Depth in Daily Living

“If meaning and value are to be recaptured in our lives, it must penetrate everyday life.” –Dwight Furrow

It is in what we notice in everyday life, the connections we make between past experiences and present observations, in these intersections we find art. To sip a wine is pleasant, but to really think about what that wine reminds us of, or what memories, maybe even hopes that it conjures up, that is to truly experience the wine, to look at it artfully.

Villa Antinori, 2009

Villa Antinori, 2009

Villa Antinori, 2009 is a super Tuscan IGT made from Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. In the glass it is the color of an old-time movie theater curtain. The tannins are as velvety as said curtains. The aromas are blackberries and oak, but in the mouth this wine is like bright cherries on satin. It is smooth, crisp and beautifully integrated, indeed, a super Tuscan.

“I have grown weary of the poets…they all muddy their waters to make them appear deep.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

When we refrain from layering on our own perspective when discussing wine, when we just observe objectively, rate the balance and structure, is that a more honest evaluation? Does the figurative language of wine writing make the wine more interesting than it is, muddy the waters or does it get at a deeper truth in the wine?

“I like to compare making wine to raising children, because both are long-term procedures where you make decisions on a daily basis. And the sum of those decisions makes the final product.” -Marketta Fourmeaux

The more we observe and add to our simple daily living, the richer our lives become.

The Three Sisters of Veneto

ItalyCorvina laughed an acidic laugh, a laugh that reflected not bitterness, but a crispness that was larger than her small stature,and lighter than her thick skin. She was clearly the bright leader of the three sisters of Veneto. Rondinella always dressed in full make-up, well-colored and perfumed, her displays of ultra-femininity disguising a stout, hearty constitution. Molinara, pale and light, the most delicate of the three, echoed her beloved sister’s acidic-voiced laugh, quietly, subtly. Their laughter and conversation blended and mixed until you could hardly tell one from the other. They became as one in Valpolicello.

When it comes to wine and grapes, Italy confuses me. Though it makes wines with noble grapes, most regions in Italy depend on indigenous grapes, so many indigenous grapes. Perhaps, if I personify them all, put them into a story, I’ll be able to keep them straight.

There once were three brothers. Moscato, Arneis and Cortese were like the three white knights of the Piedmont. Though he was often a very sweet fellow, few people would openly admit that they liked Moscato. “Do you like Moscato?” “Yes, I do.” “Well, that’s nothing to be ashamed of.” “Why would I be ashamed?” “Oh, no reason…” The truth was, spending time with Moscato was like spending a late summer’s evening in a fragrant peach orchard, lovely, but at times too soft, too sweet. Arneis was elegant and exotic, and like his brother, sometimes a little flabby, rather than crisp. Cortese, was pleasant enough. He didn’t exude the flair and perfumes of his flabby brothers, but what he lacked in exotic characteristics he made up for in his structure and acidity. The white knights stayed in Piedmont to defend and protect their beautiful sisters, Barbera, who was quite elegant in her kingdom of Alba, unlike her cousin, also named Barbera, who could be a bit rough, having grown up in the hills of Asti. Dolcetto, Freisa, Grignolino and Brachetto, though not as bold as the Barberas, had some similar qualities, such as a crisp demeanor. Alas, the white knights were no match for the strength and power of Piedmont’s queen, Nebbiolo, perhaps the strongest ruler of all time. She commanded many areas, including Lombardy where she went by the name Valtellina-Chiavennasca, but was especially known for her work in Barolo and Barbaresco. She spoke in more feminine tones in Barbaresco, though still with strength and conviction. Wherever she went, she was recognized for her large, muscular, powerful frame…and her mustache.

And don’t get me started on the Sangiovese clan! Good old Sangiovese, so well-loved in Chianti. But, what on earth is in his past that every time he moves to a new town, he changes his name? In Montalcino he’s Brunello. In Montepulciano he goes by Prugnolo Gentile. And in Scansano, he’ll answer to Morellino. Was it his recent dalliances in Bolgheri with the sophisticated Bordeaux girls that, while it gave him the reputation of being ‘super,’ forced him to go incognito? He may be a devil, but he ages well and has so many interesting aspects to him. It’s no wonder he goes by so many different names.

Hey, Trebbiano! Malvasia! Pipe down, with your Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone! I can hear you all the way from Latium!

