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Tasting Notes

After Rebecca Lindenberg

Poetry | Wine, poetry
June 6, 2022

This piece is part of the Wine notebook, which features original art by Su Yu-Xin.


Typically positive; often
found in full-bodied red
wines with moderate to
heavy amount of oak aging,
particularly those from
Bordeaux; can also come off
as “peppery” or “minty” in
smaller concentrations

How he’d always brush his
teeth before making out. The
smack of saliva, but clean
washed, in tender. The
smack of his body: peaking
while standing, then
collapsing onto mine.

Heads blooming with MDMA, we found our way to the backyard of the co-op, where he lived for three months in the room with the skylight that gave us a face full of spider welts the first night after we moved in his meager furnishings: the bedside table painted blue with white clouds and the twin lamps like a ’70s teen suburban dream, the King James Bible, the one good brimmed hat, the mattress he let me wrap in yellow jersey sheets. (Slept the next night with our heads to the door, sacrificed our feet to the spiders.) Found our way to the sauna that always smelled like cedar, though it was built of something cheaper. Or maybe it wasn’t cedar, but all those resinous years. Stripped our clothes, had sex (he always said “made love,”) the best yet, knowing we’d walk back in the gooey moonlight, sleep in our good bed in our new good house that night.


A compound that can be
naturally produced in
secondary malolactic
fermentation and adds an
intense buttery flavor to
wine; same compound found
in microwaveable buttered

“Photographs are signs,
which don’t take, which turn,
as milk does” —Roland
Barthes, Camera Lucida

One must be careful of
denaturing a protein, but
who’s idea of nature to
consider? He and I both had
our essentials, the order we
created for ourselves,
questioned until undone. As
Unnaturals, we chose each
other, a new family.

Vessel that I uncork, from
which I screw out a tubelet,
like a cheese turner pulling
out one round, nutty finger.
I pour out your soul, though
some drops remain, clinging
in the bottle.

Took a photograph that day where he became obsessed with wheat-pasting a quote all around San Luis Obispo. There he is with his last ten dollars, deciding on the cheapest paper, the most volume. There we are watching as the words are born, line by line from the printer, the ink warm and cream-like until it sinks into its own black finality:

It is better to be violent,
if there is violence in our hearts,
than to put on the cloak
of nonviolence
to cover impotence.

—Mahatma Gandhi

Casein is the main protein in milk and is used to clarify white wines by linking to the wine’s naturally occurring aromatic compounds associated with bitterness and browning. What’s formed is called a polymer chain—one of the strongest chemical relationships.

I was looking for something unbreakable when I met him.

The time we decided to skip our classes and see Mulholland Drive together at The Palm and I was waiting for him at that iron bench in front of the ticket booth and he rounded the corner in his green army jacket with the hood up, smoking a cigarette. How he bought us popcorn with extra butter and handed me a cup of free water and when I removed the plastic top, he took it so gently from me. How later down the road the rock show in the coffee shop was starting up again, but we stayed outside singing to Sufjan Stevens’s “Casimir Pulaski Day,” and he was full of energy, walking, stepping in towards me, smiling, grabbing my waist, stepping back and wagging his finger to the rhythm. I was leaning against the brick wall with my head turned to him.


Used by some men to
describe aromatic white or
red wines that “give up”
their aromas easily (subtext:
“easy to drink,” lower price

A bartender asks if I’d like
soda “from the gun.” I
reluctantly say: yes. I am the
only woman at the bar. I am
the only one who receives
this wording.

I hate driving by
the billboard in San Luis
Obispo, a restaurant ad with
a 1950s style pinup girl
and Bettie Page bangs,
holding a glass of red wine
and giggling, “Come whine a

Once, and only once, he let
slip: Do you like being my
little slut? We stopped, stewed
in the what-was-just-said. But
our bodies started speaking
again. Finally, I let slip: Yes.

