Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Question of Balance

"For I have known them all already, known them all" - Eliot
How often is it one can be with acquaintances, colleagues and friends and have them raise mirrors to your mind, not once, but several times over the course of three days? The wine gods were shining upon us this week in Northern California. Complete immersion. Wine, food, conversation, change, questions. Something’s afoot in wine country. We’re all part of a peaceful revolution. The only thing that is being killed is bottles of wine. But oh, what bottles.

Most of the meetings were over a table. Most of the time it was among three people. Three of those meetings pretty well much re-calibrated me and my thoughts about wine. Call it a California cleanse. Call it coming home. Call it the end and the beginning.

Far from Italy, but always with Italy by my side, we had bottles opened up, bottles few of us seldom get to experience, let alone in such bountiful plenitude. That alone is worthy of celebrating life.

Add to that pristine food, sourced from farms by people who husband their land and their animals, their grapes, their wine. The pleasure of eating and drinking in balanced measures.

Along with that came thoughtful and respectful discussion. Much of which centered on “Where are we going?” “Where have we come from?” “How have we arrived to this point?”

Naval gazing? My cynical friends might surmise so. And they might be Johnny-on-the-spot. But what fun is that? Isn’t it much more fun to take ourselves seriously? Doesn’t that make our life more meaningful? Doesn’t that make us feel so much more important? Who, I ask, does it hurt? Not a damn soul.

So, take down the lights, bring up the music. Clear a few tables and chairs and let’s tango.

There are two California’s in my wine world. There is the Old. And there is the New. And they are remarkably similar. Drinking them together, a 1993 Stony Hill White Riesling with a 2011 Talahalusi Picpoul. About as different as they come. But oddly, they are kindred spirits.

A 1985 Forman Cabernet and a 2011 Larkmead Firebelle Red Blend. Separated by a generation of time but the two winemakers, Ric Forman and Dan Petroski, seemingly threaded together in time by passion for wine, for clarity, and for balance.

Everything we think, drink, eat, talk about and love, all these are held together by the pursuit of joy, of beauty and of balance. From Eric Asimov to Elaine Brown, Paul Mabray to David White, Ric Forman to Dan Petroski, Geralyn to Jack Brostrom, Darrell Corti to Lucio Gomiero, all these souls, landed on this little rock, move from dark to light, cold to warm, hungry to satiated, young to old, seeking the same thing with different names.

Is California different than Italy? In some ways, yes. When on the back roads of Napa Valley, one could forget and think they were in Sicily. It happens to me often. The differences are as great as the similarities are cunningly alike. Yes, there are flavor gradations. Something is brighter here, spicier there. But that is minor, in universal measurements. Balance, though, that is something we all seek, we all question and we all bargain for.

In health, in youth, in reflection, it concentrates to balance. Health is balance. Wealth is balance. Happiness is balance. Deliciousness is balance. Love is balance. If the white wine is orange and it’s in balance, who cares? If the mountain red is meaty and oaky and deliciously in balance, so what? If the Carmenere on volcanic soil brings forth a wine that 30 years later is a time capsule of the last 30 million years and it is delicious, that is balance. Balance isn’t ONE thing. Balance isn’t a sheet of paper, it’s a ball. And the dog in us all chases it. Daily.

I’m fortunate in that my path has taken me along to be with folks who think about, make and drink these things called wine. Wine is merely a delicious tasting metaphor for the thing which we cannot give words to. We are bestowed with the gifts from the earth as a sign of faith from the greater good, to show us what we know but which often we forget. Wine is the direct shipment of love from the past to the future. Are we not the luckiest of beings in the universe? If we don't think so, we are fools.

For myself, I wish to be foolish after a glass or two of School House Pinot Noir, or Stony Hill Chardonnay, Vignalta Carmenere or Sullivan Cabernet Sauvignon. There is where I find the answer to this question of balance, sitting at a table under the warm glow of friendship and conviviality.

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written by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
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