Sunday, December 24, 2023

We’ve Come So Far, So Good

Looking back over the past year, if I were to assess it as a grape-into-wine harvest, I might say this:

We started with a late but mild spring. Rainfall was average, with little to no hail or tornadoes. Once summer arrived, in June, the heat went up and stayed there for months. And months. And months. For humans, as well as grapes, it made for a difficult growing season, as there was no recovery available during the night. Often temperatures never went below 90⁰F, even at midnight! It was a brutal summer, the second in a row.

Still not as brutal as the summer of 1980 or even 2011. In 1980, it was just plain hot for hundreds of days, temperatures over 100⁰F the whole time. And 2011 also had extreme drought. Thousands of cows died from lack of water and relief. So, 2023 wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

And if a wine were to come from a harvest like that?

Grapes are like humans in many ways. We’ve traveled together for thousands of years. Our has been a mutual journey through time and space. If I were a grape, I doubt this year I would have been made into that good of a wine. But seeing as I’m a human, it struck me a little differently. It felt like I was being taken down a peg or two from more youthful times.

Time, the ultimate leveler. As I perused the pages the NY Times 2023 obits, there were skads and skads of folks who figured so prominently in our lives the past several generations. People like Henry Kissinger and Silvio Berlusconi. Powerful men, womanizers, aggressive behaviors. And others like Tony Bennett and Tina Turner, who embellished our lives for the better with their artistry. All of them steeped into their lives fully. All of them with one common denominator now – the ride is over.

I know that might sound a bit morose, but actually, for me, it is illuminating. What we get ourselves into, in this life, which occupies so much of our time and attention, and our love (or our antipathy) make up a lot of what we call our life.

I remember a friend’s father, who was a hopeless alcoholic, and when he was three sheets to the wind, he’d often sing this little ditty:

“Happiness, happiness, everybody’s looking for happiness. ‘Round and ‘round they all do chase, everybody looking in a different place.”

How true those words are, even though coming from him it sounded a bit more tragic. Still, we can learn from almost anything, with an open spirit. And 50 years later, I see all this running around, all these people shouting and screaming and bleeding and crying and dying and laughing and it’s astounding we, as a species, have accomplished as much as we have, especially in the last 70 or so years. I’m both bewildered and amazed at the quantity of human expression on earth. And I’m just an erstwhile wine guy who aspires to be more photographically proficient before his time runs out.

Oh, wine. Yes. I zagged.

This week I heard a thud and a crash and went outside to see if a branch fell on the roof. I saw nothing. A few days later I walked into my wine closet and saw what it had been. A fairly old bottle of (Texas) Port wine had leapt from the shelf and committed oenocide. I got me to wondering if other bottles in there had shared similar dispositions. After all, in the way I arrange the bottles, that wouldn’t be terribly difficult to conjure. I went down a rabbit hole, imagining what a wine must feel like when they know they’ve come a long way in time and they are still lying there, in the dark, in the (sometimes) cold and with very little to stimulate them (thankfully) or motivate them (as if?) towards a timelier conclusion to their existence. Like I said, a rabbit hole. Anyways, I have to think a bit more about this, as there might be a post in there, somehow. Next year.

One of my young friends, my Sicilian waif, of sorts, was grilling me on my future. “Oh, next year, are you going to write more?” he asked. To which I responded, “I’m running out of things to write about, and doing one post a week is more than enough,” I pleaded. “Oh, nonsense, you have reams and reams of stories in you, get off it!”

In a way, that was a pleasant prod. In fact, even though blogs, and wine blogs especially, have long passed their use-by date, it seems enough people are coming here monthly, so many that I am surprised why they are still coming? Didn’t I peak ten years ago? It seemed like it to me. But what do I know, I am water in the river. Not the River. There is something greater sending me wherever I am going. And in the spirit of the season, thank you for taking this little trip with me these past 18 years. Yes, in a few days, On the Wine Trail in Italy will be 18. Old enough to vote. But not old enough to vote myself off the island, like my little Texas Port friend did earlier this week.

So, stay tuned. Open up some older bottles – they’re ready to go. And crack open a panettone and some Moscato too.  Merry Christmas and Happy Festivus. So far, so good!


wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
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