Working in wine, I enjoyed disappearing from aspects of gender’s conditioning. Wearing clothes made purely for utility and no makeup. The feeling in my body of the forklift rearing below me. To slide the forks delicately within a pallet, and with such ease, jack it up to three or four times my height.

I loved to pick up the little loop tool, freshly sterile from the flame of a Bunsen burner, and to swab a cell culture upon a glass slide. The names of the stains—Malachite green, crystal violet, safranin, fuchsine—thrilling my tongue. I saw myself Queen of Hearts, painting the roses red, alone, in the ecstasy of minor control.

It was only ever men who made me fear my affections were stains.

After hanging out there for several hours and drinking lots of gin, we walked home in a comfortably drunken stupor, past the French Hospital and over the Amtrak bridge where we suddenly stopped and he wheeled me into his arms and in a daze we kissed, long and so infatuated but sort of tense from smiling at the same time. For a few moments, we stumbled together in a sort of lovely dance before continuing on with our arms around each other. When we reached his apartment I was freezing and wearing all of his jackets but wanted to dance to the Bollywood song in Ghost World, “Jaan Pehechaan Ho.” He agreed only if I would take my clothes off with him and of course I did, shedding a jacket each time he twirled me under his arm.


Used to describe full-
bodied red wines that are
“complex,” often from
aging, and high in alcohol;
other related descriptors
“big,” “bold,” “firm”
“austere” (subtext: requires
work to understand, higher
price point)

One of his most attractive
traits: androgyny. Those long
eyelashes. How often he was
asked if he was wearing
mascara. The 1960s women’s
sweaters, receptivity to
jewelry. He, his mother, and I
were all the same size. Stole a
bunch of silk shirts from her
wardrobe, skinny jeans from

The white cocktail napkin
with its lace imprint, its
corner ripped and missing, is
a wayward daughter. The bro
eyeing me at the end of the
bar is also a wayward

The theme of the party where we met: Dads on Vacation. Most of us sported some combination of: a Tommy Bahama shirt, socks with sandals, map in shirt pocket, plastic straw in beer, a Bluetooth headset, a lei, a zinc-oxide nose, an oversized margarita glass. He had none of these. He wore an orange sweater. His hair was long, a bit greasy. It fell across his eyes: green. We were suddenly alone in the kitchen, talking about Slowdive’s song “Dagger.”

We moved up the coast after college. A Tenderloin local convinced him to empty his bank account, after which they shared two fifths of vodka, and, I believe, nothing more. On his way home, thinking a man was being sexist whistling at ladies on the street, he threw a cup of hot coffee all over the man’s eggwhite suit, got his ribs bruised, nose broken, eye blackened, the silver chain necklace he loved spattered with blood, a spray of rosebuds. Before he went to beating, the man looked at him and said, “Look what you’re making me do.”

I found him on our front steps, stewing in loss. He said the city’s hustle had got to him.

I wanted to say something to him then. That I knew other young men that thought they’d beat the system. Like it’s traffic. Like it’s a bonus round.

Instead, I showed him the prints I had developed. Not the trains, beaches, impressive fires. The ones of him, the only ones with light leaks. Here, a lash of incandescent blue across one of his eyes made him look like a rebel in a space opera. In another, he was a Roman senator with a sash of magenta across his waist. All this light from a hole in the body of my camera.

A hole in the body.
All this light.


Can be found in red wines,
particularly those made from
traditional European
practices; can be caused by
the spoilage yeast
Brettanomyces; could be
positive if perceived as
complexity, or negative if
perceived as “plastic,” “Band-
Aid,” “horsey,” “foxy,” or
“sweaty saddle”

Isinglass is a gelatin derived
from the dried swim bladders
of sturgeon, used to settle out
proteins in a wine, the use of
which is a primary reason
wine is not naturally vegan.

