Writer's Block Petite Sirah 2008, Anthonino's Taverna

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Alicia Lohmar
​We are hungry. We don't feel like cooking (and there isn't much in the fridge anyway). We don't want to get dressed up, don't want to go far and don't want to spend a fortune. The question before us is not a fanciful one, not, "Where should we go for dinner?" but, "How can we solve this problem?" It's Monday night, many places are closed. The later it gets, the more limited our options become. Our eyeballs are throbbing dully. We are craving a bowl of pasta and a glass of wine. We are looking to be comforted and comfortable.

This is how we came to be sitting at a sidewalk table at the top of a hill on the Hill on a perfectly clear night, lit by a bright moon. The answer floated down to us like the first fall leaf - Anthonino's Taverna (2225 Macklind Avenue; 314-773-4455). Open till 10 p.m. on Mondays, they serve a menu of Greek and Italian classics, and we don't feel the least self-conscious in blue jeans and no makeup. In the last waning days of patio season, we've arrived at the Platonic ideal of outdoor dining - warm enough that you don't need even a sweater, cool enough, with a little breeze, to drink Petite Sirah.

We're having a Lady and the Tramp sort of moment, even though we're eating house made ravioli instead of spaghetti and meatballs. We can practically hear the accordion and the warbling Italian chef, "Oh this is the night, it's a beautiful night, and we call it belle notte..." Our server Kate, she of the dimples and the unforced enthusiasm, seems like she would take a crack at it if we asked.

The wine is Writer's Block Petite Sirah, made by Steele Winery in Lake County, CA. All nine Writer's Block wines, a collaboration between Jed Steele and his son Quincy, are well-made and well-priced. Though Petite Sirah is known for its deep, inky color, lush mouth feel and dark berry and plum flavors, this version is not quite the monster that some are. Blended with a small amount of Zinfandel, Syrah, and Merlot and left in oak for eight months before being bottled, it's slightly lighter body makes it a great wine for transitioning into cooler weather.

That having been said, Writer's Block is a funny thing to name your wine. Writer's block is miserable and wine, as a general rule, is lovely. Wine comes from grapes; writer's block, from the pits of hell. Wine is a product of fermented fruit; writer's block is a product of fermented fear. It happens when you can't hear yourself think over the shouting of your inner critic. Just as you are about to set something down on paper, as your pen hovers over the page, the voice screams how trite and tired and utterly stupid you sound, so you decide against it.

Worse yet is the panic spiral, in which an increasing awareness of the passage of time is accompanied by rising anxiety over just how little is being accomplished. If you have ever tried to will yourself to fall asleep while watching the minutes and hours tick by on your alarm clock, then you are familiar with this condition.

We are sure that there are things that are just as unnerving as writing can be. We're sure that being a winemaker, or a restaurateur, or a tramp, has its frustrations, too. We're glad that they forged on, because we need what they supply. As a gesture of goodwill, if there are any winemakers out there having trouble coming up with a name for your wine, feel free to use "panic spiral." No charge.

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