Sunday, May 05, 2019

Personal thoughts about life after the wine business (*with tasting notes at the end) longer selling water by the river

I am one who has recently been emancipated from the fatal attraction of the wine business, but one who still appreciates a good glass of wine, regularly. I no longer have to go into a restaurant and make sure the list is compliant with the wishes of some vice-president who lives 10 hours a day in a windowless cell looking at spread sheets and regularly attends yearly review meetings. I no longer have the need to spend money in an account, for the sake of spending money in an account. I now go out to eat, and drink, because I want to. If not, I am just as happy at home raiding my wine tomb, searching for a long-lost bottle of Nebbiolo or Montepulciano, Sangiovese or Nerello Mascalese. They’re all there, resting in the cool darkness of the catacombs. Wine, you see, is no longer an obsession or a mania for me. Or, I’d like to think so.

In reality, it is damn hard to pull the cannula out of the arm and walk out of the asylum. It is after all, part of one’s identity, n'est-ce pas? And the big world out there, it isn't becoming kinder or gentler in the last decade or so, especially in the cities.

So here are a couple of things that I’m working on.

Hyper-sensitivity – I saw this in my father when he was past his middle-age rage period. He calmed down, and along with it he became easily overwrought. I sense that might be happening to me. I view a field of wildflowers as the mower is heading towards them and I cringe. I see a stray dog or cat in the street and it unnerves me. I stop at the gas station to fill up the car and if there is loud music playing, something snaps inside of me. As I drive from home to the store and I see a man passed out in a wheelchair on the side of the road, in full sun, one would think, if you were to be crawling inside of my brain, that something cataclysmic on a global scale had just taken place. It’s as if all the sensitivity I developed and focused in wine tasting, has been diverted to other planes of being. I haven’t gotten used to it, not sure if I will. And there is something that is tied to that sensitivity.

Severe anxiety in a car – The other day, I’m tooling down the expressway, minding my own business, when I hear two cars at 70+mph, screeching, and careening over the three lanes to the left of me. And in case they wanted a piece of the fourth lane, which is where I was in, I immediately put the pedal to the metal and got the hell out of their out-of-control way. That is an extreme example, but almost daily I see a near accident, or someone who is behind me, cutting a little too close to me, in an effort to veer around me. And it’s not like I’m driving like I’m in the school zone. I don’t know where this comes from. Maybe the accident in Sicily in 2016. But I don’t even remember that one, other than waking up with blood on my skull, several broken ribs and a rapidly developing hematoma on my right knee. Maybe it was that. Or maybe it was the one in Bordeaux a few years before, when someone ran a light in a rainstorm and plowed into the car in which I was a passenger, sustaining several broken ribs, a sore wrist and a foggy brain. Maybe. Or maybe when I was in Sonoma and our car went off the freeway and into a ditch and back out into the freeway, careening and clipping several fast-moving cars. Again, a passenger. Again, broken ribs. Again, a mist of fog over the normally clear and clever world in which I inhabited.

Maybe I have too much time on my hands? Nonetheless, travel, especially in a car, is a precarious undertaking in 2019. One third of the folks are more interested in looking at their texts than looking at the road. It’s like I’m in a foxhole and we’re constantly being bombarded with shells. I guess that’s what some folks call PTSD. Anyway, I’m noting that is part of my world lately, too.

Animals – They all seem to say the same thing – Help me! Well, not exactly that, but they all seem to be singing from the same hymnal, and as innocent as they all are, and they are, they are caught in a world which is far from squeaky clean. And it is affecting them. And I feel it. And, if we’re being totally candid, I actually like them more than most of the biped hominids who are mucking about the place. So, if I’ve offended you, I apologize. But honestly, I’d rather be sitting on my couch, reading a book with little Luigi sitting nearby. Or playing with them. Which leads me to the next subject.

