just gone through an entire semester of Philo. 101 yet again, I proceeded to the counter lined with wine bottles again for the final wine to be drunk for the evening.
Château Recougne 2009 – $11
Some lavender and flat notes of cane sugar on the nose. The wine itself is flabby and insipid, while, once allowed to really open up to the air around it, shows off some favorable splashes of dark currants and wisps of fig. This lack of an wallop-of-interesting is not surprising; it usually takes more than eleven dollars to get something singing from Bordeaux. Skip it.
Without any sort of resolution to the McCord experiment, I let it slide away with the night. And away it went, drowned by the clatter of crystal class, chatter of innumerable speak-easy heads, shuttered between conversations of Middle Earth and proper proportions for baking custards with pumpkin purée twirled in (Note: like ethics, it’s impossible to truly know).
Quote of the Evening:
“A ‘quotable’ wine? No, no. Wouldn’t drink it. It sounds too musty.”