Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Wine Wednesday: Pedernales Cellars 2009 Merlot

Last week, I found myself with tendinitis in my left arm and was placed on some serious meds -- ones that cautioned against even a single drink. This week, I am better and still taking some medication, but they say to limit alcohol. So with the prohibition lifted, I rifled through my collection of bottles looking for just the right one. After Sean's and my recent visit to Pedernales Cellars, as well as their kind visit to the Better Block Party in San Antonio, I knew I had to open one of their bottles. I side stepped my horde of Block One, which has been sold out since March, and  somehow came to the 2009 Merlot we bought a while back during a visit to Vinously Speaking. Ah, when I opened this wine this week -- after nine days of no wine -- I felt a relaxing satisfaction.

Pedernales Cellars 2009 Merlot


This wine is subtle and surprising. When I took a few moments with the aroma, I caught scent of rich chocolate that was emboldened by the sweetness of dark fruit (more the sweet smell associated with the fruit rather than the fruit smell). After swirling and lingering, the strength of the wine moved forward, one of tobacco and earth. The scent went from lush to deep in just a few swirls.

The rich aroma gives way to flavors that are more subtle than rich. Honestly, I had been avoiding Merlots for a bit; I had gotten bored by them, especially the relative blandness I kept finding. When I tasted this wine back at the shop and this week, I was reminded about the interesting nuances Merlot can manifest when grown and matured in Texas. In this case, the flavors connected to the aroma -- the chocolate, the dark fruits, even the tobacco and earthier flavors -- are light and soft. They dance on the tongue and slide right by. Even as I sat chewing at the wine, I still had to hone in to find these flavors. They were only hints at first, but with care, they dance and mingle together.

What was noticeable was the warmth, or burn, in the wine. I was surprised that as I began to swallow, the heat suddenly picked up. It was a pleasant surprise that played with the tobacco in the wine. But even this strong sensation melded away. This wine enticed my palate but made me eager to drink more. It was as if there were hidden treasures still waiting for me or lost pleasures to be revisited; I had to dive right back in.


Heat brushes my skin.
Across the sky, clouds slip and shift.
I stop to note it. 

This week saw me back to full time work (which means trying to teach six writing heavy college courses). My summer is past, and I find myself embracing the word Fall -- all this despite the heat outside that constantly reminds me that Summer doesn't end for at least three more weeks (officially) and will likely linger for a few more after that. And so it was no surprise that vacation was on my mind. But what was interesting was the sort of summer night that came to me as I pondered over this enticing wine.

I see a warm, dry summer night. The heat from the day is slowly dissipating but it still lingers on as night settles in. But it is the heat of night that is comfortable and just noticeable -- like the subtle flavors in the wine. The dry night whisks away the few beads of sweat that form, so there is just enough time to notice and feel the heat but not enough to be enveloped or overtaken by it -- and this is just like the heat I tasted as I drank the wine. There is a comfortable, relaxing quality about this sort of summer night. It is so easy to just sit outside and gaze up at the night sky.

Gardens by Moonlight -- San Antonio Botanical Gardens

And the night sky is full of long, thin clouds. The clouds swiftly move across the sky, shifting the colors just slightly: one moment it seems a flat black or maybe a dark charcoal gray, next a midnight blue peaks through, at another time it is a deep purple that spreads along the space. This fluctuating color is slow and subtle, despite the clear and constant movement of the clouds. But the clouds not only give way to different colors but also different views. Sometimes the sliver of moon shines bright or is obscured by a circle of clouds. Sometimes a cluster of stars, or maybe a rogue individual, blinks in the sky. And then there are the times that there seems to be nothing but open sky.

A glimpse of the moon -- William Chris Vineyards 2012

This subtle and slow change in the sky is matched only by the activity that surrounds me. An animal's call may pierce the quiet, but it always fades away. The laughter of playing children breaks the silence, but they quickly return to it knowing that they need to make sure their parents don't remember what time it is and force them to go in and go to bed. The sounds seem to appear suddenly, but they do not break the mood, and they fade away naturally. And just as they appear and disappear, so do the birds that sweep out of the trees from one branch to another. Or, maybe, without warning, a bat glides into view and moves smoothly from one peripheral to the other. This is a night of natural and smooth peaks and valleys.

Out in the open, I sit and enjoy this, concentrating on every stimuli I can. The ground around me has seen the worst of summer; the grass comes in odd shaped and sized clumps of faded green and crunchy brown. There seems to me more dirt than grass. But that is okay; it gives me one less thing to focus on. It is stable and simple. In this open space, I can feel the heat as it seems to breeze by. I can follow the clouds on their trek across the sky. I can listen for the sounds that murmur and crescendo. I can watch as the world moves on.

I remember so many nights like this as a child. The kids on my block would come back out after dinner. With the day cooling, it made for a great time to run. And with the dark, hide and seek became a real challenge. Even a good journey into the realm of make believe was aided by the darkness and its sensations. As we gathered to play, our parents gathered to chat. They would come together in someone's driveway -- lawn chairs and cool drinks in tow -- to share the news of the week. I made use of those summer nights and wish I could recapture them. As I sipped and savored this wine, I felt they were back again.

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