It’s Monday, day after Ferragosto, I’m still in a suit and tie, end of the day, grand tasting at a wine conference, Texsom. The day after I have a 9:00 AM tasting with another journalist, 50+ wines and roughly two hours to get the job done. This day, I have arranged the wines, made sure they are the correct vintages, vineyards, temperature and lined up a room. Outside it is still blazing at 105°F. But at this moment there is a room filled with wines from all over the world and somewhere inside there is Champagne.
I make it around the room, only, at the last stop, to find the bubbles. If I had gone counter-clockwise I would have found it first, but I might have just stopped there. After a sip of the sparkling wine, I head back to taste wines, when I ran smack-dab into a wall of truffle oil.
“What was that chef thinking?” I ask myself. The pungent odor of truffle knocks out half my nose. The other half is running as fast and as far from the center of the room. Recalibrating. Recalibrating.
A friend hands me a bottle of a single vineyard Etna Rosso, nice. A Twitter buddy tells me on the other aside of the room there are some interesting Italian wines. Let’s go see.
In the corner I spot an importer sales-rep, one of those old-school guys who loves a tussle in the streets. Not a bad guy, good wines, a little overbearing. But I have my fly swatter if I need it.
A sommelier friend is there chatting me up with a story about how he has gotten his older mother to move from sweet wine to a drier style. Really a great story and probably a blog post in the future. What I love about the story is that this fellow deals with the best of the best and the wealthiest of the wealthy. He opens great wines on a regular basis. But he is so well grounded that he is still working on upgrading his mom to a better wine, albeit incrementally. That’s all the spoiler I will offer.
There we are, talking, the salesman and the sommelier and me, and as if she had just been beamed down, a tall, lanky, tanned, gorgeous woman appears. She is wearing a tunic and sandals. She has long wavy hair, and looks like something out of Greece, 6th century BC. I note in the corner of my eye as my two gents are chatting and think, “Where in time did she come from?” I really thought she was an apparition. And in August, with this heat, and sipping wine, it wouldn’t be totally out of the question.
A day later, hunkered over a table full of wines, the first wine I would open would be a sparkling rose of Nerello Mascalese. As I opened the cork, the wine would spew forth, frothy, but cool to the touch, blushing, ready. The Sicilian sparkler imitating life. Wines have funny ways to portray their territoriality. But that is in the future; now we have a room full of frantic salespeople, exhausted sommeliers and the lone supermodel, sipping wine.
“It’s my birthday today,” she notes. “What are you doing here?” one of us asks. (What do you mean asking her that, do we really want to stare at each other all night?). She offers up an explanation that she is working in town and someone had noticed her at the pool, alone, and invited her to the tasting.
A colleague calls me over to another table and I excuse myself, but the way she bends her head towards the glass and gives me a look, with just one of her eyes, beckons me to revisit at another point. I note it and hesitantly saunter off.
Fearing this was getting a little too Nabokov-esque, I move on with my business, but as I avoid the truffle table, I notice her sitting alone. I remember something my sister told me about pretty woman and how lonely they are because men are often afraid to approach them. I gather my courage to walk past the truffle table, grab a glass of sparkling wine and head back though the feculent fog.
I hand her a glass of the Champagne, wish her a happy birthday. She invites me to sit down. We talk.
It seems like minutes, but it was an hour or more. I notice the room is emptying; the overhead lights are dimming and brightening. It is time to go.
Further ahead, at a fancy feast, sommeliers are sipping on several vintages of elderly Brunello and carving chunks of meat to match.
I walk out of the room with the most beautiful woman in it and the words of Nabokov taunt me, ripping me from this vision and slinging me back into the still blazing night, leaving me with only these words:
"Let all of life be an unfettered howl. Like the crowd greeting the gladiator. Don't stop to think, don't interrupt the scream, exhale, release life's rapture. Everything is blooming. Everything is flying. Everything is screaming, choking on its screams. Laughter. Running. Let-down hair. That is all there is to life. "