Sunday, June 30, 2019

Creating Your Own Current in the Sea of Life

Pt. IV

“Diana pulled out a small bottle, a dessert wine. It was amber and smelled of cloves and honey and celery. Odd creature, but quite pleasant with the wedge of aged pecorino we were polishing off. “I don’t recall a time when I didn’t think about freedom… All I could think of was freedom. Freedom from these chains.”

Several years later, when I was in Florence, I was having a glass of wine with my friend. “Have you heard about Diana?” Thinking he was about to tell me something terrible, I shuddered. “No, it isn’t that. Perhaps we should go out and visit her this week?”

I went about my business that week, with appointments with my importers and brokers and set aside Friday to go out to the country and visit Diana. She was getting older, as we all were, and I felt there was another chapter in her book of life that she wanted to emancipate from her memory. This was a book, read slowly, chapter, by chapter, one year at a time. Like a life, it was not something to rush through, no speed reading or scanning like we all do now in the overly distracted state we find ourselves in.

I was in the midst of a career in the wine business. I felt important. I was doing something that was good for the world. Or so I told myself, over and over. It’s like that when you are in the thick of the stew of life – you must find it compelling, at least to yourself – or where is the meaning in a life like this, where we run all over the world, selling wine, drinking wine, making notes, making deals? Oh, yeah, I was as full of myself as anyone who is in it up to their neck. But Diana would sink a hook and pull me out of the stream, dry me out on the riverbank and “cure” me of this delusion. Or, so a little voice in the back of my head whispered. Angel or devil? It was Italy, so it could have been a chorus of those winged creatures, both fallen and virtuous. Or, it could have been the monkey brain chattering away as usual. Regardless of the source, it prompted me to go see my old friend in the countryside of Tuscany, again.

When we arrived, around 1:30 in the afternoon, and made our way in through the labyrinth of growth leading to the small home and winery, our host met us at the door. “Thank you for coming. It’s been too long, and I have to ask you to help me go through all these different wines. I’ve finally decided to let go of 40 years of wines. A neighbor, and elderly gentleman, a Barone, wants to preserve my legacy, isn’t that amusing?” Diana seemed alert and pert, as if she’d been invigorated, recharged. “I imagine if they cannot keep me going for much longer, at least my children will live to see another sunrise or two.”

And so, we sat down to a light lunch of cold cuts, salad and Tuscan stone hard bread before we set about the work she needed. There would be no short sonnellino, no siesta this afternoon.

What we had, once we got all the wines sorted out (just the wines from the house cellar), one day later, was this rough inventory:

• 5 - 1.8L red labeled “P.F. Bosc.”
• 30 - 200ml sweet brown dessert “Aleacrimone”

• 33 - 1.8L red
• 15 - 200 ml sweet brown dessert “Aleacrimone”
• 3 - 720ml white Santa Lucia
• 3 - 1.8 white “Maria G”

• 66 - 1.8L red “Bosco Riserva”
• 5 - 200 ml sweet brown dessert “Aleacrimone”
• 9 - 720ml white Santa Lucia
• 1 - 1.8 white “Maria G”
• 1 – demijohn (partially full) labeled “Acqua d. Vita”

• 21 – 700ml red “Riserva d. Pater”
• 6 - 720ml white Santa Lucia “Pro.”
• 1 - 1.8 brown wine (dessert) labeled “3 vite”

• 1 – demijohn “Granoir” red
• 21 – 700ml straw wrapped (fiaschi) red labeled “Prov.S -B”
• 75 – 200ml straw wrapped white/amber labeled “La Buca”
• 10 – 1.8 L red labeled “Mont. A ¬ Carmen”

• 15 – 700 ml red labeled “CdC Empoles”
• 1 - 1.8L red “Bosco Riserva”
• 3 – 700ml red “Riserva d. Pater”
• 10 – 720 ml white labeled “SL-P”
• 5 – 2.0 L brownish wine (in odd crooked brown bottles) simply labeled “Stravecchio”

• 19 – 700 ml red labeled “CdC Empoles”
• 12 - 1.33L red “Bosco Riserva”
• 5 – 720ml “Granoir” red
• 1 - 1.8L dark brown labeled “Millefiori Vermut”
• 17 – 620ml (small squatty amber bottles, wrapped in straw) labeled “Pag¬Vecch.”

