Monday, May 12, 2008
Through cycling, I have come to know more of the world than I encountered through any other endeavor of my life. Cycling has given me an appreciation of both foreign cultures and languages. I’ve gained a greater appreciation of world history, of manufacturing processes, heck, even economics. It’s not an overstatement to say that cycling has given me the world.
One of the more unexpected pleasures cycling presented me is an appreciation of wine. I don’t claim that cycling made me appreciate wine; that would make for a rather idiotic suggestion. Rather, it was in my travels as a cyclist that I had my personal wine epiphany.
I’d had a Margaux and Napa Cabs but it wasn’t until I’d had the tiniest taste of the Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf du Pape during a trip to Provence that my brain said, “Hold the phones: We want more of that!”
Through wine I’ve gained a greater appreciation of land, climate and a fresh perspective on the change of seasons. It’s also a new take on real estate, to say nothing of the patience required to wait for the product to mature. Only a Richard Sachs customer has this kind of patience.
What I’ve noticed is that most of the places I like to ride, with the exception of the most mountainous terrain, also happen to be great for growing wine. Riding by the ordered rows of vineyards is peaceful and relaxing.
The intersection point between wine and cycling is, naturally, problematic. The monastic life of the competitive cyclist doesn’t mesh well with alcohol and wine drinking doesn’t tend to lead to spontaneous episodes of exercise. Balancing the two means I must watch how much I drink so that I can continue to ride well while wine reminds me I need to live a little.
It occurred to me one evening after a particularly difficult ride as I was enjoying a glass of a big fruit bomb that my taste in riding terrain and in wine bears something in common. I like roads and wines that are unpredictable, straightforward in their appeal, off the beaten path, on the flashy side and rather thrilling as they go down. In cycling, that means mountain roads with dramatic vistas and thrilling descents, and in wine I define it as big, fruit-driven wines, particularly Zinfandels.
I’m slower for drinking wine, there’s no doubt. I’m also poorer for it. Nonetheless, my life has been enriched by it as much as it has been enriched by cycling. It has taught me to take my time with meals, the value of slow food, and in a world being inexorably homogenized by big box retailers, bringing home a bottle of wine from my travels can be a way to bring home a real reminder of a place, an actual taste of the place itself. Long after my memory of the roads begin to fade, I can open that bottle to bring out the sun of a perfect day.