• Sarah O'Kelley

A Somewhat Dry January...


Well, I finally drew the short straw with COVID. With the pace of Omicron it was bound to happen, but still I somehow felt I had lost at a 2-year battle…all the masks, all the hand sanitizer…


Fortunately, I was fully vaccinated and boosted so mine was in the middle of the road in terms of severity. Certainly not the mere “just a sore throat” but also far from being totally incapacitated – I am thankful.


The upside? Well it sent me by force straight into a dry January. I had no interest in wine (and little interest in food). Thankfully, I did not lose my sense of taste or smell. (I started going down that dark rabbit hole one night when the smell of a candle seemed muted, but I wrote it off as neurosis and went to bed. In the morning I could smell just fine!)


But even at the end of my quarantine and at the beginning of feeling better I still felt very indifferent towards a glass of wine – certainly not good for my job description! We even had an occasion to celebrate, and I chose tea. Mug after mug of ginger tea!


Finally, two weeks into this long, boring, #firstworldproblems story, I felt it – that past desire reawakened…picking up Chinese takeout and imagining what could go with? It was the night of the much hyped winter freeze here in Charleston and thus a red seemed in order. But clearly with the myriad of flavors involved in this meal we needed an extremely food friendly red. Plus I needed comfort, reassurance that I could once again reunite with a glass of wine and find joy in each swirl, sniff, and sip. So not surprising to those who know me…I reached for a fresh, bright, new world Pinot Noir – County Line Vineyards to be specific. While I am an old world drinker at my core, when the going gets tough there is just nothing like well made, balanced, new world Pinot Noir for me.


County Line is the Sonoma project of Eric Sussman who also makes great age-worthy Pinot, Syrah, and Chardonnay under his Radio Coteau label. But County Line is his answer to more affordable cool climate Cali deliciousness. At $37 retail, this Pinot is not a Tuesday night wine for most of us, but it’s certainly a terrific Friday night, post-COVID treat.


It checks all the boxes for me. Tantalizing nose of just enough fruitiness with a touch of spice, great acidity and low alcohol on the palate, a finish that keeps you coming back for more…in normal times a wine that I would probably overindulge in, but for re-entry I stuck with one glass!


As a cherry on top, I had the chance to meet Eric back in 2013 – to walk his home vineyards and visit his small, shared production space. He is the quintessential, salt of the earth, humble winemaker – just doing what he loves. It was great to revisit those memories over this glass and talk of the future – when we might go to Sonoma again…it felt hopeful. And that’s perhaps what we all need most right now – a large glass of hope!


P.S. If you live in Charleston and have not experienced Kwei Fei – I cannot recommend it enough. Currently they are offering their Chinese American menu, which is unbelievably comforting. But their usual Sichuan menu is equally as tantalizing!



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