New York – The Center of the Wine World – for Some
I’ve been to New York three times in as many weeks. They’re getting to know me by name at Aldo Sohm Wine Bar. Some folks in Texas have even asked me if I’ve moved back there. But after all these years, I know my place.
My perfect New York period is 24 hours. Get in about 11 AM, go to a luncheon appointment, check into the hotel, rest a minute, and go to a dinner meeting. Get in late, sleep a little, head to La Guardia and back to Texas. That’s the perfect combination for me. But sometimes I need more time for all the stuff I need to do. And while I love the folks, and the excitement and the hustle and bustle, I am always glad to be back home. Sure, folks don’t love Italian wine here as much as they do in New York. And folks don’t love barbecue as much in New York as they do back home. I don’t know how to say it, other than there are folks for whom New York is the center of the wine world. But it ain’t for me.
In actuality, the center of the wine world, for me, is an internal thing. The simplest way to explain it is to say, that wherever ever I am, the wine gods seem to make it all OK. New Orleans, Cleveland, Napa Valley, Austin, Rome, Verona, Volterra, Marfa. Where is the center among all these points of light? Isn’t it always here and now?
And not to make it sound like I consider myself to be at the center of the wine world (or universe) like so many folks seem to consider themselves these days – after all we’re in the Golden Age of Narcissism. No, I’m not that interested in it. Take a look at the pictures that I shoot – I’m looking out – and there are great things happening in New York. And there are some mighty fine things happening in Texas and the rest of the country, the world, and the universe as well. Yep, I’m full-blown into my Sunday sermon now, ain’t I?
Let me make this simple. New York is too easy for me. I need a greater challenge. Heck, getting critical mass for orange wines or wines from the Valtellina or Friuli or Etna or the Marche, in New York, there’s a ready audience for these wines. Where’s the challenge? How hard is that to conquer? But try and get a barbecue shop in San Antonio to pour Franciacorta by the glass or to mentor a young busboy from Uvalde in the ways of Italian wine such that he could put together as compelling a list of Italian wines as one might only find in places like New York, that’s a climb. And the rewards of persistent, long fought and hard-earned victories mean so much more than just staring into a large metro area and throwing the darts.
Walking the streets this past month in New York, where I lived 40 years ago (when New York wasn’t a very nice place) now I can get all nostalgic and misty-eyed. But I remember how much I then missed the sky and the sunsets, being a Westerner. To long for the sound of a distant train at midnight through the autumn sky, when the leaves have fallen, and have that whistle pierce one's soul.
This past day, back home, living in a quieter place and at a pace that I determine ̶ not the mean streets ̶ that’s the center of my wine world. It’s plenty busy. There are the ongoing challenges any place has, and there are enough people who don’t know about Italian wine, but are interested, and want to know more, to make this place I call home a place worth coming home to.