In my inimitable quest to hobnob only with people who make me feel inferior, I find myself ignored by globe-trotting bluebloods shopping for masterpieces at the storied contemporary art fair, Art Basel Miami Beach.
Unable to blend in amid the stick figures who are kept from floating heavenward by the heaviness of their diamond earrings and bauble-encrusted Christian Louboutin stilettos, I waddle alone through the galleries sporting last season's Oregon Ducks T-shirt and a keen awareness that I am only conversant with art that appears on wine labels.
On this humid December day, I also take in Miami Beach's other sun-bleached scenes of excess and stumble upon insouciant socialites who push away plates of $700 Kobe steaks to schmooze under ceilings smothered in Swarovski crystals.
If this is the world's most shining art affair, fly me back to Southern Oregon. Let others shell out $250,000 for a canvas stenciled with the words "Greedy Schmuck" or trophy-hunt for discounted $3 million penthouses with glass-wrapped views of empty yacht slips.
Pardon me, but I'd rather pull up a folding chair and learn about art from a prism I understand: wine. My go-to gal for this odd request is Cheryl Garcia, a metal artist who created the giant, painted poppies that rise from the vineyards along South Stage Road outside of Jacksonville.
Cheryl also is the resident artist for South Stage Cellars, a tasting room in downtown Jacksonville that has the good sense to have a resident artist.
I knew we shared kindred souls when Cheryl said: "The richness of great wine enhances the art-viewing experience." Can I buy a bumper sticker for my pickup that says that?
With my prodding, she rattled off wines she would pair with local artists: lightly sweet, floral viognier with Pegi Smith's vibrant and soulful, acrylic paintings; great pinot noir with Katharine Gracey's country landscapes; earthy petit syrah with Leah Fanning Mebane's abstract paintings created by using natural pigments; and albarino, an Old World "wine of the people" with photographer Jim Craven's architectural images and landscapes.
Should she continue? I nodded. The deep boldness of a cabernet franc could stand up to Bill Stanton's highly textured, expressionistic oil paintings; the bubbly sweetness of a semisparkling, early muscat could play with Victoria Christian's goddess paintings; and an early muscat naturally would go well with Kathleen Hoevet's vineyard photography.
"To look at a beautifully captured image of the grape made into the wine which touches your lips is a profound experience all unto itself," Cheryl whispered.
As I was about to say something uninteresting, she added one more: "Dianne Erickson's encaustic work takes ancient techniques and incorporates modern abstraction to form a canvas of incredible depth and interest such as found in cabernet sauvignon."
As I wondered if she had played this game before (because she's so good at it), she quickly launched into personal tales about trips to Spain that seemed guided by art and wine.
She confessed she was forever changed by viewing a Salvador Dali painting while enjoying "a splash of surreal crispness" in a Rioja wine, followed in Barcelona by a complex tempranillo and Pablo Picasso, then an effervescent sparkling wine, a cava, while under the spell of the unrestrainedly fanciful architect, ceramicist and stained-glass designer Antoni Gaudi.
Cheryl, can you be my travel agent? If so, I'd like my itinerary to include a cabernet sauvignon trip over a drip-painted Jackson Pollock, a nebbiolo-infused wink at da Vinci's Mona Lisa and a sauterne dip with a Degas dancer. And maybe, a Quady North 2008 Syrah ($29) from Steelhead Run Vineyard with a Cheryl Garcia steel sculpture?
What's that you said, Cheryl? That sipping a glass of the artist's favorite wine while taking about the artwork "leaves very little guesswork in the perfect pairing."
She likes on chilly days to be surrounded by a fire, her art and South Stage Cellars 2008 Alchemy ($35), a blend of tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon with a kiss of carmenere.
"The special bond I have with this blend directly translates into the alchemylike process I use by taking reclaimed steel and changing it into beautiful art," she said. Converting reclaimed steel into art? That's thankfully so not Miami.
REQUEST: Just as Oregon's wine industry is looking toward the future after selling more than 2 million cases of wine last year, Linfield College wants to collect some of its past.
The college in McMinnville, where the annual International Pinot Noir Celebration is held, is asking for contributions to the Oregon Wine History Archive. If you have documents, photos or maps from the early days to the present, please consider donating them so they can be preserved and made available to researchers and the public. Contact Linfield College archivist Rachael Woody at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-883-2734.
Documents and oral histories from the collection were used in the one-hour documentary "Grapes of Place" (watch it at www.opb.org/programs/oregonexperience/programs/player/39-Oregon-Wine-Grapes-of-Place).
And while we're still talking about collectibles, you can thank Will Brown, a retired physician living in Ashland who served as winemaker for Agate Ridge Vineyard, cellar rat at RoxyAnn Winery and consultant at Red Lily Vineyards, for donating the extensive wine library at Southern Oregon University's Hannon Library.
TASTED: I always have liked Soloro Vineyards' unpretentious tasting room hidden off a gravel road on North Applegate Road south of Grants Pass and owners June and Tim Navarro's 2006 Syrah ($28). So with art on my mind, I uncorked a dusty bottle and, at the suggestion of a male glass artist, stared at an impastoed portrait by Lucian Freud while dining on a rich puttanesca sauce over pasta. Ummm. Clearly one man's innocent-sounding art pairing easily can become a Fellini film.
Reach columnist Janet Eastman at 541-776-4465 or email@example.com