Monday, August 28, 2006

Storms & The Fog of Wine

Aug 28, 2005 ...I wrote down the date one year earlier, as I fly into NY. Katrina on my mind. Wine, food, heritage. Aaron Neville, he and his family, their existence defined by New Orleans, having to move to Nashville, because of the toxins in the air that caused his asthma to flare up. Not to be able to live where your life is. What kind of cruel joke is that?

I choose not to live in California, because the California I knew no longer exists. Residents of New Orleans cannot return because it was wiped from the face of the map by the hand of God. There is a difference.

Storms return to the south, it’s that time of the year.
It’s also time for the Nebbiolo, time to lift the fog on my understanding of this wine. Is this my Burgundian moment? Is this what Eco talks about in his books? Is it time to put aside my Montepulciano and Nero d’Avola and face the fog? Well, maybe for a while, for these few days, it is.
The Nebbiolo Seminar at the Texas Sommelier Conference was interesting. The wines were exceptional.
Ceretto was center court, with their Barbaresco Bricco Asili and Bernardot, their Barolo Prapo, Brunate and Bricco Rocche and the Gattinara from Travaglini and Sfursat “5 Stelle” from Nino Negri. Nice lineup, older and current vintages, to compare the years, the land, the crus. Later this week, in NY, this will be elaborated upon.

That was followed by some other seminars on Burgundy, Spain, South America and Washington State.
Later that evening, several of the Master Sommeliers and a Master of Wine and those of us invited went to York Street for a Master class in tea and a meal matched with wines and tea. The Gong Fu ceremony was explained. Parallel world to our Intensive Wine weekend. The floating world compared to the fog of wine.

I can offer pictures and more descriptions, but that really isn’t why I’m here. Nor you. You had to be there. Or not. And that is alright.

What I learned about over this weekend was that there are all kinds of folks in search of understanding some process, something mysterious, that they want the fog lifted on for their education, for their passion, for a chance at mastery.

Last year, Portugal was that for me. I saw some part of my unknown self there in the schist on the hills overlooking the Douro. Not unlike the ancient part of my Sicilian being or the Calabrian man on the donkey. A way to see how one can fit into the patterns of their life, how they are woven into their work, their community, their friends, their loves.

Looking at my bookshelves a few days ago, wanting some information about Italian wine. Some nugget. Something to make me feel unique. I really had a start when it seemed I had more books about French wine than Italian. What I had a lot of were Italian travel books, books about the land. The information about wine came from going to Italy and from popping corks. Not the Italian Wine Trail to mastering wine. My path, 30 years now. The travel books just gave me an idea where to look, my own treasure hunt. Yours, too, if you’d like. But just like what I can smell and taste in a wine will be determined by my experience, my individual set of markers, my likes, my abilities, so will your path be unique.

I respect the way of the wine masters. And I also know I will cheer them on as they head out in their vessels to spread the word. I will toil in the fields of the insane poet, the sunburned monks standing on top of a column in the Aragonese deserts. There is soil for all, and seas to sail on as well. And air to live off of when that is called for.

Sure, this is a rationalization for not taking the 7 years it takes to pursue the course of mastery. Time, time, time.

It will be cooler on the east coast, and the Frappato is ready to be harvested in Vittoria. The water off the coast of Chile is cooler than all of it, and one can drown in a cup of tea. One doesn’t need a hurricane to face the task.
Courage, courage.

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