Sunday, August 01, 2010

Tending the Volcano

The unbearable heat of summer makes for an unexpected adventure of remembrance

We were supposed to be flying over Etna, but for some reason I was lying in my pool, staring at the sun. The birds were having a feast on the figs, which were exploding in a sugargasm of sweet, exotic honey living goodness. My body was roasting, bronzing like the grapes on the vineyard surrounding the volcano I was supposed to be flying over. But it was alright, because in summer, the wine and fig gods look after me.

Earlier in a dream I awoke in a flash of heat and sweat. It was 3AM and a little voice was repeating, “Don’t get on that plane.” I arose, made myself a cup of coffee and read a Pearl Buck novel. I was disoriented, in some kind of jet lag, without the jet. Outside the parrots were squawking. I was getting hungry.

I called a friend. “What the hell is going on? What time is it? Why are you calling at this late hour?" my friend moaned. I responded that where I was it was lunchtime and I was hungry, But it was still dark outside and I was confused.

"That’s because you never left. You are a fool. Listening to your inner voices all the time. Go back to bed and call me when it really is lunchtime." Slam. Dunk.

I fell back asleep and dreamed about gray walls and ashen fences behind trees that looked like they were dead, without color. Fruitless, picked clean by the vultures, robbed of their sweetness. And then I awoke and walked out into the yard, climbed a ladder reaching for the falling stars that oozed the precious honey.

Hours later in the pool, looking at the rising moon, I thought of the wine that was robbing me of sleep, of vacation. “That was some wine,” I thought to myself. Never had I opened a bottle of wine with such grit. " Marco said you would love it," my Sicilian friend would write. "You read about Planeta, DonnaFugata, Cornelissen, but this man’s wine made Etna, he was on that mountain when it was little better than Hell. Before it was fashionable."

Indeed, the old bottle of wine, from 1971, spoke volumes of the potential for the wine from Etna. It was like nothing I had ever had, not the 1961 Hermitage from La Chapelle, not the “forbidden” 1959 Grange from Penfold's, nor the 1968 Sassicaia. Nothing. Ever. I was speechless. I was awake.

Swimming in a sea of wine, all around us wines that we must drink, sell and talk about, I turn to this wine and am dumbfounded. Why ever go back to Etna, to search again for that perfect bottle? I am doomed to try, but it will never, ever, be the same as that ’71 from Moallem Carlo of Etna.

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