Sunday, May 16, 2010

Opening Sentence of the Day: The Grail

A glorious gleaming glittering October afternoon in the red clay hills of Dundee, Oregon, where hawks float by with writhing snakes in their beaks, and the deer fences are eight feet high and lined with barbed wire to keep out what grape growers call vineyard rats, and the BirdGard machine in the middle of the vineyard is squawking the warning cries of injured starlings at fifty decibels from four speakers covering fifteen acres, ans a thousand wasps are having the most intoxicating day of their whole lives, and the chief winemaker, the songwriter Don Lange, is cursing at the moles and gophers that have riddled the dirt between the rows of his vines, and musing about how maybe roasted gopher would go real good with the wine from his vineyard, and twenty people sweating like mad are picking grapes faster than you have ever seen anyone pick grapes before in your whole life, and the intense younger winemaker, Don's son Jesse, is driving a careening forklift truck at twenty miles an hour up and down the alleys between the rows, picking up bins the pickers have filled from the ends of the rows, and the operations manager, Wally, is cursing quietly but thoroughly as he tries to fix a fermenting tank, and the sales manager, Laura, is not selling or managing anything at all but instead picking madly through the dump tray for mangled grapes and wasps as a river of grapes and leaves and stems and wasps rockets by her on the way to the crushing machine, and the cellarmaster, Chuy, is sluicing juice out of the crushing machine and delivering it right quick into the fermenter or the press, which is to say red wine or white wine, which makes a huge difference here in the red hills of Dundee, because while the juice in the press will make excellent chardonnay and pinot gris and riesling and pinot blanc, the juice in the fermenters will make maybe perhaps mayhaps the Best Pinot Noir Wine in the World, which is a remarkable thing to say about wine from soil that is adamantly not French, and exactly the reason why everyone is working so madly this afternoon, because this is Harvest, the World Series and Super Bowl and World Cup and Grand Final of winemaking, and if the Holy Grail is to be found, which is what pinot noir winemakers call the Best Pinot Noir Wine in the World, it begins here, this week, on this gleaming hill, in a crisp brilliant sun, with the Cascade Mountains glittering snowily to the east and the Coast Range mountains rolling greenly to the west, with a hundred tons of purple-black grapes the size of fingernails roaring like a murky dusty river, and Wally cursing like a drunken sailor.

The Grail: A Year Ambling & Shambling Through an Oregon Vinyard in Pursuit of the Best Pinot Noir Wine in the Whole Wild World by Brian Doyle.

OK, I think this one almost bested my resolve to post the opening sentence from the books I read. They must have been having a sale on commas at the punctuation store.

That was the first sentence and also the first chapter, called "Maybe Perhaps Mayhaps," and as much as I dislike literary gimmicks, it does capture the frenzy of what a wine grape harvest must be like.

I think I am really going to enjoy (the rest of) this book. I wanted to read it because it is all about Oregon wine, and I live in Oregon and I like wine. But I didn't realize that it is about a particular Oregon winery -- Lange Winery -- that is one of my favorites.

Lange is the first winery that my husband and I went to together when we first started going out. He'll never let me forget that I "made him" drive on a gravel road in his 1969 MG convertible. We had to drive about 2 MPH to avoid dinging the car. But we managed to stash two cases of Lange pinot in the back, so it was worth the agony.


  1. Wow! You got two cases of wine stashed in the back of an MG convertible? I'm impressed!

    On our honeymoon to Sonoma and Napa a long long time ago, Laura and I managed to stash six cases in the trunk and the back seat of -- well, damned if I can remember what that car was, but it was a LOT bigger then an MG convertible.

  2. Bob -- Stashed may be too bog of a reach. Perched precariously behind the front seats, on top of the crammed-in-there convertible top, is more accurate.

    Hope Laura gets home safely from London!

  3. Yep, that's SOME sentence. However, while drinking a glass of Pinot Noir, I'm going to pretend that none of that frenzied activities is happening, that all it is is grandpa and the girls and a few old baskets leisurely walking the grapes into the bottles.


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