The January vows rarely surprise. Exercise more. Eat healthier. Drink less.
I commit to hitting the yoga studio and the trail with more dedication this year. I pledge to eat less meat, and to buy most of it from local farmers. But as an adult-beverages hobbyist, I shrink from reducing the booze. Instead, I aim to turn to drink for education in things like geography, geology and climate. For history. For biology, chemistry and flavor. For art. For pleasure.
Here's how I plan to march through the year, with a glass in one hand, a book or notebook in the other and as much camaraderie as I can conjure.
Continue drinking just Fridays through Sundays. Thought you could read a New Years Resolution column without some kind of abstinence? Sorry, dreamers. Decades of glass-hoisting taught me the value of this approach. I sleep better during those weeknights — even one glass of red wine can disturb my sleep (the dreary 2 a.m. wake-up) and the experience is much worse when I must rise the next morning to work. One caveat: Like all rules, it is meant to be broken (for example: last Thursday). Another caveat: I think drinking wine with dinner every night is a healthy pursuit; if it didn't mess with my sleep, my weeknight meals would involve a glass.
Adhere to Sparkling Sundays. This partners with the first resolution. I tend to cook with some ambition on Sundays, and thus desire wine with the meal. But the next day is a work day, and we already know my situation with night-before-toil drinking. Somehow, modest quaffing of sparkling of any kind is less disruptive to my sleep, and to my early-morning wake-ups for work. Two glasses on a Sunday, and I sleep through the night and awake energetic.
Grow increasingly comfortable with the $15-$30 range for wine. We can buy a bottle of wine for $5.98, and with few exceptions, it has a name: plonk. For $12, we can drink quite well. But once you inch beyond $15, a new world opens, one packed with flavor, exotica (for example, wine grown on volcanoes in Sicily), variety and value. This effort is helped, too, by Resolution No. 1.
Try more Mountain West wines. Our high-elevation climates challenge grape growing, largely due to the introduction of freezing temperatures at the wrong times. But from Deming, N.M., to Paonia, Colo., to Idaho's Snake River Valley, a lot of risk-taking winemakers are giving it a shot — and triumphing. This year, I will seek bottles from producers that seem especially bewitched by their craft.
Gain my Italian Wine Scholar certificate. What red grapes are indigenous to Italy's smallest region, Valle d'Aosta? What tribes settled the Piemonte region, and when? For how long must DOCG Taurasi wines be aged before release, and what grapes can be used? Memorizing ephemera — something I haven't done since graduate school — has merged back with my life, and I'm prizing the challenge. The Wine Scholars Guild offers certificate programs in France, Italy and now Spain, and I anticipate delving into each of them, one at a time. The studies buttress my blossoming understanding that wine can be about much more than a bottle on a table. At the same time, just a bottle on a table often is more than enough already.
Explore Colorado distillers with focus and breadth. Back when I started writing for The Denver Post, somewhere around 2008, I quickly learned "Colorado distillery" didn't always (or even usually) mean something that's made from scratch in the Centennial State. Many distilleries in the state, then and now, ship spirits into Colorado from places like Kentucky, put 'em in barrels for a spell, and call them Colorado spirits. This doesn't bother me, but neither does it beguile me. In my column, I write only about distillers doing it all themselves and I'm eager to meet the entrepreneurs, especially those in Boulder County, turning soupy mashes of vegetable matter, water and sugars into inspirational spirits. In addition, I plan to seek distillers that leverage Colorado ingredients, such as the botanicals that perfume and flavor gin.
Find more brewers experimenting with wild fermentation. As I have mentioned in earlier columns, I was a beer nut for decades before falling off that hoppy wagon and hitching a ride with another, which happened to be hauling grapes. I don't think a passion for standard IPAs and stouts will return, but I have savored beers during the past year, like sours, saisons, farmhouse ales, barrel-aged beers and wild ales. Small brewers across the county, like Primitive Beer in Longmont, Atom Brewing Company in Erie and CellarWest in Lafayette are diving deep into the fascinating world of spontaneous fermentation, brettanoymyces (a strain of wild yeast), lactobacillus (a bacteria) and more. These brewers have a lot to share.
Salute, Drinking With Doug readers and imbibers. Happy New Year! Let's all prosper in the important ways this year: health, family, community, friendship, laughter.
Longtime journalist and Boulderite Doug Brown writes about adult beverages for the Camera. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @drinkingwithdoug.