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Wine Advice that Nobody Asked For: Dry January? How About Damp January

I may lose my street cred as a real live wine professional, but yes, it’s true. I’m doing “Dry January.” Well, dry-ish. As a tradition It started a number of years ago in preparation for a local rock climbing competition, the thinking was to dry out and train hard so that I would lose less terribly to the climbers that are half my age and twice as strong. I was partially successful. I dried out, but still lost handily.

As a man who likes a G&T while cooking, and then wine with dinner… then maybe a whiskey after dinner I hated to admit it but I actually did climb better when I took some time off of the sauce. I was more likely to work out a bit in the morning or after work. It’s tough going to the gym after a full shift when we have 35 draft lines of tasty bevs to sample. Try 3 or 4 two ounce samples of a few different imperial stouts and motivation dwindles quickly to go for a jog or pick up heavy things and put them back down. It’s much easier at that point to go home and eat tater tots.

But I’ve seen it before, friends and compatriots have broken mid-month to fall off the wagon and really take a tumble. They would get too hard on themselves for not making it the whole month. What was the old parable about the grass bending in the wind while the mighty tree was felled with its inflexibility? Well, you get the jist.

It can be tough to go from the raucous festivities of November and December to then slide into cold, gray, dry January. Strictly dry January is a tad austere and I’ve never been a dogmatic sort of fellow in any pursuit, I’ve always been something of a hardcore agnostic. If I have a friend pop into town, I want to be able to go out and have a beer with them without beating myself up about it. Hence the advocacy for ”Damp January.”

I take a deliberate day or two each week to enjoy the fruit of the vine and, since it’s happening less frequently, I try to find something really special. I’ll root around in the basement wine pile to see what’s worth getting into. Last week we had a spatchcocked, dry-brined, roast chicken with 19 year old Barolo. It was a perfectly respectable affair. On deck for consumption this month, perhaps the 15 year old bottle Bordeaux from Saint-Julien, maybe the library-release Chinon that’s almost reached the 20 year mark, or perhaps the pair of single vineyard California Syrahs that I’ve been meaning to try side by side.

This doesn’t apply strictly to wine either. In a world where a three ingredient cocktail at a restaurant can cost between $12 and $17 (or more), buying the components of an interesting cocktail to enjoy once a week seems like a downright value. Or perhaps if it’s only a dram or two per week, some seriously aged single malt Scotch could be the way.

If you decide that January is strictly a dry month, I certainly won’t contest, in fact we do have an expanding and dedicated section of non-alcoholic beer, wines, and spirits that’s worth checking out. But if you’re in my camp and a slightly damp January is more your style, make those days count – break into the cellar for something special, buy a bottle of wine that’s more expensive than what you would normally spend, savor that single barrel Bourbon. And by the end of the month you can find me rock climbing slightly less badly than I did at the end of December.

-Joe Buchter, Import Wine Buyer

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