The action of the story has steered clear of Trentino-Alto Adige, with its German-style natives, including Traminer and his old friend, Muller-Thurgau. Nor has the story ventured into Friuli-Venezia-Guilia where are harbored four native characters, Refosco, the sister, and three brothers, Verduzzo, Picolit and Friulano, a distant relative to Sauvignon Blanc. I have yet to introduce Verdicchio, Marches’ neutral white grape. I have left Umbria and with it Grechetto, himself a bit nutty and his sister, Sagrantino, an intense gal who smokes. Perhaps, Falanghina isn’t even worth mentioning. He may be weak, but he manages to stand up to the volcanic ash soil of Campania. Aleatico hides out in Apulia, being far outshone by his much more famous sister, Primitivo. And before I can make it all the way to Sardinia to introduce Cannonau, who goes by her French name, Grenache when in Rhone and her brother, Vermentino, whose ancestors traveled here from Spain in the middle ages, and who may be distantly related to Malvasia up in Latium, I said ‘quiet!’ I realize that if I did try to personify every indigenous grape of Italy, I would have to write a story with more characters than can be found in a Russian novel. But unlike the Brothers Karamazov, the three sisters of Veneto lived happily ever after as did Prosecco, their party-boy brother.

The Simplicity of a Walk in the Park

Terra d’Oro Sangiovese, 2009

Terra d’Oro is a vintner in Amador County California. Last night I opened a bottle of their 2009 Sangiovese that I had picked up at my local wine shop, Whispering Vines. I love going in there. It’s small, but always stacked to the ceiling with wine. They’re always getting in something new. The owner is usually there merchandising his new receipts, and happy to answer my questions and help me find what I’m looking for. Each visit is like a treasure hunt with the local guide who knows everything about the terrain. Kurt loves to talk about wine.

Every morning after I get my kids to school, I take my dog for a walk in the park. Through these walks I’ve met many interesting people who are full of sparkling conversation and rich experiences. They, also, happen to live in my neighborhood. On our walks we talk about everything from politics and religion to literature and human nature. It surprises me that something so simple as walking a dog could bring so much richness to our lives.

Last night I made grilled sausage, fresh tomatoes tossed with olive oil and a little sea salt, and carmelized zucchini and shallots. All the foods were very simple, but they all blended so well with each other. Mixing the tomatoes, zucchini and sausage all in one bite was delicious! Then there was the Terra d’Oro Sangiovese. The aroma was of red and citrus fruits. The flavor was like a mouthful of sour cherries that melted smoothly in my mouth. It was crisp and bright with soft tannins, and so delicious with the sausage and vegetables. It’s not a complex wine, but it brought a lot to a simple meal.                                                                               

Wine, Music and Ancestors; the Back Story

My son recently had the opportunity through honor band to learn from a guest composer/conductor, Robert W. Smith.  It was a great experience for him.  The thing my son enjoyed the most was that the Mr. Smith had the back story on every composition they performed.  “I like knowing the back story.  It brings the music to life, ” my son observed.

I’ve just recently begun searching for my ancestors through familysearch.org and ancestry.com.  It’s been both fascinating and frustrating.  I can find neither a birth certificate nor a death certificate for my great grandfather, who remains a family mystery.  But through my search I was able to find his marriage license as well as a photo of my great grandmother, one I had never seen before.  It was quite a thrill to find her face on line.  Each bit of information, each document gives me a better picture of their lives.  The 1910 census created a mental image for me of my 5 year old grandfather living in his grandparents’ house with his 3 brothers and his mother.  It also told me that by then, mystery man, my great grandfather, had disappeared.  The stories of my ancestors bring them to life for me.

I live an easy drive to much of California’s wine country.  While I love Napa and Sonoma, there are some beautiful vineyards closer to my home, and those are in the wine country of the Sierra Foothills.  The wines from that area are not as elegant and polished as the Napa Cabs, but they are crisp and earthy.  Many can be quite wonderful.  The volcanic and granite soils of the Sierra Foothills do well with Rhone Valley grapes such as Syrah, Mourvedre, and Grenache.  Some wineries do well with other Mediterranean reds such as Sangiovese, Barbera, and Petite Sirah.  As I research the area, I’m learning more about the individual vineyards and their back stories.  Knowing the back story brings the wine to life.