Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Trophy Life - Did you come this far to be somewhere else?

There’s this natty new watering hole with a wood burning oven on Washington Street in Yountville. I’m waiting there to meet a friend and colleague, to have a drink and go over some Italian business. As I am early, and the bar is overflowing with revelers (it is Napa Valley Premiere week), I stand outside and catch up with emails from back home. Two large multi-person vans are parked in front. Black and shiny, with quirky license plates, monikers of someone’s idea of wine country chi-chi. In reality, these vans are peripatetic conveyances for the moneyed set, with their black and shiny boots, and black pressed jeans, and their tall blonde wives with their tight faux leopard stretch jeans, long-legged, with long, shimmering hair. “Come get in this one with us,” one of the older single men yelps to someone else’s wife. As if she was going to get in and on their way to dinner at Press, something was going to happen inside that van? She just gives him a desultory sniff and climbs into a smaller, more intimate vehicle with her curator.
Oh, the trophy life, it ain't no good life,
But it's my life.

A short while later, I zoom off, to a private indie tasting. Yes, it’s still Napa Valley, but entering the room filled with the wafting aromas of ancient Nebbiolo and local Eruca sativa, I wonder about this life. Here I am in wine country, one which I am very familiar with, and for more years than most people in the room I am entering have been alive. God, how have I been living this kind of life for so long? One of the flight of the wines at the table reflect our host’s birth year, 1973. The same year I graduated from college nearby, and which that year, in Napa Valley, with friends in some kind of post-graduation revelry, found me sipping on Joe Heitz’s and Louie Martini’s Cabernets from the 1960’s as casually as one now sips a Qupé Syrah from tap? Did I really come this far?

A few more people amble in to this private tasting, and it becomes a party. Famous wine personalities abound, there are all kinds of superstar winemakers, bloggers, master sommeliers, characters from the movie “Somm” making cameo appearances, and famous writers, even one with handlers and entourages. The waves part as he walks in with his group, it will soon be another #trending moment, so much one winemaker quips, “Oh, man, this is going to blow Instagram up tonight!” And indeed it does, for 15 minutes.
Life is just another scene
In this old world of broken dreams
Oh, the trophy life, it ain't no good life
But it's my life
Earlier in the week, back in Dallas I am sequestered for several days and nights, tasting wine, judging, evaluating, sipping and at food breaks, piling heaps of delicious food on my plate, stuffing myself like a Thanksgiving turkey. The wines are Italians (again) with a smattering of Greek, California, Texas and French. More wine, more quinoa, more trophies.

God, do we all really run around like this in the wine trade, looking to be here? It seems so many came this far to be somewhere else, with the endless run to another airport, to catch another plane – to New York, to New Zealand, to a new life?

Yes, I had an aha moment. I often do in my native state. I don’t need to go all the way, up Highway 29 anymore to get it. I prefer, in fact, the Highway 29 of my 1973 bubble. It was quieter then, there wasn’t so much traffic. And those ubiquitous people-moving vans, filled with the well-dressed (and well-fed) gilded set hadn’t come into existence. My Napa Valley is intact, unlike some of those old Barolos we sifted through the other night.

The famous wine personality brought an old, old Barolo. He proceeded to open it. “It’s corked!” he exclaimed. A collective groan impregnated the room. I felt a sigh of relief, for the old ones I brought had also passed from being enjoyable to merely “interesting.” Proof that wine has finiteness to it. A reminder to those of us in the flesh that we too have an expiration date.

Oh, there he goes again, you say, that death talk. Just tell us about the ’58 Pio Cesare, tell us it was the bees knees. Yes it was. It was really, really nice. In fact, with so many old Nebbiolos in a room, around a table, one could close their eyes and imagine walking in Alba, or in La Morra, very easily. The somewhereness of those wines, even as old as they were, never belied the fact that they were 100% Italian; in fact their Langhe-ness was indisputable.

And, as well, so it was, as I walked to my car, later that evening, that I was somewhere else. Maybe it was the lone gardenia that had bloomed, miraculously, that day, on the bush in the front yard, where my car was parked. Reminding me that I was back home, from where I had come. After all, I didn’t come this far to be somewhere else.

Oh, the trophy life ain't no good life
Oh, but it's my life

Yeah, it's my life

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

1 comment:

Marco Aspromonte said...

I was eleven years old when that Pio Cesare
was harvested! Tempus fugit, amico.

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