Jake Young wine poetry
Dining Reviews

The Poetry of Santa Cruz Mountains Wine

Reading by Jake Young highlights the lyric qualities of the local terroir

Bonny Doon native Jake Young’s first collection of poetry, American Oak, has roots in local vineyards. PHOTO: JAKE YOUNG

Is it optimistic to believe that in wine, there is truth? Maybe. But certainly, in wine, there is poetry. In his first collection of poems, American Oak, Bonny Doon native Jake Young finds inspiration in wine and the land that produces it.

Thumbing through the pages of Young’s handsome new book, I find the flavors, weather, wildlife, and vintages that inflect our slice of California, explored in spare, pungent lines. Understanding that wine is a living moment of its place of origin, Young’s poems offer glimpses of our sensory memory, inflected by surprise. Memories of flavors and top notes, the feel of the land in our hands and mouths. A newly bottled Chardonnay contains “a hint of graphite, like wetting a pencil on my tongue.”

Abstract yet intimate, his work takes us along with him watching a heron, savoring a coastal sunset, feasting on sunlight and silence. Young currently lives in Missouri, where he’s completing a doctorate in English literature, but his heart belongs to the Santa Cruz Mountains, where he spends summers working at Beauregard Vineyards.

“My work in the wine industry found its way into my poetic writing almost immediately,” Young says. “I became fascinated with the concept of terroir while working at the winery.” That experience sparked the poet’s understanding “of the many ways that food and wine connect us to the land, and thus to nature … place, and culture.” He also happens to be a Certified Specialist of Wine with the Society of Wine Educators.

The sensory mysteries of our coastline, vineyards and fog-drenched canyons run through this new book, from which Young will be reading locally next Thursday, Dec. 20—appropriately enough, at a winery, Stockwell Cellars. An accomplished debut collection by a poet with his taste buds tuned to the natural world.

Also reading from his newest book of poems will be another literary artist named Young. Gary Young. And yes, there is a connection. Gary Young is a much-admired, award-winning poet and printer who teaches creative writing at UCSC. (He is also the father of the aforementioned Jake Young.) He will be reading from his latest collection of poems, That’s What I Thought.

Gary is a shaman of the tenderest, and darkest, in humans. Capable of capturing in compact images the fleeting beauty of our place in the world. Each of his poems reaches deep within the reader, embedding itself within our cellular structure.

In other words, sensuous poetry such as that by the Youngs, père et fils, calls out for a glass of wine—wine loaded with as much terroir as the poems themselves. So you absolutely will head over to Stockwell Cellars next Thursday, Dec. 20, for some fine locally crafted wine and equally fine locally crafted poetry. Given the context, you’ll probably discover that in vino veritas is more than just a line from Kierkegaard.

Poetry Reading by Jake Young and Gary Young. Thursday, Dec. 20, 5-7 p.m., Stockwell Cellars, 1100 Fair Ave., Santa Cruz.

Wine of the Week

Zaca Mesa’s vivid and lyrical 2013 Z Cuvée Rhone-style blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Cinsault scored 91 Wine Enthusiast points, yet costs only (gasp!) $9.99. Of course you can guess where this outrageous bargain is happening. Shopper’s Corner.

Better hurry, I might just grab it all for myself. Seriously, this is a beautiful blend from the

winery’s Santa Ynez Valley estate vineyard, offering the immediate appeal of dark berries, thyme and firm tannins riding on exactly the right amount of alcohol, 14.2 percent, which I would call medium-light. The tang of plums in the finish. Wonderful with steelhead, pasta, and/or roast

chicken. Get some quick.

Christina Waters was born in Santa Cruz and raised all over the world (thanks to an Air Force dad), with real-world training in painting, music, winetasting, trail running, organic gardening, and teaching. She has a PhD in Philosophy, teaches in the Arts at UCSC and sings with the UCSC Concert Choir. Look for her recent memoir “Inside the Flame” at bookstores everywhere.

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