Genetics and Absence

Cabernet Sauvignon, that magnificent, powerful, tannic grape that gave Bordeaux its fame and put California on the world stage of wine, is the love child of two other very familiar grapes.  His mother is the sleek and sexy Sauvignon Blanc and his father is Cabernet Franc.  Both of his parents are from Bordeaux, and each gave one of their names to him.

My great-grandfather was not much of an influence on my grandfather’s life, except through his name and his absence.  My grandfather only remembered meeting his father two times; once when he was a young teenager and his father came to ask for money from his older brothers.  The second time was when my grandfather was in his late 20’s, and supporting his own young family in the midst of the great depression.  His father, who had been a stranger in his life, stopped by his office to once again ask for money.  He remains a stranger to his descendents.  We have, yet to find any documented proof of his existence other than his marriage certificate.  Perhaps, he was born at home, and his family never bothered to record the birth with the county.  It was 1875, after all.  Perhaps, he was born to a single mother, and she never recorded the birth with the county out of shame.  He may well have died in poverty, unknown, and buried in a pauper’s grave.  His death may have gone by unnoticed and unrecorded.  Whatever the reasons, he seems to be as elusive in death as he was in life.  Yet, I can only surmise from the fact that my grandfather looked nothing like his mother, that this mystery man of the family lived on genetically through my grandfather.

Durif is not as popular as Cabernet Sauvignon, but she is quite a wonderful grape that produces a very serious, dry wine.  And through genetics her ancestry has been discovered.  She is the love child of Peloursin, Durif’s not very well-known father, and Syrah, her quite famous, round and spicy mother from the Rhone valley.  You’ll probably never see a bottle of ‘Durif’ wine, however.  She goes by her family name, Petite Sirah.

My GrandfatherMy grandfather did get two things from his father, his looks and his last name.  But his character was the antithesis of his father’s character.  Where his father was absent, my grandfather was loyal and dedicated to his family.  He worked hard all his life from the time he was 5 years old.  He was very involved with his church and his community.  He was very present in all the lives he touched.  My grandfather may well have been the devoted family man that he was not just in spite of, but because of his father’s absence.


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