Dreaming of Thalabert

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For the last several years, Neil Gaiman has been my yarn spinner and taleteller of choice. He has a way with words that is twisted rather differently than your average hack; he doesnít turn a phrase so much as he morphs it with a Warpsmith's sensibility. His work spans a variety of genres, including horror, fantasy, mystery, humor and for lack of a better term, speculative fiction, often blending them in varying measures with a rich (and sometimes disturbing) imagination.

I was in the mood for wine when I sat down at the computer not long ago to explore some Gaiman related websites, and felt that something deep, dark and mysterious would be appropriate, given the nature of many of his creations. I decided it was time to give the 1994 Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert ($19.99, 13 % alc.) its annual checkup. 

Gaiman is an expatriate Brit now living in Minnesota with his family, and is  best known for his groundbreaking, mind blowing DC Vertigo Comics series, The Sandman .  These are not your parentsí comics; throughout the entire 76-issue run, there are no posing musclemen and only one brief cameo appearance of any superhero in cape and tights. Often moody and atmospheric, sometimes stark and horrific, the storylines are always deep and engrossing. Morphius (AKA Onieros), the Lord of Dreams and his siblings are more than gods, for even after gods are long gone, there are still The Endless, Dream, Destiny, Desire, Delirium (who was once Delight), Despair and Death. (Destruction abandoned his station some centuries ago, pointing out in a rare appearance that his duties and responsibilities were doing fine without him.) Drawing from a remarkable range of sources, including the DC Universe, history, literature, legend, religion, myth and all of their various and respective pantheons, Gaiman wove a compelling web of tales that he ended voluntarily (far too soon for too many fans) after its six year run.

He reprised The Sandman last year for a special, one shot graphic novel, The Dream Hunters, illustrated by noted Japanese artist Yoshitaka Amano, in celebration of the seriesí 10th Anniversary. It is adapted from the Japanese folk tale "The Fox, the Monk, and the Mikado of All Night's Dreaming," and is told with a beautiful and haunting simplicity. It has no happy ending, that being one more reason why it provides such a fitting addition to The Sandman mythos.

Like Gaiman, Dom. De Thalabert is an old favorite of ours; weíve been sampling this vintage since its release, and have enjoyed multiple vintages going back to í78. Itís a dense, concentrated Northern Rhone Syrah, and what itís lost in its primary floral bouquet has been more than compensated for by mellowed tannins and evolving complexity.

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© George Heritier

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Neil Gaiman photo © 1996 by Kelli Bickman