This is the moment we live for. Hotter than hot, slower than slow, this is the time when one goes out with a bag of Italian wine and tries to convert the souls over to our way.
My computer was down, I lost all my contact info and forgot an important 3:30 staff training at a hotel. The phone rang at 3:15. “Just calling to remind you of our training,” my hopeful saleslady cheerfully reported. “Holy crap,” I yelped and sprang from my desk, running out the building.
Adrenaline pumping in a car at registering 103°F, pre-rush hour, 12 miles away, man I was embarrassed. My little left toe tingling, the result of a too aggressive trim job with underpowered reading glasses. Huge pain from one of the smallest parts of the body. But pressing on, darting in and out of traffic, trying to get there without getting a ticket.
3:35, a text announces, “we’re in the lower dining room." I go to the upper banquet room, running into a group of white American businessmen and women registering for a convention. Finally someone calls my name, one of the angels in our company; she guides me down to the proper place, to a table of young men and women.
“I’m out here a thousand miles from my home,” the words from Dylan searing my skull. Three wines, a Vernaccia, A Gavi and a Fiano. 15 minutes to give birth to the beauty that these wines held, two of them forgotten on a wine list, locked in a cellar, waiting for the moment when that precious liquid, so arduously gathered by the hands of the farmers, would be released in a glass.
The Vernaccia, a 2008. Would a 2009 have been more welcome? But what about the older white wines? Have we treated wines like women, preferring only young and perky ones? Isn’t there a time to appreciate a mature wine, like we do a mature woman?
The Vernaccia. She was subtle, her aromas were delicate, a little sting of sweat, a pinch of tropical flower under the ear. A kiss of honey, a lick of butter and a bite of sharp fruit. Perfect wine to go with the perfect selling day, the hottest day of the year.
The next wine, a Gavi, a 2006. Someone had forgotten her charms, shelved her for a more seductive unoaked Chardonnay or a fashionable Pinot Gris from Oregon. No doubt. I was familiar with the 2006 and was a bit worried. But the first sensation showed that wine was healthy. She had been well kept.
This was a wine I had first had in the early 1990’s, sitting in the restaurant of a friend's aunt, on the Adriatic. She brought us a plate of linguine with small clams, simple, a little oil and parsley and salt. The wine matched well and a memory was made. Today, almost 20 years later, I recast the wine and the story, weaving a way to encourage the young servers to bring this pretty lady out of the cold and into the hearts of their customers. I want to go back to that restaurant and drink that wine up before she passes beyond an uncertain and muddled age.
The last wine, a Fiano. We didn’t sell it now, although we might have sold it when this wine, a 2001, was made available to the restaurant. And who knows, we might sell it in the future, having just been in a meeting the week before with the importer, who had gotten his foot jammed in the door and wasn’t going to pull it back before we gave him 10-20-30 minutes.
But the wine. The Fiano. 2001. The color was perfect for an older Fiano. Light. Great cellaring. The nine year old wine had wonderful development for a wine from a good vintage and a grape that can age. Lithe, tanned, taut and worldly, well traveled and evocative. Not the over-the-top voluptuous in-your-face type. A wine with an independent nature, a lover of history and the arts, a self-starter. Salty, sweet, bitter, tropical, long, grazing the tongue but leaving no marks. And in an instant she is gone.
And just like that, three wines, fifteen minutes, and it was all over. From the initial rush to get there in a hot car, to the final act, I found myself in a cold sweat and heading back to the office, now in rush hour, to make a meeting. I’m loving it, pain and all, this summer surge towards an uncertain holiday season. Bring it on. I am ready.