“There’s a point where
fearlessness twists into self-
—Kim Gordon, from Girl in a

One roommate at the co-op: crazy bastard Blake, worst drug dealer in town, worst meaning you might ask for LSD and a minute after swallowing he’d reveal it was laced with PCP. He cracked the heartiest laugh then, flapped his hands at his knees, face red as the runner beans in our organic garden out back. Brought my girlfriend to his BBQ once, where he cut steak with a knife as wide as a gingko leaf, pretended to stab her with the handle, while he held the blade.

We were in one of those ruts where we had to smoke weed every night to go to bed. To get out of it, we decided to go vegan. I memorized a quote from Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1984): “Humanity’s true moral test, its fundamental test . . . consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect humankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it.”

On Easter Sunday, the pastor encouraged us to cut out the stream from every poster seen of a thirsty deer. Everyone nodded as if they knew what he meant and only in that moment did I consider attending church regularly.

We bought steaks at the farmer’s market downtown. I opened a nice bottle from when we’d gone wine tasting with my family and sold the bit that he wasn’t an alcoholic. Delicately watched each other spoon the butter over the top to cook slowly, like we were in a dark room watching the past emerge through the temporary bath of solution.


Often found in full-bodied
red wines with heavy
amount of oak aging;
could be positive, or
negative if perceived as
“burnt,” “singed,”

The way he smokes his
cigarettes. When his eyes
are bright and reflective
after having a drink, the
freckles on his nose. The
way his eyes change color
in the range of some
hybrid blue-green. The way
he wags his finger when
he’s singing to music he
loves or telling me
something inappropriately
ominous like “Some day,
Maddie . . .”

How my David Lynch
movie will begin: contained
in the head of a match is
an entire life, an entire
story. The match is
scraped, becomes fire.

We decide to get loaded, buy some weed from Dani, having to stop by her apartment and taste her homemade mochi, picking up a shitty bottle of Beringer wine that I select at the drugstore. He rolls us a joint, we smoke half of it, going out for a cigarette break eventually. I’m sitting in the white cobwebbed plastic deck chair, having smoked salvia with Michelle earlier, and I have my first bad trip, my vision a speeding tunnel of light that wraps around me like a crown of white wire. He takes my cigarette from me, carries me up the stairs to the place I feel most safe: his bed.

Took a photograph watching him climb the ornamental red phone booth in the smoker’s patio of Frog & Peach Pub. One hand steadies his perching, the other clasps the poster, the paste dripping down its back, mimicking the sweat on my neck. He’s reaching his farthest, realizing he needs to go farther to cement it upon the high brick wall. This will be the only one that lasts past the following week’s heavy rains.

Bought a pack of his Pall Mall shorts, considered by many of my friends as last resort or bottom budget cigarettes. Never quite asked why they were his brand, but I grew to love the deep red cartons scattering our bedroom. Like keepsake boxes, beds for mice. Bought them not for when I’m feeling drunk or social, but more calloused, to wear off the layers of time since I last tasted him on my lips, smelled him on my fingertips. Felt my throat swell the morning after, from having him the night before.


Often found in medium-
bodied to full-bodied red
wines as a result of darkly
aromatic fruit or moderate to
heavy amounts of oak
aging; typically positive

“It’s so quiet, / and empty,
when he’s left. I feel like a
landscape, / a ground
without a figure”
—Sharon Olds, “Stag’s Leap”

“I wanted a sieve, a mask, a,
I hate this word—
cheesecloth— / to breathe
through that would trap it—
whatever was inside
everyone else that / entered
me when I breathed in”—
Marie Howe, “Magdalene—
The Seven Devils” (2017)

Traditional to Georgian
winemaking, qveri, or kveri,
are giant earthenware vessels
sealed with beeswax. They
look like eggs, so the easiest
metaphor is womb. Such a
large fermentation has
dictated the qveri be buried
either underground or in the
floor of a winery—the
pressure of the surrounding
soil—it keeps the vessel
from bursting and maintains
the temperature of the

When we woke up without the usual relief that morning brings, us still so torn from arguing the night before, and he simply got up and put on Vashti Bunyan’s Lookaftering on the record player, and he slipped back into bed and we didn’t say anything for a long time, just holding each other until the album was over, and then we started our day. He put the song “Feet of Clay,” with the refrain “Don’t waste your life on me, my love” on his first mix CD for me.

