I held off pairing Circe with a wine for a long time; as one of the best books I’ve ever read, what wine could stand up? But when I opened this white Cab Franc (?!) that I'd been saving and said "HOLY SHIT" at the first sip, I knew.
Circe is a retelling of the life of the famous nymph-witch from the Odyssey who turned men, including Odysseus's, into pigs. Reduced through history to a misogynist figure, here Miller, a classical scholar, gives her agency, heart, and a story all her own. She imagines the circumstances that got the young immortal (Circe is a nymph, the daughter of Helios, the sun, and the ocean nymph Perse) exiled onto the tiny paradisal island of Aiaia, giving her powers, strength, vigor, a horrible family, a fantastic sex life, and far more credit than history ever has. Slowly, in isolation, she develops her powers as a sorceress but only uses them for self-defense when she has to, instead becoming a “good witch” figure that modern culture embraces wholeheartedly. With the ever-fascinating politics & affairs of Greek gods/goddesses woven in, there's a reason it‘s still on the New York Times best-seller list a year after its debut. I fell so deeply for this book & Circe; I couldn’t have dreamed up a more empathetic and thrilling heroine.
And what a match in this white Cabernet Franc! Made by badass vitner Leah Jørgensen, a Loire-style expert in the Willamette Valley since 2011, this wine is like nothing I've ever tasted. It’s actually the first commercially produced still white wine from Cabernet Franc grapes, the jucie of which is immediately bled off the skins to eliminate tannin and color. Bursting with sharp, tangy green peppercorn, it mimics the bite of red Cab Franc but with this tactile, herby quality I couldn't quite place at first; it almost overwhelms in flavor (but in a terrific way). When it opened up, it called to mind the feasts that Circe sets for her visiting sailors: An aroma of cured meats, rich & tangy, a taste of salted cheeses or anchovies & Meyer Lemon all covered in fresh-from-the-witch's-garden herbs. I imagined Circe brewed this up with her powers of herbology, something lighter than the god's typical mead, perfect for a verdant mountainous island surrounded by the sea. With high acid, medium-light body, & structure despite the flavor burst, it's one of the best wines I've ever tasted. And it doesn't hurt that the label features a goddess of a woman, holding wine & grapes, surrounded by flora.
I had been saving this wine since the fall, interested in tasting it but truly unable to imagine what it would taste like (and therefore unsure of when to open it). But it turns out I waited until just the perfect moment. This was great for late spring; after winter’s comfortable reds & reads, I want some sharp women & sharp wine in my life again. These two do it. #booksnbottles#thebuzzedword
Book: Circe by Madeline Miller
Bottle: Leah Jørgensen Cellars Blanc de Cab Franc
Region: Willamette Valley, OR
Grape: Cabernet Franc
Imported by Vos Selections and Five Grapes
Found at Crystal City Wineshop (D.C.) and The Corkery (NYC)