Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Finding Your Wine

Vallee d'Aoste ~ Vigne de Torrette

One day on the highway in Liguria, it hit me. We were driving up and down hills, into one valley and then on to another. All along the way I was meeting people, some who were winemakers and some who simply liked to drink wine. In Italy, it is easier to find a single wine that you can enjoy over a lifetime. A visit to a winery in your neighborhood, and there you go. It might be a crisp white wine or a mellow, rich red. But along the wine trail in Italy, I keep meeting people who have found their wine. So what is wrong with us in America? Or maybe the question should be, have you found your wine?

Merano ~ Südtirol

Tonight, as I write this below the base of the Alps in Merano, I think about the day 10 years ago when I married my wife. We spent a lifetime finding each other, had a dozen or so years together and then she was gone, taken back by the Creator. We had found each other and drank from each other's heart of a wine as sweet as the latest harvest. Tonight in a small trattoria, I watched a young couple sitting beside each other drinking their wine. Have they found in each other a wine for the rest of their lives?

Vallée de la Roya ~ Airole

Days before, I had been on steep hills plunging down to a rough river, ragged with the bones of ancient mountains. On the schist-laden slopes, vines struggle to break open the concrete soil, pushing towards the sun, holding their breath until the flowers bud and the fruit forms. A summer of heat and night takes over, like making love, then falling back on the pillow, only to disappear into a dream world. Day after day, for four, maybe five, months. Then the love children pop out and are ready to be picked. Anxious workers huddle under the canopies of the vines, picking this cluster and that one. All the offspring are sent to the winery to be nursed and made into precious liquid, so young couples can drink them and fall in love. A cycle that will be repeated until none of us are around to have these thoughts and urges.

Finding your wine. What can it be? How will you know? Does it need to be only one wine?

I met this winemaker in Liguria, Fausto he was called. Fausto has a gray torrent of uncut hair, covering ears that have still black hairs around the openings. An Italian surf bum, but not a lazy guy. Behind the furrowed brow, two eyes peer out, full of life and not a little mischief. Fausto has found his wine. It is a Pigato, an unlikely wine he makes, but one that works very well in his life. As he jumps into his little 2-cycle utility truck (really a glorified scooter), he grabs a bottle of white and heads off to his sister's sports bar. At a table, a plate appears, tiny piquant sausages in a fiery broth that only a Pigato can quell. Fausto teases one of the cook's daughters, and one can see his life is carefree and happy. Almost every day Fausto goes there, to eat his lunch and drink the wine that makes his life lighter and brighter.

I am not sure I have found my wine. And while there are some wines that I prefer over others, what could be a better wine to have with Fausto's sausages than a Pigato?

Valtellina ~ Sondrio

Some of us are outsiders, wandering the trails, in search of our tribe or even our moment. Some of us can never settle anywhere long enough to find our wine. We are poorer for that. For to enjoy a simple dish that our sister has made alongside a wine we have made with our own hands, well, that is such a special circumstance. Haven’t those souls won the big lottery of life? For along with finding their wine, they have also found their life and their place on this earth.

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