When a conversation lulled or grew too square, he would break out into song, often one he loved from childhood, like Burl Ives’s “The Ugly Bug Ball,” where worms surprise the other bug guests with a most brash, final entrance from below.

Diatomaceous earth is a sedimentary deposit, the fossilized remains of single-celled algae called diatoms that live in houses of silica. Perfectly fine for humans to consume, though I remember wearing masks when we ran our wine through the hard dead bodies to filter it, to keep the mineral from coating our insides.

Linda died, and Richard had a stroke, and Robin was in bed for two months—each voice a harsh flash, an accosting. Where my feeling should be churning—only sound, raw milk. But the annelids weren’t afraid on the first full moon of March when the winterglass sharpened out of opacity and they could feel every molecule of field floor. All that sound failing to restrain each ring of their body. The moon’s light close and blinding.

“Sous bois” is a French term used to describe wine with the smell of pure earth—leaves, mushrooms, autumn—what they called the “humus layer” in my soil science classes. The forest floor. As wines age, sous bois can become quite loud. As people age, this is also true.


Typically negative and more
identifiable to winemakers;
used to describe wine that is
“tired out” or “stressed,”
likely due to a lack of sugar
or nutrient and thereby
producing volatile sulfur
compounds that can smell
anywhere from “rotten egg”
and “onion” to “burnt

How can this be fixed?
Decanting or adding oxygen
to wine. Similar to opening a
window in a stagnant room.

“It’s an album with the kind
of mood that would work to
put on during a sad, silent
fallout from an argument,
but then you wouldn’t ever
want to listen to that
particular album again. It
would be tainted in memory
as the album you had that
argument to.”

The man who appears
suddenly outside the bar,
who has just asked me
something, interrupts,
“Don’t even answer that. I’m
floating away now . . .”

We made a list for when we were feeling stuck or bored. For when one of us really wanted to walk away. Instead, we’d: Put in a red light bulb. Plant a tree (doesn’t matter where). Start growing vegetables/herbs in our garden. Cook together. Do ecstasy. Take a bath and bring a camera. Take a bath in full clothing and take pictures. Slow dance to old records. Watch an old classic movie. Watch The Room. Meditate together. Buy a canvas and make a painting. Do whippets and make a painting. Write a screenplay. Read a poem to each other. Write a song together. Paint our faces. Watch a porno. Make a funny photo shop. Make love while listening to an entire Beethoven symphony. Make love in the shower. Make love on a furry animal rug. Buy an outrageously expensive bottle of wine and drink it while we say why we want to be together/why we like each other. Stand in the rain and let ourselves be fully soaked, then take each other’s clothes off. Go camping. Go skinny-dipping. Go to a nude beach. Go to a drivein. Go to a park and kiss. Go to an art museum that we like. Go to an adult shop. Go to a thrift store and buy only one thing. Buy disposable cameras and use them up in one day (ex. each of us take pictures only of each other). Make love in the back of a car. Make love in a dressing room. Buy a hammock and lay in it together all afternoon.

The times I lugged his body, heavy with the stupor of liquor, into bed, how physically unprepared I was that I started to cry. The times I threw curses at his sleeping body. The stark quiet when he slept.

It’s four in the morning when he calls drunk and hopeless, My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless pounding in the background and I’m sitting on the curb outside my dorm room crying and searching up to the sky for who knows what and he is sent to the hospital for a stomach pump and the day after I think he might be gone, he comes over to my room and I sit in his lap on the floor and he holds me in his arms like a little doll.

How can this be fixed?

Restarting fermentation, or simply put,
sticking with it. Trying again.