Sunday, April 05, 2009

Imported from Italy

From the Archives ~ March 4, 2007

It’s that time of the year. A month or so before Vinitaly, the annual Italian wine trade show in Verona, I start getting invitations to visit wineries at their booths. Over the past week I have received several requests to import new wines from various producers in Italy. “We want to be in America,” they say. For this family, let’s take a look at what being in America entails.

For my family, it meant several voyages on large ships over a period of years. First a father would come and get work. Then he might go and bring his wife back to America. We were aliens in those days. But the fences were down, the gates were open. It wasn’t a matter of walking or flying, it was many days, even weeks, of rough seas, cold weather, strange food and crowded conditions. But there was a dream to pursue.

I have an Italian friend today who is new to America. This Italian sees the limitless possibilities America has to offer. Perhaps the mate of my friend, an American, can see the aspiration and the idealism that a new set of eyes grasps so eagerly. America is promise, America is hope. This isn’t some vapid flag-waving on my part, if one can just see though others eyes, it is clear.

Back 100 years or so, with the cart and the donkey, the pace of progress was limited to my ancestors. They got along better than most, but they saw past their horizon to a place where nothing was impossible. There was sickness, there were accidents, there was fate. But there was potential and room for optimism.

In Palermo, my great-grandfather gives his daughter away in marriage. My aunt Vitina stayed on in Sicily with her Giuseppe, they had a good life. They were fortunate; my great-grandfather had a good business, trading in wholesale leather. They had a car, they were upwardly mobile, in the stream of progress.

His son, my grandfather didn’t have to leave Sicily at 15, but he took a chance and set out for America. Less than 20 years later he was a prosperous business man, also in leather goods and real estate, in Southern California. He had a car and his son, my dad, was being groomed to follow in his path.

My mother and my dad’s mother six years later. This time with one of the new V8 Ford roadsters. When my parents married, they took that car up the coast of California and the Northwest, past the new Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. All of life was shiny bright and new to those 21 year olds.

35 years later, in my brand new 1969 Fiat 124, I took that same road up through Big Sur and Carmel, past San Francisco and into the wine country. Last week I revisited some old friends along the wine trail.

A few years ago, my son, Rafael was living in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Again, we pose with our beloved cars. A few months ago he lost control of his car in the rain. The car didn’t make it; fortunately he walked away without injuries. Our freedom, our cars, imported dreams, imported from Italy. Made in America.

Back in Dallas, on a sunny day in the spring of 1917, my mom and her siblings hang on a now-ancient Phaeton.

We made it here on the back of donkeys, on ships stuffed with hopeful souls, and in cars, more cars, fast cars, speeding towards the dream that is still America.

If you think it is going to be easy to bring your wines to America, think again. The gates are full. You must have a better business plan than just a wish to send your wines here on a boat for us to sponsor. You had best book passage as well and join us for a time, get to know America a little better. It will soon be the largest market for Italian wines, larger than even the Italian domestic market.Welcome to America.

1 comment:

tom hyland said...


There is something beautiful about the simplicity of days past. You conveyed that exquisitely!

Let's hope the Italians of today can learn that they need more than ancient charms.

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