Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Brief Reprieve From the Onslaught

Ceiling fresco - Casòn Hirschprunn, Margreid, Südtirol

Because of the encounters I have had in the last month and with all the rush to award guarantees of origin to the decadent and irrelevant Italian appellation system, I have zigged, zagged and ran scatter-shooting across this April month. Not that it hasn’t been a romp. Jump on a plane, beat the jet lag, eat this, drink that, run, run. My mom likens it to a vacation. I could use one of those right now. But it “ain’t gonna happen,” there’s too much going about in the wine trail that I find myself perched upon these days. And that’s more of a song coming from the mouth of the sparrow hawk above my home than a kvetch. A shriek of pleasure.

But not without its moments of sadness, or at the very least, contemplative reflection. Last night, after a long day, in the early evening I was summoned to a wine dinner. Pouring wine, sitting with new people, making conversation, trying to attend to their needs as well as to my host and our winery folk. I never really thought I did justice to any of them. I was strewn, but sincere. At the end of a very mellow evening, almost frighteningly so for the normally cacophonous venue, as we were boxing up wine for the clients and tidying up, sipping on an espresso and generally heading towards comatose places, a lady came up to me. I’ve known her for what seems like ages. Always very friendly, although never going too deep. But civil. Respectful.

“I just put my mom in end-of-life care and was taking a night off for respite," she said. Boy do I know about that. And she knew I knew. It was like two tired warriors tipping their hats to one another as they trudged off to their battles. ”Thank you for this evening. I really needed it.”

It woke me up. Nothing is to be taken for granted. Here I thought the wine dinner was OK. Maybe not as successful as the week before. But in reality it was, it was just quieter, smoother. Just as effective. What it was for that lady was an evening away from the dreaded reality she and her mother are facing.

Joy from a wine dinner. Some sips of wine. And they were good. A few stories from one who learned from some of the best storytellers in the business. Food way above average. Reasonably priced. Nice surroundings, and people to go with them. What could be better?

It’s those times when distractions are welcome. A breather.

The cycle. New growth. Flowering. Period of development. Harvest. Decline. Dormancy. Pruning. And starting over again.

Today I went to the hospital to see my friend Mario. He finally had his hip operated on. He’d been in some pain. But he made it through the operation. At 94, that’s big. And he still has major aches. So bad tonight that when we were talking he drifted off in a morphine haze halfway through a thought. The old warrior, still fighting, living to die another day. But not today.

Every meal like it’s your first one. And your last. That is how it has become in this race to taste the best wine, the best food, the reservation at the best restaurant in the world, even if it takes 7 years to get in? Hmmm, how funny that sounds looking at the words on the page now. But how many of us run after our own elusive prey in full pursuit, with scabbards drawn, so serious? So determined? What, to taste every first growth? Every cru of Barbaresco? Every orange wine known to man and woman? Really? This is why we were sent here to this funny little rock?

Wine draws those of us to it as if we were bees in search of nectar, to gather and take to the queen bee back home. It’s as if these passions, these primal pressures were the sole reason for being. Like being eternally adolescent in search of life, love, fueled by concupiscence. That and that alone. Endless springtime. The cycle of the vine, for some 200 generations.

All this from the reflections of a wine dinner, over sips of espresso, hoping we hadn’t disappointed those souls who came for a little taste of Italy, a moment off the grid, a brief reprieve from the onslaught of reality that makes up the cycle of one’s life.


  1. is that picchieri? i've not seen that label. what is it?

  2. It's called Desiderium.
    for obvious reasons, the label is not approved for the US.

  3. Is that the Vitello Tonnato at the Marchesi di Barolo restaurant????

  4. good guess. and educated one, but a good one


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