Turning Water into Wine

In a few weeks, I will be heading into the mountains of N. Georgia for my annual fishing trip. Yes, it gets cold up there in January, so I am well packed with below zero sleeping bags (yep, I’m camping) and lots of jackets and sweatshirts, apparel I never get to use the rest of the year. In case the temp. drops below freezing, I will also be taking a bottle of Old Van Winkle 10 year, a 107 proof warm-up juice… not usually a bourbon guy, but in these conditions it’s as good as wine!

In preparing for the trip, planning out the gear and approach of each river separately, it got me thinking how in a very subtle way, each river has its own flavor. Some are larger water, some are deeper. The Soque drops gradually while the upper section on Duke’s has some falls, and plenty of deep dark holes. Being a wine guy, I couldn’t help making comparison between the personalities of each river and the personality of wine.

A little farfetched, sure, but when I’m planning the days (and the wines, which always make the journey) I assure you the wines I open are well-matched to the river I fish that day. It would be fine without this pairing, but the perfect end to a priceless day on the water is when the wine’s personality is a lovely match to that of the water’s. And much like wine, in its ever-changing state, the river is never the same twice, so many variables like wind, rain, sun, flow and time of day make every moment and every time a different experience.

Shayne's blog

Duke’s Creek is a private stretch of water that is the most dramatic, with large deep holes between drops and large boulders. Lots of large fish, yes, but this section is wild and difficult. A top flight mental challenge, preparation and patience is required. Much like a great Pinot Noir, this area is refined and subtle. Stoller Pinot Noir 2013 Dundee Hills, Oregon $27

The Soque River is quite a bit larger than Duke’s. It’s big and obvious, steady and deliberate, but rich in pockets and pools with riffles and runs; there’s something for everyone. Refined again, with world class fish and the knowledge that something big is waiting under the cover of water. I liken this river to Bordeaux, not everyone gets it, but those who do require very little else. Ch. Tour Carnet 2012 Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, France $37

The Chattooga River makes you work.  Forested, the waterway is strewn with car to house sized boulders and plenty of big and deep pools. Very rustic and quite wild, isolated and completely captivating, The Chattooga is full bodied and vibrant, dark and mysterious and requiring of your time and patience. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a wine for this water. Ch. Gigognan Châteauneuf du Pape 2012 Rhone Valley, France $30

The Chestatee River is a small/medium size river. The stretch I will fish is open and airy, with a few rocky falls and plenty of good, slow water. It is rather obvious, but the pools below the falls reward the effort. This stretch is easy to maneuver, wading is light work, reading the water is not difficult… but the rewards! Like a nice Napa Cabernet, fine and easy to appreciate. In fact, the first time I ever tasted bourbon, and it was a Pappy Van Winkle 10 year, was on the Chestatee just a year ago! Torchbearer Cabernet 2013 Oakville, Napa Valley, California $33

Shayne Hebert, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine & spirits supervisor

Follow my trip on Twitter @abcwineShayne

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