• 4 – 1.8 L red labeled “Mont. A ¬ Carmen”

• 12 - 1.33L red “Bosco Riserva” Pater Familias”

• 17 – 1.8 L red “Granoir - Quintus Sextius”

• 4 – 1.8 L red “Mont. A ¬ Carmen” (scribbled on label “tenda finale”)

• 11 - 1.33L red “Bosco Riserva” Pater Familias”
• 6 – 1.8 L sweet brown dessert “Aleacrimone”

• 7 – 720ml red labeled “Granoir Quintus Horatius”
• 10 - 200ml sweet brown dessert “Aleacrimone”

• 10 – 720ml red labeled “Granoir Quintus Sertorius”
• 21 – 750ml red labeled “Prov.S.B. Montesol”

• 18 – 750ml red “Bosco Riserva” Pater Familias”
• 12 – 720ml white labeled “Santa Lucia – Procanica”

• 7 – 720ml red labeled “Granoir 13 Lune”
• 3 – demijohn hand labeled “L'imperatore Pazzo – Stravecchio”

• 21 – 750ml red “Bosco Riserva” Pater Familias”
• 31 – 750ml red labeled “Prov.S.B. Montesol”
• 65 – 750ml white labeled “Santa Lucia – Procanica”

• 5 – 750ml white labeled “Santa Lucia – Procanica”
• 10 – 620ml straw wrapped bottles labeled simply “Soli Ardenti”

• 77 - 500ml sweet brown dessert “Aleacrimone”
• 14 – 1.5 L hand labeled “L'imperatore Pazzo – Stravecchio”

• 24 – 750ml red labeled “Prov.S.B. Montesol”
• 5 - 500ml sweet brown dessert “Aleacrimone”

• 31 – 750ml red “Bosco Riserva” Pater Familias”
• 45 – 750ml red labeled “Prov.S.B. Montesol”
• 10 - 500ml sweet brown dessert “Aleacrimone”

• 43 – 750ml red “Bosco Riserva” Pater Familias”
• 12 – 1.5L white labeled “Santa Lucia”
• 40 - 500ml sweet brown dessert “Aleacrimone”

• 65 – 750ml red “Bosco Riserva” Pater Familias”
• 22 – 1.5L white labeled “Santa Lucia”
• 20 - 500ml sweet brown dessert “Aleacrimone”

Diana now had a day companion, Daria, who started to help around the place, light cleaning and preparing of some meals. She lives down the road, is about 20 years younger, widowed, and has known Diana since she was a child. Daria told us, “This is just the wine in the house. In the caves, behind the winery, there are 100 times this wine!” I was flabbergasted. This is the life's work of a soul who is deep thinking and hard working. And cataloguing and organizing the output of this person, Diana, is the life’s work of another person. I was virtually overwhelmed and went outside to catch a little of the dusk light of the evening, looking for a few stars in the sky that I could tether myself to, to get my bearings.

Later that evening, over a meal of grilled meats and preserved vegetables, put up from the year before, along with a bottle or two of wine, we sat and ate in silence, waiting for Diana to voice her thoughts.

“I don’t expect you to stop your life and get tangled in this sea of wine. As you can see by now, I have created my own currents, have not let myself be swept away by the tides of time. I’ve followed my own stars in the sky, charted my own course. And I was not interested in money, rather in making someone, anyone, happy. Now there is a lot of wine and not a lot of time. But I made wine for the ages, as I learned from my invisible guides, my angels and my devils. I didn’t know life would course so rapidly through my veins, that I would be here, already, looking forward, but with more of the wind of time at my back, than before me.”

Something all of us must reckon with, if we live to that point. I was still young, but I’d seen enough of death and decay to allow the folly of immortality to invade my skull. But I had my career, I needed to press on, move forward, to catch the wind of destiny in my sails as I steered my ship over the edge of my world.

This was going to take some thought. And some work. Who could we get here to help us, help this amazing woman who was unknown, outside of Tuscany and Florence, but, in my mind, was one of the greatest winemakers the world has ever known?

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