In my basement, there are five bottles of inexpensive Entre-Deux-Mers that will have to wait for next summer. They were part of a bulk purchase before the Solstice, a smart buy at ridiculously low cost. It became our default sitting-on-the-porch, watching-the-world-go-by wine — case after case, weekend after weekend, broken up with this and that from the left side of the ready-to-drink rack in the basement. That is where the light whites rest, and it is mostly empty now.
The leaves on the dogwood outside the living room window are deep brick with some pink at the edges, the color of old, grave wine. The windows are closed at night against the cold. In the basement, I am opening boxes ignored during the hot months, and am surprised by what I find: Chilean Cabs, Spaniards I’ve walked with through a dozen vintages, Barbaresco I forgot I bought, a couple of gift bottles from years ago. The short days and north winds will be the death of these wines. I move them up onto the racks where the white wines used to be, lining them up in anticipation. It is time, I remember, to order a load of firewood. As the big reds replace the sleek whites on the wine racks, stacked firewood will replace the chairs on the front porch.
The golf clubs are out of the trunk of the car; the garden is down and the freezer stuffed with herbs destined for sauces and stews. My relationship with the outside world is changing. Until next year, I will visit the front porch fleetingly, ducking out for logs to stoke the fire, ducking back in before the chill fills me with regret. The back yard will become Siberia, a place providing no sustenance and requiring no attention — abandoned to the dogs and what passes in suburbia for wildlife.
Someone proposed once the creation of a season called Locking between Autumn and Winter, a time when nature goes into hibernation. It makes sense to me, because this is the time of year when I experience the same thing. In a month, I will grit my teeth against the darkness and cold and not unclench my muscles until the first warm day of Spring. That day comes thankfully early in Kentucky. I grew up in northern Illinois, and the same March that is horrible there brings the first wildflowers here in Kentucky. The dogwood out front, dying before my very eyes, will be pink with joy.
It’s time for red wine now — deep, mysterious, slow to come forward with its wit and wisdom. The only good thing about this time of year is encountering old friends resting in their bottles.