Monday, May 12, 2008

The Balance


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.

12 comments:

bikesgonewild said...

...cycling is in & of itself a magnificent activity but cycling is also a doorway through which we might learn to appreciate so many other enriching interests in life...

...the riding even seems to heighten our senses for better enjoyment of those newfound interests...

Alan D said...

Couldn't have said it better myself - my burgeoning interest in wine began on holiday in the South of France, riding the local roads on and adjacent to Tour stages and investigating he vinyards and their produce in the evenings.

As for the balance between consumption and fitness - let's just say it is always a fine one....

flahute said...

My current fave: Rodney Strong 2004 Cabernet ... about $17.00/bottle. Their single-vinyard (about $30.00/bottle) is even better, but difficult to find.

Cheesesteak said...

There is a weekend ride in Philadelphia entitled Vino Velo. The history of the ride, as I understand it, is that the riders refreshed themselves with a glass of wine after the ride. As this ride has become more competetive, the wine part no longer exists (as fas as I know). Nonetheless, the title remains. Here's to hopeing that, like the PROs, we amateaurs can still find the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of our labor.

ooompaloompa said...

in vino veritas

Anonymous said...

I live in the Finger Lakes Wine Region of New York State (USA).

If you are ever in the area, I would welcome you to contact me and show you around. Lot's of fantastic riding around here, especially in the fall when the leaves are changing and the harvest has been picked.

See: Bikely Website: Search for - Canandaigua, NY USA - KillBillVelo

PS: My fav's right now are Spanish Rioja's. Mmmm...

Great Story, Bottoms Up!

RiceDaddy said...

Provence, huh? Yeah...yep. Funny how a combination of dehydration, altitude, and intense heat can make just about anything wet taste good.

jitahs said...

Since the Vieux Telegraphe tickles your fancy, herewith an entire universe: http://www.kermitlynch.com/

Thank me with good blog entries.

Anonymous said...

I see you have a bottle of "The Prisioner"...

Thats some tasty vino.

Ed

SkidMark said...

A good German pilsner isn't too bad after a ride either..great post, though. Really not much to add

Anne said...

The ideal conditions for growing the best wine grapes also coincide with what most of us consider the most comfortable temperatures and humidity for living (and riding.) The Romans even noted this in locating of new settlements.

brian said...

I couldn't agree more, specifically with bonding with Chateauneuf de Pape. I visited the region in '98 and climbed the Ventoux in between catching World Cup soccer matches.

There are some great, undiscovered varieties in that region: Hermitage, Croze Hermitage, Cote Rotie.

I'm even a fan of Cotes de Ventoux because, well, Bedoine is where all of the suffering begins when climbing the lady of Provence.

The exchange rate is killing our ability to pick up these undervalued wines on the cheap. Luckily, there are some local California wines that are trying to go this route. Look for Rhone styles with good amounts of syrah, grenache, mourvedre, etc.

Climbs like Cavedale Road in Sonoma add a bit of cycling legitimacy to the grapes growing nearby, I think.