Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Country Run and the Best Fried Pie in America

A million years ago when I was a young buck, I had a large territory in North Texas to cover for the wine company I worked for. We were a fine wine company, with classified growths, exceptional Italian wines, great Mosel wines, ports and Champagnes. And cult California wines. About once a month I’d go on my country run which would take me to the Oklahoma border to a little town in North Texas.

I was also into winemaking and this was the area where T.V. Munson set up his vines and lab to help save the European vineyards. See my book review on Munson and his life over at Alder Yarrow’s Vinography blog (where he has me do the occasional book review for the site).

Anyway, today I was in the mood for catfish and fried pie and there was a little shack out there that Saveur magazine had just written up, so I figured a country run was once more in order.

I can almost drive the road in my sleep; so many times I remember doing it. Once when I was up there, on Dec 31, 1981, when I got home my apartment had been broken in and my precious Canon VIT rangefinder was stolen. A month later I bought a house, @ 16.5% interest. It was the heady Reagan era, and times were tough for middle class folks just starting up in the wine biz. But hey, I made it through that and worse.

Today, though, I headed first to lunch. I had spent the better part of the morning power washing the apartment building that I have a condo in and today was “duty day” for me. Soaking wet and hungry, I quickly showered and headed up the road, 66 miles away.

The sign was pretty funny, and there was a waiting line for lunch. But it was cool inside and the smell of fried hushpuppies and catfish was too much. Within minutes, after stepping into an east Texas dialect we ordered up, catfish, shrimp and sides.

But the icing on the cake was the fried pie. I had an aunt, her name was Amelia, but we all called her Aunt Mil, who was one of the greatest cooks in my life. And Aunt Mil could cook just about anything. She knew how to fry a pie and this one did her memory well. As the apricot oozed out of the flaky shell I could almost hear my aunt calling me to the table. It’s been ten years since she passed on. Boy, do I miss her cooking almost more than anything.

After lunch we headed on over to the T.V. Munson homestead and looked over his Italianate home and vineyards. The neighborhood has grown up around the old regal home, some of the neighbors probably don’t know (or care) what this man’s work represents to the people of France and Europe. He was a giant.

After our pilgrimage we headed back home but not before stopping by one of my old accounts, Driggs #3. The owner, Robert Driggs, was there and we barely noticed each other. But after a few minutes of reminiscing, we hit our stride and got back up to speed. Robert is a really great guy, so friendly and really one of the people who put fine wine on the map in North Texas. He lives in a pretty quiet way and place, but some of the wines I have sold (and bought) with Robert have been pretty amazing. I saw a 1975 Il Poggione Brunello in the display case along with a 1988 Ridge Montebello. And the prices are so reasonable. I picked up a 1979 Château Ducru Beaucaillou and a 1980 Foppiano Petite Sirah for a song. I know in his cellar there are stashed some great Mosel wines from the mid 1970’s along with almost every Opus One every made. And that’s just for starters. The man has an incredible sense of what great wine is and I have never been disappointed in the wines I took home from his shop. The 1968 San Martin Petite Sirah (bought the day of the Dec.31 break-in) was one of the greatest wines I have ever had. I hate to tell you how little I paid for it.

Not bad for what I thought would be a day off; great fried pie, a pilgrimage to the Munson home and a couple of great bottles to take home for the July 4th celebration.

Our 4th of July wines, served to friends who just moved here from L.A. Now those were some mighty fine bottles, including one I sold(and just retrieved) 25 years ago!

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