Friday, October 5, 2012

Locavino: Cellar 4201

It’s a gorgeous Friday afternoon in October. After a week of rain, the sky is a clear blue with a white tint on the edges of the horizon. I’m sitting on the patio of Cellar 4201, a small boutique winery in the Yadkin Valley AVA of North Carolina, surrounded by crape myrtles, ferns, and bright yellow hibiscus flowers; the whole area pock-marked with two-seater cast iron tables sporting sun umbrellas in vibrant shades of yellow and orange.

I’ve just finished a tasting with one of the owners, Greg, and have settled down to work while sipping a glass of their Cherokee Red, an oak-aged blend of Merlot, Cabernet, and Sangiovese. The nose is soft and full, with hints of cedar, chocolate, and coffee that mimic the espresso bean chocolate I tasted with the wine. The mouthfeel is pleasantly round, demonstrating rich plum and blackcurrant, with notes of raspberry and chocolate on the back end. The finish is smooth; the tannins, gentle but present.

I meet the winery mascot, a thirteen-year-old beagle named Buttercup, and spend a few minutes talking to the other owner, Donna. The patio is still wet from a hosing-down before tomorrow's fundraising event for the horse rescue operations at Hidden K Stables, so we chat about upcoming wine events in the Yadkin Valley.

Meanwhile, the poplar trees at the edge of the property are going through their own form of veraison, shading from green to yellow at the tops. It’s been an odd year for weather, Greg confirms: late freeze; spotty hot summer; rainy fall; and early, slim harvest. By now, his five-and-a-quarter acres are all safely bestowed in steel and oak inside the rustic brick winery to my right. The 2012 barrel-aged Chardonnay looks particularly promising, he says.

Cellar 4201 sells two Chardonnays (oaked and steel), a reserve Merlot, a Cabernet, the Cherokee Red, and a semi-sweet red blend called Sweet Native. All of the wines are reasonably priced at under $20 a bottle. Most are sold right here at the winery, and for good reason. I can think of few better ways to spend a Friday afternoon than with friendly people, lovely scenery, and a glass of red wine to make the hours speed by.

Thanks, Cellar 4201!

Monday, October 1, 2012

October's Child

“He is outside of everything, and alien everywhere. He is an aesthetic solitary. His beautiful, light imagination is the wing that on the autumn evening just brushes the dusky window.” - Henry James 
 That's the way October makes me feel. The air yields a crisp bite like that from a juicy apple, and the golden light of evening becomes at once more beautiful and more ephemeral. Life, full life, presses itself against your senses and threatens to vanish if you move too quickly.

Compounding this sense of fragility is the designation of October as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I come from a family of breast cancer survivors, so efforts to battle this disease strike particularly close to home, and it feels right that I should do my part not only to raise awareness, but also to model prevention in my own life.

Perhaps for that reason, it seems appropriate that I marked October 1 by getting my first screening mammogram. By most standards, I'm too young for this procedure, but my doctor recommended that I establish a baseline scan now because my family history renders me "at risk". So, on a drizzly, rainy Monday, I made my way to the Comprehensive Cancer Center at my local hospital.

The hospital is a labyrinth of parking decks, hallways, and long, sterile corridors with frosted glass windows and purple-tinted trashcans. I am at least twenty years younger than everyone else in the fourth-floor waiting room, and I feel out-of-place immediately. I'm sitting next to a hardy plant, distinguished from a fake only by the browning scars where anxious fingernails have scratched or pinched off the tips of the leaves. It's better than biting your fingernails, right?

The news murmurs in the background, but my head is buzzing louder. Remember: you parked in lot B, green level. Take a left. Ride the elevator from the hallway on the purple level (marked "M" in the elevator) to the green level (marked "B").

Who is here because they are dying? What an absurd but natural question to be thinking right here, right now. Who here is in pain? I am the only one not wearing tennis shoes.

The outside of the hospital is under construction, and it's an eery sound. I don't want to mistake those machines for the ones inside. I'm glad I know a little bit about what to expect. Thank you, private web browsing and a phone call to Mom. Why is it so difficult to talk about a clump of cells that have been gone for twenty-five years?

"Have a seat at the second desk on the right." It's like taking a standardized test, only not. No cell phones. Put your pencils down. But here they Scantron your body, not your paper, looking for bubbles that shouldn't be filled with cells.

It's been thirty minutes now. I think about the GRE again, showing ID and being shown to a locker. But now, "Keep your personal belongings, leave your clothes."



One hour and forty-five minutes have passed, but the test itself took only fifteen. I should have used the waiting time to cram my brain full of medical terminology, so I could understand what the technician was saying.

"No cause for concern."  I understood that much, at least. I'm free to go?

Lot B; Green Level.

Green is good. Green means "Go."

And yet, I'm one of the lucky ones. For so many women (and some men), October is full of yellows and reds.