The Sip

An archive of notes from 2015—2019



In July, I took off for France to travel by way of motorcycle, meet some of my favorite & most important wine producers on their home turf, and take in the history and backroads. I was in the saddle for three weeks (the hammock, sometimes, too) and traversed over 7000 kilometers. I took lots of baths, I read less than I thought I would, I opened my computer approximately zero times. I ate a lot of yogurt, I ate a lot of cheese, I ate a lot of ham, I ate a lot of ham & cheese; I ate peaches shaped like donuts, peaches with flesh the color of butter and just as creamy, butter on its own (one to several times). I drank a lot of terrible coffee, and a tiny amount of truly incredible coffee; I dipped into water falls, crashed into swimming holes, tripped over cobble stones and reveled in the handwritten wine lists and the overwhelming generosity of everyone I met.

This trip was a voyage – to taste wine yes, but much more so to meet some of the best winemakers in the world, to ask the questions directly, to smell the air and the cellar and the ground for myself, and know with all my senses: this is the stuff. And I know that it is, but not because the grapes are magical or the recipe is proprietary or the business plan is genius or the marketing is coy.

These wines are made with the bare hands and open hearts of real people with a profound understanding of the souls of the plants, the delicateness of true balance, the earth herself. They exist in what they make, because they know enough to stay out of the way; I know this might sound a tad sentimental, but you’re just going to have to embrace it, drink it up, and enjoy it (the wines are featured in September’s Monthly Pour, so if ever there was a time to sign up, it’s now).

Also, you should know something: being on a motorcycle for 21 days, well, it does something to you: the wind is a bully that beats you up – someone who socks you in the shoulder meat to steal your lunch money; the midday sun bakes through your jacket, leaving you parched and compelling you to pull off the side of road, fling off your clothes, and get into that stream down there; the rain needles your every square inch; a bee stings your hand, small rocks hit your knees and travel right angles around your glasses and into your eyes; through the macabre of splattered bugs on your shield, you watch the day’s fading light dance on the horizon, like maybe you could actually get to it. But the road stretches out too fast, disappears behind you, uncurls ever forward. You feel tiny inside your helmet so you open it a crack and then: your being is flooded with smells in such bounty you try and grab them all, but they fly by too fast: oak trees, exhaust, wet dirt roads, damp forest, burning wood, that stream you keep seeing, the confluence of two rivers, bread baking, melons ripening, green things you can’t name, flowers you’ve never known, dry grass, wet grass, mysterious things the breeze offers up to you, cows, butter, cheese; the entirety of France. These smells become part of your matter and you recognize them in what you eat and drink later for dinner that night.

All of this perforates you, punctures you, prods you open an infinite microscopic number of times; and now, you are permeable, soluble, like only a motorcycle can make you.

This is how I know.

And it’s how I absorbed every last milligram of it all (we’re on the metric system over there, you know that!). Here’s an all-too-brief visual tour of the trip: