Sunday, August 05, 2012

Making the Connection

With all the stuff that is thrown at most of us on a daily basis, it seems to be getting harder to have those singular moments where the outside world isn’t always crashing in. Our digital diet has become super-sized, what with the access to information on the internet and all the daily doses of blogs, social media, email, and work that keeps us staring at these little screens. Our monkey brain is in control, churning out words and thoughts and desires and needs. Those darn needs.

Meanwhile our Italian counterparts, many of them, have unplugged and are at the beach. I envy them this time of the year, with long slow mornings, a leisurely caffe, a sun and a swim and then maybe a roll around town or the island. Then lunch and maybe a nap, followed by maybe another sun and swim working up the appetite for dinner. But dinner is hours away, no need to rush it. After all, it’s August, this is the time to log-off and recharge. Time to re-connect.

You don’t need an island or even a beach, although it is much easier and pleasurable. What one really needs is the ability to quiet the mind, stop the chatter and let the inessential crap float away.

Wine is like that too. There are so many choices, so many places trying to sell you their hundreds of highly rated 90+ wines for under $25. And what about the experiences? Or is it all about the choices, the scores and the price? If you think so, read no further.

Over the past week, I have been tasting more and drinking less, just a casualty of a busy week. But the wines I have been really falling for have been a surprise to me.

A Cabernet/Merlot from Trentino, a Barbera from Asti and a Montepulciano from Abruzzo. Aside from the individual wine, and what they are can be important, for now let’s move beyond the label. When I taste a wine that sends me to the place where the grapes are grown, it really brightens my day. It is like I am coming into contact with something on this planet, making a connection with something bigger than myself and my problems. Not to trivialize the horrors all around us and bury my head in the sand, but sometimes it gets to be too much. We all have personal crisis from time to time, and more often we have challenges and disappointments to more than counter-weigh the joys and successes. Life is not easy. Not to shy away and disappear in a dark room because of it, but perhaps taking a little less of the world in on a daily basis, at least the high chatter that is so pervasive around all of us, that is something I am focused in on these days. And that is where wine comes in.

The Cabernet/Merlot from Trentino? I didn’t expect it to make such a connection when I first tried it. But then I remembered being at the estate and walking around the property with the owner. A lot of history, a family mausoleum (love and respect for the ones that came before, that made it all possible), and it hit me. Who cares if it is a Merlot Cabernet blend? The wine hit the mark, perfectly and further it made an impression that hours later I am still under its shadow.

The Barbera from Asti? I drink it so often it has become a kind of a house wine to me. It’s not that I take it for granted, but it has become one of the family. Still when I tasted it this past week, it was as if it was the first time I had ever had it. And then I remembered being at the winery and the family and the air around the property and the sky and the clouds and the clear connection. That connection, much more important to me than the 6PM news. Part of my life, part of what is keeping me here. A piece of earth in Italy that isn’t speaking to me exclusively, but it is definitely speaking to my heart and soul. And I am listening.

The Montepulciano from Abruzzo? I have a deep disappointment with a particular winery from the region. Personal stuff, still too raw to talk about. Suffice to say, I really thought of Abruzzo and the Marche as my base in Italy. And then it all disappeared. Like the death of a loved one, gone. Then I tasted this little Montepulciano from Abruzzo, nowhere near the Abruzzo I was familiar with in the northern area, it was from the south. A riserva style wine, though it doesn’t really say so on the label. Maybe more like a selection. In any event, a wine that when I tasted it in a seminar, it really kissed me. Like a distant cousin that you hadn’t seen in years or maybe had never met, so there wasn’t really a family feeling. No, it was innocent enough, but it was also sensual, and warm; a good kisser. And all through the taste I was reminded of the warm reception I get whenever I go to Southern Italy. And this wine seemed to be an emissary of Il Mezzogiorno, welcoming me back home to my tribe. Again, the connection.

I will not be in Italy this summer, it just isn’t meant to be. But the summer pageant comes and goes. It will be there next year if I can make it. Until then, I pray I have the occasional quietude of being to be able to stay open to the messages and messengers Italy sends to her sons and daughters scattered across the earth. We cannot all be there all the time, but as long as we know there is a connection, it is a sumptuous meal that can nourish and encourage any and all of us through it in easygoing times or in times that are challenging. And I am listening.

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