Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Time Travel From Times Square

Organization Man - Then & Now

Picture 40 or so tables with wines from all over Italy. At 2/3rds of these tables a winemaker or vineyard owner is present, many speaking English. You have 5-7 hours to circle the room and make your connections. There are many great wines present. What do you do with this opportunity?

This is my work, and although it presents one with a possible dilemma, the glass isn’t half empty, it’s actually just a splash.
At first I thought it would be interesting to have all these terroir-driven wines at my disposal. But like I talked in a recent post about the wine critic or writer who travels all the time or has the wines come to them, this can affect the perception of the terroir within the bottle. It takes a meditative response, the ability to block out the sounds and the crowds, being jostled, balancing a wine glass with a note pad and people in motion. Not just any people, New Yorkers and Italians being the dominant species present. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes or fuzz them up, un-focus your sight and open your nose and your mind to the inner laboratory of terroir recognition. In less than a minute.

Very wrong. So very American. But what can one do? Or rather, what did I do in this situation? A couple of things.

One, you will never be able to re-create the condition of tasting a Gravner or a Rampolla wine as you would be able to do on site, at the winery with the winemaker. This is a Petri dish approach. It’s very hard. Sure one can detect the power and the fruit, the wood and the alcohol. But that’s not my world. I’m closing my eyes and trying to look into a microcosm of a world I know is there but is “over there.” And I’m here.

Mesa, a new wine from Sardegna, the brain child of Gavino Sanna of Young & Rubicam distinction. A chance to hear a story, to take a magic carpet ride on their stylized label, a hillside vineyard by the sea. I could almost smell the breeze of the waves breaking against the rocks below. I was almost there.

A time to taste Pinot Noir with Lagrein and wonder why they bother with Pinot Noir in Italy when the Lagrein is such a wonderful character. Like the difference between a McDonalds burger and a Chiannina steak from Dario in Panzano.

A taste of Moscato Rosa from the Alto Adige. A wine I have always linked more to the wines of Lipari and Pantelleria and Noto than to the goat paths of the Alps. And then to hear a story (“a true story’) of a Sicilian woman’s dowry of these dark Moscato vines to plant in her husband's Teutonic terra firma. A light goes off; finally someone has answered a question asked 20 years ago. Ahh.

The aged Marsala and Passito di Pantelleria from Marco de Bartoli was also an easy connection. From the 5 year Marsala to the Bukkuram I was beamed over into my ancestral gene pool. I have talked about this before, the mystical crossing over into a world thousands of years and miles from here off of Times Square.

Where to next? A little diversion to those little scraggly hills of vineyard that make the Prosecco Superiore, Cartizze. Suddenly, the history of Venice in a glass is laid before you, in a frothy mess of pinpoints.

Here is where the terroir of the Italian persona kicked in. I realized this was also a time to reconnect with colleagues and friends, people who have pulled themselves from a skiing trip or an Epiphany celebration with their family to bring their energy and their commitment to this filling station. A way to transfer a little bit of needed energy to those of us who have been also “toiling in the fields” of the little wine store or the national chain restaurant, chipping away, day by day, person by person, line by line, to raise the bar of understanding for these folks “back home.”

This isn’t Rachel’s Way. But it is a ray of light, a recharge to the missionary who will never be called back to Rome.

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