Thursday, February 27, 2014

Live and Let Die

Letter from a half-full bottle to an apostle of wine

I see you, sitting there on the deck of your house overlooking the peaceful valley, watching the sunset. I know you’re tired. But the sun will set soon and you can rest then. We still have half a bottle left before I lose my stream, so let me share my thoughts with you about your long and glorious career.

I never thought I’d travel this far, see this many places. The people who made me, back in the day, rarely got me farther than the nearest big city. Roma, what a place it was in those days, wild traffic, gorgeous women, handsome men, hell even the nuns and priests were beautiful. And they all loved drinking me. Little did they (or I) know how simple I was, how much more I could be. We were all living easy, uncomplicated lives.

After fighting two wars and going through a period of technological change, America took a nap in the 1950’s. And then America woke up from its slumber. The children from the war victory started growing up and going out into the world, like you did with your wife.

France, like Italy was untouched, unself-conscious, almost feral. Food, wine, sun, wind, cognac, grappa, love. That was it in those days. Whether there was as big a difference between Lafite and Beychevelle, who knew? Who thought about the difference between Aldo and Giacomo Conterno? Maybe Veronelli, that quirky fellow in Bergamo. But he didn’t look across the water; he was content to revel in his beloved Italy.

You. You were different. It was almost like you were reluctant to like something at first. I remember when you first came to my makers place. You were shy, afraid to say something incorrect in Italian. My maker thought you an odd bird, he being so outgoing and jovial. But when you two sat down at the table and drank the ‘78, and then the ‘74 and the ‘71, the ‘70, the ‘68, the ‘64, the ‘58, the ‘51 and finally the ‘47 I thought the little village would implode. You, on that night were being inducted into one of the oldest brotherhoods, the ones that don’t give out medals or wear long purple robes and geometrically shaped hats. No, it was a single bare bulb over a table with a fire burning warm in the hearth. And you and me. That was when you really saw me. That was when your fire was lit.

You burned bright from then on, bright and long. There was no table, no vineyard, no bottle you wouldn’t try. You traveled incessantly, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Tuscany, Australia, Napa, Sonoma, South Africa, Germany, Portugal, Argentina, Canada. Wherever there was a vineyard of note, you would show up. And when you did the red sea parted for you. You were our Moses, our Rasputin, our Nader. You were everywhere. And you were invisible when you needed to be.

I never knew just what an introvert you were. I saw it the other day when you were in front of those other writers, how uncomfortable you were, not with your newly fused vertebrae. No you were embarrassed to be in front of them because you didn’t mean to become this important. But you did the work of five people. You brought us out of the wilderness, and now you are tired.

Wait, there’s still a little left were not finished yet.

You have come to a point when there is more time behind you then in front of you. You may feel younger than you have ever felt before, but time is not on your side. There are ten times more bottles in your cellar than you can drink in your remaining lifetime. But still you hunger for exploration. Crossing the other great Ocean, the East. There, you are legend, mythic, a hero. There they don’t pick you apart for every little thing you say; there they respect the wisdom of age and experience. They understand if you say something odd, the chalk it up to your nature. They don’t condemn, they only love. And there is where your rainbow ends.

What do you have left to do? Breathe in. Breathe out. Walk. Rest. Think, even ponder. Yes, write more, not just about this wine or that wine. There are plenty of younger acolytes willing to take on the grunt work. Now is your time for reflection. Now is the time to use the pen, not the sword. You have nothing to be embarrassed about save your own inherent shyness. You put yourself out there and you did it for us. You have succeeded beyond your wildest dreams. But even in dreams one eventually wakes up.

Face it, now you are an older man. The passion is still there, but admit it; it’s not the same as when you were 42. And those who are 30 and 40 are pushing for their time on the stage. Let them have it, it’s their time.

You? There is the wine to drink. And the reflections. And quiet time, sunsets, writing the long verse, not the terse notes. This is what is in your remaining time. Your reign has been a long one. You have established a dynasty. It will continue. It is running well enough. You can now let it go. Thank you for taking me with you on this fabulous trip around the world.

Now is your time to live and let die.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W


Geno said...

A nice take on RMP's illustrious career and good advice.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I'm pretty sure that bottle was actually half-empty. Much like the thoughts of so many of those who attended the NV Wine Writers Symposium.

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