Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors EVER…I first came into contact with Gaiman’s work with his novel American Gods, then fell in love with his seminal graphic novel collection, “The Sandman”. I had the pleasure of meeting him at the 2009 WorldCon in Montreal, where not only did I get to hear him speak, but also conversed with him and had him sign a book and my journal. You can read about my experience here! Over the years I’ve made it a point to read/experience everything else he’s written since then – children’s books, novels, graphic novels, plays, performances – and now most recently, this story collection.
“Trigger Warning” is Gaiman’s 3rd collection of short stories, and is comprised of 25 stories and poems that explore the transformative power of the imagination. Between this book’s covers are a calendar of tales – one for each month, a Sherlock Holmes mystery, a Doctor Who story, a tale that continues with the main character – Shadow Moon – from American Gods, and so many more. Gaiman explains each story and its origin in his Introduction, and one of my favorite passages is the following:
“What we read as adults should be read, I think, with no warnings or alerts beyond, perhaps: enter at your own risk. We need to find out what fiction is, what it means, to us, an experience that is going to be unlike anyone else’s experience of the story.We build stories in our heads. We take words, and we give them power, and we look through other eyes, and we see, and experience, what others see. I wonder, Are fictions safe places? And then I ask myself, Should they be safe places?”
Consider yourself forewarned and enter at your own risk of reading something that speaks to an unknown truth deep within yourself.
Like the stories in Gaiman’s collection, the wine with which they’re paired is complex, with an array of flavors that lingers on the palate long after the last sip is gone. Sofa King Bueno – this wine truly lives up to its name. Chronic Cellars is one of my favorite wineries, located in beautiful Paso Robles at the northern tip of California’s Central Coast. The winery was started by two native Paso brothers – Jake and Josh Beckett – who grew up in Paso wine country and eventually struck out to create their own label. They partnered with their childhood friend, Joe Kalionzes, who does the artwork that adorns each label. Most of the pieces are created out of woodblocks…the result is bold lines and colors that are reminiscent of the brightness of a Dia de los Muertos celebration; each bottle is beautiful – both inside and out. Sofa King Bueno is a red blend that changes with each vintage, and the 2013 vintage I’m writing about here is a blend of 47% Petite Sirah, 45% Syrah, 5% Grenache and 3% Mourvedre. The aromas are full of floral notes that mingle with a handful of fresh-picked berries. Those berries carry through to the palate, mixed with plums, tobacco and a hint of dark chocolate.
Of course it seemed only natural to pair two of my great favorites together, but what makes them both favorites are their willingness to push the boundaries and constantly strive to create something different; something new. Gaiman creates incredible stories, characters and worlds so prolifically that he’s often referred to as “The Dream King”. He transcends genres and styles and writes in a way that only he can. In much the same way the Beckett brothers constantly push the conventions of winemaking and what a conventional winery should look like, to create a wine label that is unequivocally a reflection of their unique winemaking artistry. To taste of these works of art is to share in these artists’ dreams; however dangerous they may be.