Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Best Day of My Life

For an Italian wine lover, or for anyone, the idea of having something like the best day ever in this life is a ponderous matter. Not heavy, let’s not go there. But could such a day revolve around one’s life in wine in Italy?

Can we have more than one best day in a life? If so, the day my son was born is a day I’ll remember as one of those days. But can wine elicit such an emotion that it will be remembered for decades through the passage in time and give that day a place on the best of days in one’s life?

I’m not necessarily talking about a day in which you or I had one of the greatest wine encounters, like the day I had the 1964 Monfortino. Or the two days in a row in which I was fortunate to be present when the 1961 Lafite Rothchilds were opened. These were awesome occurrences, which when I collect memories of those moments in wine which made an impression, these certainly did. Of course, the day I was hiking in the Upper Yosemite and over dinner that night, when I opened the 750ml bottle of Almaden Vineyards Mountain Nectar vin rosé, that was for me, unforgettable. Hmmm, the brain curates our memories in its own way sometimes.

But that’s not what's at the end of this rabbit hole. I’m thinking about a day, somewhere over a 24-hour period, in which the affair created a gestalt of something that one could put at the top of a list with the heading “the best day of my life.” I know it must occur to someone, I’ve seen it numerous times on Instagram and Twitter, #’d as #TheBestDayOfMyLife.

What I found, while scrolling through those thousands and thousands of hashtags wasn’t what I thought I’d find. Mostly marriage pictures of pictures of beautiful and famous people. I don’t think I could list the times I met John Kennedy or encountered Ronald Reagan as the best day of my life. The closest thing in that orbit, again, would be the birth of my son. And maybe in a personal sense, that should be good enough.

I know I’m stretching the metaphor here, all the while my brain is defragging and searching the synapses for an iota of what I’m looking for in this search. Maybe there’s an amalgamation, a construct that will surface.

After a short break, I’ve returned to the screen and the keyboard in front of me. I have a vision of that day now. I’m in Italy, it’s a sunny day, temperature around 20⁰ C. a light breeze coming from the west over the mountains. We’ve just come here, after several days in Verona at Vinitaly, and a few days touring through vineyards.

In the distance the clinking of the bell from the lead sheep, perhaps coming over from the other side of the dale. The aroma of wood burning, as if to warm the nearby cottage or an outside fire, maybe a campfire, drifts by. A slow but steady hum, as the bees working the nearby rosemary in bloom, go about #TheBestDayOfMyLife as they know it. And surely there are small insects flying around, ones that live for only day – surely this is, for them too, #TheBestDayOfMyLife.

The sun, as the earth revolves around it, changes position from low in the east to high above. A dove coos, consigning one’s consciousness, for a brief moment of satori, where everything is in harmony.

And somewhere inside the nearby cottage, are the sounds of our mothers and aunts singing and making fresh pasta, clanging of spoons and the opening burp of tomatoes, put away from last season, to envelope the noodles. Nearby the brief aroma of basil, just picked by one of the cousins, to take inside for the sauce. And out of the nearby cellar an elder uncle appears with an aged pecorino, to be grated for the pasta, first, and then chipped away and served after the lunch for dessert with the wild strawberries.

Will there be wine? Are we not in Italy? And is this not #TheBestDayOfMyLife? That same uncle goes into another room and appears in the now brighter and warmer day with several bottles with swing tops, which he siphoned from the demijohn in the cellar. It’s red, it’s rustic, and it’s what we will drink on this day.

The whiff and pop of a checkered tablecloth is placed on the table outside near the cottage, on the warm side. The smell of bread baking in the outside oven wafts past me. I haven’t had a sip and already I’m drunk on this day.

A piquant tinge of vinegar, the real stuff, with fruit and acid and backbone, tickles my nose. The ominous verdancy of last seasons olive oil crowds the vinegar for attention. The tomatoes, the basil, the bread, the fresh pasta boiling, everything, everything, everything. Yes! Yes!! Yes!!!

We sit down outside and the elder woman at the table makes the sign of the cross. And a short, silent prayer of gratitude. And the children squirm on the wooden bench, inevitably getting splinters on the bottom sides of their legs. And the breeze and the sun and the food and the people and the birds. And the wine? It’s part of this too?

And yes, the inevitable #TastingNote.

The wine had the freshness of that mountain nectar rosé, had long ago in the mountains of Yosemite. And it had the rustic quality of that ‘64 Monfortino, in that is was rich and deep and portentous. In the finish I could sense it might be a long-lived wine, like the ’61 Lafite, although if it was, I wouldn’t see it. This was a young wine, tasted by someone not as young, and our paths wouldn’t cross that many more times.

The uncle nodded as he saw the pleasure the wine gave me. “Not bad, is it?” He seemed pleased. “I think the 2018 is going to be a great one, one of the best we’ve seen come off of our land in many years.” “Certamente,” I agreed with him. And it, along with everything on that day, served to make that day one of the many days I’ve lived, that will go down as the best day in my life.

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