Welcome to the most exhausting time of the year.
Thanksgiving travel gives way to familial dinner table stress. Black Friday comes, with its yearly dose of lines, crowds, stampedes and shootings. Blood pressures rise. Tension mounts. TV, radio, email, Twitter, Christmas music on all stations, bad weather, road rage. The long stretch of holiday parties, shopping, budgetary woes, seasonal affective disorder, all screeching towards the end-of-month holidays and...finally...New Year's, after which everyone is too hung over to be stressed.
I'm tired just thinking about it all.
In our rare moments of downtime, calm is not something that we as Americans either value or savor. There's always something in the inbox, waiting on the DVR, or around any corner. Here at the Naked Vine, I'm proposing the Minute of Calm. At least once a day, every day, between now and the end of the year, I'm going to try to stop for sixty seconds and quietly reflect on...nothing.
Sounds easy, doesn't it? Try it. See if you can be still for one minute. Start...right...now.
Don't worry about me. I'll wait.
Couldn't do it, could you? Don't worry. Neither could I...at least not at first. I need at least something to distract that nervous little voice in my head. I needed an assist.
Of course, I went for the easy way out...a glass of wine. Something I could pour, sit back, and savor while I let my mind go dark. This site being an egalitarian place, I wanted to give you some options. For me, it's all about the time of day:
The Just-Home-From-Work Glass: Stepping over the threshold after my evening commute, drop the lunch bag on the counter, play with the pups, change into some sweats, reach for a glass and pour myself a dollop to pause and refresh. I generally want something a little crisp if this is going to be the Minute. Ecker 2007 Grüner Veltliner is a recent find that fits the bill. "Grapefruit and rocks" was my first thought after tasting this high-acid, cool white. It's fragrant for a Veltliner, and the flavors cut right through whatever stress might manifest on your tongue, both giving you a little jolt of energy and allowing you to sit back and unwind. Best of all, it comes in a 1 liter bottle, so you get a little extra for your $10.
The Relaxing Evening Glass: Sitting in a comfy chair or laid out on the sofa, a glass to exhale fully and then breathe in the bouquet. Something lovely and supple, like...say...a pinot noir. In this case, Bearboat 2006 Pinot Noir. One of the prettier wines I've had the opportunity to sniff in quite some time, the cherry/vanilla/smoke triumvirate of a good California pinot is in full effect here. First on the nose, and strongly on the tongue, the full fruitiness of this wine quickly slides into a smoky, sinuous middle and a long, lasting finish. Absolutely a delicious wine over which to sit and ponder the meaning of life. (And you could even invite a friend along if you felt social) Now, I'll be honest -- you may have a hard time finding this one for $15. I found it on sale, and after all -- you deserve it. Splurge if you gotta.
The Nightcap: Perhaps you're not going to get to spool down until just before you head for bed. One of the evening rituals around here is a piece of chocolate or a two-bite brownie with a glass of wine. That combination sends anyone into a deliciously contemplative mood, in my opinion. So, as winter's grip starts to tighten, get those port glasses out and pour yourself a dram or three of port to go with some chocolate. For this, I chose Graham's "Six Grapes" Reserve Port. A big, robust port, full of plums and cherries -- and a bouquet of fruit and pipe tobacco. (I kid you not.) A 375ml can be had for around $15. Well worth the price.
Don't let the holiday season overwhelm you. Focus on the peace and the calm wherever you may find it. Who knows? The Minute of Calm may last beyond New Year's. That may well be my New Year's resolution.