Play – I was making the bed this morning thinking about folks who don’t have a 9-5 job. People like actors. They work a movie or a play and then they aren’t working for a week, a month, a year. Once, I thought that was unimaginable. Now I realize what a sucker I’ve been. They’ve learned the secret about play, the thing we all used to do, all of the time, when we were children.

And that is, that play is restorative, whether you are 6 or 66. It feeds the imagination. It provides a break from the daily drudgery of working, shopping, doing laundry, washing the car, whatever. Now, I have much more time for play, and while it is taking a little getting used to, I remember what it was like from being a kid. And I like it. It’s like your favorite song, the long version, is playing and your mom is making your favorite lunch and the temperature in the pool is perfect and the weather is warm but not too hot. Inotherwords, the perfect scenario. But it is an active, not a passive, act. It isn’t work, but it isn’t sleep. And I really love it. It’s the creative process, whether I am building a fort for the cats or planning a photo portfolio for a show. There’s more, but essentially, it’s play I’m really getting hooked on these days. Which leads me to the next subject.

Sleep – I go to bed early and I get up early. I cannot wait to get up in the morning. I love waking up. But if I've had a long day, whether it is working in the garden, or lots of exercise, or all of the above, and it’s about 2PM and I’ve had a nice lunch, the only thing I want to do is find my couch and my special pillow and take a nap. Not for long. But long enough. With or without a cat or two on top of me, humming and trilling, like the waves of a small ocean. I like sleep, but not like I used to. It’s like I’ve met an old friend after 40 or 50 years and he’s different; And I’m different; But it’s still a working friendship. It’s just different. And it’s nice. Ok, I’m going all Rod McKuen on y’all. I guess I need to plunk down a tasting note or two, right? Isn’t that what a wine blog is for, isn’t that what y’all came here for?

Tasting Notes

2017 Sandlands Red Table Wine – I probably shouldn’t have opened this wine so young. But we were having something to eat that this wine sounded like it might be good to have with it.

Old vineyard, planted almost 100 years ago in Contra Costa County. 65% Carignane and 35% Mataro. I’ll just say it, I was an idiot to open it up, and I knew it. But I was too lazy to dig around in my wine mausoleum to find the 2014 Carignane I have stuffed away.

The fruit was strong and heady. The aromas were young and skittish. The wine had rested plenty, I just robbed the cradle by opening this wine to early. I won’t do that with the other bottle. Now I just have to remember where I put them in 5-10 years. In the meantime, I’ll be drinking their Chenin Blancs, which I am a total wine whore for.

2015 Colombera & Garelli Bramaterra – our new neighbors invited us over for a happy hour recently, and neighbor Bill poured me a glass of this. Ok, I live in Dallas, Texas, in a relatively conservative (i.e. red) neighborhood. I’d sooner get a glass of Belle Glos or Meiomi Pinot Noir (or a Coor’s Light) handed to me in this zip code. So, suffice it to say, I was blown away. Bramaterra, for God’s sake! How awesome was that? Oh yeah, what it tasted like: It was rich and velvety, but not too smooth. I mean, there was a nice edgy texture to it. And it had just the slightest hint of volatile acidity, which I love. Yeah, that was a good night. And we love our new neighbors, big time!

2016 Mayacamas Mt. Veeder Chardonnay – There is usually never enough white wine in our house. But one of the wine fairies left a box on our doorstep. Yeah, ok, sure. And this was one of those wines. Oh man, all the old Stony Hill and Forman Chardonnay I’ve had over my life has left me a bit cynical about other California Chardonnay. But this is Mayacamas. And It didn’t disappoint. What I love about classic California wine, as I have been drinking for the past 40+ years, is that there is a timeless quality about it, but also it is uniquely Californian. I say this as an indigenous Californian. It just hits me like it knows me. And I know it. And this Mayacamas was rich and full and fruity and dry and nuanced with many levels of flavor and I wish I had more.

Ok, that’s it for now - Miss Buttercup wants to go outside and play.

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