Enchanted Interview

Portland author Rene Denfeld investigates local vino

Rene Denfeld

Rene Denfeld is an author, journalist and death penalty investigator. Her highly acclaimed debut novel, “The Enchanted” (Harper 2014) was recently published, receiving a nomination for the esteemed Flaherty-Dunnan fiction prize.

She has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Oregonian and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Her nonfiction books include “The New Victorians,” “Kill the Body,” “The Head Will Fall,” and “All God’s Children.”

She lives in Portland with her three children, all adopted from foster care. She loves parenting, gardening and volunteering with at-risk children.

OWP: When and how did you first become interested in wine?

RD: My attitude toward good wine can be summed up by how the Supreme Court defined pornography: I know it when I see it. Or, in the case of wine, when I drink it! I frankly haven’t had a lot of time to learn about wine, which I hope to someday remedy. For now, I am just happy to enjoy some of the amazing wines we have here.

OWP: What are some of your favorite places in Portland to eat and grab a glass?

RD: I’ve had wonderful experiences at places like Noble Rot, and I recently had a fantastic dinner with some amazing pairings at Olympic Provisions. But I am also the kind of person who is content to have a hamburger and a glass of red at the pub in St. Johns, where I live. Like most artists and those who do good works, I’m on a budget — death penalty work is indigent defense work, which means the pay is indigent as well, as I like to joke. I do appreciate it when I find some place affordable and good. I love MiHo in North Portland for their affordable, delicious Japanese pub fare, and friends who like saké say their selection is good. Saké is wine, right?

OWP: What is your favorite wine variety? Favorite Oregon producer?

RD: My favorites are defined largely because I associate them with good times and good people. For that reason, I would pick Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir and WillaKenzie Estate Pinot Noir. You can tell I like Pinot Noirs. But as I said, I really don’t know wine. I’m learning. And it’s a delightful education!

OWP: Being a writer, how do you feel about describing wine?

RD: I’d rather write about other things and leave the wine writing to the experts!

OWP: Has the enjoyment of wine taught you anything about writing or life in general?

RD: Life is beautiful. Even in moments of profound sadness and despair, life is beautiful. There can be such joy and magic in life. My novel celebrates the human ability to persevere despite profound struggles. I think the taste of wine reminds us of that: of the complexities and dark joys, the smoke and vibrancies, the taste of the earth when it sings in your mouth. Uh-oh. I think I just wrote about wine! 

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